Lately Jodi Rudoren of the New York Times has been passing along Israeli hasbara to Americans in an unquestioning manner. Today she has an article putting forward the Israeli view that certain Palestinian statements about Israel constitute “incitement” of hatred– and that’s why Palestinians don’t deserve a state. The New York Times has further underwritten that view by publishing the Israeli government report (which I am told reflects work by this lobby group led by a radical settler) about Palestinian incitement.
Rudoren’s piece begins by quoting several scabrous statements from Palestinians about Jews and Adolf Hitler, then posits:
These are among dozens of examples highlighted by Israeli officials in a new presentation documenting negative statements about Israel and Jews in official Palestinian Authority media and textbooks. As Secretary of State John Kerry departed here on Monday after an intense four-day push for a framework agreement outlining prospects for a peace deal, Israeli leaders said that such statements had not abated since negotiations began this summer and did not bode well.
Rudoren goes on to say that “Incitement is an issue as old as the conflict itself,” and the Israelis are also accused of it. But the Palestinians’ bill of particulars on alleged Israeli incitement is only two paragraphs in a piece devoted to Israeli charges.
Two other problems:
–According to Youtube settings, and an Arabic-speaking source of mine, the video, above, embedded in Rudoren’s story– “When We Die as Martyrs” — in which children say their blood is nothing next to their connection to Palestine — is from a TV show broadcast out of Bahrain and has no discernible connection to the Palestinian Authority or Hamas, the piece’s central claim;
–The supposedly impartial expert cited in Rudoren’s story–who poohpoohs Israeli incitement as the work of an extremist fringe while emphasizing Palestinian incitement– works for an Israel lobby group, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which was spun off from AIPAC and whose advisory board includes Martin Peretz, Joe Lieberman, and Richard Perle. From her piece:
David Pollock, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who in September published a 172-page study of the issue, said that while incitement had decreased markedly since the second intifada, or Palestinian uprising, a decade ago, it persists…
On the Israeli side, Mr. Pollock said, “what you have are unofficial, extremist fringe individuals” whose statements are “disowned and discouraged, for the most part,” by government leaders.
Even the Forward describes WINEP as “a pro-Israel Washington think tank.” Rudoren fails to say so.
On that note, let me bring in co-author Donald Johnson:
Someone from the Washington Institute of Near East Studies is quoted as an objective expert. How any journalist could do this in good faith without giving an opposing view is beyond me. Why not cite someone heavily involved in the BDS movement? You’d probably have a better chance of getting someone honest about the crimes of both sides from some people in the BDS movement than you would from a flack from that thinktank.
But the general problem with the article is that Rudoren equates oppression of Palestinians with Palestinians saying bad things about Israelis; and because (allegedly) the Israeli “incitement” is less bad, the Israelis actually come out looking better overall in this article. The underlying message is that the Israelis are the real victims, because the Palestinians complain bitterly about Israeli oppression.
As for the actual hate speech Rudoren documents, that is bad and common to both sides in almost any war, but the Palestinian hate speech is tacitly assumed to be worse because it is “anti-semitic” and therefore Hitler-like. But Israeli hate speech is never explicitly condemned by anyone cited in her piece in those terms.
“Incitement” is a weasel word. It allows the Times to describe Palestinian complaints about human rights violations as equivalent to hate speech, and worse than the human rights violations themselves. The word as used blends together actual examples of hate speech with legitimate complaints about Israeli atrocities.
For instance, one example of “incitement” is Palestinians calling a brutal Israeli interrogation center the “slaughterhouse”. The piece links to an earlier NYT article by Isabel Kershner that stated that an Israeli study on incitement
found that extreme examples of dehumanization and demonization were “very rare” on both sides. The few examples given included one from an ultra-Orthodox textbook describing an Israeli settlement established on the ruins of an Arab village that “had always been a nest of murderers.” A Palestinian language textbook included a reference to “the slaughterhouse,” explaining it as the nickname prisoners had given to an interrogation center “due to the brutality of the interrogators.”
So the problem here isn’t that maybe the Israelis were torturing prisoners. The problem is that the Palestinian complaint might be exaggerated, unless people actually died under interrogation there (and for all we can tell from the article, maybe they did.) Israeli human rights groups have confirmed that Israel tortures prisoners. So the Palestinian complaint about brutality is almost certainly true, but this allegation of torture at an Israeli interrogation center becomes an example of Israeli victimization by the Palestinians. And it is equated to an Israeli justification for ethnic cleansing– describing an entire Palestinian village as a “nest of murderers”. I.e., The village deserved to be destroyed.
This is a strange sort of symmetry: in which an ultra-Orthodox claim that could have been written by an Islamic extremist to justify an attack on civilians is equated with people complaining about torture. Apparently it doesn’t matter with Palestinians. Whether they use terror or are the victims of terror, what they say and do is the equivalent of terrorism if they make any complaint about the Israelis. Would an Israeli condemnation of a suicide bombing attack be equated to a Hamas comparison of Jews to animals? Somehow I doubt it.