NYT Gushes over Freed Terrorist
Israel’s release of Palestinian terrorists in hopes of advancing the peace process has consumed Israelis in recent weeks. Reactions generally have ranged from skepticism to outrage.
Enter the New York Times with a front-page article in its March 30 edition that focuses on one such freed murderer, Muqdad Salah, who killed Israel Tenenbaum, a 72-year-old survivor of the Holocaust.
There were various angles to this story that Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren could have highlighted -- the lingering pain and suffering of Tenenbaum’s family, the widespread revulsion among Israelis at having to pay such a price for a highly problematic peace process. Giving top play to the victim, certainly not the perpetrator.
But that’s not how Rudoren and the Times chose to convey this sad chapter in Israeli history. In the Times article, the main focus -- with lots of empathy -- is Salah, the terrorist killer. (“Remaking a Life, After Years in an Israeli Prison” front page headline and “Freed After Years in Israeli Prisons, Palestinians Try to Remake Lives” jump-page headline; March 30, front page and page 4)
The pictures also tell the story -- a two-column front page photo of Salah and his bride on their wedding day. And three more pictures on the jump page -- A huge, four-column picture of Salah hoisted on the shoulders of Palestinian celebrants during his wedding feast. A much, much smaller photo of Mina Tenenbaum holding a photo of her late husband, killed by Salah. And a three-column picture at the bottom of the front page of Mina Tenenbaum with her daughter, Esti Harris.
No big secret about the pictorial priorities of the Times. It’s Salah, not his victims, who get preferred attention. Rudoren, in similar vein, devotes some 30 paragraphs, including the top four paragraphs, to humanizing Salah. The late Israel Tenenbaum and his family get back-of-the-bus treatment -- about seven paragraphs in all.
Salah is introduced in the aftermath of his wedding as a nice paterfamilias, pressing his wife to start fertility treatment. “I want a son -- or a daughter -- I want someone to inherit me,” he tells Rudoren. “Many times I dreamed of it in prison. I saw this house and the children, playing with toys. I dream more now. I don’t want 10 -- two is enough for me. I want to give all my energy to them.” This from the man who hit Tenenbaum on the head with a metal rod “as protest against the occupation.”
And where is Rudoren’s moral compass in reporting this murder? Israelis, she writes, “demonize’’ Palestinian killers like Salah as “terrorists.”. Israelis may use such description -- but not Rudoren.
Freed Palestinians convicted of murder by Israel, she reports, “have begun to rebuild disrupted lives. They are earning their first driver’s licenses, leveraging $50,000 grants from the Palestinian Authority to build apartments or start businesses, searching for wives and struggling to start families.”
As for Salah, “flush with more than $100,000 saved from the Palestinian Authority’s monthly payments to prisoners’ families, he remodeled and refurnished his mother’s home. He invested in a Nablus money-changing storefront in December, and, last month, bought his first car, a silver 2007 Kia Pride.”
Yeah, Salah. A swell capitalist in Rudoren’s eyes.
At his pre-wedding celebration, there were gifts of cash pinned all over his shirt and the next day, the couple “used a large steel sword to cut a cake exploding with fireworks,” Times readers are told.
But Salah’s life is not all roses, Rudoren wants us to know. Salah has to check in with Israeli security officials every two months and he can’t leave the West Bank for 10 years.
Poor fellow. “I’m getting bored,” he remarks plaintively. “I want to travel. I want to see people. I want to breathe the air, I want to walk. I’m away from the conflict now. I’ve paid the tax in full. If tomorrow there is a third intifada, I’ll sit on this couch, and watch it on TV.”
What a swell, reformed guy! As for Tenenbaum’s family, Rudoren writes, Salah’s new life is “unsettling.” But unlike most Israelis, Rudoren notes, the family could accept Salah’s release if it advances the peace process -- “I don’t believe hate and anger will move anything forward.” says Tenenbaum’s daughter.
Which leaves Rudoren thoroughly pleased as she presents a scrubbed clean Palestinian killer with a Kosher seal from his victims.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers