No Limit to Bias

The pages of The New York Times are so infamous for their well-documented history of anti-Israel bias that one would think that nothing it can possibly include would surprise us anymore.

When an acquaintance sent me a clipping of an article that started on the front page of Monday’s edition, I was hesitant to read it.

Unlike many in our community, I didn’t stop reading the Times when the daily Hamodia made its debut. For numerous hashkafic reasons, I did all I could to avoid reading that paper well before the much-lauded kosher substitute appeared on the newsstands.

“You have to write something about this,” my acquaintance urged me.

“Why should I sully the pages of Hamodia writing about The New York Times?” I asked him. “Everyone knows that they drop any pretense of objectivity when it comes to covering Israel.”

He insisted that I read the piece, titled “My Hobby Is Throwing Stones,” and when I did, I had to agree that the Times had once again outdone itself in the area of skewed reporting and callousness to human suffering.

The article, written by Jodi Rudoren, begins with a dramatic, touching rendering of a scene in a Palestinian village:

“Muhammad Abu Hashem, 17, was sleeping in a sleeveless undershirt when the Israeli soldiers stormed into his home here at 4 a.m. on the second Monday in July. As they led him away moments later, Muhammad’s mother rushed after with a long-sleeved shirt: they both knew it would be cold in the interrogation room.”

In the next paragraph we discover why these soldiers are taking away poor Muhammad, sleeveless undershirt and all.

“It was Muhammad’s fourth arrest in three years for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and settlers…

“‘Children have hobbies, and my hobby is throwing stones,’ Muhammad explained weeks before his most recent arrest. ‘A day with a confrontation is better than a free day.’”

I am sure that many readers of the Times were appalled to discover that in Israel, Arab children are arrested for engaging in a “hobby.”

After all, as the article continues, “Youths hurling stones has long been the indelible icon — some call it a caricature — of Palestinian pushback against Israel.”

In case a sane reader is still left with a somewhat negative view of hurling stones, the Times reporter makes sure to explain that in the Palestinian town she is profiling, “rock-throwing is a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance.”

Only once in the 47-paragraph article is there any indication that stone-throwing is anything but a harmless way for bored Palestinian youths to keep themselves busy.

In paragraph 13, a Jewish resident, Menuha Shvat, says she has long lost count of the stones that have hit her car’s reinforced windows.

“It’s crazy: I’m going to get pizza, and I’m driving through a war zone,” said Ms. Shvat, who knew a man and his one-year-old son who died when their car flipped over in 2011 after being pelted with stones on Road 60. “It’s a ‘game’ that can kill.”

The rest of the article is dripping with sympathy for the violent youngsters, as it seeks to explain why they choose to throw stones.

“The youths, and their parents, say they are provoked by the situation: soldiers stationed at the village entrance, settlers tending trees beyond. They throw because there is little else to do in Beit Ommar — no pool or cinema, no music lessons after school, no part-time jobs other than peddling produce along the road. They do it because their brothers and fathers did.”

In March, we saw what this Palestinian family tradition is all about.

Three-year-old Adele Biton was traveling on Highway 5 near Ariel in Shomron when a hurled rock smashed into the vehicle in which Adele, her mother, and her two sisters were traveling.

Adele was critically injured in the attack. After spending the next four months in the hospital, Adele was finally allowed to go home for a Shabbos — bound to a wheelchair.

But the New York Times reporter didn’t see fit to mention Adele in the paper. After all, telling her story would be harmful to the image of these bored Palestinian youngsters and their “hobby.”

P.S. Ironically, though the reporter distorted the facts as much as possible to suit the Palestinian cause, Palestinians felt that she didn’t go far enough. An unsigned article in the Palestine News Network bemoaned the piece, charging that it was “biased.” Among the points it raised to support its claim of bias was the inclusion of the quote by Menuha Shvat.