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Will the NYT start noting the violent pasts of Israeli contributors, too?

There was much uproar from the Israeli government and its supporters following the publication of a Marwan Barghouti op-ed in the New York Times. But where was the outcry when the paper published op-eds by Israelis with violent pasts?

A mural of Marwan Barghouti on the separation wall at Qalandiya checkpoint, West Bank, June 10, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A mural of Marwan Barghouti on the separation wall at Qalandiya checkpoint, West Bank, June 10, 2016. (Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

On Sunday the New York Times published an op-ed by Marwan Barghouti, a Palestinian leader who has been in an Israeli jail since 2002. In his article, Barghouti explains that over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners have decided to launch a hunger strike to protest the Israeli authorities’ policies of mass arrest and systematic mistreatment.

The newspaper’s public editor, Liz Spayd, published a response on Tuesday titled “An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and the Times Does Too.” Addressing a wave of angry statements, Spayd writes that the newspaper should have spelled out the crimes for which Barghouti was convicted.

In response to her query, the New York Times‘ Opinion editor Jim Dao wrote her that while “the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences,” it does not “state the crimes for which he was convicted.” Dao then appended the following note to Barghouti’s op-ed:

This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.

Marwan Barghouti declined to offer a defense in an Israeli courtroom because he was not a citizen of Israel, but rather a stateless resident of the Palestinian territories, which are under Israel’s military occupation. As such, he argued that the court had no legal jurisdiction over his case. And so he was convicted based solely on the prosecution’s evidence, although international experts expressed concern it was “flimsy” and obtained using “questionable methods.” Nonetheless, the judge sentenced Barghouti to five consecutive life sentences plus forty years.

Barghouti’s case was somewhat unusual, in that he was tried in a civilian court; the vast majority of Palestinians from the occupied territories are tried in military courts, where the conviction rate is 99.74 percent. In other words, to say that a Palestinian is guilty of the crimes with which he was charged because he was convicted in an Israeli military court is the same as saying that a Soviet citizen sentenced to the gulag during the Stalinist era must be guilty because he confessed during interrogation. This is one of the reasons for the prisoners’ hunger strike Barghouti describes in his op-ed for the Times.

Marwan Barghouti in court, August 14, 2002. (Flash90)

Marwan Barghouti in court, August 14, 2002. (Flash90)

Obviously, the Israeli government and its supporters have a political interest in denying Barghouti credibility to write for the New York Times, as evinced by some of the responses to the op-ed: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu describes Barghouti, in a Facebook status posted on Tuesday, as an “arch terrorist” who is no more a “political leader” than Bashar al-Assad is a “pediatrician.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely describes Barghouti, in an email sent to the international media, as “a convicted murderer and a terrorist,” adding: “When a major newspaper with a reputation for responsible journalism becomes a platform for murderers, it provides legitimacy for terrorism.”

Barghouti is certainly a proponent of political violence as a means of resisting military occupation. But he has also been referred to by columnists in the Israeli and international media as the “Palestinian Mandela,” and even the late Shimon Peres reportedly said that Barghouti was “the man who should lead the Palestinians.”

Furthermore, despite the protestations of Israeli politicians and the tone of Liz Spayd’s response, the New York Times has, in fact, provided a platform for several Israeli op-ed contributors who committed acts of terrorism or war crimes, without acknowledging that fact.

Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s byline appears, for example, on this piece published in August 1982. That was 29 years after he led the Qibya massacre, during which Israeli soldiers killed 69 unarmed Arab Palestinian villagers — two thirds of whom were women and children.

Then-Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon at an IDF command post with Beirut in the background, Lebanon, September 15, 1982. The Sabra and Shatila massacre started the day after this photo was taken. (Uri Dan, The Israeli Defense Forces Archive/CC 2.0)

Then-Israeli Defense Minister Ariel Sharon at an IDF command post with Beirut in the background, Lebanon, September 15, 1982. The Sabra and Shatila massacre started the day after this photo was taken. (Uri Dan, The Israeli Defense Forces Archive/CC 2.0)

Less than one month after he wrote that op-ed, while serving as defense minister, Sharon allowed Lebanese Phalange forces to enter the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Israeli-occupied Beirut. Over the course of three days the Phalangists tortured, raped and murdered Palestinian civilians in the camps, leaving approximately 800 dead, including children and the elderly. Israeli soldiers set off the flares that provided illumination for the Kataeb militiamen, as they rampaged through the dark, narrow alleys of the camps. The Kahan Commission, appointed by the Israeli government to investigate the massacre, found Sharon’s “disregard” for the Palestinians in Sabra and Shatila “impossible to justify” and recommended his dismissal as defense minister.

Naftali Bennett, the chairman of the ultra-right Jewish Home party and Israel’s minister of education, wrote in a 2014 New York Times op-ed that Israel should annex the West Bank and declare an end to the two-state solution. This is the same Bennett who said, “I’ve killed lots of Arabs in my life — and there’s no problem with that.” And yet the bio blurb for this confessed murderer notes only that, “Naftali Bennett is Israel’s minister of the economy and the leader of the Jewish Home Party.

Meir Kahane’s 1990 letter to the New York Times, in which he calls for the annexation and ethnic cleansing of the occupied Palestinian territories, was published two years after his party was disqualified from the Israeli elections on the grounds that he incited to racism and rejected the democratic foundation of the State of Israel. But his bio line reads: “Meir Kahane heads the Jewish Defense League and the Kach movement in Israel.” This is the same movement whose followers called Baruch Goldstein a “hero” and a “martyr” after he murdered 29 Palestinians at prayer in Hebron in 1994.

It seems that the New York Times is willing to publish op-eds by Israeli Jews who advocate or have committed murder of Palestinians, without mentioning that fact in their bio blurbs. So the question, without taking a position on whether or not political violence is ever justified, is why the Times feels compelled to take a different stance when it comes to Palestinian contributors.

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    1. i_like_ike52

      Well, no less an authority than Shimon Peres liked Barghouti! It should be noted that Peres was well protected and did not have to travel on the buses that were targeted by Barghouti and his friends during the suicide bomber campaign. Peres was also the one that told us about the “New Middle East” in which the Arab/Muslim countries of the region would inevitably secularize and democratize and make peace with Israel. Peres also said, and I quote “Arafat is now a man of peace”. Of course you have to realize that in order to get his Nobel “Peace” Prize, he had to make statements like that. Certainly an authority on people’s peaceful intentions.

      Regarding Bennet’s comment about killing Arabs, he was of course referring to terrorists and enemy soldiers. I am sure you realize that .

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Peres liked Nelson Mandela. And Barghouti is the Palestinian Mandela. Nothing you say can get around that.

        Competence? Lack of corruption? Palestinian unity? A tamer of Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Someone to negotiate with? Non-violent political opposition at the heart of his agenda? Unarmed protest in favor of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders? Called Israel “our future neighbor”? Sounds like the Israeli Right’s worst nightmare. I do not exaggerate. Their worst nightmare. What they loathe more than anything: a peace-seeking Palestinian leader who can deliver.

        And, no, Bennett was not of course only referring to “terrorists and enemy soldiers,” he was, with a wink and a nod, making a much broader statement. I am sure you realize that.

        Lisa Goldman perfectly exposes the hypocrisy of the right wing screamers and the New York Times editors and the double standard the Times pushes and lets itself be pushed into with regard to Israeli Jews versus Palestinians.

        Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          It is fascinating to see how so many humanity-loving “progressives” come to adore cut-throat assassins like Stalin, Arafat and, now, Barghouti. Remember how everyone said that if only we would bring Arafat to the West Bank, peace would break out? Well, Arafat cut loose with a murderous suicide bombing campaign, directed at CIVILIANS, yet our humanity-loving “progressive” tells us that it wasn’t Arafat’s fault (that he was lying when he talked about peace), but it was Barak’s and Israel’s fault. When Arafat talked out of both sides of his mouth, our humanity-loving “progressive” says he only pays attention to the things that sound good to his side, but when bloodthirsty declarations supporting the terrorism is made, they are either ignored or explained away by saying “he doesn’t really mean it, it is said for ‘internal’ reason”.
          If Israel were ever so foolish to release Barghouti and he somehow became head of the PA, the whole thing would repeat itself and again, our humanity-loving “progressive” would tell us it is Israel’s fault, we didn’t offer enough so he has to kill again.

          What is also interesting is how long-term conflicts are thought by our humanity-loving “progressives” to be solvable by a miraculous superman. We are told “just release Barghouti and everything will be wonderful”. He will miraculously unite Palestinian society around peace, HAMAS will throw away their weapons and jettison their bloodthirsty Islamist jihadist ideology and the Iranians will stop screaming “death to israel” and cut off support for the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization. Just like that! Barghouti will end corruption, because he is not corrupt (or at least so says his PR man).
          Of course, we heard all of this regarding Arafat, but he didn’t manage to accomplish any of this, …..oops, I forgot that was Israel’s fault! No end to the “progressive” delusions and excuses.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Let me translate this into the few relevant words for those busy readers on the go:

            “Barghouti is Arafat! Barghouti is Arafat! All Palestinian leaders are Arafat! Arafat! Arafat! Arafat! Did I say Arafat?”

            “just release Barghouti and everything will be wonderful”

            People realize that Israel can mess up anything it wants to mess up, and will put all of its ingenuity and resources into that. It’s easy to make things not work.

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            No Palestinian leader will agree to make concessions that Arafat wouldn’t make. Arafat would not give up the demand for an unlimited right of return of the refugees which is a deal breaker. You see, Arafat was a master terrorist which gave him ultimate ‘cred” with the Palestinian population. Abbas and Barghouti and any one else you can name are minor league as compared with Arafat and they are all in his shadow. To make a concession he wouldn’t make is out and out treason. Don’t forget Arafat told Clinton HE would be assassinated if he made these concessions, so they certainly can’t.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            You neglected to note the over riding fact that Palestinian Arabs – the indigenous inhabitants of historical Palestine, who along with their ancestors have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for over 9,000 years – are forced to live under what is now a 50 year belligerent, illegal and brutal Israeli occupation.

            Eminent Jewish Israeli journalist Bradley Burston aptly sums up the horrors Israel inflicts on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem:
            “Occupation is Slavery”
            EXCERPT:
            “In the name of occupation, generation after generation of Palestinians have been treated as property. They can be moved at will, shackled at will, tortured at will, have their families separated at will. They can be denied the right to vote, to own property, to meet or speak to family and friends. They can be hounded or even shot dead by their masters, who claim their position by biblical right, and also use them to build and work on the plantations the toilers cannot themselves ever hope to own. The masters dehumanize them, call them by the names of beasts.” (Haaretz, Feb. 26/13)

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            The Jews ARE THE indigenous population with a direct connection of thousands of years in the contry. The Palestinian Arabs have no national, religious or cultural identity with the non-Jewish population of the country thousands of years ago. The Palestinians do not even have an Arabic language name for the country. The “Palestinians” have named themselves for an extinct tribe of idol worshippers that spoke the Philistine language which no longer exists.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            Offensive ethnosupremacist BS designed to ignore and indirectly justify slavery.

            Reply to Comment
          • David

            To quote renowned historian/anthropologist and “Holy Land” specialist, Professor Ilene Beatty:
            “When we speak of ‘Palestinians’ or of the ‘Arab population [of Palestine]‘, we must bear in mind their Canaanite origin. This is important because their legal right to the country stems…from the fact that the Canaanites were first, which gives them priority; their descendants have continued to live there, which gives them continuity; and (except for the 800,000 dispossessed refugees [of 1948 along with the further hundreds of thousands expelled before and after the war Israel launched on 5 June 1967]) they are still living there, which gives them present possession. Thus we see that on purely statistical grounds they have a proven legal right to their own land.” (“Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan”)

            Furthermore:
            Land ownership by Sub-district in all of mandated Palestine,1947:
            Acre: 87% Palestinian Arab owned, 3% Jewish owned, 10% state owned; Safed: 68% Palestinian Arab owned, 18% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Haifa: 42% Palestinian Arab owned, 35% Jewish owned, 23% state owned; Nazareth: 52% Palestinian Arab owned, 28% Jewish owned, 20% state owned; Tiberias: 51% Palestinian Arab owned, 38% Jewish owned, 11% state owned; Jenin: 84% Palestinian Arab owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 16% state owned; Beisan: 44% Palestinian Arab owned, 34% Jewish owned, 22% state owned; Tulkarm: 78% Palestinian Arab owned; 17% Jewish owned, 5% state owned; Nablus: 87% Palestinian Arab owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 13% state owned; Jaffa: 47% Palestinian Arab owned, 39% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Ramleh: 77% Palestinian Arab owned, 14% Jewish owned, 9% state owned; Ramallah: 99% Palestinian Arab owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, less than 1% state owned; Jerusalem (West and East): 84% Palestinian Arab owned, 2% Jewish owned, 14% state owned; Gaza: 75% Palestinian Arab owned, 4% Jewish owned, 21% state owned; Hebron: 96% Palestinian Arab owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 4% state owned; Bersheeba (Negev): 15% Palestinian Arab owned, less than 1% Jewish owned, 85% state owned. (Village Statistics, Jerusalem: Palestine Government, subsequently published as United Nations Map no. 94b, August, 1950)

            In 1947, the total population of West Jerusalem (the New City) and East Jerusalem (the Old City) and their environs was about 200,000 with a slight Arab majority. (Professor Walid Khalidi, Harvard, “Plan Dalet,” Journal of Palestine Studies, Autumn, 1988, p. 17)

            The total land area of West Jerusalem (the New City) in 1947 was 19,331 dunams (about 4,833 acres) of which 40 per cent was owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians, 26.12 per cent by Jews and 13.86 per cent by others, including Christian communities. Government and municipal land made up 2.90 per cent and roads and railways 17.12 per cent.

            East Jerusalem (the Old City) consisted of 800 dunams (about 240 acres) of which five dunams (just over one acre) were Jewish owned and the remaining 795 dunams were owned by Palestinian Muslims and Christians. (“Assessing Palestinian Property in the City,” by Dalia Habash and Terry Rempel, Jerusalem 1948: The Arab Neighbourhoods and their Fate in the War, edited by Salim Tamari, The Institute of Jerusalem Studies, 1999, map, pp. 184-85)

            Reply to Comment
          • i_like_ike52

            I am surprised you didn’t quote Arafat as an authority because he was fond of saying that “Jesus was the first Palestinian”. I don’t think Jesus considered himself a Canaanite.

            To say the current Palestinians are Canaanites is absurd because there has always been movement in and out of the country, and it was largely depopulated for significant amounts of time. The Jews are the ONLY people with a continuous religious, linguistic and cultural connections with the country for at least 3000 years.

            Reply to Comment
    2. Itshak Gordin Halevy

      He has Jewish blood on his hands. We do not like him. We want him to stay in jail. Contrary to our Arab enemies we do not have the death penalty.

      Reply to Comment
      • David

        Given the ever growing amount of illegally occupied, dispossessed and oppressed Palestinians’ blood that Bibi and his cohorts have “on [their] hands,” they most certainly should be put on trial at the international criminal court and when found guilty, imprisoned.

        Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          Even Arab leaders say that the “Palestinian people” does not exist. On the other hand why don’t you mention the 800.000 Jews who have been expelled from the Arab countries in the 50′ and 60′?

          Reply to Comment
        • Itshak Gordin Halevy

          Huu.. You forget to mention that according to the Jewish tradition the Judea and Samaria are a part of the historical, national and religious heritage of the Jewish People. Are our Rabbis stupid? Is the holy Torah obsolete?

          Reply to Comment
    3. Steve

      It’s pretty incredible how this article insinuates Barghouti’s innocence because his own courtroom legal strategy was idiotic and doomed.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bruce Gould

      Ariel Sharon didn’t always check to see who was inside when he threw bombs in Palestinian houses – if you really want to get away with murder become head of state.

      Maybe whether or not Barghouti is innocent no longer matters at this point? He has clearly said that he doesn’t want to drive the Jews into the sea, many people think he’s a natural leader – so why not use him to maximum advantage to make a peace deal?

      Reply to Comment
      • JeffB

        @Bruce Gould

        so why not use him to maximum advantage to make a peace deal?

        Because Barghouti is a man of principle and Israel doesn’t want to meet Barghouti’s terms. His terms are too harsh. Generally you don’t want to give your enemies smart, talented, non-corrupt leadership interested in advancing their people’s best interests at your expense. The good generals of the Axis powers didn’t benefit the Allies, they harmed them.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          ” The good generals of the Axis powers”

          We well understand by now that you coldly identify with quasi-nazi and martial values–you’ve told us enough–thanks for being so straightforward about it here, and that you are bent on a colonialist, land-fetishizing, twilight fight to the death over land, but you have to accept that that is what you are going to get–a totally unnecessary twilight death struggle over land, and the opprobrium and lack of support and lack of good will that will come with that. Just don’t serve up any nonsense about wanting a peace deal or a reasonable solution or Israelis now being victims of anything. And bone up on the history of French Algeria.

          Marwan Barghouti: “And while I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom…I am not a terrorist, but neither am I a pacifist. I am simply a regular guy from the Palestinian street advocating only what every other oppressed person has advocated — the right to help myself in the absence of help from anywhere else. This principle may well lead to my assassination. So let my position be clear in order that my death not be lightly dismissed by the world as just one more statistic in Israel’s “war on terrorism.” For six years I languished as a political prisoner in an Israeli jail, where I was tortured, where I hung blindfolded as an Israeli beat my genitals with a stick. But since 1994, when I believed Israel was serious about ending its occupation, I have been a tireless advocate of a peace based on fairness and equality. I led delegations of Palestinians in meetings with Israeli parliamentarians to promote mutual understanding and cooperation. I still seek peaceful coexistence between the equal and independent countries of Israel and Palestine based on full withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and a just resolution to the plight of Palestinian refugees pursuant to U.N. resolutions. I do not seek to destroy Israel but only to end its occupation of my country.”

          Reply to Comment
        • Ben

          “Barghouti is a man of principle…. Generally you don’t want to give your enemies smart, talented, non-corrupt leadership interested in advancing their people’s best interests at your expense.”

          In these sentences you reveal that you don’t much care about people other than right wing Jewish settlers and their project. In this sentence you show ​raw, zero-sum, Greater Israel maximalism. Greater Israel maximalists come out of their shells and drop their shyness when a competent peace-seeking Palestinian leader comes along who can deliver. Their greatest fear. Peace and a 2SS. That price “too harsh.”

          The “good generals of the Axis powers” — do you mean by “good” that they were competent? Or do you mean that they were good people? Because you have endorsed Le Pen and Putin, my first impression was the latter interpretation. Or are you an ideological eclectic, an opportunist? Someone who picks and chooses from a smorgasbord of ideological and ethical positions, as long as it furthers the main thing: Greater Israel? You would do much better to stick with +972 Magazine’s consistent, unstinting ethical emphasis on human rights for all, and follow the path of integrity. That way you won’t get caught in these incessant contradictions.

          Reply to Comment
    5. JeffB

      @David

      the indigenous inhabitants of historical Palestine, who along with their ancestors have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for over 9,000 years

      Funny then how they speak a western Arabian language and worship a western Arabian god. Indigenous meaning one generation applies to both people. More than that, ultimately to neither. Between the river and the sea there has been wave after wave of displacement. A cute video which pretty much deals with only a fraction of those 9000 years:

      http://vimeo.com/50531435

      This Land Is Mine from Nina Paley on Vimeo.

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        This is all mostly beside the point. This is not a contest based on ancient racial-ethnosupremacist-historical rights to land. (I know, “the good generals of the Axis powers” thought otherwise.) It is about people alive now.

        Reply to Comment
      • David

        In 638 CE, Palestine fell to the Muslims under Caliph Omar (Many Jews refer to the arrival of the Muslims as a “liberation” as Omar gave them unfettered access to Jerusalem which they had been denied under the Christian Byzantines.) Omar was equally generous to the Christians: “Never in the sorry story of conquest up to that day, and rarely since, were such noble and generous sentiments displayed by a conqueror as those extended to Jerusalem by Omar.” (Report by Sir William Fitzgerald on the Local Administration of Jerusalem, Jerusalem: Government Printer, 1945, p.4);

        To again quote Professor Ilene Beatty: “[The Muslims] converted the Canaanites (who, through all the changing sovereignties – although diluted by foreign blood – still formed the backbone of the rural population) to the Muslim faith, intermarried with them; and the language and customs of the crossroads [i.e., Palestine] in time became Arabic; the architecture in time, Arabic; the population itself, partially Arab.” (Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan)

        The late Jewish historian, Professor Maxime Rodinson, of the Sorbonne: “A small contingent of Arabs from Arabia did indeed conquer the country in the seventh century. But…the Palestinian population soon became Arabized…in a way that it was never to become Latinized or Ottomanized. The invaded melted with the invaders…. [By the 20th century,] the Arab population of Palestine was native in all the usual senses of the word.” (“Israel and the Arabs,” 1968)

        Reply to Comment
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