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Crying Wolf: Israel’s Great March of Return Atrocities in the New York Times

When you want to kill unarmed protesters you don’t like, cry wolf.

At least that’s how Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Binyamin Netanyahu and the Israeli military operate. And who parrots this excuse to mow down Gazans inside their prison? Most of the mainstream media, and the touchy-feelie liberal New York Times.

On Nakba Day, the day after the Israeli war crime machine ended the lives of over 60 Gazans, the Times begins an extensive article “Uneasy Calm Falls Over Israel After Kills Scores at Protests” with the story of an eight-month old Palestinian child killed at the Great March of Return protest. Like the heart-wrenching images of the Syrian refugee child Alan Kurdi washed up on a beach, the Times writes, this has fueled anger at Israel’s response. However, the Times later notes, the Palestinian infant already had underlying heart conditions before she was exposed to the IDF’s tear gas at the Israeli-Gaza border.

The message is clear, albeit subtle: when we see emotion-laden photographs, do not always fall for it. As a general point, fair enough. However, beginning a long article on a massacre of protesters by isolating one story that attempts to perforate holes into the integrity of the unarmed protesters, who posed no imminent threat to the lives of IDF soldiers, the goal is clear enough: Solidarity with Bibi, Trump, Nikki Haley and all the Democrats and Republican who support the Israeli war crime machine.

As Palestinians do not qualify as people to most of the mainstream media, the New York Times follows suit. Not only do they fail to mention the name of the protest, the Great March of Return, but fail to recognize the personhood and agency of Palestinians. So, when Hamas leaders showed support for the protest and called for demonstrations at the border, then we should believe that Palestinians suddenly leapt to their feet and protested at Hamas’s beck and call. Hamas, the ‘terrorist’ group and internal prison warden of Gaza prison, supposedly has absolute control over Gazans’ actions; and the March of Return is merely another tactic of Hamas in its conflict with Israel. While not overtly saying that Hamas is to blame for Palestinian protester deaths, in writing that “Hamas has led the protests in Gaza,” the Times cries wolf and thereby implicitly justifies Israeli atrocities.

To be fair to the Times, it’s far easier to go along with the American and Israeli narrative that Hamas has been the orchestrator of the Great March of Return. But that is not real journalism.

Israeli +972 Magazine interviewed one of the 20 organizers of the March of Return in March. The magazine contrasted the official Israeli narrative of ‘Hamas-led protests’ with Gazan leftist organizer Hasan al-Kurd, who verifies Human Rights Watch’s perspective that the Great March is a grassroots-organized protest. Out of the 20 organizers, al-Kurd maintains, only two are affiliated with Hamas. No doubt that later on, as the protests gained momentum, Hamas supported them for both ideological and political reasons, including to boost their own popularity. But Hamas certainly did not direct them.

The Times does write thateconomic misery plays a role in the Gaza protests; yet, a densely packed unlivable prison under Israeli blockade (assisted by Egypt), in which half the population has access to water eight hours, every four days and only 4-6 hours of electricity, followed by 14-16 hour blackouts – the qualifier of misery, economic, is unnecessary. Gaza is unlivable, period; economic factors are only part of the equation. If Gaza were an ordinary prison, its manager would be condemned by any responsible government.

In a brief five-minute Times video titled “What Life is Like on Gaza’s Side of the Fence” from May 14, 2018, the day of the largest Gaza protester massacre, the first 48 seconds show a joyous high school graduation. High school graduates from Gaza’s American School are showed wearing graduation gowns, smiling and having a dance party. For approximately 20-25 seconds, the video then goesvery lightly into the conditions of Gaza. It then moves to the protests and how they were putatively coopted by Hamas, and the protests’ supposed strategy of gaining a high body count to persuade the international community to pressure Israel to end the Gaza siege. A half a minute or so is spent depicting the ‘festival-like’ atmosphere near the border protests, described as a “distant cousin to Burning Man,” where “actors ham it up, playing cruel Israeli soldiers.” The narrator’s cynical, if not snide, emphasis on ‘cruel’ is telling: Gazans think of Israeli soldiers as cruel, but really, are they? Whether IDF soldiers are cruel or not is beside the point; they have acted inhumanly towards Palestinians and enforce Israel’s cruel occupation.

All in all, a significant portion of the video, willfully or unconsciously, focuses on the joy in Gaza, which starkly contrasts with human rights organizations and the UN’s reports on Gaza’s unlivable nature. Of course, there is joy in Gaza sometimes; but focusing on it a day after Israel’s killing over 60 unarmed protesters is a bit peculiar.

When the Times video does not portray Gazan ‘joy’ or Hamas coopting the protests, it focuses on aspects of the protest that attempt to call into question its unarmed nature, including Israel’s claims that grenades and Molotov cocktails were thrown by protesters, kites set on fire, cutting barbed wire and tires burnt to put up a smokescreen to sniper fire. Sorely missing were the children, journalists and unarmed civilian protesters killed by the IDF’s live-fire. And, instead of focusing on the burning tire smokescreen, why not focus, just a little bit, on the fact there was intense sniper fire, despite the lack of imminent threat to the IDF soldiers’ lives.

The goal – unmeaningful or not – is simple: Israel’s atrocities towards Gazan protesters is indubitably justified. The protesters are not simply chanting, instead they’re involved in active, almost exclusively, nonviolent resistance. They should be chanting like anti-Trump pussy-hatters in America and then go home to their prison cells. Hamas, the ‘terrorist’ group, brainwashed them into protesting and trying to breach the Israeli-Gaza border. It wasn’t that they were locked inside an unlivable, dense strip of land, or that they believed in UN Resolution 194’s granting Palestinians their right to resettle on what was once their land in Palestine, now present-day Israel. They were brainwashed, pure and simple. Furthermore, implies the Times, the unlivable nature of Gaza is not really all that bad – hardly worse than poverty-stricken areas of the U.S. or Europe. So, deal with it or else wear a pussy-hat, purchasable at a low price on Amazon.

The New York Times and other media have supported the US-Israeli government narrative that the wolf, Hamas, has fomented the Great March of Return and the IDF has acted with all due restraint. Luckily, many young Americans and American Jews aren’t buying this story anymore. Nathalie Portman’s refusal to attend Genesis Prize ceremony in Israel was just the tip of the iceberg. A few days ago, Shakira cancelled her summer performance in Israel. As Israel continues to have one of the most brutal regimes in the world, according to Israel journalist Gideon Levy, it will become further isolated. Eventually, it will be forced – much like apartheid South Africa – to end its Gaza blockade and occupation of Palestine. Or at least one can hope.

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