Let’s say you’re the leading American newspaper and the one-year anniversary of Israel’s attack on Gaza is looming. How do you cover the story? That’s a problem. It’s hard to acknowledge this important milestone without pointing out the Israeli violence, which included war crimes and a continuing blockade.
But as the New York Times just showed us, it can be done. Here’s how:
— Ignore all Palestinians. Instead, have a reporter who is all but indifferent to Palestinian life (and once said Palestinians are ho-hum about their family members’ deaths) produce a profile of a Canadian whose very job requires him to be measured and discreet: Robert Turner, the departing Gaza director of the UN Relief and Works Agency.
— Don’t follow up when he says “there was less hope and far more poverty and unemployment in the Gaza Strip now than when he arrived.” No: seize on the fact that Turner mentions mild Israeli concessions such as allowing a few more exports into Gaza and call that “a sliver of opportunity.”
— Don’t describe any of the destruction in Gaza, and the fact that the Israeli blockade doesn’t allow any rebuilding. Instead, distract the reader by publishing a photo of Turner relaxing with a cigar in his 10th-floor apartment in Gaza City and include an utterly pointless quote to keep the reader’s attention on what matters.
“This is my refuge,” he said. “It’s beautiful up there. I read or watch a show or smoke a cigar.”
— Include a dramatic wartime vignette that insinuates that it is the Gazan people who are violent.
The lowest moment of his tenure came on July 24, 2014, when 16 people were killed at a school-turned-shelter in Beit Hanoun, a city in the northeast of the strip. Mr. Turner raced to the scene, where he was pelted with water bottles.
“We were attacked; we had to get back in the car,” he recalled.
“I’ve never seen rage like that. It was just this deep anger, it was like hatred, and we were the target, because we were the only ones there.”
— Don’t dare tell a reader how those 16 people died. No; cunningly use the passive voice in the vignette — “16 people were killed” — without mentioning who killed them. Don’t try and find any of the relatives of these 16 people or of any of other 2200 victims. Above all, don’t try and find the al Bakr family, whose four children were killed while playing soccer on a Gaza beach, even though this site and other reporters have been welcomed by family members.
— Be sure and slip in another Turner quote in which he explains: “the problem is not just Israel’”.
— Leave it vague about whether you even visited Gaza at all for this story. Send a Times photographer to Turner’s tenth floor apartment, to catch him smoking his cigar, but dateline the story JERUSALEM.
— Put a sweet headline on the story:
A Sliver of Opportunity Emerges in the Gaza Strip