The word ‘confrontation’ invokes a kind of symmetrical battle: a bust-up during a sports match, or a catfight taking place on a particularly trashy reality TV show. It does not conjure an accurate description of the reality on the ground on the Gaza-Israel border – that the highly-sophisticated Israeli forces launched sniper fire on a destitute Gazan populace who were overwhelmingly protesting peacefully and at worst throwing stuff from hundreds of metres away.
18 Palestinians demonstrating as part of the Great Return March died immediately from gunfire sustained on Friday the 30th of March 2018, and 1,500 were injured, many critically. Trawl through the Israeli press, and you won’t find a report of a single Israeli soldier so much as grazing a knee.
The ‘liberal Zionist’ New York Times, however, adopted a credulous stance of the official Israeli line in their reportage in spite of the atrocities for which they are so obviously responsible, with nothing whatsoever lent to the Gazan perspective in their report headlined ‘Israeli Military Kills at Least 5 in Confrontations on Gaza Border’.
Literally nothing – there were no NYT reporters on the Gaza side of the barrier. The article’s co-author Isabel Kershner, on the other hand, proudly boasts of a son who served in the Israeli Defence Forces.
Unlike the Guardian and the BBC, the NYT claimed that Palestinians were ‘rioting’ in six locations across the border, without using quotation marks or attributing this language to the Israeli military, where it originated. This was later removed as the article updated to reflect the skyrocketing death count.
For much of the Friday in which the article was posted, Kershner’s description of the protest ‘descending rapidly’ into ‘chaos and bloodshed’ remained. This generously portrays the Israeli soldiers as merely partners in a violent tango, rather than murderers who made the conscious decision to fire their sniper rifles at an unarmed group lurking on the other side of a gigantic metal fence.
By now you should have seen the harrowing video of a Palestinian demonstrator being shot in the back as he runs away.
As the ‘paper of record’, the New York Times was the most notable media outlet to moonlight as a PR agency for the Israeli military, but it’s far from the only one. There was a distinguished unison in the reponse of government officials of Israeli allies and corporate media, owing to the fact that the Israeli Foreign Ministry managed to get ahead of the story and establish a line of defence quickly.
The Haaretz journalist Noa Landau Tweeted out a MFA memo which underlined various preemptive comebacks that metastasized through the media landscape with eerie efficiency.
— Noa Landau (@noa_landau) March 29, 2018
Most important of all is the endless repitition that the protests were ‘Hamas-led’, contrary to the most cursory research into the demonstration’s overwhelmingly peaceful support from a civilian group who do not identify themselves with Hamas.
To tar your opponents with the ‘terrorist’ brush is Plan B for every creaking authoritarian regime in the 21st century, capable of immediately crushing all nuance and reasonable discourse. When used too zealously, though, it starts to sound ridiculous. In this case it’s hard to portray the farmer tending to his parsley field about 1km away from the border gate before being hit by an artillery shell, or the 12 year old child who may never walk again after being shot in the leg, as being formidable militant jihadists.
Ultimately there will be no international response to a stubborn and unyielding Israeli middle finger pointing at each and every international peace treaty ever signed. The freezing of diplomatic channels like we saw in response to the Salisbury Novichok attack represents a kind of Cold War nostalgia rather than a genuine attempt to protect human rights on a macro scale, and will never be weaponised against a Western ally like Israel.
Don’t bother looking in the New York Times for candid discussion of the undeniable ethnic cleansing occurring in a de facto American colony.
The only way to make the violent, unbridled Israeli military steamroller accountable for the human cost of its ethno-nationalist pet project is by cutting the Western economic ties which feed it plump and make it feel invincible. This is why we need the BDS movement, now more than ever.