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False Equivalency

The New York Times’ parallels of Israeli and Arab behavior are forced, and inaccurate.

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 20:00
Editor and Publisher
The New York Times building. Wikimedia Commons
The New York Times building. Wikimedia Commons

I’ve long been a defender of The New York Times’ Mideast coverage, arguing that for all of its flaws on occasion, there is no consistent, inherent bias against Israel.

But I’m having second thoughts these days, based on the coverage of the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Case in point: an Editorial on Monday, “Four Horrific Killings,” and news report on Tuesday, “Israel Warns Gaza Targets by Phone and Leaflet,” both of which seem to me guilty of striving so hard for symmetry to the point of ignoring or playing loose with some basic facts about how the Palestinians and Israelis wage war.

One might think that a story on how Israel seeks to warn civilians in Gaza of impending attacks via cellphone calls and leaflets in Arabic would be portrayed as a humanitarian effort. Yet the Israeli policy of giving advance word to occupants that the building they are in is going to be bombed is described as “contentious.” To whom? I wondered. The Times cites “groups like Human Rights Watch,” which assert that such warnings “do not absolve the armed forces” of ensuring that “the warnings are effective.”

In the specific incident cited, Israel called the cellphone of someone in a house in Gaza that the air force was about to bomb, saying everyone must leave in five minutes. According to a survivor of the attack, as the occupants were fleeing, “our neighbors came in to form a human shield.” (This was after an Israeli drone fired a flare at the roof of the house, a common practice the Israelis call “the knock on the roof” to make sure people leave.)

As a result, the house was not abandoned and seven people died when the bomb hit. Israeli officials said they had done their best to convince the occupants to get out and that houses that are targeted belong to Hamas members who use them to plan military actions.

Israel contends that terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately operate in civilian areas, often schools or hospitals, hoping that Israel either will not attack so as to avoid shedding innocent blood, or will be condemned by the international community for the use of disproportionate force when such unintended tragedies take place.

(One of the serious flaws of the infamous Goldstone Report to the United Nations after the 2009 round of fighting between Israel and Hamas was that it refused to deal with the fact that the Arab militants wear civilian clothes and operate in civilian neighborhoods to cynically exploit the Israel Defense Force’s ethical code of avoiding innocent deaths whenever possible.)

The Times article also stated that “Israel does not always give warnings, of course.” It noted that an Israeli missile hit a car in Gaza, killing its three occupants, one of whom “was reportedly a senior Hamas military official, Muhammad Shaban, and it seemed unlikely that anyone had called them to warn that a missile was on the way.”

Is warning your enemy the standard procedure called for in warfare against leaders of an acknowledged terror group? More to the point, is any other country, including our own, expected to act this way?

The editorial the day before, on the tragic killings of the three Israeli teenagers followed by the murder, presumably by Jews, of a Palestinian youngster, calls upon “leaders on both sides to try and calm the volatile emotions that once again threaten both peoples.”

The Times writes that “after the attack on the Israeli teenagers, some Israelis gave in to their worst prejudices,” and points out that “hundreds of extreme right-wing protesters” chanted “Death to Arabs,” a “Facebook page named `People of Israel Demand Revenge’ gathered 35,000 `likes’ before being taken down,” and “a blogger gave prominence to a photo, also on Facebook, that featured a sign saying: ‘Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values.’”

The Times acknowledges, in a phrase, that “Palestinians have been fully guilty of hateful speech against Jews.” But it does not point out that Israeli officials publicly and regularly speak out against racial prejudice while ongoing incitement against Jews as evil baby-killers is supported, if not promoted, almost daily by the Palestinian government, which glorifies suicide bombers as “martyrs” and teaches children that Jews are sub-human.

Finally, the editorial reports that both Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Abbas denounced the murders. But it does not mention that Abbas is now partners in a unity government with Hamas, whose charter is to destroy the Jewish state and kill Jews, and currently trying to do so through hundreds of daily rocket attacks against the Israeli population.

Without leaflets, phone calls or other advance notice.


Gary Rosenblatt, Hamas, New York Times, Palestinian Authority

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I too was a NYTimes subscriber until this year, there is something amiss in their editorial room, they've lost that prized objectivity in the Middle East. During the Sisi revolution they completely ignored the millions protesting AGAINST Morsi. Then of course the ScarJo Super Bowl ad that led to SIX articles supporting BDS.

Mr. Roblatsenblatt

Suggestion For Future Article

Thank you for a good analysis.

This bias is not new for the NY Times. Other "papers of record" around the world are similarly biased, some, eg the Guardian, to a far greater extent.

But the mother of all bias is without doubt the BBC. Why the mother of all bias? Simply because, with an audience of 200,000,000 (two hundred million) people, every word, nuance, inflection, and most importantly, omission - hits countless targets.
The very stature of the BBC as the world's foremost broadcaster with its huge publicly funded budget and its perpetual air of authority, lends enormous weight to the false image the BBC has projected relating to Israel. It has done this in part by interspersing snippets of apparently pro-Israel tidbits into its coverage, but always in a way calculated to have far less impact than the main thrust of each item.
Example: Today's report on the Gaza conflict is devoted almost totally in great detail to the impact of Israel's attacks on the Hamas infrastructure which do not mention Hamas infrastructure but report only on the truly tragic human toll. Only at the very end are added the words: "in response to rocket fire" as if the rocket fire just happened.

Perhaps in a future article you could respond to those critics around the world and ask these question:
Are those critics suggesting that if someone wants to attack Israel, all they have to do is place weapons among civilians, fire them and sit back free of any counter-attack?

Do those international critics consider it a major hardship for Gaza to simply stop firing rockets and totally prevent the human tragedy they are reporting?

Do these critics understand the meaning of "innocent" when they refer to the Gaza electorate that freely elected by an overwhelming majority a party whose charter they had fully five yeas to read and understand, and whose one and only stated printed, published and broadcast goal is the destruction of Israel and the murder of it's Jewish population.
True, the children were once innocent, and those who have never been to school or heard their parents preach hatred still are innocent. But their parents are not. They voted for the Hamas tyranny. That is the difficult part of democracy: it places responsibility on the voters - especially if they vote for war.

Finally, the international, seemingly frustrated reaction to the low (so far zero) human toll from Gaza rockets fired indiscriminately at Israel's population. It is as if Israel must be punished for sixty years of building shelters for every citizen while the population of Gaza must be protected by the global community from the natural consequences of using aid money to buy and fire rockets.

I look forward to seeing some of these points in your future articles if you find them valid and useful. No attribution necessary.

yes, and even the way he Times words its headlines about the situation. I think your assessment is much too kind.

I completely agree, but I wonder how and why it took you, a very intelligent person, so long to discover the glaring bias of the New
York Times.
This applies not only to the content of its articles but even how they
are placed. Anything negative appears on the front page, positive items are buried inside.
The organization CAMERA has pointed this out - and documented - for a long time.
Ernest Seinfeld

all that is the LEAST of it ....

Another inherently racist opinion piece. I believe Hamas has issued a warning that they will send suicide bombers to every Israeli bus & cafe.

It seems clear that much of the world is clamoring for more Jewish blood (Heaven forbid) in order to justify Israeli self defense. Its better to have to face their criticism for successful Israeli self defense than to have to face their sympathy for Hamas missiles killing Jews.

What sympathy That is not likely

Yishar Koah, Gary, for flaming the NYT. They well deserve it.

Mr. Rosenblatt is just having second thoughts about the NY Times now? Where has your head been for the past 40 years? Incredible!