NY Times adopts Palestinian terrorist prisoners
In its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the New York Times shows far more sympathy for Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israeli jails than for their victims, as witness a Feb. 20 article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner ("Palestinians In Prisons Refuse Meals In a Protest" page A8.)
Kershner, in her lead paragraph, tells readers that "hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners" refused meals on Feb. 19 in sympathy with four detainees on lengthy hunger strikes. Their protests, she adds, are intended to pressure Israel before President Obama's visit to the region next month.
The headline and the lead paragraph are both overblown and misleading. For one thing, Kershner and the headline writer disguise the fact that the one-day sympathy strikers constituted less than 10 percent of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. And for another thing, Kershner shies away from reporting their actual crimes. "Security prisoners" is her peculiar euphemism for Palestinian prisoners convicted of terrorism and other felonies.
In the second paragraph, Kershner does concede that only about 500 inmates joined the one-day protest -- but without telling readers that Israel holds some 5,000 Palestinian inmates, most of them convicted of terrorist attacks or plotting such attacks against civilians.
Only quite a bit later does she report the total number of Palestinian prisoners. But why not provide this information up front?
Kershner goes on to demonstrate similar Palestinian propaganda slants about the condition of Palestinian prisoners. She reports a statement by the Israel Prisoner Service that the four longer-term hunger strikers are in satisfactory condition and none were now hospitalized, but immediately questions its veracity.
"Paletinian representatives of the prisoners and international organizations have expressed growing concern over the deteriorating health of the hunger strikers," she writes as she challenges the veracity of Israeli prison officials. To give more heft for her slant, she adds that the Palestinian Prisoner Society reports that all four longer-term hunger strikers "were in serious condition and their lives were in danger."
Even more tellingly, Kershner wants readers to know that "the prisoner issue is an emotional one in Palestinian society that touches many families." Which prompts two immediate and obvious questions: First, what about Israeli victims of these prisoners? Isn't their lot an emotional issue in Israeli society? But that's not where Kershner's sympathy lies. And second, could the prisoner issue be an emotional one in Palestinian society because Palestinians have been educated by their leaders -- both Fatah and Hamas ---to glorify as holy "martyrs" terrorists who slaughter Israelis? Again, Kershner is silent on that side of the prisoner equation.
And still, Kershner soldiers on with her pro-Palestinian tilt, as she solicits an interview with Saeb Erekat, whom she describes as a "senior Palestinian official." More accurately, Erekat is the de facto propaganda minister of the Palestinian Authority, always ready to oblige reporters filing Israel-bashing pieces.
And Erekat doesn't disappoint, telling Kershner that he wants Israeli to "help defuse the growing crisis" -- a crisis pumped up, of course, by Erekat and Kershner. To add further drama, Erekat warns that "the situation on the ground now is really like a pressure cooker. I urge Israel to release these people (the longer-term hunger strikers). The last thing we want is for things to get out of hand before President Obama visits."
In Propaganda 101, Erekat gets an A. So does Kershner.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers