NYT downplays Palestinian civilian deaths, political motivation for Gaza attack

NYT downplays Palestinian civilian deaths, political motivation for Gaza attack

The New York Times all but ignored Palestinian civilians killed by Israel’s latest assault on Gaza and dismissed an essential factor in Israel’s calculus — pressure on Netanyahu from the fascistic members of his own coalition

The PBS News Hour was almost as deferential. Bennett left the large number of Palestinian dead to the last line of his report, and didn’t say that almost all have been civilians

The Times and PBS too are sensitive to the Israel lobby in the U.S.

by Philip Weiss, reposted from Mondoweiss, May 13, 2023

We are accustomed to The New York Times parroting the official Israeli view of Palestinian resistance, and once again this week the Times came through, all but leaving out the Palestinian civilians killed by Israel and dismissing an important factor in Israel’s missile strikes on apartment buildings in Gaza — the pressure on Netanyahu from the fascistic members of his own coalition.

Even liberal Zionists in the United States were alarmed by the political motivation for murdering innocent civilians. But the Times made excuses for Netanyahu.

Yesterday the Times put the death of an Israeli in the third paragraph of its story– the first Israeli casualty during a week of violence. But in a frank demonstration that Palestinian lives don’t matter to the newspaper of record, the Times left civilian deaths in Gaza till a few paragraphs from the end of the story. (“At least 29 Palestinians have been killed since the hostilities began on Tuesday, six of them children…”)

The Times justified the Israeli attacks, calling them “airstrikes against what the military described as 150 targets linked to the militant group [Islamic Jihad] in Gaza.”

One Times headline only mentioned the three Islamic Jihad leaders killed, not the 10 civilians. Palestinians are being dehumanized, Dahlia Hatuqa pointed out.

Here’s a good example of how you dehumanize Palestinians. Israel purposefully struck a residential area in one of the most densely populated places on earth. It is impoverished and besieged. 12 people are killed, including women and children. And the headline is about “militants”

The PBS News Hour was almost as deferential. Geoff Bennett left the large number of Palestinian dead to the last line of his report, and didn’t say that almost all have been civilians. Nope, it’s legitimate targets: “Israeli airstrikes hit Islamic Jihad targets. Palestinian officials said at least 21 people in Gaza have been killed.”

This politeness about state terrorism reflects the enormous pressure inside Israel not to talk about the civilian deaths. When an Israeli channel highlighted the killings of ten women and children, it was ravaged by critics, including government ministers.

The Times and PBS too are sensitive to the Israel lobby in the U.S.

Then there’s the politics of the killings. Several sources, including Al-Monitor, and our own Mitchell Plitnick, have made clear that the violence is not self-defense: Netanyahu is waging brutal force to keep the extremist right wing of his rightwing coalition happy, at a time when he is politically flailing.

Even J Street pointed out the political motivation for killing Palestinians:

It is also alarming that this escalation followed in the wake of political pressure from some of the coalition’s extreme-right figures.

Michael Koplow of Israel Policy Forum was also perturbed by the sequence. He described “possible political calculations motivating the scope and timing of the Israeli operation in light of the squabbling between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his recalcitrant National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir.”

But New York Times correspondent Isabel Kershner’s latest explainer on the violence brushed the political angle under the rug. The government’s rightwing/religious supporters “expected it to take more aggressive action against threats from Gaza,” she wrote. “The ultranationalist minister of national security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, even boycotted government votes in protest of what he considered to be a weak response to the heavy rocket fire last week.”

But Kershner explained that the Israeli strikes were routine and legitimate — military leaders determined that “they needed to deter the group” Islamic Jihad, and these campaigns are “far from unprecedented.” And Netanyahu is “conservative” in such matters: he is “risk averse and not eager for military adventures.”

Al-Monitor offers much more information. Netanyahu and Ben-Gvir are in “open war” over the Israeli policy toward Gaza. The response (to rockets following the death of Palestinian prisoner Khader Adnan on May 2) was initially “relatively moderate.”

Then it changed to the deadly attacks on IJ leaders inside apartment buildings crowded with civilians.

Over the last few weeks, Ben-Gvir had been complaining that he was being excluded from discussions about national security. He was outraged after the rocket attacks from Gaza once he learned that Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant held a meeting with senior members of the defense to assess the current situation — and that they held these meetings without inviting him.

By that time, Ben-Gvir felt no obligations to the coalition. He and the members of his Jewish Power faction traveled to Sderot, the southern town that absorbed most of the rocket fire, in order to launch a media attack on Netanyahu and his alleged lax policies in Gaza. But even that was not enough for the leader of the far-right party. Ben-Gvir also boycotted that day’s votes in the Knesset to prove his discontent.

Even liberal Zionists have noticed the indiscriminate slaughter for political purposes. Koplow had the honesty (remarkable among Israel lobbyists) to say that Israel is firing missiles at people who have no ability to escape the heavy armaments. “[I]n one of the most population-dense places on Earth,” Koplow observes, the “IDF attacked apartment buildings in the middle of the night when families were guaranteed to be there, and it did so after agreeing to a ceasefire with PIJ one week earlier and despite the fact that no Israelis were killed by PIJ rockets during the most recent volley.”

Some Americans are tiring of Israeli talking points. Not the New York Times.

Philip Weiss is senior editor of Mondoweiss.net and founded the site in 2005-06.




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