Yousef Munayyer at the Palestine Center, a leading American writer on the conflict, has been posting important criticisms of New York Times coverage.
His latest article on Friday faults a story by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren that appeared in the Times last week about traveling through the Galilee using the iNakba app that allows someone to map Palestinian dispossession. Myself I looked on the story as a step forward for the Times, because the Nakba was at last being covered, and Zochrot was featured; but Munayyer pointed out that Rudoren used passive voice to describe the Palestinian catastrophe so as to remove the Israeli role in expelling Palestinians:
What struck me about the story was the linguistic acrobatics that were employed in what can only be understood as an attempt to hide Israeli agency.
Jodi writes: “I saw scores of villages destroyed or abandoned as Israel became a state 66 years ago” and “The app provides details like the date in 1948 each village was occupied, by which military brigade, and Jewish settlements before and since.”
Scores of villages destroyed? Destroyed by whom? The date each village was occupied? Occupied by whom? By which military brigade? Which military?
Unless the reader is familiar with the history, they are not told the answers to these questions. Why go to this extent to hide Israeli agency? As far as the reader is told, these events occurred “as Israel became a state” but what the Israeli state has to do with these events isn’t made clear. The fact of the matter is, and this really isn’t a disputed fact either, the Israeli state engaged in a massive campaign of destroying structures in these villages during and after the war. This was done to ensure the refugees would have no homes to return to. It was, in effect, the enforcement of ethnic cleansing.
We’ve written in the past about how the New York Times’s present day Nakba narratives in news stories does not even correspond with its reporting from the time.
Later in the same article, Munayyer faulted the Times for its slow response to the killing of two Palestinians by Israeli forces on Nakba day Thursday, during a demonstration in the occupied territories near Ofer prison.
Yesterday morning, two Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire at demonstrations in Beitunia on Nakba day…. By the afternoon, there was no reporting in the New York Times of the events so I asked on Twitter whether they will be covering it.
— Yousef Munayyer (@YousefMunayyer) May 15, 2014
Jodi Rudoren responded in a sarcastic manner:
— Jodi Rudoren (@rudoren) May 15, 2014
Munayyer followed up:
Well, Jodi delivered on her promise. Again she writes in this story about what Nakba day is:
“Two young Palestinian men were killed Thursday in clashes with Israeli security forces during a demonstration for Nakba Day, which commemorates the destruction of Arab villages in battles that led to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.”
Don’t read that too many times, you might get dizzy. She later writes, “Palestinian leaders made speeches about never relinquishing the rights of millions of refugees and their descendants to return to the land where the destroyed villages stood.”
Do you see a pattern yet? Why does Jodi constantly write about this subject in ways that avoid describing Israeli agency in the events? Did these villages destroy themselves? No. Nor were the villages destroyed in “battles.”
Meantime, James North also called out Rudoren for her response to Munayyer: “You should have something to criticize shortly.”
— James North (@jamesnorth7) May 16, 2014
Rudoren defended herself.
— Jodi Rudoren (@rudoren) May 17, 2014
North posed another question:
— James North (@jamesnorth7) May 17, 2014
Ali Abunimah then answered for Rudoren:
— Ali Abunimah (@AliAbunimah) May 17, 2014
I couldn’t reach James North today to elaborate on his point. But I have an idea what he would say:
Let’s turn this around. Imagine that two Israeli soldiers, 18 and 22, were killed at a West Bank checkpoint by Palestinian gunmen during a demonstration on the occasion of an Israeli national day of commemoration. Israeli society would be in an uproar over the loss of these young men and the Palestinian use of violence; and yet the Times, which– stay with the thought experiment— has a reputation for deferring to the Palestinian side, failed to cover the case in a timely manner; and David Harris of the American Jewish Committee tweeted, Are you going to cover the case of the killing of two soldiers?
And the NYT’s Jerusalem bureau chief tweeted back,
“Yes you should have something to criticize shortly.”
Can you imagine how angry the Israel lobby would be at the Times? How insulted they would feel at a time of widespread mourning in Israel over murders by Palestinians? The protests they’d lodge with the Times management about the disrespectful attitude displayed by its reporter on a grim occasion, of actions that Amnesty International was condemning?
Well you can’t imagine it, for good reason. Because the Times’s reputation for deferring to the Israeli side is well-deserved. See this picture below, of Rudoren addressing the American Jewish Committee earlier this year in Jerusalem.