Israeli terrorism reduced to “nationalist” crime by New York Times

Israel’s visible gun culture has been downplayed by The New York Times.

Najeh Hashlamoun APA images

Israelis, according to The New York Times, carry out “nationalist” attacks against Palestinian civilians; Palestinians commit “terrorism” against Israeli civilians.

So indicates correspondent Isabel Kershner this week in the “newspaper of record.”

In a “Fact Check” piece, Kershner references Baruch Goldstein’s attack on Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. She writes, “There have also been occasional nationalist attacks against Palestinians by armed Israelis, such as the massacre perpetrated by Baruch Goldstein in Hebron in 1994 with an army-issued automatic rifle.”

The words “nationalist” and “massacre” are appropriate, but can Israeli settlers not commit “terrorism”? The absence of the word speaks to the fact that The New York Times regards some forms of violence as more acceptable than others, particularly the violence of a colonizing occupying force and its accompanying settlers against an occupied population.

The violence and intimidation brought to bear by that settler-colonial force is consistently described in less menacing terms than the response from those subjugated. This article is a clear example of such thinking.

Kershner reinforces this message throughout. “Palestinian gunmen carried out deadly terrorist attacks on a school in Maalot, near the border with Lebanon, in 1974 and at a rabbinical seminary in 2008,” she writes.

Kershner does not explain why this Palestinian violence is terrorism, but the Israeli violence is not. Readers are forced to conclude that terrorism is something Palestinians do, but Israelis simply act out of “nationalist” belief. These beliefs, evidently, shelter Israel from charges of terrorism.

Routine Israeli military gun violence against Palestinian civilians is not mentioned. Nor is there a mention of the impunity for Israeli soldiers responsible for the deaths of Palestinian school children in even the most egregious cases such as that of Iman al-Hams, which was reported by The New York Times at the time. She posed no threat, was repeatedly shot at close range and yet the Israeli officer who killed her was cleared.

Similar impunity for police officers and “stand your ground” vigilantes in the US is not cited, though racial bias pervades the legal systems of both countries.


Elsewhere in the article, Kershner writes: “Guns are not seen as a hobby, but as a tool for self-defense, and if necessary, to help protect others from terrorism. And while Israel has sophisticated policing and intelligence aimed at stopping terrorism, it has little experience with the kinds of civilian mass shootings that have become the source of anguished debate in the United States.”

But this is grossly misleading. Israel does have abundant experience with “civilian mass shootings.” It is just that it is Palestinian civilians doing the dying – whether meted out by Israeli settlers as in the case of Goldstein or by Israeli soldiers.

Strikingly, Kershner reinforces the double standard when she recalls a Palestinian truck attack against Israeli soldiers. She notes, “Last year, a tour guide was among those who opened fire at a Palestinian driver who plowed his truck into a group of soldiers in Jerusalem.”

Kershner referred in that story to the incident constituting “terrorism.” She wrote of the January 2017 attack: “Israel buried its latest terrorism victims on Monday, the day after they were run down by a Palestinian man in a truck, enveloping them in the country’s familiar outpouring of love for its service members.”

The Electronic Intifada highlighted the flawed reporting guidelines at the newspaper at the time and quoted Jodi Rudoren, a former Jerusalem bureau chief and at the time deputy international editor, as commenting, “A truck ramming into a crowd felt like terrorism.”

An Israeli plane dropping bombs on Palestinian civilians, however, is not described as terrorism.


Where one sits makes an enormous difference in what one regards as terrorism. The newspaper has yet to figure this out – or has ceded the language to right-wing organizations that insist one form of violence is terrorism and the other self-defense.

Anybody who has been in the occupied West Bank and confronted by an Israeli settler with a drawn weapon is apt to have a very different perspective on what constitutes legitimate resort to “self-defense.” From that perspective it looks less like self-defense than intimidation and the sensation felt is apt to be one of terror.

The Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah last month pointed out how the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has similarly resorted to the “nationalistic” motives euphemism.

And Ahmad Tibi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament, this week used an opinion piece for Haaretz to admonish European leaders for failing to denounce Israeli attacks on Palestinians while consistently criticizing Palestinian attacks.

Tibi noted this tweet from the Norwegian ambassador to Israel and similar messages from the European Union, Austrian and Cypriot ambassadors.

In the piece for Haaretz, Tibi added, “I am not opposed to expressions of empathy. But why the willful blindness to empathize on both sides?”

Tibi also criticized US ambassador to Israel David Friedman for similar behavior.

Earlier this month, Tibi made a related point regarding European double standards when he pushed back against a tweet from Charlotte Slente, Denmark’s ambassador to Israel, in which she praised Israel’s “vibrant democracy.”

Tibi pointed her toward work by Adalah, a group campaigning for Palestinian citizens of Israel, highlighting “over 50 discriminatory laws against non-Jews.”

There is no other issue where quite so many people – from The New York Times to European leaders – are inclined to indulge in double standards and discriminatory practices.

Sadly, Kershner has brought forward her own double standards in an article that Second Amendment enthusiasts may cite in their ongoing battle to keep the US armed to the teeth no matter the cost to school children.

Yes, she claims that Israel has stricter gun laws, but that’s certainly not the experience of Palestinians confronted by Israeli soldiers and armed settlers in the occupied West Bank.




When it comes to reporting on Israel, via Jodi Rudoren, Ethan Bronner, Isabel Kershner, et al the attitude is: tell a lie enough, shove it down people's throats, and they'll (the American public) believe it.


Israel is about to take away the Palestinians right to go before the High Court. Every day I think, they can't do anything else to shock me, and the next day they do! Why are we not stopping them?

Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.