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Thursday, April 15, 2010


Why Americans have a distorted view of Israel

Yesterday something very serious, though not at all uncommon, occurred in the West Bank (a.k.a. occupied Palestine):
More than 300 olive trees were uprooted and two cars set alight in the West Bank village of Hawara in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Stars of David and the word 'Mohammed,' as well as racist slogans, were also sprayed in Hebrew across the town, including on the walls of a mosque.
That straightforward account of the facts comes courtesy of the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz.

Now let's turn to the American media. AP has a short article which fails to mention the 300 olive trees, and doesn't even acknowledge the incident as actually having happened, only that "A Palestinian prayer leader says..." it happened (this despite the fact that the online article is accompanied by an actual photograph of the mosque desecration). The Washington Post goes them one better, putting that into a headline: "Palestinians accuse Jewish settlers of mosque attack," again as if, even if the attackers weren't caught red-handed, there is the slightest question about their identity. As with AP, no mention of the olive trees whatsoever.

The New York Times actually reports the story by quoting Ha'aretz, and also another Israeli news site, Ynet News, whose report puts the lie to the claim that it is only "suspected" as to who the perpetrators are:

Hawara resident Ziad Dib told Ynet that he saw a number of settlers flee the village in a Subaru at around 3 a.m. According to him, the settlers torched his car.
So far so good, right? Except the Times report only appears in "the Lede blog," i.e., as far as I know, not in the actual paper, only online, and even there you're only likely to stumble upon it if you actually search for it, as I did; it certainly doesn't appear on the front page of the web site.

And, of course, most people don't get their news from the Post or the Times. Listening to TV news on various network and cable channels, and reading my local paper, the San Jose Mercury News, not a word about this incident, an indication of the breadth (or lack thereof) of the appearance of the AP article.

Now imagine someone painted swastikas on a synagogue in Israel, or France, much less uprooted 300 (!) olive trees belonging to Jews somewhere. Do you think you'd hear about it? There's really not much doubt about that, is there?

Update: Just in case you worried that the fact that the olive trees were only reported by one source made it questionable whether it was really true, the details of the event make rather clear that it very much did happen.

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