The NYT and Fake 'Martyrdom'

A 64-year-old Palestinian terrorist serving a life term in an Israeli prison for sending a suicide bomber to Jerusalem dies of throat cancer and, predictably, Palestinian leaders immediately join Palestinian prisoners in blaming Israel ("Palestinians Jailed in Israel Protest After Inmate Dies" by Isabel Kershner, April 3, page A10). Also predictably, the New York Times obliges with a six-column article, plus a photograph of protest clashes in Hebron.

Jerusalem correspondent Kershner's article gives full vent to slanderous accusations by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad that the death of the jailed Palestinian, Maysara Abu Hamdiya, was caused by medical negligence on the part of prison authorities.

It would be one thing if Palestinian leaders called for an investigation of his treatment. In any case, Israel does this routinely whenever a Palestinian inmate dies. But Abbas and Fayyad have quite another thing thing in mind -- an opportunity for a slanderous propaganda campaign that they know will be given full coverage treatment by Kershner and the New York Times.

Abbas immediately said that he holds the Israeli government "fully responsible" and that Hamdiya's death was the result of "deliberate medical negligence." Not to be outdone, Fayyad weighed in, charging that Hamdiya was the victim of Israel's "policy of medical negligence, which was a primary reason for his martyrdom."

What makes such inciteful propaganda by the Palestinian leadership especially hypocritical is that Palestinian prisoners under their jurisdiction are often subjected to abuse and torture, according to complaints by relatives of prisoners. Similarly, Abbas's Fatah movement a accuses Hamas of maltreatment of jailed Fatah members in Gaza -- and vice versa, Hamas accuses Fatah and the Palestinian Authority of mistreating Hamas members in PA jails in the West Bank.

But don't expect the New York Times and Kershner to delve into widespread patterns of actual prisoner abuse in Palestinian-run prisons. Abbas is untouchable in the pages of the Times. Nor does the paper show a similar zest for coverage when Israelis are targets of Palestinian terrorism generally.

In putting together her April 3 article, Kershner notes that Israel's border with Gaza has been heating up of late, with rockets from Gaza again striking southern Israel and Israel retaliating against Hamas targets in Gaza. But what she fails to report is that on April 2, Israeli authorities reported finding a Gaza-fired rocket in a kindergarten schoolyard. Fortunately, the building was empty at the time the rocket struck because of the Passover holiday. But just imagine if this rocket had hit when scores of children were on the premises. It could have been a devastating carnage.

Yet, Kershner sticks to antiseptic, abstract coverage of Palestinian terrorism, rarely noting the human pain and suffering on the Israeli side. But let a Palestinian terrorist die in an Israeli prison and coverage fervor is in full bloom.

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

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