It sucks to be Israel, a rational player in an irrational game. You can rightfully criticize its policies. This sentence has two very distinct meanings, one beingthat its policies toward the Palestinians can be justifiably criticized as unduly harsh and aggressive. But it also means you have the ability to criticize its policies, because it allows for criticism. Its neighbors are not so generous.
Marwan Barghouti was a member of the Palestinian parliament. He was also the head of the Tanzim militia. In the former, he was a proponent of the two-state solution, a position that many, Jews included, agree with. In the latter, he was convicted of killing five people in what was described as a terrorist attack, for which he was sentenced by an Israeli court to five life sentences.
Notably, he was neither stoned to death nor had his head chopped off. Also notably, he was able to write an op-ed for the New York Times to express his views. It’s a political polemic, for sure, reflecting his perception of the legitimacy of his views and the horrors of his captors.
Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.
Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.
Barghouti is fighting for “Freedom and Dignity.” It’s not just that he must be credible or he wouldn’t be given real estate in the Times, but lest there be any doubt, the Times bolsters his words in their description of the author.
What sort of terrible country would imprison a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian? Only a nation against which this cry for “Freedom and Dignity” must be believed. And note that this op-ed appears on page A1 in the International edition. It would be entirely different if this polemic was written by a terrorist imprisoned for murdering five people, but nowhere is that mentioned.
Update: After seeing/hearing the backlash to the omission, the New York Times’ Public Editor, Liz Spayd spoke to Editorial Page Editor Jim Dao about it.
Dao noted that the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences but he acknowledged that it doesn’t state the crimes for which he was convicted. “We are drafting an editors’ note that will provide that information,” he said.
Much as it was big of him to “acknowledge” the facial omission of facts, it fails to explain why he caused/allowed this to happen at all. To admit the obvious isn’t exactly a big deal. But Spayd either didn’t ask, or didn’t get an answer, to why Dao failed to include the salient information. By including an editors’ note, all would be fixed.
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.
The New York Times is a morning paper, so this note came too late to undo the damage. Even so, it not only includes the omitted details of murder, but also an irrelevant apologia to blunt its impact. That Barhouti “declined” to defend himself was his choice. No one deprived him of a defense. And even if he had defended himself, would the result have been any different? Would the five dead people be alive? Was the proof not overwhelming.
Dao compounded the error, and Spayd couldn’t be more pleased with it.
In this case, I’m pleased to see the editors responding to the complaints, and moving to correct the issue rather than resist it. Hopefully, it’s a sign that fuller disclosure will become regular practice.
It’s a sign of something, that’s for sure.