‘New York Times’ finds the term ‘occupied’ so confusing

It’s not, however, a confusion based on unclear facts.

Stephen M. Flatow. Credit: Courtesy.
Stephen M. Flatow
Stephen M. Flatow is president of the Religious Zionists of America. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995, and author of A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror. (The RZA is not affiliated with any American or Israeli political party.)

The “West Bank” is “occupied” by Israel. Wait, no, only part of it is.

The Palestinian Arabs are “stateless.” Wait, no, a large segment of the region actually is “governed by the Palestinian Authority.”

These and other contradictory statements all appeared in a single article in The New York Times on April 17 by news correspondent Raja Abdulrahim. I almost feel sorry for her; she seems so confused.

It’s not, however, a confusion based on facts that are perplexing or unclear. It’s based on the blatant contradictions between the actual situation in Israel and the version that the Times wants its readers to believe.

Abdulrahim is a new addition to the Jerusalem bureau of the newspaper. Pro-Israel groups such as CAMERA have previously documented Abdulrahim’s long record of bias, going all the way back to her days as a journalism student at the University of Florida. On Sept. 26, 2001, for example, she authored a letter in the campus newspaper denying that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations.

But it would be a mistake to assume that she is somehow more biased or more extreme than her colleagues in the Jerusalem bureau. It’s obvious from their reporting—long before Abdulrahim arrived—that they all share the same goal: bringing about an Israeli return to the nine-miles-wide pre-1967 borders.

Promoting that narrative requires claiming that “the West Bank” is “occupied” by Israel, as the April 17 article asserted in its opening sentences. The only way to advance the idea that Israel must retreat is to claim that Israel is “occupying” the entire area.

The problem, of course, is that the idea of an “occupied West Bank” is a myth. So the phrase works only in a short article where there’s no room to go into details. In a long piece, such as Abdulrahim’s story on April 17, there’s no alternative but to go into more detail. And that’s where her trouble began.

Way down in paragraph 11, when she is about to explain how Israel sends its troops into Arab cities such as Jenin in pursuit of terrorists, Abdulrahim is forced to reposition herself with this gem of an oxymoron: “Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and controls over 60 percent of its territory.”

Huh? If Israel “occupies” it, then why doesn’t it “control” the whole thing? Five paragraphs later, Abdulrahim reluctantly supplies the answer: The other 40% is “governed by the Palestinian Authority.” Whoops! So much for the “occupation.”

A word about Abdulrahim’s interesting use of the term “over 60%.” If the number is 65% or 70% or 75%, why not say so? Why use the vague phrase “over 60”? Because the actual number is 60.5. That’s right; it’s literally the lowest possible number that can qualify for the term “over 60.” But Abdulrahim didn’t want it to sound like it is, essentially, 60. That wouldn’t make Israel look sufficiently tyrannical. So she uses “over 60,” hoping that readers will think it’s much more.

Elsewhere in the article, Abdulrahim calls the Palestinian Arabs “stateless,” another example of journalistic sleight-of-hand. Yes, technically the Palestinian Authority is not a sovereign state. But in reality, the P.A.-controlled region has virtually every attribute of statehood except the right to import tanks and planes.

The issue for Abdulrahim is that she wants readers to sympathize with the Palestinian Arabs and to hate Israel. Calling them “stateless” makes them sound pitiful and oppressed, and makes Israel seem cruel for keeping them in that situation.

Most of Abdulrahim’s article focuses on the occasional entrance of Israeli troops into P.A. cities in order to arrest terrorists (although she calls them “attackers” and “militants,” never terrorists). She calls Israel’s actions “aggressive” and repeatedly quotes various people accusing Israel of “collective punishment.”

What she conveniently omits is the fact that the Palestinian Arab leadership (Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, et al) agreed to such Israeli actions, in writing, in the Oslo accords. There is nothing “aggressive” or inappropriate or illegal about Israeli troops chasing and apprehending terrorists. And it goes without saying that if the P.A. security forces would arrest them, then the Israeli security forces wouldn’t have to.

Moreover, the very fact that Israeli troops come from elsewhere in the region in order to briefly enter P.A. cities demonstrates that the Israeli troops are not stationed in those cities—because there is no “occupation.” The Israeli “occupation” of the Palestinian Arabs ended in 1995 when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities where 98% of the Palestinian Arabs reside and turned them over to the P.A.

But, of course, Raja Abdulrahim and her colleagues at the Times never mention those facts. I suppose that would be too confusing for their readers.

Stephen M. Flatow, an attorney, is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terrorism.”

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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