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November 13, 2015 5:30 am

The Current Violence: New York Times Distortions and Netanyahu’s Responsibility

avatar by Robert Cherry

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

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

New York Times (NYT) reporters have strongly suggested that the recent uptick in Palestinian violence has been motivated by fears of a change in the status quo on the Temple Mount, and by the deplorable living conditions in east Jerusalem.

First, the NYT gives inflated recognition to the desires of a small group of Jewish zealots who want to assert Jewish control over the Temple Mount — something entirely implausible.

Most important, the NYT is unwilling to report on Mahmoud Abbas’ incitement, and his calls to violence against Jews and Israelis. Instead, NYT writers only report on general claims: “In the Knesset, Mr. Netanyahu called on Mr. Abbas to ‘stop lying, stop inciting.’”

Although they refuse to quote Abbas when it comes to his remarks promoting violence, the NYT did publish his explanation for Palestinian terrorism: “The solution is to remove the causes for this tension, primarily the presence of the settlements in Jerusalem which serve as provocation to the local residents, and second, to stop the prevention of prayers.”

However, as Jeffrey Goldberg makes clear in The Atlantic Monthly, the knife attacks on Jews reflect a continuation of the Muslim leadership’s consistent behavior since the 1929 Hebron pogroms: Its unwillingness “to accept the notion that Jews are a people who are indigenous to the land Palestinians believed to be exclusively their own; and that the third-holiest site in Islam is also the holiest site of another religion.” Thus, this current violence is substantially the result of the intolerance of Palestinian leadership, something the NYT refuses to recognize.

The NYT has also promoted the view that east Jerusalem violence is driven by the deplorable conditions of the Muslim population there. Jodi Rudoren reported: “For many of the 320,000 Arab residents, the violence is a consequence of years of feeling like the neglected stepchildren of both City Hall and the Palestinian Authority, which is headquartered in the West Bank and is barred from operating in Jerusalem.”

She highlighted Abu Hamed, a lecturer at Hebrew University, who runs two clinics in Israel’s health system. “’You have a lot of evidence that you are not a human being,’ Mr. Abu Hamed said. ‘The problem is the policy, because all the time as a Palestinian here you feel that they want to take you out of the city … It’s killing from inside all the time.’”

Rudoren does mention that Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat “boasts” he has made unprecedented investments in east Jerusalem, but this is treated as a claim and is never pursued. In particular, as Nir Hasson did in a 2012 Haaretz article, Rudoren could have pointed to how Barkat changed administrative policies to enable homeowners to gain water supplies and the ability to make home repairs legally. She could have noted that despite harassment from Palestinian nationalists, an increasing number of Muslim students are going to after-school program to prepare them for the Israeli university system. She could have pointed to the dramatic improvement in the city’s health care facilities.

If Rudoren had amplified the substantial improvements in east Jerusalem, however, it would have detracted from the imagery she desires. After all, one of her articles when first put online was titled “In East Jerusalem, Palestinians are seething after years of neglect.” Her agenda helps explain why she mentioned but left unexplained a poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, which found that 52 percent said east Jerusalem Arabs would prefer to be citizens of Israel than citizens of a Palestinian state, up from a third in 2010. Maybe in the future Rudoren will interview east Jerusalem Arabs who have this positive attitude towards the state of Israel. Not!

While Abbas has been a major contributor to the upsurge in violence, and the NYT reporting has been disgraceful, the Netanyahu government also has substantial blame for  its unwillingness to take a hard line on Jewish religious extremists. It may rein them in when they are excessive, but it does nothing to weaken them.

The three Jews who murdered Mohammed Abu Khdeir have yet to be convicted and sentenced. With good reason, east Jerusalem Muslims fear that at least the two younger perpetrators will be treated leniently. And it is now three months since the brutal killing of the Daebsheh family, and there has yet to be an arrest. Yes, the government put three religious extremists in custody, but is there any doubt that they will be released after six months to a hero’s welcome by the right-wing community? It is this double standard that broadens Palestinian support for the current violence. Maybe the Netanyahu government will begin to act more decisively against these extremists. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

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