There are many significant and systematic problems with The New York Times reporting on Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip. These include The Times’ willingness to grant legitimacy to the Israeli military’s incredible claims that first it did not shell an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun where 16 Palestinians were killed by a shell, and then todaythat it did actually shell the school, but that the school was empty. Credulously repeating and granting legitimacy to absurd Israeli military and government claims and denials is a persistent problem at The Times. Another persistent failure, repeated Sunday, is The Times complicity with the Israeli government’s systematic marginalization and even silencing of Palestinian citizens of Israel, 20% of Israel’s population.
In an article in Sunday’s New York Times, “Amid Outcry Abroad, a Wealth of Backing in Israel for Netanyahu,” New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren breathlessly reported on the “breadth of backing” for Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel during Israel’s brutal military on the Gaza Strip. Rudoren quoted Yaakov Peri, “a centrist Minister,” saying, “I can only compliment him, unfortunately… It seems the steering is in the right hand in this conflict.” As further evidence Rudoren cited, “A poll of Israeli Jews conducted for Channel 2 News on Wednesdayshowed more than 8 in 10 were satisfied with Mr. Netanyahu, a 25 point jump from before the ground invasion began.”
The minor problem here is that the views of Israel’s Palestinian citizens on Netanyahu and the war on Gaza are never acknowledged. Can anyone imagine The New York Times viewing it as having been appropriate to report on Bush’s invasion of Iraq and citing a poll noting only his support among white Americans or Christian Americans, and entirely leaving out the views of non-white or non-Christian Americans? While it’s standard practice for the Israeli government and Israeli media to disregard the views of Israel’s non-Jewish population and to discriminate against them, it is very concerning that powerful mainstream US institutions like The New York Times collude with the Israeli government and silence them entirely in articles about Israeli public opinion.
Unfortunately, this was not an oversight in a single article. It’s standard practice at The Times. Times’ journalists only rarely report on the plight of 20% of Israel’s population, and thus they help to sustain the myth that Israel is a thriving democracy, where all enjoy equal rights regardless of race or religion. As only one example, searching The Times’website, I could find almost no reporting on Palestinian citizens of Israel’s perspectives on Israel’s attack on Gaza. An earlier Times article by Isabel Kershner noted that “unlike some previous wars that have divided the Israeli… this one has strong backing among Israelis.” Kershner included just two sentences saying, “In Nazareth, thousands of Israeli Arab demonstrators protested on Monday in solidarity with Gaza and clashed with the police. Fifteen protesters were arrested.” Additionally, I’ve noted previously that The Times generally avoids using the term Palestinian citizen of Israel, preferring “Arab” or “Bedouin,” and thus obscuring familial, cultural and historical ties and self-identification with Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Times did repeatedly note the death of a Palestinian Bedouin citizen of Israel from a rocket from Gaza, but you’ll have to search pretty carefully to find The Times’ video report explaining that Israel’s Supreme Court decided that Bedouins, unlike Jewish Israelis, must fend for themselves and do not require government protection from rockets from Gaza. While Rudoren wrote a June feature story on Bedouin Israeli soldiers helping to search for the kidnapped Israeli teens in the West Bank, there is no Times report on the Palestinian Bedouin doctors who have been indicted for refusing to serve in the current attack on Gaza.
While Palestinian citizens of Israel do have the right to vote they are otherwise second class citizens. They suffer from systematic discrimination on most every level. Over 50 Israeli laws discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. They benefit from less public services than Jewish Israelis, experience discrimination in housing and employment, and the few elected Palestinian members of Israel’s Knesset are constantly under attack.
Understanding the status of Palestinian citizens in Israel is crucial to understanding that Israel is not simply involved in a territorial dispute, but that instead, Israel practices apartheid as defined by international law, by systematically discriminating against Palestinians, whether they live in the Occupied Territories, within Israel or as refugees in the diaspora. However, you would be hard pressed to learn about the status of Palestinian citizens of Israel in The Times, which, like many other mainstream US media outlets, effectively colludes with Israel’s Jewish establishment by reporting very infrequently at best on the difficulties experienced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, and even more frequently reporting as if Israel’s Palestinian citizens don’t exist at all.