Big bad Israel

Patrick Kingsley’s favorite word of opprobrium is “occupied.”

A woman and her children walk towards Kochav Hashachar in Judea and Samaria on June 4, 2009. Photo by Abir Sultan/Flash90.
A woman and her children walk towards Kochav Hashachar in Judea and Samaria on June 4, 2009. Photo by Abir Sultan/Flash90.
Jerold S. Auerbach
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of 12 books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016) and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a “Best Book for 2019.”

Ever since he became The New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief last year, Patrick Kingsley has been obsessed with Jewish settlers, long the personification of evil for his newspaper. Indeed, the Times identified his focus as “Israel and the occupied territories.” Kingsley has been faithful to his assignment.

Kingsley’s favorite word of opprobrium is “occupied.” Nearly a year ago, in one of his early articles, he identified the Palestinian city of Ramallah as “the hub of the occupied West Bank” and the Palestinian Authority as “the body that oversees parts of the occupied territories.” He has referred to “Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories”; the need for Israel “to organize a systematic vaccine program in the occupied territories”; and its obligation as “an occupying power” to preserve health “within an occupied territory.”

But that was only the beginning. In an article about Israel’s (generous) distribution of coronavirus vaccines to Palestinians, he predictably made repeated references to its “occupied territories.” Writing about a talented Palestinian musician, he noted her popularity in Ramallah—that “hub of the occupied West Bank.” The P.A., for Kingsley, “oversees parts of the occupied territories.” When Israel announced plans for several thousand new settlement housing units, Kingsley cited unnamed sources (other than “most of the international community”) who consider it “a breach of international law.”

It was, therefore, hardly surprising that Kingsley’s most recent rendition (Feb. 13) filled an entire page under the headline “Attacks by Settlers Raise Alarm.” (Settlers, by definition, live in “occupied” territory.) Curiously, the “mob attack,” which occurred last month, was evidently insufficient to prompt full-page—or any—coverage, even by Kingsley, at the time.

But Kingsley (and the Times) compensated for that lack of attention. When there is settler violence, he writes, perpetrators “benefit from a two-tier legal system in which settlers who commit violence are rarely punished,” while Palestinians are arrested. The “impunity of recent settler attacks” segues into his favorite trope: “Most Israeli settlements are considered legal by Israel, and illegal under international law.” His preferred source is Yesh Din, established in 2005 “to protect the human rights of Palestinians living under Israeli armed forces’ occupation.” It fancifully describes itself as a “nonpartisan organization.” Kingsley seems persuaded.

To bolster his critique, Kingsley also cites B’Tselem, another left-wing organization that is critical of “Israel’s regime of apartheid and occupation [that] is inextricably bound up in human-rights violations.” His palpable bias echoes a recent report by Amnesty International that identifies “Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians: a cruel system of domination and a crime against humanity.” Kingsley simply ignores nearly 2 million Arabs who are citizens of Israel with full equal rights.

On the same day as Kingsley’s rant, coincidentally, The Wall Street Journal published a more nuanced article about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by respected Israeli historian Benny Morris. Unlike Kingsley, he recognizes that biblical Judea and Samaria (Jordan’s “West Bank” until the Six-Day War) comprised “the heartland of the biblical kingdom of David and Solomon.” Now, with more than half a million Israelis living there, Morris concludes that Israeli withdrawal is “inconceivable.” He notes “the failure of the charge of apartheid to capture the Israeli reality.”

Patrick Kingsley should take notice.

The striking contrast between Benny Morris’s fact-based analysis and Patrick Kingsley’s palpable bias highlights the reality that “All the News That’s Print to Fit”—the enduring front-page Times motto—is better understood as the news print to fit the Times’ unrelenting criticism of Israel. Obsessed with “settler violence,” Kingsley demonstrates his obliviousness to the historical reality that what he repeatedly misidentifies as Israel’s “occupied territory” comprises biblical Judea and Samaria. It is better understood as Israel’s ancient homeland and, since 1967, its liberated territory.

But for Kingsley and The New York Times, Israelis who live there—the settlers they despise—are the most evil of Jews. Nothing better qualifies him to be its Jerusalem bureau chief.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of 12 books, including “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016).”

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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