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How the New York Times silences Palestinians

Ali Abunimah

December 2, 2013

It will not be news to regular readers of The Electronic Intifada that The New York Times systematically excludes all except token Palestinian voices from its coverage.

But under the regime of Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, the silencing of Palestinians has plumbed new lows.

On 29 November, the Times published a story by Isabel Kershner about a Jerusalem photo exhibit put on by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees.

The exhibit showcases some of UNRWA’s unique archive of photographs of Palestinian refugees since the Nakba.

Palestinians have a complicated relationship with UNRWA. It is part of their history and the vast majority of its employees – teachers and doctors – are Palestinian refugees.

At the same time, it is criticized by many as a palliative to the plight of the Palestinians, substituting aid for real efforts to restore the right of return.

Yet in the Times article, as Adam Horowitz notes at Mondoweiss, Kershner does not quote a single Palestinian.

Instead, as Horowitz writes: "For some reason Isabel Kershner gives more space to Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor to denounce the exhibit than to UNWRA staffers to explain it. And, of course, the article ignores actual Palestinian refugees all together."

Ignoring Bedouins

The next day, the Times published what appears to be its first ever story about the Prawer Plan.

Under the Prawer Plan, Israel will demolish dozens of villages and displace tens of thousands of Palestinian Bedouins from their lands in the southern Naqab (Negev) region in order to replace them with Jews. This is ethnic cleansing pure and simple.

On 30 November, protests all over historic Palestine against the plan were met with Israeli police brutality and, according to eyewitnesses, unprovoked police violence, as I reported in a post earlier today.

But Kershner presents what happened as being the fault of protesters:

In scenes reminiscent of the Palestinian uprisings in the West Bank, protesters hurled stones at police forces, burned tires and blocked a main road for hours near the Bedouin town of Hura in the Negev. The police used water cannons, tear gas and sound grenades to disperse the demonstrators.

It’s hardly surprising that Kershner follows a purely official Israeli narrative, because she only quotes Israeli officials: police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld, justice minister and war crimes suspect Tzipi Livni and the Israeli prime minister’s office.

The Times’ silence on Prawer has been noted and criticized by experts and observers for months. The plan passed its first reading in the Israeli parliament last July.

In this – the only article published by the Times on the Prawer Plan – Kershner cannot find a single Bedouin who will be directly affected to speak to.

Moreover, as Patrick Connors, an activist with Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, noted in an email, the Prawer Plan article, while online, does not appear in the Sunday print edition of the newspaper, giving it even less visibility.

Conflict of interest

This is not reporting. It is colonial propaganda. It is also not surprising given Kershner’s record of misleading reporting and her conflict of interest.

As Alex Kane reported last year for the media accuracy watchdog FAIR, Kershner’s "husband, Hirsh Goodman, works for the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) as a senior research fellow and director of the Charles and Andrea Bronfman Program on Information Strategy, tasked with shaping a positive image of Israel in the media."

INSS is funded by the government and well-connected to the Israeli government and military.

Rudoren subdued

The person immediately responsible for this parlous state of affairs is Times Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren.

At the beginning of her tenure, she reached out to Palestinians, including me, and gave the impression of being open-minded and curious.

Yet this was short-lived. Rudoren was the target of high-profile Israel lobby attacks. Former Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg led the charge, claiming that "She shmoozed-up Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian activist who argues for Israel’s destruction."

Sucking up to Goldberg

The bullying worked. Rudoren now does not communicate with Palestinians on Twitter, while actually schmoozing up to Goldberg, calling him "multitalented."

We must assume that Times management explicitly approves of this abject behavior since after Goldberg’s attack, Rudoren was assigned a minder to monitor and supervise her use of social media.

Rudoren has also been preoccupied in recent days with promoting a video made by her husband Gary Rudoren, a "Jewish parody" called "Thanksgivukkah: The Movie."

She even retweeted an appreciation from Benjamin Weinthal, a far-right Israeli activist who has collaborated with NGO Monitor in smearing Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups and others, including The Electronic Intifada.

With such preoccupations, it is no wonder Rudoren barely notices what is happening to Palestinians or cares enough to make sure that the Times’ reporting reflects it.



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