How Many Helpers Does the New York Times Have to Hire for Error-Prone Jerusalem Bureau Chief?
The New York Times’ error-prone Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, is at it again.
A full page of Sunday’s New York Times was devoted to a Kingsley dispatch from the West Bank, with reporting “contributed by Rami Nazzal and Hiba Yazbek from Burin, Myra Noveck from Yitzhar and Givat Ronen, Jonathan Shamir from Tel Aviv, and Rawan Sheikh Ahmad from Haifa.” What did this team of error-prone chief Kingsley and five helpers come up with?
More mistakes. Kingsley and Co. report:
Settlers injured at least 170 Palestinians last year and killed five, UN monitors reported. During the same period, Palestinians injured at least 110 settlers and killed two, UN records show. The Israeli Army said that Palestinians had injured 137 Israeli civilians in the West Bank last year.
But if the numbers are roughly comparable, the power dynamic is different … Settlers, unlike Palestinians, have the protection of the military and are rarely in danger of losing the land they live on.
It’s not accurate that Israeli settlers “are rarely in danger of losing the land they live on.”
Let’s look at the history.
In 586 BCE, when the first Temple was destroyed, the Jews were deported to Babylonia.
After 70 CE, when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and sacked the Second Temple, the Jews dispersed to various places. They were expelled from England in 1290, from France in 1306, and from Spain in 1492. Those who settled in central and eastern Europe had their property seized from them by the Nazis and the Communists.
In the land of Israel, Jews who lived in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and elsewhere in eastern Jerusalem had their property taken away by Jordan, which seized the territory in the war initiated by the Arabs in 1948 to prevent the establishment of the state of Israel.
Even the Israeli government has uprooted a series of settlements as part of a series of peace agreements.
In 1982, the Times itself reported that in turning over the Sinai peninsula to Egypt, Israel relinquished “16 civilian settlements.” The last of these was Yamit.
In 2005, according to the Anti-Defamation League, Israel pulled out of another 25 settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, removing about 8,000 residents.
As the New York Times reported in 2005, “In the three days since the forced evacuations began, just 7 of the 21 settlements in Gaza have not formally been cleared out. Of the nearly 9,000 Gaza settlers, perhaps several hundred are still in their homes, according to the military.” The Times dispatch from 2005 went on:
The evacuations are to resume on Sunday morning, and barring unexpected developments, it appears they may be completed as early as Monday. The pullout from four small West Bank settlements is expected next week.
The mopping-up operations are already under way. Dozens of moving trucks were in Neve Dekalim, the largest settlement, as workers boxed household possessions that settlers had not packed. The military must also demolish the settlers’ houses and take down army bases.
“Tearfully but Forcefully, Israel Removes Gaza Settlers,” was the headline over another 2005 New York Times article. “By nightfall, the army said it had cleared the settlements of Morag, Bedolah, Kerem Atzmona, Ganei Tal, and Tel Katifa. Gadid, Peat Sadeh, Rafiah Yam, Shalev, Dugit and Nisanit were already empty or nearly so.”
How many helpers does the Times have to hire for Kingsley to get it right? Clearly, five weren’t enough. There certainly are many asymmetries between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. But the claim that the Jews “are rarely in danger of losing the land they live on” simply doesn’t hold up. They are almost constantly in danger of it. Anyone making such a claim demonstrates their ignorance of Jewish history — and here, it exposes Kingsley’s failure to understand the people he is writing about.
The ignorance flares elsewhere in the article, too. Kingsley writes, “Violence has long been deployed by both Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel occupied the territory in 1967, and it has since been settled — illegally, according to most interpretations of international law — by hundreds of thousands of Israelis, many of whom consider the land their biblical birthright.”
What matters is not “most interpretations” but the correct interpretation. What happened before 1967? The Times article doesn’t say, but what happened was that the Jews living there were kicked out by Jordan, which seized the territory in the war the Arabs initiated in 1948 to prevent the establishment of the state of Israel. By the Times “most interpretations” interpretation, a Jew who returns in 1967 to a house in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem’s old city that he fled in the 1948 war is an “illegal” settler or occupier.
The Times’ formulation that “Violence has long been deployed by both Israelis and Palestinians” makes no distinction between illegal terrorist violence and lawful warfare.
If the Times wants to write about settler violence, fine. Such violence is terrible. But along the way, the paper is spreading a bogus narrative about how the problem is the settlers and occupation rather than Arab rejectionism, terrorism, and antisemitism.
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.