When dog bites man, that isn’t news. But when Martin Peretz, liberal editor of The New Republic, devotes a column to blasting the New York Times, we take some notice. Peretz had just returned from Israel and Gaza during the so-called disengagement, the forced removal by Israeli troops of the residents of the Jewish settlements in the disputed territory. While there, he was struck by how distorted the coverage was in the Times.
Peretz’s liberal credentials are solidly intact. He is an old friend of Al Gore, and strongly backed him in the 2000 election. He describes in the article how the New York Times, which he calls “indispensable,” is and has been in his blood for many, many years, being the first item on his daily menu. It ranks right up there for Accuracy in Media as well, and has since Reed Irvine founded the organization in 1969. It is Exhibit A when the issue of liberal bias in the mainstream media is discussed. And it is Exhibit A when the issue is anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian bias. This has been carefully documented at Camera.org, and other sites that focus on the Middle East.
Peretz accuses the Times of a long-standing bias, and even relates it to a book he just read that concludes that during World War II, “the Times simply ignored or buried in the back pages what its correspondents, editors, and owners deeply knew and grasped, which was that European Jewry—a whole civilization, really—was being exterminated by the Germans and their allies in Europe.” The book, Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper, is byLaurel Leff, an associate professor in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University.
The day we read Peretz’s article was the same day that the Times ran an editorial praising Sharon. They like to think it shows their objectivity. In fact, it shows that if Israel makes unilateral concessions to the Palestinian Authority, no matter the consequences, that in their view is a good thing. In this case, the government of Israel believes it is in its interest to leave Gaza to the Palestinians, fenced off, where hopefully, the theory goes, terrorism will be reduced to a similar extent as has happened with the West Bank since a security fence was built around it. Peretz agrees as well.
Peretz was commenting on the disparity between what he saw, and what the Times was reporting and editorializing at that time. He accused the Times editorial board of choosing not to tell the whole story, “and to draw conclusions that are perverse in their pro-Palestinian emphasis.” For example, he cites this: “Some Gaza settlers pinned orange stars to their chests in a reference to the Holocaust.” But Peretz, who visited four settlements, including the largest one, saw only two such badges, and points out that the “wartime Jewish stigmata were actually in yellow,” and that the orange stars were derived from the Ukrainian “Orange Revolution.” But that wasn’t the symbolism the Times wanted to portray.
Peretz was struck by the relative lack of violence and hysteria during the removal of the settlers. While no one was killed and very few physically injured during the Gaza phase of the operation, the Times instead focused on the killing in the West Bank of four Palestinians by a settler who grabbed a gun from a security guard and opened fire. They correctly labeled this an act of terror, and sided up with Sharon who called it “an exceptionally grave Jewish act of terror.” And as always in Israel when such an act occurs, rare as it is, it is roundly denounced and the party is brought to justice.
“But do the Times editorialists have no shame?,” Peretz asks. “Finally they have shed their reluctance to call an act of terror ‘terror,’ but only when they can put the adjective ‘Jewish’ before it. Was the Dolphinarium bombing in Tel Aviv [which killed 21 and wounded 120], which merited no Times editorial, not Palestinian terror?…When has a Palestinian terrorist been arrested and brought to a Palestinian court as an accused? Does the Times editorial page ever call the murder of 30, 40 innocent Iraqis a day—looking for work or at the market—terrorism? Hardly. It is insurgency.”
One more example. The Times said that “Gaza represents the worst side of Israel’s settlement movement.” But as Peretz points out, they are a very diverse group of 8,500 people, 60 to 70 percent of whom are children. They have successfully farmed the land, producing up to 15% of Israel’s agricultural produce. “Let’s admit it,” Peretz urges, “The Arabs had Gaza for a thousand years. There were no Zionists to blame for its backwardness. Why did they make nothing of Gaza? We will see what they will make of the hundreds of acres of greenhouses the Israelis have left behind.”
We hope that Peretz and Sharon and Bush and the New York Times are right, that this move will lead to peace. But there are grave doubts. Hamas, the terrorist organization that was supposed to be dismantled by the Palestinian Authority under the terms of the so-called Roadmap to Peace, is gaining ground as a political force. Mahmoud al Zahar, the most senior Hamas member in Gaza, has made his intentions clear. The Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri.org) has translated some of his recent comments from an interview he gave for the August 18th edition of the leading international Arab newspaper. He was asked if Hamas recognizes Israel’s right to exist, and he replied, “We do not and will not recognize a state called Israel. Israel has no right to any inch of Palestinian land—This land is the property of all Muslims in all parts of the world.” And he does not mean only the West Bank and Gaza.
When told that “Israelis fear that Gaza could become the land of Hamas after the withdrawal, al Zahar replied, “Let Israel die.” A poll taken in 2004 of 506 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip found that Hamas is more popular than Yasser Arafat’s Al Fatah movement, and 76.5 percent responded that they support the continuation of suicide bombings against Israel. And in municipal elections for local councils in 2004, Hamas won a majority of seats in nine out of 26 Palestinian communities. In Gaza, they won 75 out of 118 seats they contested. They view the pullout of Israelis from Gaza as evidence that terrorism works, and if they continue, they will get the rest of the land they seek, which means all of Israel, and eventually Jordan as well. The New York Times has editorialized that this must be only “the beginning” and that the West Bank is next. The problem is that concessions to the Palestinians have done nothing to bring peace.
Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, who speaks more moderately than his predecessor Yasser Arafat, has done nothing to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure nor toward changing the culture of hatred toward Jews and Israel. Sadly, peace is not at hand, despite what the Times suggests.