New York Times Headline Writer Tosses Aside Impartiality

On March 25, 2003, the New York Times ran the following incendiary headline over an article by James Bennet:

“An Arab Boy Tossing Stones is Shot to Death in West Bank”

In fact, as Mr. Bennet made clear in his article, although Palestinian sources claimed that the boy was merely throwing stones at an Israeli tank when it opened fire, Israeli sources said that soldiers opened fire after he climbed on top of the tank and tried to steal its machine gun. The soldiers, according to the Israeli source, believed that their lives were in danger.

According to an AP report, an Israeli army spokesman stated that the boy was throwing a firebomb at soldiers. In any case, the circumstances of the boy’s death were far from clear.

While Mr. Bennet was careful to report both the Palestinian and the Israeli version of how the boy was killed, the headline gave credence to and even embellished–one generally refers to the “tossing” of pebbles and other light objects–only the Palestinian version.

Attempts to obtain a clarification on this headline from the New York Times were ignored.

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