Two weeks ago the New York Times ran an enthusiastic review of Gazan songbird Mohammed Assaf’s American tour, by Lindsay Crouse, with Reem Makhoul.
The story included these points (as Yousef Munayyer reports):
And the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, included in a message to Secretary of State John Kerry a YouTube video [above] of Mr. Assaf singing longingly about cities in Israel that were once Palestinian. Mr. Netanyahu wrote, “Incitement and peace cannot coexist.”
Mr. Assaf grew up in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, an area that often has shortages of water, gas and electricity because of restrictions imposed by Israel.
The Times has now changed the article and appended this long correction.
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to cities in Israel Mr. Assaf sings about. While they had largely Arab populations before Israel became a state in 1948, they were not “Palestinian” in the sense of being part of a Palestinian political entity. The article also referred incorrectly to shortages of water, gas and electricity in Gaza. While Israel places restrictions on some goods coming into Gaza, and many Palestinians blame Israel for shortages, they were worsened by Egypt’s closure of smuggling tunnels and by a tax dispute between the militant Hamas faction, which governs Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority.
So as for those cities in Israel, the story now reads:
Mr. Assaf singing longingly about cities in Israel that once had largely Arab populations.
And as for the shortages in Gaza– Israel has no hand in ’em.
Mr. Assaf grew up in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, an area that often has shortages of water, gas and electricity.
This is startling evidence of the role of the Israel lobby: a Palestinian star sings about Palestinians before Israel exists, and intrusive Zionist fact-checkers get the Times to change “Palestinians” to “Arabs.” Because Palestinian identity was not established? Rashid Khalidi says it was established long before that.
Here is the hasbara site that has attacked Assaf for this song. (Annie reported on the incitement claim last summer.) Why not just tell the letter-writers that this was Assaf’s opinion, so no correction is necessary? And as for the removal of Israel’s role in Gazan shortages– what a cave. As the Goldstone Report made clear, the Israeli occupation of Gaza continues inasmuch as it controls almost everything that gets into the place.
Can you imagine what would happen if a reporter tried to mention the Nakba, and the expulsion of Palestinians? But reporters have been warned. And Lindsay Crouse will know better than to write about Palestine any time soon.
Munayyer offers these insights about the Zionist narrative altering the discourse:
Calling cities in Palestine “Palestinian cities” wasn’t a problem for the New York Times 1927 or in 1929 for example. Nor was it odd for the paper that today says those cities were not part of a “Palestinian political entity” to refer regularly to a “Palestine Government.”
It is true that the native population of Palestine during that time did not have self-determination (also, they still don’t today) but does that mean there was no political entity there in Palestine? Yes, Palestine was under a British Mandate then, but does that make Palestine’s cities British? Syria was under French Mandate in the 1920s, does that mean Damascus was a French city? Was it not a Syrian city? Of course these were Syrian cities, and the New York Times reported such at the time.
So why the correction when it comes to Palestinian cities? Its clear here that the editors chose to appease what was likely a disgruntled pro-Israel reader who was displeased at the very notion that the New York Times might mention a historical reality they reported on at the time today when a Zionist narrative has made significant strides in altering the discourse.