Monday, May 16th | 15 Iyyar 5782

July 14, 2021 2:20 pm

New York Times Video Depicts Israelis as Having ‘Forced’ Foreign Laborer to Work Under Rocket Fire

avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

After devoting one month and ten journalists to creating a 15-minute video smearing Israel that has been condemned as a “shocking” “hatchet job,”  the New York Times is out with a sequel — this time faulting Israeli employers for having “forced” a Thai laborer to keep working amid incoming rocket fire.

Under the headline, “No Rockets, But Anxiety Persists in Southern Israel,” this Times video lasts seven minutes and carries four bylines. The Times description of the new video sets up the expectation that it’s going to offer an Israeli perspective to balance the Hamas point of view represented in the earlier video: “The 11-day war between Israel and Hamas ended in May, but for Israelis living and working within range of Gaza, the fear of attack is ever present. We spoke with four people affected by rockets and mortars about their decisions to stay on or leave.”

In fact, the Times’ slant is visible almost from the start. “The recent war between Israel and Hamas was the fourth major conflict in 12 years. 260 people were killed in Gaza, according to the UN. 13 people were killed in Israel,” read the video’s titles. Note the passive voice, “were killed.” The Times doesn’t say who did the killing. Note also the lack of context and perspective. The Times doesn’t say that Israel voluntarily withdrew from Gaza in 2005, or that the territory has since been taken over by Hamas, a terrorist group implacably dedicated to Israel’s destruction. It doesn’t say here that Israel has claimed about 200 Hamas operatives were killed, and that a number of Gazans were killed in misfires when Hamas rockets intended for Israel fell instead in the Strip.

The Times deference to Hamas may have helped it get some of the video it used. Some of the images are labeled onscreen “Hamas military footage.” This is mildly comical, as Hamas is not a country and does not have a conventional military; it’s a terrorist organization that indiscriminately targets Israeli civilians. Imagine the outcry if the Times obtained and aired footage of the September 11 attacks on New York labeled “Al Qaeda military footage.”

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The paper’s description promises “Israelis living and working within range of Gaza,” but one of the main characters in the video isn’t Israeli at all, he is from Thailand.

Thawon Seeharach is strangely absent from the “transcript” published on the Times website, but he’s dominant in the video itself, which describes him as “one of thousands of Thai laborers in southern Israel.”

Thawon Seeharach speaks in a foreign language. The Times translates his words with subtitles: “I still have nightmares about it and wake up in a fright. Sometimes I dream of it hitting my friends. Other times, it hits me.”

The Thai worker goes on, “There was a great big ‘boom’ — and I temporarily lost my hearing because it was so loud. While I was jumping to get to a hiding spot, I got hit with debris, like rocks. I had heard the stories about bombings here, but I never thought that I’d ever experience it myself. They forced us to work. They said if bombs are coming, they’re going to come either way. If people are going to die, they’ll die. There was nowhere to hide.”

More of the storytelling in the video is then carried by titles that are strangely not present in the Times’ online transcript: “On May 18, two Thai laborers in Moshav Ohad were killed by a military strike from Gaza. Hamas says its attacks during the war were in response to Israeli aggressions, starting with Israeli police raids and evictions in East Jerusalem. Thawon Seeharach is now back in Thailand. His former employers in Moshav Ohad could not be reached for comment.”

That’s all odd. Why doesn’t the Times press Hamas on how or why it decided that shooting rockets at Thai agricultural workers or other Israeli civilian targets is a justifiable “response” to Israeli actions? If Israeli rockets were falling, the Times would be rounding up international law “experts” to speculate about it being a possible war crime. The Hamas rockets here don’t get that treatment.

On the “forced to work” angle, the Israeli foreign ministry website says that one of the two Thai workers killed, ​Sikharin Sangamram, “was on a work break with other members of his group at Moshav Ohad when their residential compound received a direct hit.” The Times doesn’t mention that.

No one should be “forced” to work under any conditions — that is slavery. But leave it to the New York Times to find a way, somehow, to turn a story about an Islamist terrorist group bombing Israeli civilian targets into a story about the alleged cruelty of Israeli bosses. Even in a story about Israeli victims, the Times manages to find a way to portray Israelis as villains.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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