The New York Times published a front page story Monday about a West Bank village in which scores of boys spend their time throwing stones at Israelis. That article is eliciting criticism from pro-Israel mainstream media watchdogs who say it romanticizes the violent pastime which can be deadly.
The story, "In a West Bank Culture of Conflict, Boys Wield the Weapon at Hand," profiles 17-year-old Muhammad Abu Hashem who has been arrested four times in three years for throwing stones at Israeli soldiers and civilians. The Times reports that his five brothers have all faced similar charges of throwing stones and that three of the boys and their father were in prison at the same time last year.
AFP captured this dramatic photo in 2012 of Palestinians throwing large rocks at an Israeli teacher's car in the same village profiled by the New York Times.
"Children have hobbies, and my hobby is throwing stones," Muhammad told the Times. "A day with a confrontation is better than a free day."
In the village of Beit Ommar between Bethlehem and Hebron, Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren writes, "rock throwing is a rite of passage and an honored act of defiance."
"They throw because there is little else to do in Beit Ommar -- no pool or cinema, no music lessons after school, no part-time jobs other than peddling produce along the road. They do it because their brothers and fathers did," the Times writes, describing the Palestinian perspective.
Among the sites criticizing the piece:
CAMERA: "The New York Times Romanticizes Palestinian Stone Throwers and Ignores Their Victims"
Honest Reporting: "Note to New York Times: Throwing Stones is an Act of Violence"
The Washington Free Beacon: "NYT Downplays Deadly Results of Palestinian Rock-throwing 'Hobby'"
The American Thinker: "NYT Absolves Stone-throwing Palestinian Youth"
Honest Reporting calls the Times piece an effort of "some in the media to glorify the violence," adding, "New York Times reporter Jodi Rudoren is the latest apologist to present Palestinian stone throwers as noble defenders of their land and victims of Israeli oppression rather than as violent criminals." It writes:
...Rudoren goes to great lengths to build sympathy for the Palestinian youth and his family, noting how his mother made sure to give him a long sleeve shirt for his stay in prison because "they both knew it would be cold in the interrogation room."
The "settlers" don't receive nearly the same level of empathy, even when they are the victims of the rocks being thrown. Menuha Shvat, the only Gush Etzion resident quoted in the story, is also the only one who discusses how dangerous rock throwing can be.
The Times mentions that a man and his baby son died in 2011 when their car was attacked by Palestinian stone throwers and flipped over. Honest Reporting takes issue with the Times, because it "does not even bother to name the Israeli victims she mentions. In fact, the man's name is Asher Palmer, and his one-year old son is Yonatan. And they didn't simply die. They were killed, and the Palestinians who threw the rocks were convicted of murder."
"To her credit, Rudoren attempts to present the values of the local Palestinians in their own terms. But the moral ambiguity that comes across in the article carries a price. By allowing the glorification of violence to go unchallenged, the article becomes yet another piece that fails to hold the Palestinians to any form of accountability," writes Honest Reporting.
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) writes, "Stones kill, maim, wound and change people's lives forever. Israeli infants have been slain, toddlers critically wounded and adults have sustained severe head injuries or were hospitalized with lighter injuries, all due to Palestinian stone throwers."
It adds, "...this was a story that romanticized and heroized the Palestinian perpetrators. It is they - not the Israeli dead and injured - who are presented as the victims, 'provoked by the situation,' forced into this type of 'futile' hobby, only to be arrested and incarcerated by fierce, powerful Israeli soldiers."
CAMERA writes, "Her article focuses on the perpetrators' excuses, justifications for and pride in their actions, as well as the hardships they endure when arrested for their activities," such as missing school.
The American Thinker writes, "Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren offers a lengthy list of plaudits received by stone-throwing boys, but you'd be hard put to find any explanatory note by Rudoren that these are lethal weapons that maim or kill their targets. Basically, Rudoren views stone-throwing as simply an interesting cultural phenomenon. She clearly shies away from condemning such tactics."
Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine writes, "...though the story only mentions the victims of the stone throwing in passing in one sentence, flinging a large rock at an individual or a moving vehicle is not a game. It is a form of terrorism. Such actions are felonious assaults by any definition of the law. The purpose of the stone throwing is not making a political statement but to inflict injury and even death on those so unfortunate as to be in range of these missiles."
TheBlaze has reported on a number of the Palestinian rock-throwing attacks, including the killing of the Palmers. The dramatic photo seen above was captured by AFP last year in the same village, Beit Ommar, profiled by the New York Times.
Yisrael Medad who writes the "My Right Word" blog reports that from January to June of this year, there have been 5,144 stonings, 611 Molotov cocktail attacks, 8 shootings and 3 stabbings perpetrated against Israelis in Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem.
In comparison with the Palestinian perspective, CAMERA explains, in the U.S., stone-throwing is viewed as a serious offense. For example, an American teen was handed a life sentence in 1986 for throwing a stone from an overpass that killed a toddler in a car below. And in 2010, two teenagers in South Carolina were "indicted on first degree murder charges after killing a woman sitting in the front seat of a car with a stone hurled from an overpass."
The same village profiled by the Times was in the news in May when a red flag with a swastika was seen flying near a mosque there.