New York Times blames the victims for Beit Hagai massacre

When it comes to differentiating between Israeli settlers and Hamas terrorists, the New York Times displays more sympathy for the latter than for the former -- as is quite apparent from its Sept. 1 coverage of the killing of four Israeli civilians, including a pregnant woman, in an ambush by Hamas gunmen ("Killing of Israeli Settlers Rattles Leaders on Both Sides" by Isabel Kershner and Mark Landler," page A4).

The article's lead paragraph makes perfectly clear where the Times thinks the primary blame for the deadliest terrorist attack on Israeli civilians in more than two years lies. The killing of these Israelis on the eve of peace talks in Washington, Kershner and Landler write, "underscored the disruptive role that the issue of Jewish settlements could play in the already fragile negotiations."

The only "disruptive role" mentioned in the article's lead is that of Jewish settlements. No mention that the murders might also underscore the "disruptive role" of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the terror wing of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party. No mention of any "disuptive role" by Abbas-sanctioned incitement to violence in Palestinian Authority media, schools and mosques in the West Bank -- the kind of incitement that breeds terrorists like those who murdered these Israelis.

Instead, right up there in the headline and in the first paragraph, the Times points a finger of blame only at Jewish settlements in the West Bank. To drive home this point, Kershner and Landler don't just report that four Israelis were killed. They lead off by informing readers that the targets of Hamas terrorists were "Israeli settlers." Coupled with their primary emphasis on the "disruptive role" of settlements, they leave an obvious impression that these settlers basically had it coming. If anyone is to blame more than anyone else or any other group, it's the settlers, according to the Times version of events.

The Times basically wants the settlements -- not Hamas -- to disappear.

Thus, the article goes on to indict the victims by noting that they came from Beit Hagai, a small settlement near Hebron, "an area known for particularly militant settlers." Contrast that with the article's benign description of Hamas as merely an "Islamic group." Again, the bad guys are "militant" settlers, while Hamas gets sanitized as just an "Islamic" organization.

No mention of 4,000-year-old Jewish ties to Hebron, or to a long-time vibrant Jewish community there until lethal Arab pogroms in the 1920s drove the Jews out for a relatively brief period of time -- until after the Six-Day War of 1967. Jews have deeper roots in Hebron, where Abraham bought what became the Cave of the Patriarachs, than any other ethnic or religious group -- by thousands of years. The Times, however, totally ignores history -- biblical and modern -- because it's obsessed only with a Jewish presence in or near Hebron, Judaism's second holiest city.

And to make that crystal clear, the article goes on to report in Paragraph 5 that "even before the attack, settlements were looming as a potential deal-breaker in the peace process." Again, the only obstacles hampering the peace process are those pesky "settlements."

It is only much farther down in the article, in Paragraph 9, that Kershner and Landler quote an Israeli official as surmising that the lethal attack also might "heighten the emphasis on Israel's security in the negotiations." But that's not the conclusion of the reporters; they're merely attributing this to an Israeli official. It's not necessarily their conclusion that Israel's need for stronger security arrangements ought to get some attention at the peace talks, unlike their own personal judgment that the "settlements" are the only real fly in the ointment.

And while Israel and Jewish settlements take the brunt of blame of their article, they not only bend over backwards to soften any Hamas culpability, they're just as gentle in their treatment of Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. They quote PA officials as noting that the area of the attack is under full Israeli security control, and where PA security forces have no responsibility and are not allowed to operate. But does that get Abbas and the PA off the hook? Much farther down in the article, near the end, Kershner and Landler finally toss in a quote from an Israeli military official, who points out that "roadblocks in the area of the attack were removed two years ago." So Israel tied its own hands, retaining official security responsibility while weakening its defenses to allow Palestinians easier movement throughout the West Bank.

But by then, most readers will already have turned the page.

Also, don't count on the Times to cover the emotional funerals of the four Israeli victims, which were attended by hundreds of grief-stricken mourners. The Times covers only Palestinian funerals


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