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Israelis, according to The New York Times, carry out “nationalist” attacks against Palestinian civilians; Palestinians commit “terrorism” against Israeli civilians.
So indicates correspondent Isabel Kershner this week in the “newspaper of record.”
In a “Fact Check” piece, Kershner references Baruch Goldstein’s attack on Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. She writes, “There have also been occasional nationalist attacks against Palestinians by armed Israelis, such as the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in 1994 with an army-issued automatic rifle.”
The words “nationalist” and “massacre” are appropriate, but can Israeli settlers not commit “terrorism”? The absence of the word speaks to the fact that The New York Times regards some forms of violence as more acceptable than others, particularly the violence of a colonizing occupying force and its accompanying settlers against an occupied population.
The violence and intimidation brought to bear by that settler-colonial force is consistently described in less menacing terms than the response from those subjugated. This article is a clear example of such thinking.
Kershner reinforces this message throughout. “Palestinian gunmen carried out deadly terrorist attacks on a school in Maalot, near the border with Lebanon, in 1974 and at a rabbinical seminary in 2008,” she writes.
Kershner does not explain why this Palestinian violence is terrorism, but the Israeli violence is not. Readers are forced to conclude that terrorism is something Palestinians do, but Israelis simply act out of “nationalist” belief. These beliefs, evidently, shelter Israel from charges of terrorism.
Routine Israeli military gun violence against Palestinian civilians is not mentioned. Nor is there a mention of the impunity for Israeli soldiers responsible for the deaths of Palestinian school children in even the most egregious cases such as that of Iman al-Hams, which was reported by The New York Times at the time. She posed no threat, was repeatedly shot at close range and yet the Israeli officer who killed her was cleared.
Similar impunity for police officers and “stand your ground” vigilantes in the US is not cited, though racial bias pervades the legal systems of both countries.
Elsewhere in the article, Kershner writes: “Guns are not seen as a hobby, but as a tool for self-defense, and if necessary, to help protect others from terrorism. And while Israel has sophisticated policing and intelligence aimed at stopping terrorism, it has little experience with the kinds of civilian mass shootings that have become the source of anguished debate in the United States.”
But this is grossly misleading. Israel does have abundant experience with “civilian mass shootings.” It is just that it is Palestinian civilians doing the dying – whether meted out by Israeli settlers as in the case of Goldstein or by Israeli soldiers.
Strikingly, Kershner reinforces the double standard when she recalls a Palestinian truck attack against Israeli soldiers. She notes, “Last year, a tour guide was among those who opened fire at a Palestinian driver who plowed his truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem.”
Kershner referred in that story to the incident constituting “terrorism.” She wrote of the January 2017 attack: “Israel buried its latest terrorism victims on Monday, the day after they were run down by a Palestinian man in a truck, enveloping them in the country’s familiar outpouring of love for its service members.”
The Electronic Intifada highlighted the flawed reporting guidelines at the newspaper at the time and quoted Jodi Rudoren, a former Jerusalem bureau chief and at the time deputy international editor, as commenting, “A truck ramming into a crowd felt like terrorism.”
An Israeli plane dropping bombs on Palestinian civilians, however, is not described as terrorism.