Today’s latest NY Times article, about the 50 percent increased incidence of Jewish Israeli “settlers” assaulting and killing Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, is a considerable improvement on the paper’s usual biased coverage. Isabel Kershner’s report is even stronger because she points out that “Israel’s right-wing government has remained conspicuously silent, wary of alienating settlers and other potential supporters in an election year.”
Hasbara Central will surely be challenged to counter the report, which is one of the lead articles in the international section in the Sunday paper, the day with the highest circulation.
Even so, the Times’s pro-Israel slant is a hard habit to break. Look at the opening two paragraphs, datelined simply “AL MUGHAYIR, West Bank — .” Why not “West Bank, Occupied Palestine”?
Kershner reports that
“a gang of a dozen or so armed Jewish settlers descended from a hilltop outpost to the Palestinian village below and opened fire, witnesses said. Israeli soldiers arrived, and instead of stopping the settlers, the witnesses said, they either stood by or clashed with the villagers.”
Why “clashed with?” Why not say the Israeli soldiers “also attacked” the villagers?
The next sentence is worse.
“In the melee, Hamdy Naasan, 38, a Palestinian father of four, was shot and killed.”
Why “a melee?” That’s the kind of non-lethal free-for-all you might have on the ice at a hockey game. And why the passive voice? There’s no evidence that the Palestinians were armed. The only question is: who murdered Hamdy Naasan — the Israeli soldiers, or the armed settlers?
Kershner’s report does get better. She quotes Tamar Zandberg, leader of the left-wing party Meretz, who denounces Israeli government officials who don’t criticize the attacks: “Silence. Everyone sees the election on the horizon, and the settler lobby is stronger than any moral standard.”
She explains that the settler assaults are following “the doctrine known as ‘Price Tag,’ which calls for exacting a price through violence or vandalism in revenge for Palestinian attacks on Jews or for army or police moves against rogue settlement activity.”
Larry Derfner, the veteran Israeli journalist, approved of the Times article, but disagreed with using the word “revenge.” Derfner, the author of the acclaimed memoir No Country for Jewish Liberals, said, “The only objection I would have is to the characterization of settler violence as ‘revenge’ attacks, as if Palestinian violence isn’t preceded by countless acts of violence by settlers and soldiers, not to mention the ongoing violence of military dictatorship and land theft.”
Isabel Kershner is not to blame for the linguistic distortion that is in her headline, and at the heart of her article and nearly everything else written about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The Israelis who seize land in Palestine, move there, and assault and sometimes kill the people whose homeland it is are by any fair definition “colonists,” not “settlers.” The colonies are illegal under international law, but decades of sanitizing them as “settlements” means that many American readers still have only a fuzzy, geographically vague idea about the true nature of the occupation.
Back to the “melee,” during which Hamdy Naasan “was shot and killed.” The end of Kershner’s article reports that Naasan was actually evacuating the wounded after the Israeli soldiers and “settlers” opened fire. He had successfully rescued two Palestinians before Israelis murdered him.