By J. Auerbach
No one is more enamored with stone-throwing Palestinian teen-age boys than New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren.
Nearly a year ago (August 5, 2013) she described stone-throwing attacks against Israeli targets merely as “a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance” – indeed, a “game.” She romanticized assaults by a 17-year-old Palestinian whose five brothers and father had already served prison time for heaving rocks through the windshields of passing automobiles. Indeed, in their village of Beit Omar thirty-five teenagers had been arrested within the preceding year for stone throwing. To Rudoren, the attacks represented nothing more than a “Palestinian pushback” against Israeli “occupation.” Indeed, it was a popular recreational activity. No swimming pool, cinema, or after-school music lessons kept teenagers otherwise occupied.
Not two years earlier, on the same road where Beit Omar teen-agers gleefully targeted passing Israelis, Palestinian stone-throwers had hurled rocks through the windshield of a car driven by Asher Palmer, accompanied by his infant son Yonatan. Asher’s face was crushed and his skull was fractured, the car crashed, and father and son died. Rudoren, who only belatedly learned of the tragedy, merely noted that “a man and his 1-year-old son” were killed in a Palestinian stoning attack.
For Rudoren the opportunity for moral equivalency that diminishes Israeli tragedy and Palestinian responsibility is a repeated trope. In her current front-page reiteration (June 30), she offers a predictable variation on her familiar theme. For two weeks Israelis have been riveted by shock, hope and fear during the search for three teen-age boys, kidnapped while hitch-hiking home from their yeshiva studies. Indeed, Rudoren’s article begins with the pre-dawn arrival of Israeli police at the home of Rachel Frankel, in search of her missing son and fellow students. But the focus quickly shifts to a Palestinian town, two weeks later, where a mother is informed that her 15-year-old son has been killed during a stone-throwing attack by “a crowd of youths” on Israeli soldiers who were “storming their neighborhood” in search of the three kidnapped students.
Rudoren is preoccupied with “Israel’s security crackdown,” not the kidnapped Israeli teenagers. It has, she writes, “raised questions about the asymmetry of the Israeli Palestinian conflict and the value of lives on both sides.” But it is Rudoren’s assertion of moral equivalency that raises questions about journalistic integrity. “Most Israelis,” she writes, “see the missing teenagers as innocent civilians… and the Palestinians who were killed [now numbering five] as having provoked soldiers.” True enough, both as perception and reality. Palestinians, however, “see the act of attending yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation, and complain that the crackdown is collective punishment against a people under occupation.” Rudoren does not consider that “a crowd of youths” hurling stones poses a potentially lethal assault.
Ever since the Israeli students disappeared the primary theme of Rudoren’s reporting has been Palestinian suffering from the sweeping Israeli search for their kidnappers. Two weeks ago, she noted that an Arab family in Hebron was “worried” that wedding plans for their daughter might be “ruined” by the Israeli “crackdown.” Worse yet, “sweet shops and cellphone stands, car dealerships and clothing boutiques all sat idle behind roll-down gates or wooden shutters.” On a slightly more consequential level, she concluded, Israeli-Palestinian relations have been “destabilized” by the Israeli response – not by the kidnapping.
All too predictably, as CAMERA Jerusalem Director Tamar Sternthal perceptively observed (in the more reliable Times of Israel, June 16), The New York Times “singles out Israeli efforts to bring the boys home as the key cause of friction.” It ignored the Palestinian cartoon depicting three skullcap-wearing rats (yeshiva students) hanging from a fishing line. That, too, she notes, was “unsuitable to The Times narrative.”
Rudoren is preoccupied with two mothers who serve her symbolic purpose: Rachel Frankel, whose innocent hitch-hiking son was kidnapped, most likely by Hamas, and Aida Dudeen, whose stone-throwing son was killed by an Israeli soldier he targeted. Ms. Frankel is the latest Israeli parent “symbolizing the sacrifice generations of Israeli children make growing up amid enemies” – who are unidentified. Ms. Dudeen is “the mother of yet another of the thousands celebrated as martyrs in the decades-long struggle against Israel” who wants “my homeland to be liberated from Israeli colonialism.”
Providing equal time for mothers, according to the ostensibly neutral headline, who “Embody a Mideast Divide,” Jodi Rudoren has confounded an intentional Palestinian terrorist assault with an accidental Israeli response, the better to blame Israel for Palestinian terrorism. All the opinion, it seems, that The Times deems fit to print.
But now that the bodies of the murdered boys have been discovered, what moral equivalence will The Times offer?
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Jewish State Pariah Nation, Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy (Quid Pro Books)