Two stories in two days reveal, yet again, two distinct standards governing New York Times reports about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
In an article about a Palestinian rocket strike on Israel, the rationalization for the violence can be found early and often. But in a piece about West Bank Palestinians injured by the Israeli army, published one day earlier, the reason for the IDF shooting is kept from readers until the very end of the story.
When Palestinians Shoot
Already in its headline, the Feb. 27 story about a grad rocket fired from Gaza into Israel ties the attack to a death: “Israel Struck By Rocket From Gaza After a Death.”
The lede describes the incident as part of “tensions that have been mounting since Saturday, when a 30-year-old Palestinian prisoner died in an Israeli jail.”
In the third paragraph, reporter Jodi Rudoren cites the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigade justifying the rocket attack as a “response to what it called the ‘assassination’ of Arafat Jaradat, the prisoner who died on Saturday,” and the fourth paragraph is devoted to Hamas’s assertion that Israel was “fully responsible” for the Palestinian attack. (The Martyrs Brigade and Hamas are designated internationally as terrorist organizations, though the newspaper does not share this relevant information with readers.)
When Israelis Shoot
Compare this to the Feb. 26 story, “2 Palestinian Teenagers Hurt Amid Israeli Gunfire at Protest.”
Like the headline, which states that the Israeli gunfire occurred at a “protest,” the opening paragraph sets the scene as an “demonstration” near Bethlehem, and says Israel used live ammunition for no other reason than to “disperse” the protesters. “Two Palestinian teenagers were seriously injured Monday when Israeli soldiers used live ammunition to disperse a demonstration at a holy site outside Bethlehem, as clashes in the West Bank continued for a fifth day and thousands attended the burial of a 30-year-old Palestinian who died in an Israeli jail over the weekend,” Rudoren reported.
For almost the entire piece, which dwells largely on accusations of Israeli responsibility for the death of the Palestinian prisoner, readers are left with the impression that Israel opened fire on protesters for no known reason.
Only those who reach the tenth paragraph learn that, in recent West Bank demonstrations, “Palestinians have thrown rocks and sometimes gasoline bombs at Israeli soldiers, who generally respond with tear gas, rubber bullets and occasionally water cannons or live ammunition.”
And it is not until paragraph 11 that readers are told the reason the Palestinian teenagers were hurt: Israeli soldiers guarding Rachel’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site, fired at “Palestinians who were throwing improvised grenades at worshipers.”
There is no reason for New York Times readers to be bombarded at the start of a story about a Palestinian attack with repeated justifications for their violence — the death of a prisoner several days earlier — but kept in the dark for most of the article about Israel’s use of force about the proximate cause of that gunfire — the firebombs and makeshift explosives that were being hurled by Palestinians at the Israelis.
Unfortunately, this double standard is hardly an isolated incident. CAMERA’s monograph Indicting Israel documents a pattern of bias in the newspaper’s coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.