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July 14, 2010
Life in Gaza through NYT's distorted lens
In its July 14 edition, the New York Times runs a lengthy article with four large photos on life in Gaza that is a prime example of selective history, selective sociology and selective journalism ("Trapped by Gaza Blockade, Locked in Despair" by Michael Slackman and Ethan Bronner, front page and all of page A9, topped by its own headline reading "Palestinians Are Trapped in Gaza by Israeli Blockade And Locked in Despair")
Slackman and Bronner admit there's no shortage of food, nor is there a humanitarian crisis -- "The issue is not hunger: It is idleness, uncertainty and despair."
And while they depict several aspects of this despair -- isolation, inability to travel, dependence on UN welfare provisions, fierce rivalry and bad blood between Hamas and Fatah -- the real culprit of their piece is Israel.
Right from the start, they point to Israel as the ur-historical cause of all this misery, or as they put it: "The Palestinians of Gaza, most of them descended from refugees of the 1948 war that created Israel, have lived through decades of conflict and confrontation."
So it all begins with the "1948 war that created Israel." It's because of Israel's creation that Gazans suffer to this very day. Except that Israel's creation, duly sanctioned by the United Nations, was not the cause of the 1948 war. That war was sparked by half a dozen Arab armies bent on invading and destroying the nascent Jewish state. It was Arab aggression -- not a revival of Jewish sovereignty in a small slice of the Holy Land -- that engendered hostilities in 1948.
And having brought up 1948, Slackman and Bronner conveniently forget to tell Times readers that, as a result of that war, Gaza remained under Egyptian -- not Israeli -- rule for another two decades.
But if you're going to pin the donkey on Israel's back, historical distortion evidently comes in handy.
Similarly, in bringing their twisted historical narrative to the present, Bronner and Slackman go on to write that "today, two developments have conspired to turn a difficult life into a new torment: a three-year blockade by Israel and Egypt that has locked them in the small enclave and crushed what there was of a formal local economy; and the bitter rivalry between Palestinian factions."
What's conspicuously missing from this overview, of course, is the reason for the blockade -- the thousands of rockets and mortar shells that rained on civilian targets in Israel, especially after the start of Hamas's iron rule of Gaza. That, according to the Times, doesn't rate as a development that's conspired to turn a difficult life in Gaza into a new torment.
Here's another example of the selective historical lens used by Bronner and Slackman: "Direct contact between the peoples, common in the 1980s and 90s when Palestinians worked daily in Israel, is non-existent," they write. But they are totally silent about the reasons for this loss of direct contact between Israelis and Gazans. No mention that Israel withdrew completely from Gaza a few years ago, hoping Palestinians would turn it into another Singapore, only to have Hams turn it into another Somalia.
The article's gentle treatment of Hamas -- and its responsibility for what's happening in Gaza under its iron rule -- is staggering.
So is the lack of a realistic and comprehensive overview of life in Gaza. With all their problems, Gazans still are better off than people in most countries, according to international living-standard data. For example, infant mortality is lower in Gaza than in Turkey, and life expectancy is greater in Gaza than in Turkey. Yet, the New York Times is not about to use up as much printers' ink to cover the desperate straits of some of Turkey's inhabitants.
Slackman and Bronner basically focus on symptoms -- Gazans' claustrophobic life, anger at Israel, anger at Fatah, anger at Hamas -- but fail miserably when it comes to the main cause of Gazans' "listless desperation and radicalization" -- the self-inflicted wounds of Gaza's leaders in pursuit of one objective above all else, including the welfare of their own people -- the destruction of Israel.