The New York Times ran a piece today on the very different ways that Israelis and Palestinians see the slapping incident involving 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi and an Israeli soldier. It is titled, “Acts of Resistance and Restraint Defy Easy Definition in the West Bank,” and is by David Halbfinger.
The article does everything it can to reduce the power of the case, in which a brave 16-year-old girl whose cousin was just shot stands for the inhumanity of the occupation. No, the whole point of the article is to make Israel supporters who may have heard about the incident shake their heads over Dual Narratives, and then move along.
Here is the Times‘s model for the whitewash:
1. Make sure the print edition does not include a single one of the striking, now-viral photos of Ahed Tamimi’s brave resistance.
2. State nowhere that Israelis are occupiers, and settlements (colonies) are illegal under international law.
3. Slyly slip in the following paragraph: “That her family appears to encourage the children’s risky confrontations with soldiers offends some Palestinians and enrages many Israelis.”
4. Barely mention the fact that the illegal settlement/colony of Halamish has taken over the village of Nabi Saleh’s access to its spring, and make no effort to report on who is right. Instead treat the matter as On the One Hand/On the Other.
5. In the first sentence, make the Israeli soldier look like the victim: “A teenage girl, a kaffiyeh over her denim jacket, screaming in Arabic, repeatedly punches, slaps and kicks a heavily armed Israeli army officer, who faces her impassively, absorbing some blows, evading others, but never hitting back.” (Make sure you stick in the kaffiyeh and the “screaming in Arabic:” perfect Orientalist gems.)
6. Have settler Yossi Klein Halevi drive home the point, that the Israeli is the victim: “My first reaction was I was proud of the soldiers, but I was also ambivalent: Is this going to invite more attacks, and more serious ones?”
7. Add another obnoxious paragraph: “. . . the scene of the young woman being hauled away may have given the Palestinians the clear-cut propaganda coup they had been denied by the original confrontation.”
8. Leave till the 13th paragraph the information that hours before the encounter an Israeli soldier shot Ahed Tamimi’s cousin in the face. Leave out the cousin’s name, Mohammed, and the extent of his injuries. No, you have to go to al Jazeera for that.
9. Quote 6 Jewish Israelis, and only 4 Palestinians. But above all, don’t quote any member of the courageous Tamimi family, even though they were featured in Ben Ehrenreich’s landmark New York Times magazine piece on Nabi Saleh. And even though the slapping incident took place when the soldier had invaded their property.
P.S. Louis Allday, a PhD candidate at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies, who is digitizing colonial records, agrees:
Halbfinger's strenuous effort here, to make something extremely simple and obvious appear complicated (and effectively praise Israeli "restraint") is a neat microcosm of media coverage of Palestine generally, especially the NYT.
— Louis Allday (@Louis_Allday) December 23, 2017
[A correction: The original post said, “(Most people still engage with the Times on paper).” In fact, the Times has 2.5 million digital subscribers vs. 1 million print subscribers.]