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Oh, No You Don’t, Ismail Haniya!

The NYT Does Gaza, Again

by STEVE BREYMAN

It’s a news article! It’s a news analysis! It’s an op-ed! The Times’ is at it again in Gaza. Fares Akram’s recent piece about Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s visit to the Strip can’t quite make up its mind about what it is. It’s clear, however, what it isn’t: straight-up reportage of a foreign leader’s visit to the world’s largest open-air prison.

Akram tells us that Razak came to Gaza for a few hours (along with his wife and foreign minister) in order to lay the cornerstone of a technical college his government is funding, and to sign an agreement to rebuild the prime minister’s office, bombed to smithereens by Israel last November. So far, so good (if you ignore Akram’s description of the November slaughter as a “bloody conflict;” bloody for whom?).

But Akram can’t simply report this, and move on to his next assignment. He must, in a piece not labeled as analysis or opinion, interpret the statements of Ismail Haniya,  Hamas prime minister, as at odds with those of Razak. The Malaysian came on a “humanitarian mission,” whereas Haniya considered it an “Islamic declaration for breaking the Israeli siege on Gaza.” Akram cannot imagine that the two interpretations might be closer than he paints them.

There can be no good news for Hamas (or Palestinians more generally), according to the Times. When Razak makes the expected call for Palestinian unity (opposed only by Israel and the United States) before his hosts, Akram counters with Mahmoud Abbas’ view that the visit “constitutes a harm to the Palestinian representation, boosts the division, and does not serve the Palestinian interests.” How this might be so Akram fails to explain.

The Times did not appreciate the October visit to Gaza of Qatari Emir bin Khalifa al-Thani, or the November visit—in the midst of the aerial bombing—of Egyptian Prime Minister Qandil either.

Akram reports another of Haniya’s statements to ensure readers got the message of outrage: Razak’s visit was “a Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim” response to Netanyahu’s campaign visit to the Western Wall. Haniya claimed the Western Wall, called Al Buraq in Arabic, was an “Arab and Islamic wall,” and that “Jerusalem is Islamic.” Incensed yet? How dare Haniya try to score points against Israel on the back of Razak’s visit! Only Israeli politicians get to be vile nationalists, demagogues and theocrats!

Tiresome, isn’t it?

Steve Breyman teaches science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Reach him at breyms@rpi.edu