More Advocacy Journalism at The New York Times

For years, The New York Times has engaged in advocacy journalism regarding the peace process, as part of its general coverage geared to indicting Israel. (See, for example, “New York Times Plays Blame Game on Negotiations Impasse” “New York Times Promotes (Actual) Palestinian Talking Point” “New York Times Selective About Apportioning Blame in the Arab-Israeli Conflict” and “The New York Times Guide to Peace Negotiations.”)

Correspondents Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner’s current post-mortem on the latest US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, entitled “Arc of a Failed Deal: How Nine Months of Mideast Talks Ended in Disarray,” once again displays the abandonment of journalistic objectivity in the quest to blame Israel. This overtly partisan article could more aptly have been entitled “How Israel Undermined the Peace Process,” or “It’s All About Israeli Settlements” or “Let’s Blame Netanyahu and Justify Abbas.”

Following The New York Times’ editorial formula, the news reporters began with a pretense of objectivity by suggesting, “In the last few weeks, even as both sides took steps that undermined the process….” That out of the way, they immediately followed with a “but” to indicate that it was Israeli actions, rather than Palestinian ones, that were the problem:

Blaming Israel: 

But Mr. Netanyahu refused to risk alienating Israel’s right wing by restraining construction in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements.

The article went on to repeatedly blame Israeli construction plans in “settlements”  for the demise of the peace process, without mentioning the crucial fact that this construction was limited to areas of consensus that would remain part of Israel. The reporters instead suggested themselves, and selectively quoted others to bolster the idea, that it was primarily Israeli actions that were impeding peace.  For example:
The first turning point came Nov. 5. After the second of Israel’s four promised batches of prisoners were released, amid anguished protests in Jerusalem, various plans for nearly 20,000 settlement units were pushed forward over five days (some were later withdrawn)…. [emphasis added]
…Tzipi Livni acknowledged that continued settlement construction was a problem…. [emphasis added]

… Mr. Kerry condemned the construction. [emphasis added]

What of the Palestinian refusal to respond to Mr. Kerry’s proposals? What of the Palestinian violation of previous agreements by joining 15 international conventions? And what of the final straw — the Palestinian leader’s joining forces with the terrorist group Hamas that is bent on Israel’s destruction?
These actions were also sharply criticized by Mr. Kerry and others. The reporters, however, chose not to include any quotes that might negatively characterize  Mr. Abbas’ anti-peace actions.  By sharp contrast to their treatment of Israel’s actions, they justified the Palestinian leader by portraying his turning away from negotiations as a legitimate response to Israeli building.  Moreover, they bolstered this justification by citing an anonymous source who  again shifted  blame to Israel:
Justifying Palestinians and Shifting the Blame to Israel:
Mr. Abbas, looking for a dignified exit from the public stage and furious over the settlement building, never responded to the ideas Mr. Kerry’s team had formulated for a framework to guide further negotiations.

“He had shut down,” said one of several American officials interviewed. “As he comes to the end of his life and certainly the end of his term in office, he’s fed up.”

“His experience in the last nine months, of settlements gone wild,” this official added, ” I think has just convinced him that he doesn’t have a partner.”

While American officials condemned Abbas’ unity deal with Hamas, an entity that rejects a two-state solution and a Jewish presence in the region, the article avoided citing anyone to characterize this move as thwarting peace negotiations. Unlike the anonymous official who justified the Palestinian leader’s actions as those of one “convinced he doesn’t have a partner,” no one was cited to explain why Israel, faced with negotiating under such conditions withdrew from negotiations The article simply closed with:

But the next day, Palestine Liberation Organization leaders held hands aloft with those from Hamas. Israel immediately canceled the scheduled negotiating session, and 24 hours later, froze talks indefinitely.

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