An examination of the New York Times from March 1 through March 18 reveals that the Times‘ editorials have held Israel to a double standard regarding counterterrorism measures, while the paper’s news stories have displayed a lack of balance in covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including a lopsided focus on Palestinian perspectives.
LACK OF BALANCE IN NEWS STORIES
In the category of stories heavily reliant on man-in-the-street interviews and human interest focus — not including news analyses and articles about political leaders in the region — the emphasis is on presenting the Palestinian narrative. Thus far this month, stories focusing on Palestinian perspectives outnumbered those focusing on Israeli perspectives by a factor of almost two to one. There was only one such report presenting both perspectives ("On Both Sides in the Mideast, Fear and Stress Are Building," James Bennet, March 15).
Nine in-depth pieces focused on Palestinian reactions. There were three from Ramallah ("Israel Promises a Pullback As Death Toll Keeps Rising," Joel Brinkley, March 15; "As Tanks Leave City Ramallah is Defiant" Joel Brinkley, March 16; and "In Ramallah, Full Support For Attacks, Not a Truce," Joel Brinkley, March 18), two from Jabaliya ("In Camps, Arabs Cling To Dream of Long Ago," James Bennet, March 10; "Defiant, the Wounded Pass On Weapons as They Fall," Joel Greenberg, March 13), one focusing on a Palestinian woman mourning for her husband ("In Mourning For Husband Lost as Camp Was Invaded," Joel Greenberg, March 12), one on the Palestinian reaction in the Tulkarm refugee camp ("After the Raid, a Slum’s Assessment," Serge Schmemann, March 14), one on the Palestinian reaction to a bomb that was discovered in a schoolyard ("Shock and Anger as Violence Invades an Arab Schoolyard," Joel Greenberg, March 6), and one profile of a Palestinian who blew herself up at a checkpoint ("Portrait of an Angry Young Arab Woman," Joel Greenberg, March 1).
In contrast, there were only five human interest stories representing the Israeli point of view — one focusing on reactions to a suicide bombing in the Orthodox Beit Yisrael neighborhood ("For Israelis, New Tragedy is a Challenge Sent by God," Joel Greenberg, March 4); the thwarting of a suicide bomber in Jerusalem ("Coat, Backpack, Sweat: Close Call in Israeli Café," Joel Greenberg, March 8); the reaction of survivors of a deadly suicide blast in the Rechaviah section of Jerusalem ("The Refuge Shattered, Survivors Carry On," Joel Greenberg, March 11); the reaction to a fatal attack on the Lebanese border ("Fatal Attack Shatters Israeli Border Town’s Calm," Joel Greenberg, March 14): and the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Kfar Saba ("Echoes of Gunfire on a Bustling Street," Joel Greenberg, March 17).
EDITORIAL DOUBLE STANDARD REGARDING COUNTERTERRORISM
So far this month, the Times has published three editorials condemning Israel’s military actions in Palestinian areas (March 6, March 8, March 14) while at the same time declaring that "military operations [in Afghanistan] must go on" (Editorial, March 5, 2002).
It is in particular striking to compare the paper’s treatment last week of the U.S’s Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan, with Israel’s counterterrorism action carried out at the same time, Operation Security Imperative. Both operations were large-scale and in both operations inadvertent civilian casualties occurred.
Yet on March 14, the Times published an editorial fiercely condemning Israel’s counterterrorist actions as "unacceptable," "counterproductive," and "undermining Israel’s interests" (March 14, 2002). The editorial blasted what it said were actions "against the broader Palestinian civilian population," saying that "hard-core terrorists from Hamas and other groups appear to have slipped away before the Israeli soldiers entered the camps." The Times, however, offered no editorials pointing out that our Afghan allies claim many Al-Qaeda terrorists also escaped the U.S. offensive, and that some civilians were our unintended victims.
In conjunction with earlier editorials this month that decried the "cycle of bloodthirsty revenge" in Israel and the territories (March 6) and Sharon’s "militarized approach" (March 8), the double standard was striking.
DOUBLE STANDARD IN NEWS STORIES
It is not only the Times’ editorials which reflect double standards; news reports on counterterrorist actions are also marked by bias. The amount of context included and the descriptions of the counterterrorist attacks differ greatly depending upon whether the action occurred in Afghanistan or in the Palestinian territories.
For example, on March 13, 2002, reporting on Operation Anaconda, the Times notes that U.S. troops killed and injured noncombatant women and children ("Pentagon Says U.S. Airstrike Killed Women and Children" ). The targeted attack by American forces on a vehicle in Afghanistan carrying suspected Al Qaeda members was termed an "air strike," while Israel’s targeting of a vehicle carrying a top Hamas leader several months ago, was termed by Douglas Jehl an "assassination" (December 4, 2001). The inadvertent killing of civilians — collateral damage — is explained and placed in context. The report includes U.S. administration and military perspectives, with no emotive or graphic details.
However, the reporting is very different in the case of Israel’s fight against Palestinian terrorism, where inevitably there are also inadvertent deaths of civilians. For example, in describing a failed Israeli strike against Hamas terrorist Hussein Abu Kweik, Serge Schmemann writes of an Israeli tank shell which "ripped into a pickup truck there, killing a woman and her children before the eyes of passing schoolchildren," (March 5). And reporting on Israel’s roundup of terrorists, Schmemann invokes a Palestinian woman who "described how her son vomited in panic when 500 pound Israeli bombs came down before dawn" (March 8).