A Tale of Two Papers
Israel’s arrest of six Jews for the grisly murder of an Arab teen rates as the top front-page article in both the New York Times and the Washington Post. But there the similarity ends. While the Post comes through with a generally fair and decent report, the New York Times unleashes a blistering attack on Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.
Let’s start with the Times version, headlined “6 Israelis Held Over The Killing Of A Palestinian -- Revenge Seen As Motive -- Confronting a Spiral of Violence, Netanyahu Pledges Justice.”
Right off the bat, Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner questions the motive of the Jewish state prosecuting Jews. Even before the lead paragraph gets around to the arrest of the Jewish suspects, she opines that Israel only acted as it did because it was “confronting the possibility of spiraling retaliatory violence between Jews and Palestinians.” It doesn’t enter into her mind that Israel’s only motive may have been to apply the rule of law equally to Jews and Arabs.
Kershner’s refusal to credit Netanyahu for demonstrating equal justice before the law pops up again in the second paragraph. Netanyahu, she writes, was slow in fingering Jewish terrorists and he finally went public “after days of near silence.” It’s only later in the article that Kershner acknowledges that Netanyahu couldn’t have spoken out sooner because a “judicial gag order prevented officials from revealing details about the suspects.” But her dig at Bibi remains.
Also, she keeps it up, faulting the prime minister for calling Palestinian killers of three Israeli teens “beasts.” Kershner evidently would have opted for a milder term.
She also finds fault with Israel’s military crackdown in the West Bank in its search to find the Palestinian killers of the three Israeli teens. Israeli self-defense is not her forte. Rather, she complains that Israel’s military crackdown “shook the Palestinian Authority and its reconciliation pact with Hamas in Gaza, weakening the more moderate West Bank leadership in the eyes of its public as it seeks international support for statehood.”
In other words, Israel’s security must take a backseat to the Palestinian agenda in the Times.
As for Netanyahu’s performance, Kershner dons prosecutorial robes to declare him guilty across the board. “Mr. Netanyahu is already out of step with world opinion, being held partly responsible by the Obama administration for scuttling American-brokered Middle East peace talks,” she writes.
All in all, a total downer in the Times.
Over at the Post, the view of Israel’s conduct amidst widespread Palestinian riots is considerably more positive. The main theme of lead correspondent Ruth Eglash is that Israel’s decision to arrest and prosecute Jews for the killing of an Arab teen demolished long-held views of Palestinians and leftist Israelis that the Jewish state would never do such a thing. (“Shock in Israel after arrests – Revenge Killing Suspected -- 6 Jews held in Arab teen’s death.)
“The arrests shocked those on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide,” Eglash writes. “Palestinians because many had assumed Israel would never act against its own, and Israelis because there had been widespread doubt that Jews could have carried out such a heinous crime.”
And in a kudos to Israel and Netanyahu, Eglash adds that the arrest of the suspected Jewish terrorists “could help defuse what has been seen as a dangerous swelling of Palestinian anger, with violent protests in East Jerusalem and Arab towns in northern Israel feeding fears of a budding intifada. Demonstrators who have called for an uprising against the Israeli occupation have decried the lack of justice and had bitterly predicted that 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khieder’s killers would never face trial.”
There goes a basic underpinning of all the violent Palestinian protests -- courtesy the arrest of suspected Jewish killers.
While the Times version has Hussein Abu Khiederk, the father of the slain Arab youth, denounce Israel in the sharpest terms, the Post’s picture of him depicts him in far more modulated tones. Eglash writes that the father, regardless of other feelings, “welcomed the arrests and expressed hope that they represent a broader change in Israeli attitudes toward crimes against Palestinians.”
And the Post article ends with other hopeful signs, leading Eglash to conclude that “Israeli-Palestinian hostilities may be easing, if only slightly.” As examples, she cites word from the family of Naftali Fraenkel, one of the slain Israeli teens, that they have received many condolence calls from Palestinians in recent days. Also, that Naftali’s uncle spoke by phone to the father of the slain Arab youth and extended the Fraenkel family’s sorrow at the death of his son, Mohammad.”
“I told him that all murderers need to be caught and punished for these crimes, Fraenkel said.”
Quite a difference between the Post’s upbeat theme with the Times’ view through glasses darkly. The former sees rays of hope while the latter sees nothing but dark despair.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers