There has been a great deal of surprise and confusion in the American press over the results of the recent Israeli elections. Pundits and self-styled “experts,” as well as liberal American Jews, seem to be having trouble grasping why Israeli voters turned so decisively towards parties on the political right. Well, one need no look further than the Nov. 19 edition of The New York Times for the answer.
From the headline on page 10, one would not think the article had anything to do with Israel. “Blaze in Gaza Strip Kills 21 Gathered for Family Party,” it announced. Correspondent Raja Abdulrahim began by describing, matter-of-factly, the circumstances surrounding a fire that tragically engulfed the entire top floor of a building in the northern Gaza neighborhood of Jabaliya.
Then Abdulrahim suddenly pivoted and pointed an accusing finger at Israel. She cited claims by Hamas that Israel prevents Gaza from importing adequate firefighting equipment. “Israel’s civil administration … controls the civilian aspects of Israel’s presence in the occupied territories, including Gaza and the West Bank,” she wrote.
Clearly the point of that sentence was to establish that Israel must bear some of the blame for the fire because Israel “controls” Gaza, at least to some extent.
Except that it doesn’t.
The Israeli civil administration, to which Abdulrahim referred, was established after Israel captured Judea, Samaria and Gaza in a defensive war in 1967. When Israel withdrew from most of Gaza in 1994 as part of the Oslo Accords, the civil administration there was restricted to the narrow sliver where Israeli communities were located. Then, in 2005, Israel expelled the Jewish residents and tore down those communities. The civil administration’s presence in Gaza ended.
Yes, the civil administration still operates in the parts of Judea and Samaria that Israel rules, but not in Gaza.
Now look again at the way Abdulrahim constructed her sentence: “Israel’s civil administration … controls the civilian aspects of Israel’s presence in the occupied territories, including Gaza and the West Bank.”
By blurring “Gaza and the West Bank” together, as if they are a single unit, Abdulrahim created the false impression that the Israeli civil administration still has some control in Gaza, since it operates in part of “the West Bank.”
From Abdulrahim’s previous dispatches for the Times, it is clear that she has visited Gaza. That means either she is suffering from hallucinations that Israel is “controlling” things there, or she is fully aware that it is not, but wants to give the impression that it is in order to blame Israel for the Gaza fire.
Either of those two possibilities should be grounds for immediately firing her.
Not that Ms. Abdulrahim’s journalistic misbehavior relieves her editors of any responsibility. After all, they knew what they were getting when they hired her earlier this year. She had previously received awards from the anti-Israel organization CAIR after she wrote a letter denying that Hamas and Hezbollah are terrorist organizations.
A staff reporter for one of the world’s most influential newspapers maliciously smears Israel with a blatant falsehood, and her editors look the other way.
This is one reason Israelis have been turning more hawkish in their voting preferences. No matter how many concessions they make, no matter how many risks they take, no matter how many territories they withdraw from—they still get blamed for anything and everything.
You can’t blame Israelis for feeling like, no matter what they do, they just can’t win. Israel’s critics will never play by the rules. They will lie and smear in order to turn public opinion against the Jewish state. They want to see Israel isolated, hated and harangued. And when Israel is threatened, they want the international community to stand idly by.
That leaves Israelis to conclude that their only hope for survival is to strengthen their military resolve and fortify their security policies—in other words, to vote for parties on the political right.
Israel’s critics complain that such thinking represents a “siege mentality.” Maybe that’s because Israel really is under siege—including in the information war, where combatants such as Raja Abdulrahim, pretending to be journalists, hurl dart after dart at the Jewish state without the slightest regard for the facts.
Stephen M. Flatow, is an attorney and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”