“Israel’s festering police brutality problem,” as a New York Times headline puts it, is the subject of a front-page Timesnews article that underdelivers in a number of key dimensions.
Why is Israel’s “festering police brutality problem” worthy of front-page Times attention more than the police brutality problems in any number of other countries? The Times article includes no statistics comparing police-involved shootings or fatalities per capita in Israel to other countries, nothing that shows the “culture of impunity” in Israel is worse than it is anywhere else. But the Times has a well-staffed bureau in Israel, which it doesn’t in other countries. Israel also allows such reporting, while other countries throw reporters out, or in jail, for writing such articles. So Israel gets the coverage, which the Times‘ hard-left readers duly devour.
The Times article is full of internal contradictions. At one point, it says, “Lethal force, while rare, is wielded almost exclusively against Arabs and other minorities: of 13 people known to have been killed by the police last year, 11 were Palestinians and two were of Ethiopian descent.”
Later on, it says, “Claims that minorities bear the brunt of police brutality are difficult to prove when the misconduct unit does not gather demographic information about the victims.”
Also nonsensical are the Times’ proposed remedies. The Times article says:
Missing in Israel, advocates say, is an agency empowered to tackle brutality as a systemic problem, the way the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has intervened against police departments across the United States.
Also unlike the United States, where plaintiffs can win multimillion-dollar settlements or jury awards including punitive damages, Israel’s civil courts provide only a weak backstop.
It’s not as if the existence of the Justice Department Civil Rights Division or rich settlements for tort lawyers and their clients have prevented police brutality from being a problem here in the United States, where calls to “defund the police” abound and mass rallies on the issue filled the streets notwithstanding the pandemic. Those cures have not worked in the US. Why would they work, or should be adopted, in Israel?
The article may not have much logic independently, but it does make sense when viewed as part of a wider campaign to demonize Israel. The Times awards a gold medal “Times Pick” to a reader comment that observes, “Racism and police brutality are not just an American phenomenon.” That feeds the old Zionism-is-racism lie that the Times is increasingly keen on pushing. And the article includes a passage portraying Zionism as colonialism, another anti-Israel lie:
Badi Hasisi, chairman of Hebrew University’s Institute of Criminology, said violence was ingrained in the culture of the Israeli police force, which grew out of the paramilitary force the British maintained in Palestine.
“As colonial police, they were meant to deal with uprisings,” Professor Hasisi said. “They were more concerned with control — to be able to mobilize resources without any bureaucratic constraints.”
Actually the Jews were among those the British police were trying to prevent from rising up.
The Washington Free Beacon recently reported that the movement to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel is trying to capitalize on anti-police sentiment to try to halt exchanges between Israel and American law-enforcement agencies. The Times article will doubtless be used to support such efforts. Why, after all, should American police travel to Israel to learn if Israel indeed has, as the Times headline puts it, a “festering police brutality problem”? Perhaps the American law enforcement officials will be able to learn about the New York Times’ festering anti-Israel bias problem. It’s “ingrained in the culture.”
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post