Fresh NYT Hire Raja Abdulrahim Bungles Her First Assignment

It’s been two decades since Raja Abdhulrahim, the New York Times’ fresh hire in its Jerusalem bureau, published a letter in her university paper denying that Hamas and Hezbollah are terror organizations, and then was subsequently awarded with academic and journalism awards from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an unindicted co-conspirator in America’s largest terrorism finance case.
While that troubling history raises grave questions about her suitability to cover Israeli-Palestinian affairs, one hopes that the young Abdulrahim has since matured and developed an appreciation for journalistic professional ethics that at least matches her (past?) respect for Hamas and Hezbollah. Yet, multiple factual errors in her first significant New York Times assignment — the death of Palestinian-American Omar As’ad following his detainment by Israeli soldiers — signal a bumpy start.

Thus, Abdulrahim’s Feb. 2 print article, “Israeli commanders punished in West Bank death,” (and online) erroneously reports: “An autopsy showed that the man, Omar Abdelmajed Assad, died from a stress-induced heart attack brought on by injuries sustained while he was detained for about an hour on Jan. 12 by dozens of Israeli soldiers.” (Emphasis added.)
Likewise, her Jan. 26 article (also in print Jan. 27), “Palestinian American Held by Israel Died of Heart Attack, Autopsy Shows,” erred: “Mr. Assad had pre-existing heart ailments and was detained by dozens of Israeli soldiers for about an hour on Jan. 12 in his village of Jiljilya in the occupied West Bank.” (Emphasis added.)
The Israel Defense Forces spokespersons’ unit has confirmed to CAMERA that while dozens of soldiers took place in the Jan. 12 anti-terror operation in Jaljilya to collect weapons, less than five soldiers had any contact with Assad and were involved in his detainment
Abdulrahim’s Jan. 22 (online, Jan. 20) article, “Palestinian American Died Handcuffed in Israeli Custody, Witnesses Said,” likewise confounds the number of soldiers involved in the weapons collection operation (dozens) versus the smaller number who detained Assad (less than five): “By the time dozens of Israeli soldiers hurriedly withdrew from the village, witnesses said, the face of the 78-year-old man they had detained for an hour was ashen blue from lack of oxygen.” (Emphasis added.)
In a separate apparent factual error, Abdulrahim reported Jan. 22:

Tuesday evening, just hours before Mr. Assad was detained, the government published the list with the names of hundreds of people who would get new Palestinian identification papers.

His and his wife’s names were not on it. (Emphasis added.)

According to Haaretz, Mr. and Mrs. Assad’s names were in fact on that list of Palestinians who received identification papers late last month. Hagar Shezaf reported:
As’ad returned to his native West Bank village 11 years ago after living in the United States for many years. He refused to visit the U.S. for fear he wouldn’t be allowed to return because he didn’t have a Palestinian identity card. His family received word this week that Israel had approved legal status for him and his wife. (Emphasis added.)
Has The Times seen the list, or did it repeat what relatives claimed without further fact-checking?
Separately, Natasha Frost’s Feb. 1 Wednesday briefing makes the unfounded claim that Assad died while in Israeli custody. Natasha Frost errs:  “Three Israeli military commanders have been reprimanded and reassigned after an investigation into the death of a 78-year-old Palestinian man while in Israeli custody.” 

On what basis has The Times determined that Assad died while in Israeli custody? Indeed, there seems to be uncertainty about the time of death, and no clear indication that he died while in Israeli custody.

AP reported last week: “It’s unclear when exactly he died. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead after the other detainees found him unconscious.”

Haaretz, AFP and UPI all previously corrected after stating that Assad had died while in custody of the Israeli military.

CAMERA contacted The Times last week to request corrections. Stay tune for any updates.

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