The New York Times had to report Israel’s shocking demolition yesterday of Palestinian apartment blocks in Jerusalem; the story was too big to ignore. But the paper’s Isabel Kershner cleverly tried to present Israel’s brutal action in the best possible way, while muffling the voices of the victims.
Kershner’s slant starts right in the second paragraph, with a long quote from an Israeli minister ominously warning that the “mostly uninhabited buildings” were “a severe security threat and can provide cover to suicide bombers and other terrorists. . .” Kershner’s insinuation is clear; Israel reluctantly had to tear down the apartments to protect itself. She nowhere explains that suicide bombings stopped more than a decade ago, and many reports have shown that the so-called separation wall does not stop Palestinians from crossing into pre-1967 Israel if they want to.
But Kershner’s most impressive effort at whitewash comes immediately, in the 4th paragraph. Here is her tortured sentence:
The decision to proceed with the demolition underscored the legal complexities and human difficulties caused by the absence of internationally recognized boundaries and competing authorities.
This sentence is a masterpiece of deceit. Here is what Kershner should have said: “Israel illegally occupies West Bank Palestine and refuses to negotiate borders. Even though the Palestinian Authority is supposed to be in charge of the area where Israel demolished the apartment buildings, and even granted building permits there, Israel simply overrode the P.A. and tore them down.”
Kershner’s euphemism about “human difficulties” is also repulsive. Her article continues, “By late afternoon, the police were still barring entry to the neighborhood to all nonresidents, including reporters.”
So Kershner just gave up trying to talk to eyewitnesses, confining herself to quoting a couple of Palestinians who were outside the police perimeter. Contrast that with our own Yumna Patel, whose lengthy report includes comment from the Palestinian activist Hamada Hamada: “‘The soldiers were really aggressive, pushing and shoving people, firing tear gas at us, and even beating some people with the butts of their rifles.’”
Two outstanding reporters from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, Amira Hass and Jack Khoury, also managed to speak to the actual Palestinian victims:
“I built this house stone by stone. It was my dream to live in this house. Now I am losing everything,” said Fadi al-Wahash, 37, his voice breaking as a bulldozer destroyed his unfinished three-floor house.
Hass and Khoury reported that Israel sent 700 police and 200 soldiers to destroy the homes — figures nowhere reported in the Times. The photo accompanying Kershner’s article also left out this massive assault, portraying only a bulldozer in the distance and a couple of blurry army vehicles in the foreground.
There are other documented reports that Israeli soldiers celebrated and cheered as they blew up the Palestinian homes — a fact also unmentioned in the Times.
The Haaretz article hinted at the real reason for the demolitions. There was no mention of stopping “suicide bombers.” Instead, Hass and Khoury quoted a left-wing Israeli activist who charged that the demolitions were part of Israel’s “demographic war” against East Jerusalem, the ongoing effort to squeeze Palestinians out of the city entirely.
Even the Washington Post did a better job covering the story. Ruth Eglash’s lead sentence was “Israel drew sharp international rebuke Monday after its forces began demolishing residential buildings in a neighborhood of East Jerusalem. . .”
By contrast, Kershner’s whitewash nearly ignored the international protest, implying that the main objections came only from Palestinians.