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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

September 04, 2002

N.Y. Times vs. Israel
There is a full page ad in today's NY Sun. I will reproduce it here:

Pulitzer Prize Board

c/o The School of Journalism

Columbia University


To the Members of the Board:


Some months ago you awarded seven Pulitzer prizes in journalism to The New York Times. In many respects The Times is indeed a newspaper of distinction. However, in its coverage of the Middle East, and specifically in reporting the Arab-Israeli conflict, The Times has been guilty of journalistic misrepresentation and deliberately biased reporting. Correspondents and editors have intentionally chosen stories to elicit sympathy for the Palestinians while making little effort to report on the Israeli victims of Palestinian suicide bombings. They have also given disproportional greater space to Palestinian perspectives and spokespersons while often describing Israel's views and policies in a few sentences or in the "back pages." Moreover, The Times continually displays a reluctance to properly expose the corruption, authoritarianism and complicity of the Palestinian Authority in its terrorist campaign against both innocent Israeli and Arab civilians.


Some media commentators have argued that the Mideast war is a complex situation that has generated a number of different viewpoints. And, as we must all admit, truth is not absolute. Our criticism of The Times, however, is not its editorial viewpoint which, of course, every newspaper is entitled to have. What confounds us is why The Times treats Israel so unfairly. Why is it so biased against the only democratic nation in the Middle East---a region composed of 22 totalitarian countries surrounding Israel? Above all, why is it so disdainful of the only country in the region that shares America's values of freedom, liberty and democracy?


The Times' lack of balance and fairness in its news stories, headlines and choice of photographs dealing with Israel is in violation of its own policies.


A few examples:


1) The large photo on the front page after the Israeli Solidarity March in May, displaying an "End Israeli Occupation of Palestine" sign distorted what really happened and occasioned an editor's note the following day because of the outcries and massive subscription cancellations.


2) An article by correspondent Joel Greenberg describing the death of two girls, 17-year old Rachel Levy and 18-year old Ayat al-Akhras as two high school seniors whose lives intersected, divided by war but joined in carnage, was totally obscene and morally repugnant. To somehow put a homicide bomber on the same level as an innocent girl shopping for the Sabbath is odious. Imagine if The Times had printed an article after September 11 describing how the lives of Muhammad Atta and a 25-year old bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald had been intertwined and joined in carnage. This is moral relativity at its worst.


3) The Times reported the 39-day standoff in The Church of the Nativity almost entirely from a Palestinian perspective. It was continually referred to as an Israeli "siege" and not an occupation by Palestinian terrorists. Even though Palestinians shot their way into one of Christendom's holiest sites and held the church and it's religious leaders hostage, Times journalists frequently turned the terrorists into victims by reporting that they had taken "refuge" in the church.


4) The Times uses the words "terror" and "terrorists" selectively. In articles about the horrific attacks against the World Trade Center and the USS Cole, The Times freely used the term "terror" to describe the men who had carried out the attacks. However, in describing members of the Palestinian terrorist groups, such as Hamas or the al-Aqsa Brigade, that have committed similar acts in Israel, The Times frequently refers to them as "militants" or "activists." President Bush said that terror is terror no matter who the perpetrator or the victim is. Apparently The Times disagrees.


5) In a Camera report dated May 1 (www.camera.org), The Times coverage of the Mideast war was demonstrated to be particularly biased and skewed against Israel during the two-week period from March 28 to April 11. This was when Palestinian terrorists committed ten homicide bombings against Israelis and when Israel's military incursion---"Operation Defensive Shield"---took place. When asked to comment on this report, The Times has repeatedly refused.


It is true that The Times may not be the worst offender. Other media networks and outlets are possibly worse in this respect. But The Times is certainly the most influential in its impact on public opinion both here and abroad. And inadvertently, it is contributing to the rising tide of anti-Semitism that is once again rearing its ugly head.


Israelis waging a just struggle for its very existence against terror and the brutal murder of civilians. The least we can expect of the nation's premier newspaper is to present the news of that war in a fair, balanced, and unbiased way. The New York Times is simply not telling the whole truth about Israel. And this is in contravention of its own motto of reporting "All the News That's Fit to Print."


In 1904, Joseph Pulitzer wrote a credo in The North American Review in support of his proposal for the founding of a school of journalism: "Our Republic and its press will rise or fall together. An able, disinterested, public-spirited press, with trained intelligence to know the right and courage to do it, can preserve that public virtue without which popular government is a sham and a mockery. A cynical, mercenary, demagogic press will produce in time a people as base as itself. The power to mold the future of the Republic will be in the hands of the journalists of future generations."


We would hope that, in granting Pulitzer prizes for journalistic excellence in the coming years, you will be mindful of the shameful state of affairs at The New York Times.


The Ad Hoc Committee to Protest The New York Times Mideast News Coverage


If you agree with this letter, and would like to do something concrete about the concerns we raise, please visit our website at www.nytimesprotest.org for further information and suggested actions to be undertaken.


This kind of says it all. I don't see the need to add anything further.