NY Times' selective coverage of Israel through a glass darkly

In its Oct. 7 edition, the New York Times runs a lengthy article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner about an Arab village in Galilee that recently was the scene of an arson attack on its mosque. Kershner's piece, supplemented by two color photograhs and a map, is spread over the entire top half of a page. It starts out as an up-close and personal account of the villagers' understandable outrage at suspected Jewish extremists; but it soon becomes the peg for an all-out indictment of "decades of discrimination" against Arabs by the Jewish state. ("Ties Between Israel And Arab Allies Fray Over Mosque Burning" page A10).

Kershner goes so far as to charge Israel with "growing popular strains of racism" fueled by "right-leaning Israeli governments." As proof, she cites "incitement against Arabs" by a rabbi who urged Jewish residents of Safed not to sell homes to Arabs. And, in the same vein, she finds a villager who tells her that it would have been better if there "might not have been an Israel because now we feel like strangers here."

There's no question that the arson attack on the mosque was an outrageous act that shamed Israel -- and was so regarded by all its political leaders. Nor is there any question that Israeli Arabs have yet to attain full equality. But Kershner hides from Times readers great strides of progress and integration of Israel's Arab population -- an Arab sits on Israel's Surpeme Court, Israeli Arabs are represented in the Knesset by no fewer than three political parties, Arabs occupy top executive positions in hospitals, professional and business concerns, and other parts of Israel's society and economy.

The picture is not nearly as dark as Kershner paints it. Her reporting is marred by a conspicuous failure to present a complete account of pluses as well as minuses in complex inter-actions between Jews and Arabs in Israel, and between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank.

Here, for example, are some newsworthy developments that either get short shrift or are altogether omitted from New York Times coverage:

--The paper's Jerusalem bureau paid barely minimal attention to the recent killing of an Israeli man and his one-year-old son by stone-throwing Palessinians who attacked their car -- with one huge stone smashing through the windshield and hitting the driver. However abhorrent the arson of the mosque was, isn't the loss of life at the hands of stone-throwing terrorists at least as abhorrent -- and newsworthy?.. Yet, Kershner didn't take herself to the scene of the fatal attack and obtain reactions from relatives and friends of the two murdered Israelis. Sympathy for aggrieved Arabs? Fine. But why not similar sympathy for even more aggrieved Jews?

--Like most Western reporters, Kershner assumes that a logical peace treaty must divide Jerusalem, with Jewish neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem remaining in Israel and Arab neighborhoods becoming part of Palestine. But neither she nor her colleagues have ever checked with Arab residents of Jerusalem about what their real preference might be. Had they done so, they would have found polls showing that more Jerusalem Arabs want to remain in Israel than end up in a Palestinian state.

--While Kershner was making her way to the Arab village to interview its residents, Joseph's Tomb near Nablus in the West Bank was defaced with swastikas during the High Holidays. Not a mention in the New York Times.

--The killing of an Israeli father and his son by stone-throwing Palestinians was not an isolated stone-throwing incident. The Israeli military, which keeps tabs of such incidents, reports there were 498 such attacks in September -- a new high. Did Kershner take notice? No.

--During the High Holidays, a Jewish olive grove in the West Bank was burned down. Again, no mention in the Times, which is quick to report acts of Jewish vandals in the West Bank, but maintains complete silence about Palestinian attacks on Jewish property.

The list of unreported news in the Times' selective, anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian coverage goes on and on. In the Times, only hurtful acts against Arabs and Palestinians merit serious attention. Pain inflicted on Jews rates minimal, or non-existent, reporting.

'Twas and 'tis ever thus at the New York Times.


Leo Rennert is a former Washington bureau chief and White House correspondent of McClatchy Newspapers