A Tale of Two Agendas (updated)
There it is, prominently displayed on page 6 of the April 17 New York Times: spread across the page's full six columns, some 42 column inches of photos and text depicting an Israeli army officer striking a protester in the face with the side of his weapon, an M-16 rifle.
If you follow the photo sequence, it appears that this "sudden" attack on the protester, identified as a "Danish activist," is an unprovoked act of violence against an innocent "participant in a bicycle tour" to protest in favor of Palestinians who is doing nothing more than conversing with the officer before being slammed in a vicious attack.
So would you be led to believe by Times writer Isabel Kershner. Replete with reports of "shock and condemnation," Kershner's writing barely notes that some Israeli armed forces members has said that the Colonel who used his rifle in this manner had had two fingers broken "during the confrontation." She also makes sure to quote the denials of the Dane involved and the unsupported accusations of additional violence against some of his cohorts.
Now, turn to the Wall Street Journal, a paper now known for any anti-Israel agenda. That paper's editors deemed the incident worthy of a mere 3 ½ column inch blurb buried in a page-11 "World Watch" roundup of blurbs describing various minor international events. Even there, the piece is careful to modify the allegations "unprovoked" with the adjective "seemingly"; and it is careful to note that the Israeli colonel's aides report that the "activist" had struck the officer with a stick and broken two of his fingers before the Israeli hit back in self defense.
Somehow, after having a couple of fingers broken, I think smacking the perpetrator in the face with a sideways-held small arm is pretty mild. But, then again, I don't have an anti-Israel agenda to pursue.
Update from Leo Rennert:
The New York Times, in its April 17 edition, runs an article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner about a senior Israeli officer suspended for striking a Danish pro-Palestinian activist in the face with a rifle during an anti-Israel demonstration in the West Bank ("After Clash Caught on Video, Israeli Officer Is Suspended for Striking an Activist" page A6).
For starters, there's general agreement, which I share, that the officer's conduct crossed the line and that his superiors were right in suspending him pending further investigation. That part of Kershner's article is spot on.
Not so, when she gets around to identifying the demonstration's organizers. Here's how she puts it: "The bicycle tour was coordinated by a Palestinian youth organization with the participation of foreign activists from the International Solidarity Movement, a Palestinian-led organization that advocates nonviolent direct action against Israeli military rule in the occupied territories."
Kershner's description of ISM as pursuing "nonviolent direct action" is taken word for word from the ISM's own policy statement. Except that the ISM also recognizes "armed struggle" against Israel as a "legitimate right" of the Palestinians - a darker side of ISM that Kershner ignores.
In fact, ISM is known for organizing high-octane provocations that are not exactly in line with Gandhiesque teachings of non-violence. In this instance as in others, it videotapes its raucous group provocations against Israeli security forces, and then edits them to show only questionable IDF responses, while hiding its own not-so-peaceful tactics. The videos then are quickly gobbled up by Western media and become the story.
In the U.S., ISM has organized and sponsored numerous campus affiliates, like the Muslim Student Union and Students for Justice in Palestine, that support the likes of Hamas - again, not exactly a Palestinian group dedicated to nonviolence.
Kershner also is easy on ISM when she writes that some 200 demonstrators were cycling with flags and banners in the "Israeli-controlled portion of the Jordan Valley." What she fails to mention is that the ISM troops were in a closed military zone. The protesters disregarded warnings to keep out - a favorite ISM tactic.
Again, none of this excuses a senior IDF officer losing his cool. But Kershner transgresses basic journalistic rules of fairness with her double-standard reporting - with bark off about Israel and gloves on about Palestinians and their supporters.
Why not put both sides under the same lens?
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers