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August 7, 2013 9:21 am

Lionizing Palestinian Stone-Throwers

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

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A Palestinian boy throws a stone at Israel's security fence. Photo: Justin McIntosh.

It is no secret that The New York Times has long suffered from a Jewish problem. Ever since the 1930s, when publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger expressed his discomfort as an American Jew who might be accused of divided loyalty, the Times has bent over backwards (or fallen on its face) to avoid all the news that’s fit to print about the worldwide Jewish problem. Most notoriously, the plight of European Jews during the Holocaust was “buried by the Times“ (the memorable title of Laurel Leff’s scathing analysis).

Coverage of the State of Israel has been no less problematic. Times coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, according to a recent monograph published by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America), reveals “a disproportionate, continuous, embedded indictment of Israel that dominates both news and commentary sections.”

There is no more revealing, over-the-top, example of this pervasive bias than its August 5th page 1 story entitled “‘My Hobby is Throwing Stones,'” authored by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. Her leading heroic Palestinian stone-thrower, confronting malevolent Israeli soldiers and illegal Jewish settlers, is 17-year-old Muhammed Abu Hashem. (“Ha Shem,” in Hebrew, refers to God.) Recently arrested for the fourth time in three years for his stoning assaults, he comes from a family of stone-throwers, whose five brothers (and father) were once in prison simultaneously for their stone-throwing and other illegal activities.

To Rudoren, the stone throwers of Beit Ommar, a village located south of Jerusalem between Bethlehem and Hebron, are merely “a reminder of the abiding tensions” between Palestinians and Israelis, representing a “Palestinian pushback” against “The Occupation.” Rock throwing is a seemingly harmless boyhood “right of passage and an honored act of defiance.” Indeed, forty-five inhabitants of Beit Ommar, thirty-five of whom are teenagers, have already been arrested this year for stone throwing. A teacher at the local high school comments: “Nobody dares to criticize them and say, ‘Why are you doing this?'”

Rudoren seems to know why. “There is little else to do in Beit Ommar – no pool or cinema, no music lessons after school, no part-time jobs other than peddling produce along the road.” So, like father, like son; who could expect more from beleaguered Palestinians surrounded by “illegal” Jewish settlements and under the yoke of Israeli “occupation?”

Only in passing, from an Israeli woman who lives nearby, did Rudoren note that “a man and his 1-year-old son” were killed in a stoning attack. Indeed, not two years ago, on the same Road 60 that bisects Beit Ommar, 24-year-old Asher Palmer and his infant son Yonatan, driving to meet his pregnant wife, were murdered by stones hurled by two Palestinians. Smashing the windshield (crushing Asher’s face and fracturing his skull), they caused the car to crash. One of the killers was sentenced to two life terms and an additional fifty-eight years in prison. So much for stoning assaults, which Rudoren referred to as “a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance” – and a “game.”

As for the settlements that the Times so loves to hate, the unique and distinguished history of Gush Etzion (the bloc of communities that surround Beit Ommar), should be noted (but wasn’t). Unlike the overwhelming majority of Jewish settlements, built in the years following the Six-Day War in the biblical homeland of the Jewish people, Gush Etzion has a longer history. First established in 1927 as a community of Yemenite immigrants and a sprinkling of ultra-Orthodox Jews, it was destroyed in the 1929 Arab riots, during which 67 Jews in the nearby ancient Jewish city of Hebron were brutally murdered.

Rebuilt as Kfar Etzion, it was attacked and demolished during the Arab rioting that erupted in 1936. Between 1943 and 1947, Jewish pioneers once again returned to build four communities known collectively as Gush Etzion. Settling the Land of Israel, after all, defined Zionism. The following May, they were beseiged by Arab soldiers who massacred 240 residents. Due largely to the unrelenting efforts of Hanan Porat, a child survivor of the 1948 carnage, Gush Etzion was rebuilt after the Six-Day War and is now a flourishing bloc of eighteen communities with 40,000 Jewish residents. It has no less right to be where it is than neighboring Beit Ommar.

Despite his aggression, Muhammad Abu Hashem is lionized by the Times. We learn that he has a girlfriend with whom he talks by phone every evening. He had his first hair-slicking at the local salon for a relative’s wedding. He steals “especially delicious” apricots from a nearby Jewish settlement because, Rudoren explains, “they grow on land he sees as stolen from his people.” In fact, the land was purchased by Shmuel Yosef Holtzman in 1930.

When Muhammad and his father appeared for a hearing, the fawning Times story concluded, “they raised their wrists – handcuffed together – in something of a salute.” Like father, like son – two generations of criminals elevated by the Times to heroic stature. Perhaps its signature motto should be revised: “all the news hostile to Israel that fits we print.”

Jerold S. Auerbach is professor emeritus of history at Wellesley College

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  • Barry Meridian

    Somebody should throw a rock at Jodi’s head and see how she likes it.

  • Barry Meridian

    But why does Israel allow Jodi Rudoren to report in Israel.
    Kick her out.
    Let her live and report in Gaza or Ramallah.
    She would never criticizes the Terrorstinians cause she knows she would be targeted by the Islamists.

  • I for one, a Jewish Zionist living in NYC, am embarrassed by the NYT and will boycott it. Oh wait… I already did a couple years ago when it was revealed their reporters are liars and cheats. Similar to Reuters, both started by Jews, now seem to be the enemy. Shame on the NYT. Not only was that article shameful and full of propaganda but its not even news… On any level. The times are in a downward spiral and no longer have the prestige or respect… And it was well earned. I for one will will enjoy their bankrupt future that on the horizon

  • Fred

    New York Times is it seem to be run by self loathing Jews who are not squimish to betray their Jewish brethren. Arab money must smell sweet & worthy for unworthy journalism. You are sad paper that glorifies lies, violence against Israel. One day it may come back and haunt you. You are a sordid lot.

  • Yehudah

    Thank you Ambassador Oren and Professor Auerbach.
    According to surveys, the majority of readers of
    The New York Times are Jewish. So, why are we supporting this destructive trash?
    Pass the word, my Yiddishe brothers and sisters:
    Boycott The New York Times! We can help The New York Times get to the same failing place recently taken up by
    The Washington Post.
    Rudoren and all the other hateful incompetents at
    The New York Times should be consigned to the oblivion of silence by a Jewish readers’ boycott…

  • Irene

    Let me put the pioneers of Kfar Etzion in the context of what other people were doing in sparsely populated and unused or under utilized areas similar to Judea in the first half of the 20th century. People in search of a better life, land to farm, and affordable housing were in motion all over the world. Vast areas of the American west, Canada, Australia, and Latin America were barely populated. So people came and developed that barren land into ranches and productive farmland and cities and towns. They built dams and irrigation canals and roads and bridges. The tiny one-room cabin my grandparents first lived in still stands in the hills of Utah, as does the small two-room house that was their second home. Zionism may have added a special sweetness to living in Kfar Etzion, but those people were no different than people in other lands who wanted a decent place to live and work and raise children in peace with their neighbors. History is largely a story of human migration and settlement.

  • Peter

    Brilliant! Well said. Thank you!

  • The New York Times

    The New York Times Violation of Journalist Ethics

    In looking back over the past century, and in spite of the extensive international coverage provided by the Times and unmatched by any other American newspaper, I found that on several particularly “sensitive” issues, The Times also exceeded its rivals for its ideological bent contradicting its claim to publish “All the News That’s Fit to Print”, resulting in callous omissions and violations of essential journalistic ethics.

    To start with the most recent first. On May 11, 2003, The New York Times devoted four pages of its Sunday paper in an unparallel expose and self-admission that Jayson Blair, a former and mediocre Times reporter had made up stories and non-existent “confidential sources” faked datelines, and plagiarized on a massive scale. That such fraud and deception could continue for so long would have hardly been excusable if the guilty party had been a third rate daily newspaper in a middle-size or small town with a long history of corruption, graft and a tradition of sensationalist journalism.

    The admission by management that Blair had been given special favorable treatment because he was Black led to the forced resignation of the executive editor, Howell Raines who had helped the paper win a record six Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of the September 11th attacks. How could a third rate reporter bamboozle the “most revered name” in American journalism with a transparent scam ? The answer lies in the profound arrogance and blind narcissism that has seriously infected both The New York Times and the BBC The biggest journalistic scam in American history should have been a cause for reflection and the need to introduce methods for cross-checking and verifying news stories before they see the light of day.

    In another regard, the Times editors had never adequately assessed the extent to which their liberal political views and the shyness of the owners’ Jewish identity had previously caused them to accept shallow and misleading coverage of important events. Foremost among these was the Great Famine in the Ukraine under Stalin in 1930-33, and the colossal dimensions of The Holocaust.

    The deportation and starvation to death of millions of deported “kulaks” (the Soviet term for “wealthy farmers”) and ordinary peasants in the Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan ranks as a genocidal crime of roughly the same dimensions as The Holocaust. It, however was committed in the Soviet Union during “peacetime”. The New York times botched both these stories in a manner that is despicable, the first due to their commitment to liberalism which meant a policy to excuse, forgive or “understand” the Soviet Union, and the second while “unintentional” was the reluctance of the Sulzburgers to give undue prominence to Jewish suffering lest they be thought of as too provincial and biased in favor of Jewish causes.

    Certainly, the Ukrainian famine tragedy ranked as the greatest crime and news story of the 1930s yet it became a non-event, due in large measure to the cooperation/collaboration of the Soviet government and “the most distinguished newspaper” in the West. European reporters including members of the communist press in western countries had no access to the affected regions but New York Times reporter Walter Duranty, stationed in Moscow since 1921, and acceptable to the Soviet authorities, was given special privileges to visit just those selected areas of the region where conditions were staged by actors on village-sets created for the occasion just as later the Nazis staged mock portrayals of concentration camps solely to impress visitors from the Swiss Red Cross.

    What is even more disgusting is that Duranty actually knew the bitter truth of the famine but was blackmailed to continue to send false but glowing reports of overflowing granaries and plump, contented pigs and cows. Like the Blair fraud, none of the higher up editors attempted to query Duranty (A Pultizer Prize winner!), check his sources or suspect that he might have been subject to pressure because the “news” of “progress” in the Soviet Union confirmed their self-delusions about Stalin and the USSR.

    In his New York Times articles Duranty repeatedly denied the existence of a Ukrainian famine in 1932-33. In a August 24, 1933 article, he claimed “any report of a famine is today an exaggeration or malignant propaganda”, but admitted privately to William Strang (in the British Embassy in Moscow on September 26, 1933) that “it is quite possible that as many as ten million people may have died directly or indirectly from lack of food in the Soviet Union during the past year.”

    Appeals by Ukrainian organizations to The New York Times to posthumously cancel Duranty’s Pulitzer Prize were rejected by The Times. The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America has been affronted and shocked by the decision of the Pulitzer Prize Board, and The Times not to withdraw Duranty’s award which shames all those who have been honored by this prestigious award. The newspaper which was careful to amend an asterisk next to the name of Roger Maris when he broke Babe Ruth’s homerun record doesn’t have another one left for Duranty.

    The New York Times hired Mark Von Hagen of Columbia University to investigate the charges against Duranty and concluded that Duranty was a frequent voice of Soviet propaganda and that “For the sake of The New York Times’ honor, they should take the prize away”. The New York Times sent Von Hagen’s report to the Pulitzer Board and washed its hands of the affair by leaving it to the Board to take whatever action they considered appropriate.

    Just as disturbing, although, perhaps more understandable, was the reluctance of the Sulzburger family, committed Reform Jews with ultra-liberal and assimilationist views, long known opponents of Zionism, to relate the true dimensions of the Holocaust and give them greater prominence. In this respect, many other newspapers and government agencies in America and Britain must also bear a responsibility. Even some Jewish community leaders were reluctant to plead too hard for measures such as bombing the extermination camps or allowing a special displaced persons quota for Jewish refugees for fear of being accused of favoring Jewish interests. The New York Times, precisely because of its Jewish ownersip, large readership and many reporters and employees, did not want to be seen to take the lead in pleading any special or parochial Jewish cause. This remains largely true to this day with a few notable exceptions.

    What is also almost comical however is that this same newspaper today pleads for special consideration on behalf of Muslims among America’s immigrant population who may be suspected of either being illegal immigrants or sympathetic to terrorism and Muslim extremism. So eager is the paper to avoid the taint of being accused of racism, that it bends over backwards to find extenuating circumstances to excuse extremist opinion among American Muslims or in any way holding them suspect of not being patriotic.

    This is THE editorial line of The New York Times and it is stronger now than ever. For those who write most of the opinion pieces and those who eagerly seek confirmation of similar views, NOTHING IS SACRED, Nothing deserves to be regarded with devotion and/or patriotism. These are sentiments that are out of bounds and considered suspect. Is this part of the journalistic code of ethics? On September 2, 2007, N.R. Kleinfeld took issue with the continued call to Remember 9/11! His Front Page opinion piece entitled “As 9/11 Nears, a Debate Rises; How Much Tribute is Enough? ”

    Clearly it is already too much for the New York Times. The writer quotes Charlene Correia of Acushnet, Massachusetts who is identified only as a “nursing supervisor” without any explanation as to why her views deserve to be cited as representative for the entire country or if she is a relative of the victims or survivors. Mr. Kleinfeld assures us that “Few Americans give much thought anymore on Dec. 7 that Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941″ (A date to live in infamy but not for Mr. Kleinfeld or The New York Times). This style of anecdotal journalism reminds me of the way our Junior High school teacher warned us (correctly) NOT to write an essay but it is apparently in favor with both Oprah and The New York Times.

    Even generations ago, and when the issues involved had no significant bearing on American interests, The New York Times had a view that proclaimed its elitist viewpoint that “Father Knows Best”. In 1905, when Norwegians demanded to separate from Sweden, the paper reacted to lobbying activities by Norwegian-Americans and severely criticized “those among them who tried to influence our government in favor of Norway”. It took its favorite position then of “100% Americanism” (and of preaching from the grandstand):

    “Norwegians naturalized in this country have ceased to be politically Norwegians. If they had legitimate complaints, these should be set forth in a bill of particulars”. Several weeks later, however, The Times affected a judicious tone, advising its readers to “defer to the knowledge possessed by the President” (Teddy Roosevelt).

    Of course, times and opinions have changed but what is common to The Times editorials for the past hundred years is an elitist tone that only those with Ivy League degrees and a resience in Georgetown or New York are qualified to judge major foreign policy isues. It mattered little to the Sulzbergers then that 99.8% of the Norwegian people voted in a referendum to separate from Sweden (women did not have the vote but if they had, the result would not have been different or even a great pro-independence result). Their opposition to Norwegian independence, or Zionism, or Senator Joseph McCarthy or William Jennings Bryan’s candidacy, or Ronald Reagan’s presidency with his romantic notions of “winning the Cold War” and his “dangerous Evil Empire delusion” were all part of its cosmopolitan world view that regarded any “narrow”, nationalist, patriotic or religious loyalty and sentiment as reactionary and any radical departure from conventional academic wisdom as adventurist, reckless and irresponsible.

    For The New York Times, their audience is global and they seek to portray events from what they consider a “global perspective”. Their employees are recruited world wide and are aware of the line their employers pursue. This means first and foremost NOT to appear as presenting an identifiable American identity. The same conclusion can be made “in spades” regarding the BBC! Anyone who still has a warm, glowing positive recollection of the BBC from World War II’s memories of the blitz and the noble RAF should remain locked in their time machine with the dial permanently set at 1939-45.

  • Dorothy Wigod

    A pleasure to see someone from my alma mater respond with such eloquence to that appalling Times article.

  • Victoire

    This condemnation of the Sulzberger clan for using the NYT to promote the idea that people who are Jews are obliged to engage in frightened self-loathing (as did the founder of the NYT, the original undignified Jew, Arthur Hays Sulzberger) is by far too polite. Those who are less politically correct often wonder if the Sulzbergers’ antipathy to Israel indicates that the family is indebted to the Saudis or some other oil-enriched arab with respect to real estate loans, etc.. Yep, just wondering. If so, they aren’t the first US citizen to jump into the arab money trap. According to Craig Unger, author of The House of Bush-House of Saud, Jimmy Carter accepted mega-millions in loans from the Pakastanis in order to save his peanut farm.

  • Harris

    Shooting the savages is too good a fate!

  • Michael Segal

    The NYT story says that Beit Ommar is “a farm town with roots in the Roman era”. Since the name sounds Semitic and predates the Arab conquest, does that mean it was a Jewish town now occupied by Arabs? Does that mean the stone throwers are settlers?

    • Miriam


      It was relatively easy to find background on Beit Ommar/Ummar which goes back more than 1000 year in history…Beit Ummar ( بيت اُمّر”Ž) a Palestinian town NW of Hebron named after the Islamic Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab because he frequently visited there. Most of the town’s predominantly Muslim residents are descendants of Arab Christian families and the old city contains Christian ruins. The main mosque in Beit Ummar houses the tomb of Nabi Matta. Matta meaning Matthew or Amittai, father of Jonah. Mujir ad-Din writes that Matta was “a holy man from the people of the house of the prophecy.” Nearby Halhul houses the tomb of Jonah with the inscription reading “Yunus ibn Matta” or “Jonah son of Amittai”, confirming that Matta- the Arabic name for Amittai and the Beit Ummar tomb is dedicated to Amittai. In 1226, the Ayyubid sultan al-Mu’azzam built a mosque with a minaret under the supervision of Jerusalem governor Rashid ad-Din al-Mu’azzami. The Mamluks constructed some additions to the mosque and engraved several inscriptions on its surface. There you have it..Beit Omar/Ummar has a deep history going back more than