Robert Mackey Cherry-Picks James Fallows on Al Dura

A responsible journalist would not cherry-pick quotations and present them misleadingly out of context. This much is obvious. So, too, should the corollary be obvious: A journalist working as a “news blogger” for the most influential newspaper in the country should not, when discussing a major controversy, distort a fellow journalist’s views by selectively quoting him.

And what follows from this is also quite clear: New York Times blogger Robert Mackey has, yet again, engaged in dishonest journalism. Yesterday, Mackey posted about a new Israeli report criticizing a French television station for misinforming viewers about what happened to Mohammed al Dura, a young Palestinian boy said to have been fatally shot in the early days of the Palestinian intifada.
In brief, the controversy addressed in Israel’s report revolves around the question of whether France 2 and its correspondent Charles Enderlin were accurate in claiming Israel shot and killed the 12-year-old boy, who became a potent symbol for those charging that Israel targets children.

As is his tendency, Mackey quoted only critics of the Israeli report: Jamal al Dura, Charles Enderlin, Barak Ravid and, so it appears, the influential Atlantic journalist James Fallows. In the New York Times blogger’s telling, Fallows is agnostic on whether France 2’s report was accurate, distances himself from doubts about the coverage, and casts any such doubts as offensive:

As James Fallows observed a decade ago in The Atlantic, doubts about the authenticity of the Enderlin video report might appeal to some Israelis and their supporters abroad, but are deeply offensive to Palestinians and their supporters.

“The truth about this case will probably never be determined. Or, to put it more precisely, no version of truth that is considered believable by all sides will ever emerge,” Mr. Fallows wrote. “For most of the Arab world, the rights and wrongs of the case are beyond dispute: an innocent boy was murdered, and his blood is on Israel’s hands. Mention of contrary evidence or hypotheses only confirms the bottomless dishonesty of the guilty parties — much as Holocaust-denial theories do in the Western world. For the handful of people collecting evidence of a staged event, the truth is also clear, even if the proof is not in hand.”

But Mackey left out a crucial and relevant piece of information. Fallows unambiguously sides with those who “doubt the authenticity of the Elderlin video report.” Indeed, this is the main point of his article. The Atlantic‘s subhead refers to “persuasive evidence that the fatal shots could not have come from the Israeli soldiers.” The article references “exculpatory evidence,” elaborating that “the physical evidence of the shooting was in all ways inconsistent with shots coming from the IDF outpost—and in all ways consistent with shots coming from someplace behind the France 2 cameraman,” where Palestinian policemen were stationed.

Or as Fallows put it,

almost since the day of the episode evidence has been emerging in Israel, under controversial and intriguing circumstances, to indicate that the official version of the Mohammed al-Dura story is not true. It now appears that the boy cannot have died in the way reported by most of the world’s media and fervently believed throughout the Islamic world. Whatever happened to him, he was not shot by the Israeli soldiers who were known to be involved in the day’s fighting—or so I am convinced, after spending a week in Israel talking with those examining the case.

In his recent blog post about competing claims relating to the al Dura affair, though, Mackey did not so much as hint at Fallows’ conclusion that the France 2 account is false.

This, unfortunately, is not a surprise. CAMERA has previously highlighted Mackey’s “penchant for posting predominantly anti-Israel material on his blog,” a tendency that “pushes aside other facets of the debate.” In an online exchange with the Times blogger, we criticized him for “seeking out harsh criticism [of Israel] and passing it off as if that’s where the conversation begins and ends.”

In a recent and typically lopsided post by Mackey about controversial new Israeli bus lines serving Palestinian areas, for example, he cited only critics of the buses and ignored Palestinian voices in favor of the new service, who were widely mentioned by other reporters.

This is not even the first time Mackey misleadingly cherry-picked  the statements of fellow journalists to give the false impression they support his thesis when in fact the opposite is true. In a blog post about an infamous anti-Israel statement by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mackey argued that the Iranian leader “never actually said that Israel ‘must be wiped off the map’” and that “the original statement was less of a threat than a prediction,” citing a report by fellow New York Times journalist Ethan Bronner to help make his case. Bronner’s actual conclusion, which was of course ignored in Mackey’s piece, could not have been more clear: “So did Iran’s president call for Israel to be wiped off the map? It certainly seems so.”

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