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Media Analyses





New York Times Tilts Toward Palestinians


"Once Again, Gazans Are Displaced by Israeli Occupiers," ran the startling headline on a July 12, 2006 Times article, bluntly echoing Palestinian claims that they are  still victims of Israeli "occupation," despite last year's pull-out from Gaza. 

The corollary, that violence and terrorism are simply part of Palestinian "resistance to occupation," has also been a theme of the newspaper's reporting on Palestinian terrorism. (See "Hamas Attacks are 'Armed Resistance'", "Why the New York Times Refrains From Calling Hamas and Hizballah 'Terrorist' Groups", "New York Times Whitewashes Palestinian Terrorist Groups Again", and "New York Times Misrepresents Hamas."

One-Sided Reporting

The news story itself was yet another human interest piece–the fourth of its kind in 10 days–profiling the distress of Palestinian families in Gaza as a result of Israel's military campaign to free Gilad Shalit and end Palestinian rocket fire into Israeli cities. By contrast, there was only one brief article profiling the kidnapped Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit, five paragraphs about hunger strikers protesting the rockets in Sderot, and only passing mention of the 18-year-old Israeli civilian, Eliyahu Asheri who was kidnapped and murdered by one of the groups claiming responsibility for Shalit's abduction.

The intimate profiles of Gazan families and the many personal details about Palestinian victims  in news stories about the military offensive direct the focus toward Palestinian concerns and have the net effect of obscuring the context of Israel's actions.

Just two months ago, in May 2006, CAMERA faulted the New York Times news pages for its disproportionate number of Palestinian human-interest pieces as compared to similar coverage of Israelis.  At the time, the newspaper had published seven such stories about Palestinians since the start of the year and none about Israelis. Several days after our commentary, the Times ran its first human interest article of the year profiling Lior Anidzar, an Israeli victim of Palestinian terror. But that article, "A Promising Young Life Prematurely Committed to Sand," it turns out, was only a blip in the Times's pattern of highlighting Palestinian grievances while glossing over Israeli suffering.

Since then, there were only 3 more stories that could be considered human interest pieces about Israelis (with "human interest" defined as non-breaking news stories/interviews that include the experiences, personal life, opinions and emotions of people who have no political or military position) versus 8 more pieces about Palestinians, bringing the total number this year to 4 on Israelis versus 15 about Palestinians. And if one defines human interest pieces as those primarily focusing on victims, relatives of victims, survivors or other targets of attacks or oppression from the other side, there were only 2 pieces on Israelis versus 12 on Palestinians.

Below is the total list of human interest stories on Israelis and Palestinians respectively, with asterisks next to those articles focusing primarily on victims, survivors, and targets of attacks or oppression from the other side.

2006 Human Interest Stories about Israelis

*1) May 15: "A Promising Young Life Prematurely Committed to Sand"

2) May 23: "In Israel, New Reflections on Holocaust" (This focused on Holocaust remembrance in Israel.)

3) June 16: "How Clumsy, Inaccurate Gaza Rockets Could Start a War" (This focused more on the general issue of Hamas's launching of Qassam rockets than on the victims themselves. Only 5 of 28 paragraphs discussed Israeli hunger strikers who were protesting the launching of rockets.)

*4) July 4: "Captured Soldier Is Described as a Gentle Basketball Fan"

 

2006 Human Interest Stories about Palestinians

1) Jan. 18: "Warm and Fuzzy TV, Brought to You by Hamas" (This focused on a Hamas children's program host)

2) Jan. 24: "One Booming Business in Gaza: Tunneling for the Gunrunners" (This discussed Palestinian arms smugglers)

*3) March 1: "Head High, Hamas Member Returns from Israeli Jail"

*4) March 4: "Gaza Crossings: Choked Passages to Frustration"

*5) May 2: "Where Rockets Exit, Shells Enter and Houses Are Ruined"

*6) May 8: "Funds Cut, Gaza Faces a Plague of Health Woes"

*7) May 11: "As Gazans Wait for Aid, Their Situation Is Dire"

*8) June 12: "Errant Shell Turns Girl Into Palestinian Icon"

*9) June 18: "4 Months Into Aid Cutoff, Gazans Barely Scrape By"

10) June 21: "A Campus for 'Scholars, Not Fighters' on a Settlement Site" (This focused on students at a Palestinian college built on a former Israeli settlement)

*11) June 27: "In Gaza, Defiantly Awaiting Israeli Retaliation"

*12) July 2: "Israel Squeezes, and Gaza Residents Adapt to the Vise"

*13) July 4: "As Gaza's Plight Worsens, Palestinian Businesses Leave"

*14) July 7: "Palestinian's Hope Recedes, Replaced by the Roar of Battle"

*15) July 12; "Once Again, Gazans Are Displaced by Israeli Occupiers"

Double Standard

The double standard the New York Times displays in labelling "terrorists" and in its attitude toward counter-terrorism measures was especially striking in its treatment yesterday (July 11) of the assassination of Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev. The article accurately described Besayev as a terrorist leader:

In a long and notorious career, Shamil Basayev, the elusive terrorist leader of the most vicious separatist faction in Chechnya, was an airplane hijacker, a hostage taker, a guerrilla commander and a war-scarred spokesman for terror who tried to justify mass killings of civilians, even school children, for political ends and revenge.( "Caucasus Renegade Dies, and His Cause May Die, Too," July 11, 2006)

And a Times editorial, entitled "Death of a Terrorist" (July 11, 2006) did not begrudge the Russian leader Vladmir Putin "his moment of satisfaction" in eliminating the terrorist leader.

An editorial by the same name published just one month earlier went even further on the occasion of the assassination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

It is good news for Washington, and even better news for Iraq, that the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was finally killed on Wednesday by an American airstrike."("Death of a Terrorist," New York Times editorial, July 9, 2006)

The Times also routinely and accurately identified Zarqawi as a "terrorist leader."

This is not the case, however, with Palestinian terrorist leaders who have led and endorsed suicide bombing campaigns against Israeli civilians. When Israel killed Hamas's Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a terrorist leader and spokesman for terror who similarly "tried to justify mass killings of civilians, even school children, for political ends and revenge," he was respectfully referred to as a "doctor," "leader" and "prominent spokesman":

An Israeli helicopter strike on Saturday night killed the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a combative figure who assumed the post less than a month ago after a similar Israeli attack that killed the group's founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin...

...Dr. Rantisi, a pediatrician who was no longer practicing medicine, had become the most prominent Hamas spokesman in recent years. He was known for his fiery statements in which he rejected any compromise with Israel. ("Leader of Hamas Killed by Israel in Missile Attack," April 18, 2004)

Elsewhere, he was sympathetically portrayed as the "slain chief" :

The leaders of Hamas gathered under a tent at a dusty soccer stadium last Sunday, joined by thousands of mourners offering condolences for the group's slain chief in Gaza, Dr. Abdel Aziz Rantisi. When the service ended, the Hamas officials vanished, making perhaps their last joint public appearance for a long time. ("In Loss of Leaders, Hamas Discovers a Renewed Strength, April 25, 2004)

And Times editorials, far from applauding, decry any attempt by Israel to eliminate the terrorists who plot against and assault the Jewish State:

Israel's fury and frustration over terrorist bombings are understandable, but trying to assassinate Palestinian leaders in revenge is not the answer....

....A militarily formidable Israel that rightly demands acceptance from its neighbors should set aside state-sponsored assassination as a foreign-policy tool. ("Assassination Ill Befits Israel, Editorial," October 7, 1997)

and

Israel's assassination of one of Hamas's leaders seems counterproductive....By taking pre-emptive action, the Israelis not only gave Hamas an excuse to rouse its faithful to more violence, but they also undermined Mr. Abbas's plans and leadership. ("The Crumbling Mideast Cease-Fire,"Editorial, August 22, 2003)

and

...it's hard to see how his [Sheik Ahmed Yassin's] martyrdom will make Israel any safer...Ultimately, any argument that the assassination was "worth it" is undermined by the fact that both sides will seek deeper into their separate passions. ("Death in Gaza," Editorial, March 23, 2004)

In fact, it is not only assassinations, but any attempt at counter-terrorism operations by Israel that the Times decries:

While no one expects Israel to remain passive when Palestinian snipers and suicide bombers kill Israeli civilians and soldiers, this kind of extended military operation [by Israel] is unacceptable.. ("Israel's Unwise Offensive," Editorial, March 14, 2002)

and

Yesterday, a Hamas suicide bomber killed at least 16 people and wounded nearly 100 on a rush-hour bus in central Jerusalem. But the gravest political damage is being done by Israel's prime minister, Ariel Sharon, whose reflexive military responses to terror threatens to undermine the authority of Mahmoud Abbas... ("Downward Spiral in the Mideast," Editorial, June 12, 2003)

This same attitude lies behind the newspaper's reluctance to label anti-Israel terrorists as such. In an article about the July 12 cross border attack from Lebanon and abduction of two soldiers ("Israeli Forces Enter Lebanon After 2 Soldiers Are Seized"), Hizballah—listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., Great Britain, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands—was described merely as a "Shiite Muslim group that participates in Lebanese politics but also continues to battle Israel" with no mention at all of its terrorist designation by any state.

The Times clearly draws a distinction between terrorists targeting Israelis and those targeting any other state, as it does between Israel's right to defend itself compared to that of other nations excercising  self-defense.

In the wake of a detailed critique of its pro-Palestinian news coverage in 2002, the New York Times was more balanced for some time, but in recent months the paper seems to be reverting to old biases. 


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