In recent days, the New York Times once again demonstrates how it distorts the news from Israel/Palestine:
- The paper runs a report praising Israel’s alleged prowess, in this case in fighting the coronavirus.
- But meanwhile, the Times ignores evidence that the campaign against the pandemic is discriminating against the one in five Israelis within the pre-1967 borders who are of Palestinian origin. And the paper has little to say about how Covid-19 is affecting Palestinians who live in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
David Halbfinger’s Times report makes his pro-Israel intentions clear in the very first sentence:
Israel, whose aggressive response to the coronavirus has held its fatality rate to a fraction of those in the United States and other hard-hit regions, is readying a nationwide serological test of 100,000 citizens to see how widely the virus has spread across its population and how vulnerable it may be to a new wave of the contagion.
The article continues in the same triumphalist tone: Israel is defeating the first wave of the virus, and has already moved on to antibody testing. “It’s quite an exercise in epidemiology,” said one Israeli doctor.
Every word of Halbfinger’s admiring article may be true. But what he is leaving out is also significant. On the same day, Al-Monitor reported that Palestinian mayors and local councils within Israel staged a one-day strike to protest what they called “their communities receiving a tiny share of state compensation for losses due to the novel coronavirus.”
The reporter, Rina Bassist, cited a letter from Arab council heads that complains that “the Arab municipalities received only 47 million shekels ($13 million), less than 2 percent of the total compensation funds for Israeli localities, for a public that constitutes about 20 percent of the country’s population.”
What’s more, a veteran Palestinian feminist named Maisam Jaljuli indicted Israel’s efforts to fight the virus in Arab communities. In an opinion article in Haaretz, she said:
What made it clear that concern for our wellbeing during the pandemic was not sincere was the small number of tests conducted in Arab communities, a lack of information in Arabic and the non-allocation of resources to Arab local governments to fight the virus. . .
Jaljuli also had sharp words for the Israeli Health Ministry’s ad campaign aimed at Arab Israelis. She pointed out that
the illustrations chosen to demonstrate the [health] guidelines, exemplifying a family, looked as if they were directed at the citizens of Saudi Arabia: The style of dress is traditional Saudi, the women and girls are covered from head to toe. . .
She added: “The use of humiliating stereotypical representations sparked an emotional uproar among the Arab community, and the ads were removed immediately.”
So far, the Times has also ignored the impact of the pandemic in occupied Palestine — with one exception. Last Friday the paper did carry a report that the crisis had sparked “an economic adrenaline shot” in the garment industry in Gaza, which is suddenly producing “millions of masks and hundreds of thousands of protective gowns and suits.” Most of the products are exported to Israel, although some are also sent to the occupied West Bank.
The article concluded that in Gaza, “the coronavirus has oddly been a boon.”