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Media Analyses





After Child Murders, Time Magazine Slides Further into Advocacy Journalism


The murder of five Israelis, including an infant, a toddler and an 11-year-old, was unspeakably horrific. In its own way, so was Time magazine's reporting in the wake of the attack.

In his March 13 piece, "Slaughter of the Fogels: After the West Bank Killings," Time's correspondent in Israel yet again reveals he is incapable of, or simply uninterested in, impartial reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The correspondent, Karl Vick, does not let the shocking attack get in the way of his predictable anti-Israel animus. His discussion of the incident, published online two days after a terrorist slit the throats of five members of the Fogel family, strains to recast Palestinians as the victims of the murders and the Israelis as the offending party.

Most of the piece is dedicated to portraying Israelis as cynically using the incident as an excuse to violate international law, "steal" land, and even raise money. While Israeli officials are, as usual, the targets of Vick's implicit condemnation, Mahmoud Abbas is described gently as one who "preaches nonviolence," and his Palestinian Authority as cooperative friends of Israel (even though Israel, the story makes it appear, does not deserve their benevolence).

Worse than ignoring Palestinian incitement, Vick seems to mock the very idea, depicting Israel's purported concerns about Palestinian hate education and calls to violence as a desperate and unjustified excuse to condemn the Palestinians.

A journalist who manipulates every bit of breaking news to fit a favored narrative is not engaged in the serious news reporting or analysis expected from a magazine of Time's stature, but rather a style suited for the most partisan of blogs.
 
Paragraph after paragraph and piece by piece, the reporter rewrites the bloody attack against Israelis to resemble a morality play — with Israel cast as the villain, and the Gandhi-esque Palestinians as the victims of Israeli machinations.
 
The first paragraph opens with only passing mention of the murders, and closed with the indication that the piece would not so much deal with the killings themselves, but with Jewish "vengeance."
 
And Vick delivers as promised. Paragraph two manages to convey the sense that Israeli condemnations of the attack, rather than being justified expressions of disgust and outrage, were little more than glib political acts. ("First came the condemnations," the paragraph dismissively begins.)
 
In the third paragraph, Vick continues with this theme, accusing Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyanu of cynically attempting to "transmute the deaths of the Fogels into politics."
 
Yet in the same passage, the author himself plays politics, leveling the inaccurate and extremely partisan claim that settlement blocks along the Green Line exist on "Palestinian territory." In fact the towns rest on disputed territory — and land that the League of Nations had deemed to be part of the Jewish national home. The international community, Vick's partisan activism notwithstanding, has long understood that the competing claims, and thus ultimate status of the territory, must be determined by way of negotiations, a point underscored by the language of UN Security Council Resolution 242.
 
Paragraph four is devoted to showing the supposed callous cynicism of another Israeli, who appears in the story to care more about settlements than the young lives lost.

Paragraph five promotes the partisan view that settlements are illegal.

In paragraph seven, the reporter deems it important to note that a nonprofit cited the attack in "solicit[ing] funds" — an echo of Vick's earlier story that had cast Israeli Jews as interested, above all else, in economic concerns.

Only in the eighth paragraph does the reporter briefly flash a sentence or two that humanizes the Israeli family. But presumably for "balance," Vick immediately goes out of his way to point out that among the 20 Palestinians Israel detained in connection with the incident were "reportedly ... relatives of two Palestinians recently killed."

The ninth paragraph describes settlers who attack Palestinians as "extremists," though the same passage avoids any such pejorative adjectives to describe Palestinians who killed Israelis.

Finally, the author indicates that Palestinian incitement is not a real issue deserving of thoughtful consideration — he puts the word in scare quotes — but merely an excuse for Israel to blame the innocent West Bank Palestinians:

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas preaches nonviolence, and PA security forces coordinate discreetly with Israeli authorities to suppress attacks . . .

But Netanyahu found grounds to blame the Palestinian Authority, repeatedly calling on Abbas to cease "incitement" against Israel.

In fact, Palestinian incitement, including the glorification of suicide bombers, is very real, and any fair-minded assessment of Middle East violence and peace-making must take this phenomenon into account, perhaps more than anything else. Just a week before the brutal murder in Itamar, a West Bank soccer tournament was named after Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber. It was yet another clear signal that those who target Jewish civilians for death will be celebrated as heroes. (Idris killed an 81-year-old man and injured scores of others.)

A list of recent examples of Palestinian Authority incitement can be found here.

The outrageous article is hardly the first one-sided hit-piece by Vick. Recent headlines speak for themselves: "Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace." "Israel's Military on the Spot Over Activist's Death." "Despite Peace Talks, Israel's Settlers Are Dug In." "Israel's Undiplomatic Chief Diplomat Strikes Again." "Palestinians, Contained." "Israel's Rightward Lurch Scares Some Conservatives."
 
And now the magazine sees to it that only Israel should be criticized when Israeli men, women and children are murdered, almost certainly by Palestinians.
 
When it comes to coverage of the Middle East, Time has made clear it has no professional standards — and no shame.

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