I expected more from Peter Baker. The new New York Times Jerusalem correspondent today published an article about online incitement, headlined, “Facebook Struggles to Put Out Online Fires in Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” and it’s so one-sided the only word for it is awful.
Baker starts by quoting Palestinians urging on the recent wildfires in Haifa:
On his Facebook page, [businessman Anas] Abudaabes wrote that “we should call our thugs to do what is necessary,” noting that “dry grass is faster to burn.” Arabs should pray for lightning and strong winds, he wrote. . .
Baker then suggests to readers that he is going to tell us about both Israel and Palestine.
Facebook has become the battleground in a global struggle between free speech and incitement, and in few places is that more pronounced than in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza.
But he baits and switches. The article turns out to be exclusively devoted to Palestinians inciting against Israel, even though there are plenty of examples of vicious online racism that Israelis in settlements and elsewhere direct against Palestinians.
The one-sidedness continues. Baker notes that:
Terrorism is an everyday reality, and the role that Facebook and other social media sites may play in inspiring it generates deep emotion.
Nowhere does he point out that occupation, blockade and repression — and 2 AM house raids, and house demolitions, as Jeremy Ben-Ami described Palestinian life under occupation to a New York synagogue last week — are also an everyday reality.
Baker’s bias is astonishingly revealed when he quotes Ayelet Shaked, Israel’s Justice Minister, who offers what looks to be a nuanced argument:
“I personally really believe in freedom of speech,” Ms. Shaked said in an interview. “But when you’re calling to kill someone or when you’re calling for terrorist attacks, it’s violence. I’m not going to try to remove the words ‘Free Palestine.’ But if they’re showing how to stab Jews, that should be removed.”
This would be a good time to remind New York Times readers that just two years ago, Shaked herself posted an article by an Israeli settler who called Palestinian children “snakes,” online, and Shaked endorsed this vicious characterization:
This is a war between two people. Who is the enemy? The Palestinian people. . . the people who started the war, that whole people, is the enemy. . . including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.
And the morality of war knows that it is not possible to refrain from hurting enemy civilians. . . .
Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.
The Times article is long, and I was sure I would eventually run into a few token paragraphs quoting incitement by Israelis. But nothing.
I hoped for better from Peter Baker. I suspect he may be trying to cajole Israeli officials who control his access and can make his job harder. But he should remember that Jodi Rudoren, his predecessor, spent years writing such suckup pieces hoping to get an interview with Benjamin Netanyahu. She never did.