JERUSALEM – The New York Times magazine published an in-depth article condemning Israel’s treatment of the Shuafat refugee camp – the only Palestinian refugee camp within the 1967 borders – but failed to mention that the author was sent to the camp at the behest of controversial NGO Breaking the Silence (BtS).
As monitoring group HonestReporting.com revealed, author Rachel Kushner writes that she was “invited on an extensive tour of the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and was asked to choose a subject to write about for a book to be published next year.”
In another Q & A article published in the Times, Kushner again repeats that she had been “invited, totally unexpectedly … to take a trip there, in mind to contribute to a book of essays.”
The book’s release will coincide with the 50-year anniversary of Israel’s capture in a defensive war of the strategic West Bank and eastern sections of Jerusalem, and according to the Washington Post, was designed to “make a political splash.”
Yet neither Kushner nor the Times bothered to include a critical piece of background information that both the visit and the book was a joint initiative with BtS.
Notorious for its anti-Israel provocations, BtS gathers anonymous testimonies of Israeli soldiers of unproven human rights violations including alleged “war crimes.”
Breitbart Jerusalem reported last month that George Soros’ foundations arranged and funded a top notch legal team on behalf of BtS to assist in its defense over maintaining its policy of secrecy regarding the identity of sources who alleged Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza.
Writing for The Telegraph in 2013, journalist Jake Wallis Simons accused the organization, which receives almost half its funding from European countries, of “sexing up the harshness of the Israeli presence on the West Bank by focusing only on its very worst manifestation (Hebron)” and for publishing entirely “fabricated” testimonies.
During the process of interviewing BtS staff, Simons said, “The bias of the organisation became clearer.”
“If the goal of Breaking the Silence was simply to clean up the Israeli military, it wouldn’t be such a problem. Instead, the aim is to “end the occupation”, and on this basis it secured its funding,” Simons writes.
It appeared, therefore, that these former soldiers, some of whom draw salaries from Breaking the Silence, were motivated by financial and political concerns to further a pro-Palestinian agenda. They weren’t merely telling the truth about their experiences. They were under pressure to perform.
Indeed, I later discovered that there have been many allegations in the past that members of the organisation either fabricated or exaggerated their testimonies.
HonestReporting.com asked why the New York Times failed to acknowledge that Rachel Kushner wrote her article with a clear agenda.
“Given that Kushner was exposed to only one side of the issue due to the involvement of Breaking the Silence, it explains why she would not have spoken to anyone from the Jerusalem municipality that bears responsibility for Shuafat,” the article reads.
The watchdog cites Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff who said that even local residents of Shuafat estimate the number of weapons held illegally by people in the camp to be in the thousands.
“The level of crime is also unusual compared to any other place in Israel or the West Bank,” Issacharoff notes.
The refugee camp is also known as a “terror stronghold,” and according to Israeli security sources is home to a significant number of terrorists who have carried out attacks against Israel.
Kushner notes that several of the “young assailants” responsible for stabbing and other attacks in the recent surge of Palestinian violence have come from the camp. She describes a bizarre scene at a barbershop run by a group of youths who share the family name Alqam. She recounts their “collective joy” at being there.
“We were all ecstatic,” she writes, describing how her interpreter was “playfully coerced [into receiving a] beard trim, on the house” while she and the boys “shouldered up for selfies, put on our sunglasses and posed.”
The ostensible purpose of describing such a scene was to convey, as she notes in the very next paragraph, “how wonderful it was in the Shuafat camp. How safe I felt.”
Later on in the article Kushner writes how after arriving back home to America she had looked up the name Alqam and came across reports that “two Alqam boys, cousins who were 12 and 14, had been accused of stabbing, with a knife and scissors, an Israeli security guard on a tram in East Jerusalem.” While she writes that she is unsure of whether they were related to the boys in the barber shop, another New York Times article, published shortly after the terror attack, includes interviews with several members of the extended Alqam family in the camp.
The article notes that at first, members of the Alqam family “expressed similar doubts” about Israeli reports of the attack. It goes on to say that even after irrefutable video evidence was released of the Alqam boys carrying out the attack, “there was no sign of contrition in the refugee camp, nor any indication that the adults might restrain their children.”
Taken together, HonestReporting.com notes that the Jerusalem municipality and the Israeli police may be “loathe to put their lives at risk to give services” to the refugee camp – one of Kushner’s chief grumbles. It further notes that “the camp is largely serviced (evidently not very well) by UNRWA,” the United Nations’ agency for Palestinian refugees.
“We already know that the New York Times presents a one-sided view of Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But to publish an article like Rachel Kushner’s without the transparency that professional journalism requires is highly problematic,” the article concludes.