The New York Times is one of the few prominent media outlets that operates a Jerusalem bureau with on-the-ground news gatherers and journalists to investigate and probe unfolding events. Readers might therefore expect accurate news reporting and knowledgeable news analysis, rather than the facile rehashing of standard propaganda lines purveyed of late. Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger has seemingly abandoned the role of objective news analyst as he quotes or echoes in his own voice Hamas propaganda lines attacking Israel.
In his April 7 article, “Though Deadly, Gaza Protests Draw Attention and Enthusiasm,” labeled “news analysis” he credulously states that the terrorist group’s “experiment with nonviolent protest is a significant step,” and in his own words accuses Israelis of using “disproportionate force” against mainly unarmed protesters.
How does the New York Times analyst judge Israel’s use of force “disproportionate”? He minimizes the threat posed to Israel, presenting a scene of protesters mostly “doing little more than standing around – chanting, singing and shouting” and implies that Israel’s concern about what “could be a catastrophic breach in the Gaza fence” is an unwarranted justification/excuse for “using lethal force.” To support all this, he quotes anti-Israel activists who describe a nonviolent, civil-rights march and devotes multiple paragraphs to the allegations of BDS activist Yusef Munayyer, known for his advocacy on behalf of Hamas (see, for example, here, here and here), and for his misleading propaganda and statements (see here, here, here and here). Munayyer compares the “Great March of Return,” orchestrated by the terror groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, to “American civil rights” marchers in Selma and accuses Israel of employing “very real policies of violent repression” against peaceful and nonviolent protesters who pose no danger at all to Israelis.
Omitted from Halbfinger’s so-called “news analysis” is Hamas Gaza Chief Yahya Sinwar’s proclamation that Palestinians breach the borders [between Gaza and Israel] to implement the so-called “right of return” inside Israel. Nor is there any mention of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh’s similar exhortations to protesters to “continue until the Palestinians return to all of Palestine.” The New York Times reporter finds no room in his analysis for a discussion about what Hamas leaders told their followers, namely that the march constitutes a “new phase in the Palestinians’ national struggle on the road to liberating all of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” He makes no mention of the fact that Zaher Birawi, one of the march’s organizers, made it clear that it was not about improving living conditions in Gaza, but about ensuring the so-called “right of return” into Israel’s borders. Nor was there any discussion about Hamas’ intended payments to those who become “martyrs” in the protest — $3000 to families of those killed, $500 to those seriously wounded and $200 to those slightly wounded — in a bid to encourage more to flood Israel’s borders and achieve the terrorists’ goals of “liberating all of Palestine.”
Rather than a full analysis of the organizers’ statements and preparations for their latest campaign, the New York Times analyst chose the well-trodden road that dismisses threats to the Jewish state’s existence, repeating instead the propaganda lines of the terrorist groups behind the march. The New York Times thus harks back yet again to a caricature of repressive Israel pitted against harmless Palestinians demonstrating for their civil rights. Clichéd? Yes? False and misleading? Yes. And readers may ask why this notable lurch into shoddy coverage.