What is not fit to print is printed. What is fit to print is not printed.
A New York Times reporter got away with posting a strangely worded, one-sided feature that sends a message that the Palestinians are long-established inhabitants of the land that is now governed by the state of Israel. The Palestinians are even described as “indigenous.”
Ninety miles down the Amtrak rail line, Philadelphia Jews can be excused if they cannot recount what Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, now claims in a recent speech – that Hitler murdered 6 million Jews because of their money-lending practices. Editors at both the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Jewish Exponent thought Abbas’ speech lacked any news value in a region that is home to up to 300,000 Jews. Not to mention Muslims, Arabs and other Philadelphians who follow events in the Middle East.
These are two glaring examples of what passes for coverage of Israel in two major daily newspapers. One publishes a distorted article, the other ignores significant news. A Jewish weekly even discards news that is important to its ethnic readership.
The Sept. 10 New York Times article, by Raja Abdulrahim, recounts how Arab society in Israel’s territories is attempting to put its culture on display. It specifies “handstitched Palestinian embroidery, traditionally used to ornament Palestinian dress…(that) tells of towns and villages lost, old customs abandoned, past lives and survival.”
Abdulrahim’s piece implies that Israel expelled most or all Arabs from their homes in 1948 and 1967; disregards the culture or existence of Jews; recalls their life in Hebron; and excludes any Jewish or Israeli perspective on Palestinian culture.
Offering no attribution, Abdulrahim writes, “In 1948, about 700,000 Palestinians were forced to flee their homes in the war surrounding the creation of Israel, a period that Palestinians call the nakba, or catastrophe.” She goes on to refer to “the naksa, which is what Palestinians call the mass displacement around the Arab-Israeli war of 1967.”
Abdulrahim neglects to explain why the Palestinians fled, and who forced them out.
The Palestinians created their own nakba and naksa; this is the first time I heard the latter term. When the United Nations recognized the state of Israel, both Arabs and Jews had to decide between conflict and compromise. The Arabs responded by attacking Israel while directing the Arab masses to clear out for a few days and return once the Jews were destroyed or subjugated.
The Jews held most of their ground and were left free to build the state of Israel, and the Arabs who fled Israel were dispersed throughout the Middle East and never found a permanent home.
Other causes factored into the Arabs’ removal, but historians suggest that Israel had little to do with it, if at all.
Abdulrahim spotlights “Palestinian” culture throughout the article, but Jewish culture is treated as if it does not exist. “We prove our presence here for thousands of years through our heritage,” said Maha Saca, the founder and director of the Palestinian Heritage Center in Bethlehem.
Saca takes pains to explain how a specific kind of dress called a thobe is evidence of an Arab presence in the region. “How do have a Jaffa thobe and an Akka thobe and a Beersheba thobe if we were not there? The biggest evidence of our presence in these areas is our thobe,” she said.
We have reason to doubt if it is coincidental that Abdulrahim references the West Bank city of Hebron. Jews believe that Hebron is the site of the patriarch Abraham’s burial site and in 1929 Arabs massacred 67 Jews there.
Abdulrahim also does not offer a reaction from the other side. No Jewish or Israeli perspective on Palestinian culture is reported in the article.
The Sept. 8 edition of the Times alerted readers to Mahmoud Abbas’ speech in which he claimed that Hitler persecuted Jews because of “their social role, which had to do with usury, money and so on,” not solely because they are Jews.
Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, also accused European Jews of lacking ancient roots in the Middle East in the article, which is headlined “Palestinian Leader Makes Antisemitic Comments.”
No such headline has yet to appear in the Philadelphia Inquirer or the Jewish Exponent, the prime local news sources for Philadelphia Jews. Philadelphia and its suburbs also encompass sizeable Arab and Muslim populations.
Granted, the Abbas speech is hardly earthshattering, but it is sufficiently important for Jews (and other interested parties) to be aware of this. This is the top Palestinian leader bashing the Jewish people. With his attitude, how can Abbas be serious about peace?
How can anyone comprehend the issues if they are denied knowledge of relevant news? I understand that the press is short on space, and that general-interest newspapers have an overwhelming amount of news to cover. There may not be enough space for all the news that is fit to print, but metropolitan newspapers often ignore important developments in Israel.
What is more curious is how some Jewish weeklies omit Israeli news. Perhaps it is old news by the time the Exponent publishes, but the paper can always update the news or seek local reactions. Since many Jews regard secular newspapers to be biased against Israel, a local Jewish newspaper can offer a Jewish perspective on a given issue.
The Jewish community, like other ethnic groups, is lucky to have its own press network. We have the journalistic infrastructure available to correct the record and otherwise address Jewish issues. Why not take advantage of it?
Since when do we treat Israel like Las Vegas? News is serious business in Israel. What happens in Israel is not something we leave in Israel.