The New York Times headline could have described any day in the tumultuous Middle East: “Tensions Subside in South Lebanon but Rise Again in West Bank and Israel.”
Tensions often rise in this neighborhood. They rise when Hezbollah builds new observation posts near Israel’s northern border. They rise when Jordan’s foreign ministry protests Jewish visits to the Temple Mount. They rise when Israel blows up a shipment of Iranian weapons in Syria.
On the day in question, though, a Palestinian terrorist slaughtered a family of Jewish civilians.
The gunman murdered 15-year-old Rina Dee and her 20-year-old sister Maia, and fatally wounded their mother, Lucy, as they drove in the West Bank on April 7. Hours later, an Italian tourist Alessandro Parini was killed in an apparent car ramming attack in Tel Aviv.
The Dee family tragedy exemplifies the heartbreak inflicted by Palestinian violence, which has surged over the past 12 months. In 2023 alone, nineteen people were killed in Arab attacks. Eighteen of them were civilians. A third of that number were pairs of young siblings: Asher and Yaakov Paley, aged 8 and 6, murdered in February. Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, aged 22 and 20, gunned down two weeks later. And now, the Dee sisters.
It is a compelling, crushing story. And yet the New York Times didn’t highlight the latest killings in its vague headline, which mentioned only “tensions.” It didn’t report on the attack in any proportion to its importance, with just four paragraphs of its a 35-paragraph story focused on the attack. It didn’t draw attention to the tragic pattern of sibling deaths in a human-interest story.
The paper never even mentioned the names of the sisters, Maia and Rina Dee. Not only did the paper not name the mother, Lucy Dee, but it didn’t report on her subsequent death.
Of course, all of these — human-interest stories, headlines, paragraphs, personalizing details — are in the newspaper’s arsenal of tools to help it communicate (or in their absence, deemphasize) the importance of a story.
For example, on the very day of Lucy Dee’s funeral — which was two days after Maia and Rina’s funeral, during which her husband lamented, “How will I explain to Lucy what has happened to her two precious gifts when she wakes up from her coma?” — the Times published a human-interest story… about Palestinian food. Readers get to know several Palestinian families by name, see them humanized in a spread of large photos, read their words, and learn their feelings.
It’s a fine topic — as it was when the Times published on Palestinian food a few months earlier, and a few months before that — but it does raise questions about the paper’s priorities when we hear more from sisters Tala and Galia Abu Hussein about how their mother arranged the rice, chicken and vegetables on a plate than we hear from any member of the Dee family about the terror that tore them apart. The word maqluba, the name of the rice dish, appears in twice as many paragraphs as did the attack on the Dee family.
New York Times headlines this year raise similar questions. Although Palestinian terrorists killed 19 people this year, as part of a Palestinian wave of violence that more than anything else is responsible for escalating the conflict’s simmer to a boil, not one Times headline covering the murder of Israelis notes the Palestinian identity of the attackers.
There’s the Tensions Rise headline, about the most recent attacks that killed four. The terrorism that took the lives of Elan Ganeles and Or Eshkar was buried at the bottom of stories (and headlines) about Israel’s mass protests. The murder of the Yaniv brothers was reported under the headline, “West Bank Erupts in Violence as Officials Pledge to Work for Calm.” The slaying of the Paley children was under the headline, “At Least 2 Dead as Driver Rams Bus Stop in East Jerusalem.” And the mass murder near a Jerusalem synagogue was titled, “At Least 7 Killed in Attack in Jewish Area of East Jerusalem.”
Consider how this last headline compares with some others from this year about Palestinians killed in clashes with Israelis: “Israeli Raid on West Bank City Kills Nine Palestinians, Officials Say”; “Israeli Raid Kills at Least 5 Palestinians in West Bank”; “At Least 10 Palestinians Killed During Israeli Raid in West Bank”; “6 Palestinians Killed in Israeli Raid in West Bank.”
In contrast with coverage of this year’s deadly Palestinian attacks, each of the above headlines emphasize “Israeli raids” as the cause of the deaths. None, meanwhile, convey that the fatalities in each case were a result of pitched gun battles between Palestinian gunmen and the Israeli soldiers they attacked. Every headline is a decision by the newspaper about what to highlight for readers, and what to conceal.
The Times can find ways to excuse its discrepancies. Certainly, the Israeli protest movement is newsworthy and deserves headlines. So if those protests subsumed the story of Elan Ganeles and Or Eshkar, they might insist, so be it. The identity of the Dee family wasn’t released until a day after the attack. How could the Times share their names without knowing them? In 2022, the paper occasionally did publish headlines that identified Palestinian violence.
But zoom out further and the troubling pattern holds. Palestinian violence is routinely minimized in the pages of this newspaper. A balisong knife brandished by a would-be Palestinian assailant was once dignified as a “boy scout” knife; and despite clear video of man-and-knife, the newspaper raised doubts about whether he was even armed. The blood-stained Abu Nidal Organization terror group was cast only as a “Palestinian liberation group.” Palestinian gunmen have been renamed “demonstrators.” An antisemitic rant by the Palestinian president was called a “history lecture.” The fact of Palestinian payments to jailed terrorists was dismissed as a right-wing conspiracy theory. An alliance between the Nazis and a virulently antisemitic Palestinian leader was whitewashed as mere “anti-Zionism.”
Israeli violence, meanwhile, is often given extra emphasis. When racist Israeli teens severely beat Palestinian teenager Jamal Julani, who today is alive and well, the story was featured repeatedly and prominently in the New York Times. But a year earlier, when teenaged Palestinian terrorists brutally massacred five members of the Fogel family, slashing to death a 3-month-old infant, a 4-year-old, and an 11-year-old along with their parents, the story was by comparison buried.
When, after a rare example of deadly Israeli-Jewish terrorism, the Palestinian mother of murdered child later succumbed to her wounds, her death was covered in not one but two separate Times stories. The loss of Riham Dawabsheh was indeed a tragedy. But the newspaper has never mentioned Lucy Dee, the Jewish mother who died days after her daughters were killed. Not her name. Not even her death. Is that any less of a tragedy in the judgment of the paper?