Oct 1 1997

Remember All the Victims of Violence

After suicide bombers killed four people in a Jerusalem shopping district, the New York Times ran an elaborate chart as part of its coverage: “Making War on Israelis: A Deadly Rhythm Since Arab Autonomy.”

The chart featured a time line marking each fatal attack on Israeli civilians since the Cairo Agreement established the Palestinian Authority in May 1994, along with dozens of circles representing the Israeli victims of terror.

The message of the graphic was clear–and wrong.

Looking at the chart, there is no way to tell that Palestinians, too, are often victims of violence in Israel and the Occupied Territories. According to B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, 144 Palestinian civilians have been killed by Israeli security forces since the Cairo Agreement was signed in 1994; 19 Palestinian police officers have also been killed by Israeli forces.

During the same time period, 104 Israeli civilians have been killed by Palestinians, with another 60 Israeli soldiers and police being killed. Despite the New York Times‘ imbalanced presentation, the truth is that both sides are bleeding more or less equally. (This is a shift from the days of the Intifada, when Palestinian losses far outnumbered those of Israelis.)

The New York Times‘ focus on violence against only one Middle Eastern ethnic group is also manifested in its reporting. Thus Times correspondent Serge Schmemann (8/3/97), quoting a dovish comment from Israeli novelist Amos Oz, hastened to add that Oz was not implying “that there was a moral equivalence between mass killings and appropriating occupied land for a settlement.”

It is impossible to imagine the New York Times reporting on a massacre of Palestinians with a graphic that tabulated the Arab victims of Israeli violence while omitting the Jewish victims of Palestinian violence. The worldview that sees the victims on one side as being beneath notice is the same worldview that leads, in its most extreme form, to suicide bombings.