NYT Cheers Islamic Jihad

Jodi Rudoren, the Jerusalem bureau chief of the New York Times, visited Gaza recently and returned with a puff piece about one of its Palestinian terrorist groups, Islamic Jihad (“Islamic Jihad Gains New Traction in Gaza -- Militant Group, Smaller than Hamas, Wins Key Allies and Public Support” pages 6 and 12 in Sunday, May 4 edition)

The lead paragraph sets the stage and tone for Rudoren going ga-ga over Islamic Jihad -- “Shortly before midnight, seven black-masked young men in camouflage stood in a field of waist-high weeds; Kalashnikov rifles pointed toward the Mediterranean Sea a half-mile away.”

Rudoren is mightily impressed with the nightly vigil of an Islamic Jihad commander, as his radio “crackled with warnings: drones in the east, F-16s overhead, gunboat movement at sea.”  In her view, members of Islamic Jihad are dashing insurgents, cutting a romantic path to Islamic glory.

Islamic Jihad, she reports, is also rising in popularity, basking in “something of a renaissance” as it “built health clinics, opened schools and expanded family-mediation services.”  Plus, it “doubled its kindergartens to 100.”  With such credentials, Islamic Jihad perhaps should be a contender for a Nobel Peace Prize.

But exactly what is Islamic Jihad’s agenda?  Rudoren tells Times readers that it’s to “focus on military resistance to the Israeli occupation.”  Never mind that Israel completely evacuated Gaza half a dozen years ago and has no plans to return.

All these bouquets for Islamic Jihad are reinforced by huge color photo displays of an Islamic Jihad night patrol, a child being treated at an Islamic Jihad medical facility, and an Islamic Jihad mediation ceremony to resolve differences between two families in Gaza.

Extending the applause, Rudoren gushes that “last month the group captured global headlines by firing a barrage of 100 rockets toward Israel in less than an hour.” Go, Islamic Jihad, go.

Eventually, Rudoren comes around to reporting that the United States designated Islamic Jihad a terrorist organization in 1997.  But don’t expect the Times to go along with this use of the “T” word.  Rudoren dutifully substitutes the ever useful – and misleading – “militant” euphemism.

Even more misleading are Rudoren’s assurances that, because of all its good work, Islamic Jihad is gaining wide popular support in Gaza. Actually, this is where her Islamic Jihad propaganda piece falls of its own weight.  It turns out the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research found only 5 percent of Gaza residents supporting Islamic Jihad in December, and an even lower 4 percent more recently in March.  Ah, but in Rudoren’s book those are tremendous gains from earlier 1-to-3 percent support levels.

In Rudoren’s biased agenda, this nevertheless fully justifies a headline that assures readers that Islamic Jihad “gains new traction” in Gaza and is winning public support.

What are missing from Rudoren’s piece are all the Israeli civilians killed or injured in attacks by Islamic Jihad, the terrorizing of hundreds of thousands of residents in southern Israel with waves of Islamic Jihad rocket barrages, and how a bloody terrorist outfit like Islamic Jihad undermines any prospects for an eventual resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  In other words, don’t rely on the Times for the real lowdown on Islamic Jihad.

Rudoren is not the first New York Times correspondent to so offend history. She’s but the latest in a long line of Times apologists for brutal miscreants. Walter Duranty, the Times Moscow correspondent in the 1930s who sang the praises of Stalin, would be proud of her.

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