New Year’s Greetings From Hamas
In the narrative of inversion that distorted media coverage of the recent Gaza war, the plight of Israeli civilians targeted by Hamas rockets, missiles and tunnel attacks was all but ignored. The conventional media wisdom featured innocent Gazans whose homes and lives were destroyed by cruelly disproportionate Israeli responses. Little wonder that during seven weeks when thousands of Israeli civilians fled from their homes and communities to safety with family, friends, or in makeshift accommodations elsewhere, the media remained fixated on Gaza victims of Hamas aggression.
New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren finally roused herself to check the fate of bombarded Israeli civilians in Sderot, who have endured Hamas rocket attacks ever since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza nearly a decade earlier. She fixated on a group of middle-aged men, comfortably seated on a sofa and beach chairs on Koby Hill, who happily munched snacks while they cheered the Israeli rocket “show.” So much for the plight of Israeli civilians under attack. The death of 4-year-old Daniel Tragerman from a rocket attack on his family’s home in a border kibbutz, which immersed the entire country in sorrowful mourning, was virtually ignored.
During the seven-week war, Israeli security sources revealed that a massive surprise attack had been planned by Hamas for Rosh Hashanah. Two hundred Hamas fighters, wearing Israeli uniforms, would emerge from dozens of tunnels to kidnap and kill Israeli civilians, effectively holding the entire country hostage. It is little wonder that despite the current cease-fire Israeli residents of communities adjacent to Gaza remain apprehensive about spending the approaching High Holy Days in their homes. “People are very afraid,” revealed Silvia Orshovsky of Ein Hashlosha, owner of a market that was hit during a rocket attack. “I want to be secure,” she told an Israeli reporter. “I’m going to hold the holidays elsewhere with friends.”
She is not alone. In Kibbutz Nahal Oz, where the Tragerman boy was killed, seventeen families, including his, have announced that they were leaving their homes – either for a year or permanently. In nearby Nirim, a resident told a reporter “we will hold the holiday far away . . . if it won’t be quiet we’ll stay there.” The sense of abandonment by their government was palpable. But the toll exacted on Israeli civilians by incessant Hamas attacks was not a story deemed fit to print in The New York Times.
The narrative of Palestinian victimization remains too compelling to relinquish. With a Palestinian truck driver as her tour guide, Jodi Rudoren reported (September 17) on the recent upsurge in violence by young Jerusalem Arabs. Just as she had relied almost exclusively upon Gaza resident Fares Akram (the Times stringer who also reports for Al Jazeera) as her primary source of access to beleaguered Gazans, so she was guided through the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya to whitewash the violence inflicted by rock-throwing Arab boys and men, hundreds of whom have been arrested by Israeli police.
Rudoren’s bias, whether or not to her credit, is always blatant. The source of the violent upsurge, she wrote, was “the abductions and murders of three Israeli teenagers, followed by the gruesome abduction and murder” of a Palestinian teenager. Revealingly, only the abduction and murder of the Palestinian boy was “gruesome.” She noted that “Palestinians report attempted kidnappings, aggression and racist taunts by Jews.” She did not disclose what Israelis report, nor reveal the response of the Israeli owner of the gas station that was assaulted and looted by unidentified “masked youths” throwing stones and Molotov cocktails.
Ms. Rudoren’s Palestinian contacts, not surprisingly, offered variations on a familiar trope. The father of a 10-year-old, who runs a children’s center, revealed: “I’m not trying to convince them not to throw stones. I’m not going to tell them not to burn the gas station.” (Perish the thought.) A “community leader” in Issawaya, whose claim that his family has lived there for “800 years” is reported by Rudoren as though officially documented, blamed the recent outburst on “the settlers’ violence.” What violence – surely not the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teenagers – Rudoren did not document. But she carefully quoted a mother of five who revealed “I hate all Jews. . . . I even tell my children to go and throw stones. It is normal. It is a reaction to what the army is doing.”
As she did from her visit to Koby Hill in Sderot, Rudoren embraced the narrative that she never tires of recounting: the evil Israeli, indifferent to the suffering of Palestinians whose violent retaliation is unquestionably justified. For the Jerusalem Bureau Chief of the Times, that is the news that’s fit to print.
Jerold S. Auerbach is a frequent contributor to The Algemeiner