It’s called Rawabi, an entirely new Palestinian city with an expected population of 40,000. It’s located halfway between Jerusalem and Nablus. Its developers already have sold more than 600 apartments. But, no surprise, they’ve also encountered a few snags, especially from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority.
But that’s not the way the New York Times reports Rawabi’s problems. In an Aug. 11 dispatch, Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner instead turns the tables to make Israel the fall guy, although Rawabi’s travails stem far more from obstacles created by the PA. To Kershner and the Times, objective reporting counts for very little. The more important thing is to engage in Israel bashing. Starting with a blame-Israel headline: “Birth of a Palestinian City Is Punctuated by Struggles — Project Depends on Israeli Cooperation — Cement has to be imported, and there is no port or airport.” (Page 9)
Kershner starts off by asserting that Rawabi’s future growth depends on the cooperation of Israel and she clearly doesn’t think that Rawabi is getting it. There are issues, she writes, like water and getting permits. Also, the builders have to buy cement from Israel. Since there is no airport or port in PA-controlled territories in the West Bank, cement and other supplies have to be bought from Israel.
But such difficulties pale by comparison with far more serious challenges posed by Abbas and the PA. However, they are tucked away farther down in Kershner’s piece, where fewer readers are apt to notice. Such as Rawabi attracting “almost no international financing despite the billions of dollars that donor nations have given to the Palestinian Authority” (Paragraph No. 20) Where, one wonders, did that money go?
“Four years ago,” Kershner acknowledges in Paragraph No. 21, “the Palestinian Authority agreed to pay for the building of schools, a police station and some other public amenities in Rawabi at a cost of $150 million. None of that money materialized.” Why? Kershner prefers to keep her distance, lest she trip over a real scandal.
Building the new Palestinian city also has come under attack from a Palestinian outfit called the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, which accuses the developers of sacrificing Palestinian rights and “whitewashing the Israeli occupation.”
By any objective yardstick, it would seem that Palestinian obstacles, like shutting down promised financing, far outweigh a few bureaucratic snags from the Israeli side. But leave it to Kershner, the Times and its headline writers, the higher imperative remains to stick it to Israel, while hiding much bigger Palestinian obstacles in Rawabi’s way.
Such journalistic tricks are part and parcel of a long-running practice by the Times to whitewash Abbas and PA transgressions, while blowing up the slightest Israeli missteps — an egregious double standard.
Welcome to Rawabi — or rather the NY Times version.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers