New York Times Movie Review Packs Anti-Israel Propaganda Punch
Sometimes the most telling words in New York Times coverage of Israel come not on the editorial page or the front page, but in the movie reviews.
Such is the case with a Times review of “The Settlers.”
The Times review, by staff editor Helen T. Verongos, includes these passages:
The film takes viewers into the living rooms (and, in one case, the yurt) of Jews who have moved onto Palestinian land. Packed with maps and facts, the documentary pointedly notes that the approximately 400,000 settlers stand in the way of peace by ensuring that the land will not revert to Palestinian control.
Some of today’s settlements of spacious homes with swimming pools have tunnels that allow residents to zip to Israel proper. Keeping settlers safe, the film notes, is costly….
Mr. Dotan talks to Palestinians whose olive groves have been disturbed by settlers or who have seen their land gobbled up by the illegal construction of outposts by renegades. Their frustrated accounts illuminate some subtexts for the rock-throwing boys of the Palestinian uprisings.
It’s an impressive feat to convey such a sweepingly one-sided view of the Israeli-Arab conflict in six sentences of a movie review, but there it is, a fine example of the whole narrative as seen from New York Times headquarters.
Let’s try to unpack the Times propaganda one sentence at a time.
“Jews who have moved onto Palestinian land.” That assumes it is “Palestinian land.” In fact, Jews have been living on this land for thousands of years; the Bible records a series of covenants in which God gave the land to the Jewish people. Before Israel controlled it, Jordan did; before that, Great Britain did under an international mandate; before that, the Ottoman Empire, i.e., Turkey, did. One can say, accurately, that the land is disputed and claimed by both the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs. But for the Times to call the West Bank or Judea and Samaria or eastern Jerusalem “Palestinian land” is to throw journalistic neutrality or objectivity overboard and side openly with the Palestinian Arab side of the conflict.
“Packed with maps and facts, the documentary pointedly notes that the approximately 400,000 settlers stand in the way of peace by ensuring that the land will not revert to Palestinian control.” The language about “facts” and “notes” — a more accurate word would be “contends” — suggests that the Times reviewer agrees that the settlers “stand in the way of peace.”
I don’t think the settlers are perfect or that every settlement or outpost necessarily needs to be part of Israel forever. But there’s a plausible argument that the settlers, far from standing in the way of peace, are helping to assure it by providing the rest of Israel with strategic depth and secure borders. Without the Israeli Jewish settlers, hostile Arabs could control territory surrounding Israel’s major cities, coastal plain and airport, rendering the rest of Israel vulnerable to Arab attack.
If peace could be obtained simply by giving the land to the Palestinian Arabs, as Israel did, say, with the Gaza Strip, it would have already happened. Alas, as demonstrated by the Gaza example, too many Arabs are determined to take the territory and use it as a base for further missile and tunnel attacks on Israel.
The language about “revert to Palestinian control” is nonsense; the Palestinians never did control this land, at least not in any recent history; the Jordanians, the British and the Ottoman Turks did; before that, Greeks, Romans, and Crusaders. One might as well accuse the Palestinians of standing “in the way of peace” by ensuring that the land won’t “revert” to Greek control.
“[T]unnels that allow residents to zip to Israel proper.” There are also tunnels (the Lincoln, the Holland) that allow residents of New Jersey to zip to New York. Those tunnels were costly, too. But when Governor Christie of New Jersey complained about the cost of building another one, rather than agree with him, the Times issued an editorial accusing him of a “drive to become the darling of the cut-costs-at-all-costs Republican crowd,” and of “thinking about his career, not his constituents.” The difference between the New Jersey-New York tunnel and a West Bank tunnel is that the New Jersey-New York one is a matter of convenience, while the West Bank one might protect Jews (some of whom live in trailers and small apartments, not “spacious homes with swimming pools”) from deadly terrorist attacks.
“[S]ubtexts for the rock-throwing boys of the Palestinian uprisings.” This is a one-sided, naïve, inaccurate portrayal of Palestinian uprisings: “rock-throwing boys” upset that their olive groves have been disturbed. As opposed to say, bus-bombing, highly sophisticated, hardened radical Islamist terrorists with millions of dollars in funding from the governments of Iran or Saudi Arabia, deeply ideologically committed to the murder of Jews and the total eradication of Israel.
You could say it’s just six sentences in a movie review buried deep inside the Times arts section. But it nonetheless encapsulates a lot about Times attitudes toward Jews and Israel.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.