BY PHILIP WEISS
Mondoweiss (Jan. 2) – TWO WEEKS ago the New York Times ran an enthusiastic review of Gazan songbird Mohammed Assaf’s American tour, by Lindsay Crouse, with Reem Makhoul. The story included these points (as Yousef Munayyer reports):
And the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, included in a message to Secretary of State John Kerry a YouTube video [not included – TS] of Mr. Assaf singing longingly about cities in Israel that were once Palestinian. Mr. Netanyahu wrote, “Incitement and peace cannot coexist.”
Mr. Assaf grew up in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, an area that often has shortages of water, gas and electricity because of restrictions imposed by Israel.
The Times has now changed the article and appended this long correction.
An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to cities in Israel Mr. Assaf sings about. While they had largely Arab populations before Israel became a state in 1948, they were not “Palestinian” in the sense of being part of a Palestinian political entity. The article also referred incorrectly to shortages of water, gas and electricity in Gaza. While Israel places restrictions on some goods coming into Gaza, and many Palestinians blame Israel for shortages, they were worsened by Egypt’s closure of smuggling tunnels and by a tax dispute between the militant Hamas faction, which governs Gaza, and the Palestinian Authority.
So as for those cities in Israel, the story now reads:
Mr. Assaf singing longingly about cities in Israel that once had largely Arab populations.
And as for the shortages in Gaza– Israel has no hand in ‘em.
Mr. Assaf grew up in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, an area that often has shortages of water, gas and electricity.
This is startling evidence of the role of the Israel lobby: a Palestinian star sings about Palestinians before Israel exists, and intrusive Zionist fact-checkers get the Times to change “Palestinians” to “Arabs.” Because Palestinian identity was not established? Rashid Khalidi says it was established long before that.
Here is the hasbara site that has attacked Assaf for this song. (Annie reported on the incitement claim last summer.) Why not just tell the letter-writers that this was Assaf’s opinion, so no correction is necessary? And as for the removal of Israel’s role in Gazan shortages– what a cave. As the Goldstone Report made clear, the Israeli occupation of Gaza continues inasmuch as it controls almost everything that gets into the place.
Can you imagine what would happen if a reporter tried to mention the Nakba, and the expulsion of Palestinians? But reporters have been warned. And Lindsay Crouse will know better than to write about Palestine any time soon.
Munayyer offers these insights about the Zionist narrative altering the discourse:
Calling cities in Palestine “Palestinian cities” wasn’t a problem for the New York Times in 1927 or in 1929 for example. Nor was it odd for the paper that today says those cities were not part of a “Palestinian political entity” to refer regularly to a “Palestine Government.”
It is true that the native population of Palestine during that time did not have self-determination (also, they still don’t today) but does that mean there was no political entity there in Palestine? Yes, Palestine was under a British Mandate then, but does that make Palestine’s cities British? Syria was under French Mandate in the 1920s, does that mean Damascus was a French city? Was it not a Syrian city? Of course these were Syrian cities, and the New York Times reported such at the time.
So why the correction when it comes to Palestinian cities? Its clear here that the editors chose to appease what was likely a disgruntled pro-Israel reader who was displeased at the very notion that the New York Times might mention a historical reality they reported on at the time today when a Zionist narrative has made significant strides in altering the discourse.
* * * * *
New York Times readers today were also treated to a whitewash of Ariel Sharon. Sharon, who has been comatose for years, is said to be near death so his name is again in the headlines. An inevitable New York Times obituary will be written upon his death and if today’s article is any preview it will certainly do readers an injustice. The critical excerpt:
Mr. Sharon, a controversial military commander who rose to hold many of his nation’s top positions, suffered a stroke after shaking up Israeli politics at the height of his power.
An architect of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, he stunned the world and his own constituents with a complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005. He abandoned the Likud Party he led as prime minister to form the centrist Kadima Party, and he was believed to be preparing for further territorial concessions to establish a Palestinian state when he became ill.
Controversial? What made him controversial? Was it the fact that he led the internationally condemned attack on the village of Qibya in 1953 that left scores of Palestinian civilians dead? Was it that he was found indirectly responsible for the massacres of Palestinians at Sabra and Shatila in 1982 by an Israeli commission whose recommendations were accepted by the Israeli cabinet to remove Sharon? Was it his provocative visit to the Haram as-Sharif in 2000 to “assert Jewish claims there“? Was it the fact that as Prime Minister he presided of the single most significant period of settlement expansion of any Israeli administration since Menachem Begin?
No. We are not told why he is controversial at all, we are only led to believe by the following paragraph that it might be over his willingness to make concessions. We are told he was “believed to be preparing….to establish a Palestinian state.”
Who in their right mind would believe that?
Back in 2004, a publication reported:
Israel’s proposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip is intended to put the issue of Palestinian statehood on indefinite hold, a close aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview that was published Wednesday and immediately stirred controversy.
The comments by the aide, Dov Weisglass, who frequently handles delicate diplomatic contacts with the Bush administration, drew sharp criticism from the Palestinians….
“The significance of our disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process,’” Mr. Weisglass was quoted as saying in Haaretz, a liberal daily often critical of Mr. Sharon’s government. “It supplies the formaldehyde necessary so there is no political process with Palestinians.”
“When you freeze the process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state,’” Mr. Weisglass added. “Effectively, this whole package called a Palestinian state, with all it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda.”
That publication was the New York Times. Perhaps its reporters should try reading it sometime.