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November 1, 2015 8:43 am

Jewish-Arab Unity Against Israel at The New York Times

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

New York Times headquarters.  Photo: Wiki Commons, via Haxorjoe.

New York Times headquarters. Photo: Wiki Commons, via Haxorjoe.

Next week’s Shabbat Torah reading will be Chaye Sarah, recounting Abraham’s purchase of the Machpelah cave in Hebron from Ephron the Hittite as the burial site for his wife Sarah. Recording a simple real estate transaction, it marked the beginning of Jewish history in the Land of Israel. Commemorated annually, it remains embedded in the deepest historical memory of the Jewish people.

Fast forward several millennia to The New York Times (October 30). First paragraph: first falsehood. Reporters Diaa Hadid and Rami Nazzal identified Hebron as “this ancient city surrounded by Jewish settlements.” Aside from adjacent Kiryat Arba, there is only nearby Ma’ale Hever with fewer than 100 Jewish families. It would be more accurate to say that Hebron, with its Arab population of nearly 200,000 (and 700 Jews), surrounds  tiny Jewish enclaves.

They go on to describe Hebron as “the birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham.” Oops, second falsehood. Abraham’s birthplace is first identified biblically (at least by implication) as “Ur” and then as “Haran” – but nowhere as Hebron. But give Hadid and Nazzal credit: they correctly state that Hebron is “holy to both Muslims and Jews.” To be sure, they fail to indicate that it became holy to Muslims in the 7th century, some seventeen centuries after King David ruled the Jewish people from Hebron.

Reporting the recent flurry of violence in Hebron, in which nearly a dozen knife-wielding Palestinians have been killed while attacking Jews, they note the proud current identity of the city as “the fortress of Hamas.” But they are so busy interviewing a handful of Palestinian residents with grievances toward Jews – mostly that they live nearby and are protected by Israeli soldiers – that they hardly notice any linkage between Hamas incitement, violent attacks against Jews and the deaths of their beloved young martyrs.

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Visiting Shadi Sider, father of six, they note his pride over a Palestinian attack against Israeli soldiers. Sider has the misfortune to live “within sight” of a Jewish playground, synagogue and residential apartment building. He is evidently pained by his proximity to Jewish settlers, who “don’t want to leave” their homes in the tiny enclave that requires constant military protection against Palestinian attacks. He is given the final words: the recent surge in Palestinian violence “is their medicine.”

Based on its historical record, it would be demanding far too much of The New York Times to expect fair coverage of the Palestinian war against Jews, invariably blamed on Israel. In the current fashion of political correctness it might even be understandable that the Times would want an Arab-speaking female reporter to complement Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren, who grew up in an Orthodox family in a Boston suburb. The result has been the relentless criticism of Israel by both women that may qualify at the Times as balanced coverage.

It could hardly have been otherwise. Before coming to the Times, Ms. Hadid worked in public relations for Ittijah, a network for Palestinian NGOs based in Haifa to focus on “discriminatory practices and policies of the (Israeli) State.” Its political identity may be gleaned from leader Amir Makhoul, who was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for spying for Hezbollah. Ittijah endorses the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment & Sanctions movement.

Hadid also wrote articles for Electronic Intifada, whose founder, Ali Abuniah, was a Hamas supporter. In one of her contributions, “My Israel, My Palestine,” she wrote: “I can’t look at Israelis anymore. I can’t separate your average Israeli citizen from the occupation. . . . I don’t want to talk to them.” After participating in a Palestinian protest at the Qalandia checkpoint she stated: ”Did my objectivity get thrown out the window? Yes, because I had an Israeli gun pointing at me, not a Palestinian one.”

With Diaa Hadid joining Jodi Rudoren, one might say that the Times has finally achieved the balanced journalism it sought: two women, one Arab and one Jewish, united in their relentless criticism of Israel.

Jerold S. Auerbach, a frequent contributor, is author of Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in The Land of Israel (Roman & Littlefield, 2009).

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