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February 9, 2023 2:50 pm

‘Not Very Helpful’: New York Times Highlights Israeli Settlers, Not Arab Rejectionism

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avatar by Ira Stoll


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

For The New York Times, the conflict between Israel and the Arabs boils down to one main issue—those Israeli settlers.

A front-page article in the Sunday, Feb. 5 edition of The New York Times reports, “Young settler activists, who believe the land in the West Bank has been promised to them by God, have been galvanized by the presence of their allies in the new government.”

Where might these “settler activists” have gotten the idea that the land was promised by God to the Jews? The New York Times doesn’t mention it, but you don’t have to be a “settler activist” to hold that view, just a reader of the bible. Why, even Pope Francis spoke in 2016 about “the people of Israel, who from Egypt, where they were enslaved, walked through the desert for forty years until they reached the land promised by God.” In 2005, Ariel Sharon was emphatic about how John Paul II drew a distinction between “terra sancta and terra promissa,” between the Holy Land and the Promised Land.

As is typical for The New York Timeserror-prone Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, the article has a correction appended: “A picture caption with an earlier version of this article misstated where the town of Shilo is. It is in the occupied West Bank, not Israel.”

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The Times reports that “Violence from both Israelis and Palestinians has long been routine in the territory, which was occupied by Israel during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967, in which Israel defeated several Arab states that were mobilizing against it. Hundreds of Israeli settlements have since been built there, impeding Palestinian hopes of sovereignty.”

Why, one wonders, were the Arab states mobilizing against Israel in 1967, when the “occupied territory” wasn’t occupied, and the settlers weren’t there? The Times doesn’t say, but the missing context is a clue that perhaps the settlers aren’t as important to the story as the Times claims. Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005 and the area was taken over by the Hamas terrorist organization and used as a base for attacks on Israel. Under Hamas’ Islamist extremist rule, gays were hanged. Israel went ahead with evacuating settlers from the Sinai peninsula in exchange for a peace with Egypt. The real problem issue is less the settlers than that the Palestinian Arabs, unlike Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat, are not ready to accept Israel’s existence in any secure borders.

Kingsley repeats the errors of Sunday’s article in another New York Times article, published on Tuesday, Feb. 7. He writes, “Tensions were already high in the West Bank amid rising Palestinian anger at the entrenchment of the Israeli occupation, which began when Israel captured the territory from Jordan during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. Hundreds of Israeli settlements have since been built there, curbing Palestinian hopes of sovereignty.”

The idea that Palestinians are angry only, or mainly, about the “occupation” is not supported by the facts. Again, the Gaza example is instructive: when Israel withdrew from occupying the Strip, the Arabs responded by attacking. The neighboring Arab states also refused peace with Israel and engaged in violence from 1948 to 1967, before the “occupation.” Palestinian hopes of sovereignty have been curbed not only by Israeli settlements but by Palestinian rejectionism, a refusal to accept Israel’s existence within secure borders.

Rather than reporting the news fairly, the Times reporters and editors use their choice of words, context and framing to inject opinion into the news articles, opinion that coincides with an anti-Israel point of view. At least some Times readers are starting to push back.

The comments section on the Feb. 7 article includes some wisdom from “Allen” in Seattle, who writes, “Articles like this are really not very helpful in assessing the situation because they largely equate body counts, Israeli versus Palestinian. Missing is a description of combatants and non-combatants. Furthermore, the NYT stable of reporters seem to structure their articles by leading with Israeli aggression. Aside from this article, a recent one by Raja Abdulrahim had a similar structure, leading off with Israeli aggression with little description of the Palestinian role in the incident. Contrast that to other sources, like Reuters or i24, that immediately identified that most of the Palestinian casualties were Hamas or Islamic Jihad gunmen who were operating a terrorist cell in Jenin. Finally, NYT reporters describe Israeli motivations as fundamentally aggressive (incursions, settlements, etc), leaving the impression of Palestinians are mere victims of Israeli hegemony. Missing is a description of the primary Palestinian motivation, to recapture Israel, ‘from the river to the sea.’”

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.

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