New York Times Draws Anti-Israel Lesson From Palestinian Attack

Although the New York Times claims to hold itself “to the highest standards in journalism,” it recently appears to have given up on any pretense of objective journalism on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

CAMERA has frequently highlighted the Times’ tendency to disproportionately focus on alleged Israeli misdeeds and Palestinian victimhood in news and human interest stories, while at the same time ignoring or whitewashing Palestinian incitement and violence.

Now, however, the newspaper has gone even further in its partisan stance on the conflict, as demonstrated in recent coverage of two deadly attacks against Israelis. Even when Israelis are clearly the victims of Arab aggression, the Times deflects guilt from the perpetrators in order to focus on what it perceives as Israel’s misdeeds.

A September 1, 2010 article, entitled “Killing of 4 Israeli Settlers on Eve of Peace Talks Rattle Leaders on Both Sides,” by Isabel Kershner and Mark Landler, opens with an immediate redirection of attention from Palestinian terrorism, a key Israeli concern in peace talks, to Palestinian grievances about Israeli settlements. The lede states:

The killing of four Israeli settlers, including a pregnant woman, in the West Bank on Tuesday evening rattled Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the eve of peace talks in Washington and underscored the disruptive role that the issue of Jewish settlements could play in the already fragile negotiations.

Terrorists riddle an Israeli car with bullets and follow up by nearing the car to finish off its occupants — all civilians, including one pregnant woman — and the main issue it “underscores,” according to the New York Times, is not Palestinian terrorism and incitement, not  Hamas’ continued rejection of Israel’s existence and not the Palestinian Authority’s lack of control over that terror group, which still clearly has an active presence in the West Bank, but rather the “disruptive role” of settlements. Is this because the slain Israelis lived in a Jewish settlement, or could it possibly be that the newspaper choose to focus on settlements because that is what Palestinian negotiators are focusing on as a key issue? Either way, the assertion that brutal terrorism against Israelis should primarily raise questions about Israeli settlement policy, as opposed to, for example, Palestinian leaders’ glorification of terrorists, is an absurd and outrageous non sequitur.

This article comes on the heels of another New York Times analysis that went to great lengths to whitewash Arab responsibility for the killing of Israelis. In an August 24 story, “U.S. aids Lebanese military because of, and despite, what it gets in return,” reporter Robert Worth described as “accidental” a deadly skirmish that took place across the Israeli-Lebanese border:

Earlier this month, Israeli soldiers were pruning a tree on their country’s northern border when a firefight broke out with Lebanese soldiers across the fence, leaving one Israeli and four Lebanese dead.

The skirmish seems to have been accidental.

What the Times described as an “accidental” firefight that just “broke out”was in fact a Lebanese shooting, likely by a sniper, that killed an IDF commander and prompted an Israeli counter-strike.

Here is AP’s description of what happened:

The clash started after an Israeli soldier on a crane dangled over a fence near the border early Tuesday to trim a tree that could provide cover for infiltrators. The Israelis said they clear such underbrush at least once a week and coordinate their actions with UNIFIL, the peacekeeping force that has been in the area for more than 30 years.

This time the tree trimming was followed by gunfire from the Lebanese army, apparently aimed not at the soldier hanging over the fence, but at a base some distance away, where a senior officer was killed by a shot to the head. Another officer was wounded. Israel responded with gunfire and shelling, killing two Lebanese soldiers and a journalist.

On Wednesday the U.N. ruled that the tree, while across the fence, was inside Israeli territory. …

“UNIFIL established … that the trees being cut by the Israeli army are located south of the Blue Line (border) on the Israeli side,” said force spokesman Lt. Naresh Bhatt.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.N. finding was conclusive. “The firing by Lebanese armed forces was totally unjustified and unwarranted,” he said, while calling on both sides to show restraint.

Even so, Lebanon still considers the tree-trimming a provocation, saying its soldiers fired warning shots after the Israelis ignored requests from UNIFIL to stop cutting the tree, and Israel retaliated.

Information Minister Tarek Mitri said Lebanon respects the border but still contests part of it, insisting that the fateful cypress tree, while on the Israeli side of the border, “is Lebanese territory.”

Israel suggested the attack was “premeditated.” And there seems to be no evidence that even Lebanon claims its attack was an accident, a point underscored by the Lebanese information minister’s insistence that this area is Lebanese territory despite being south of Blue Line, and by a Lebanese army spokesman’s statement that his side “opened fire first at Israeli soldiers who entered Lebanese territory… This constituted defence of our sovereignty and is an absolute right.”

Yet a New York Times reporter took it upon himself to rule the attack “accidental” and thus exculpate Lebanon from responsibility for the incident.

It has long been clear that the Times default editorial position is to blame Israel for trouble in the Middle East. That the news pages appear to be unabashedly spinning coverage in this way is a clear abandonment of even the most basic of journalistic standards.

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