New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief David Halbfinger again provided a solely Palestinian view of the conflict in Israel, writing through the eyes of left-wing U.S. Jewish group J Street for Wednesday’s edition: “Absorbing a Different Slice of a Jewish Birthright – An Unflinching View Of Israeli Occupation.” Halbfinger followed a group of American college students on an “alternative” left-wing pro-Palestinian tour of the West Bank:
The fun was over before the tour bus rolled into Har Gilo.
For the past week, 28 college students from the United States had been taking part in a traveling experiment billed as an alternative to Birthright Israel, whose free trips to the country have become a rite of passage for hundreds of thousands of young American Jews.
Birthright’s avoidance of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has made it the target of angry protests by left-leaning Jewish activists. But for sheer ambition, no critique has approached this week’s attempt by the liberal lobbying group J Street to map out an alternative route for Birthright’s tours.
The organizers said they embraced Birthright’s goal of helping young American Jews connect with Israel and with their Jewishness, but that they also needed to be exposed to the realities of the occupation.
This evasive report begs the question: Why is there an “occupation” at all? Is there any kind of threat against Israelis posed by Palestinians? They’re constantly attacking the Israel border from the unoccupied Gaza Strip (currently “governed” by the terror group Hamas). But attacks on Jews are barely mentioned in this long report:
On Sunday, after several upbeat days hiking in the Galilee, learning about the kibbutz movement and bonding over buffets and Israeli pop songs, the J Street cohort took a sharp left turn into territory where Birthright does not go.
In the West Bank settlement of Har Gilo, they received a harsh history lesson from a veteran opponent of the occupation. Then they toured an impoverished, water-starved Palestinian village that Israeli settlers want to demolish, and visited the city of Hebron, where repeated outbreaks of violence have turned an entire Palestinian business district into a ghost town.
Left-wing terminology was consistently applied (click “expand”):
The organizers of the J Street trip, called “Let Our People Know,” said newcomers to Israel also needed to understand the experiences of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.
The ride to Har Gilo, just south of Jerusalem, took the bus through an Israeli checkpoint. Hagit Ofran, a leader of Peace Now, addressed the group over a microphone and described how soldiers decided which motorists to stop: “To look suspicious,” she said, “you need to look Arab.”
It was a bracing how-do-you-do for liberals unaccustomed to blunt racial profiling.
But it was atop Har Gilo, peering out over the southern West Bank, that the travelers began to see troubling aspects of a country they had mainly loved from far away.
He played the race card, cynically using the history of Jewish oppression against the state of Israel (click “expand”):
Ms. Foye, who as a black Jew said she had experienced more than her share of bigotry, said she was hit hard by the idea that a “state founded to protect one marginalized group” was oppressing another.
She said she had always loved Israel and seen it as a “beacon of light.” But what she saw on Sunday overwhelmed her: “My joy and my light shouldn’t be coming from someone else’s darkness,” she said.
As the day grew long, the facial expressions more pained and the questions more anguished, the J Street tour seemed increasingly incompatible with Birthright’s goal of hooking young American Jews on Israel.
By dinnertime, two participants said they were reconsidering their belief in a Jewish state. Jesse Steshenko, 19, of Santa Cruz, Calif., who has a Star of David tattooed on his right wrist, said he was “disgusted” with Israel’s government.
Halbfinger has a history of minimizing the existential threat Israel faces in the region, while repeating Hamas talking points as fact. He has infantilized Palestinians and downgraded Israeli lives by accepting the excuse of “impatience” for death-dealing, like this amazing euphemism for violence by Hamas in its attack on Israel's border: “But at other times, it can express its impatience with weapons.”
And this, from a related story:
....The outbreak of violence appears to have begun on Friday, when a sniper wounded two Israeli soldiers, a violent but localized expression of Palestinian impatience with Israel’s failure to alleviate dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza.