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

March 14, 2003

The New York Times and Israel

All The News That’s Fit to Print?


The paper downplays Israeli suffering, and de-emphasizes Yasser Arafat's responsibility for the suffering of Israelis and ordinary Palestinians alike...

The New York Times has taken its statistics for its "Death Toll" chart from the Palestinian Red Crescent, which it should know is a highly politicized and sometimes militant organization — Red Crescent ambulances have on more than one occasion been caught smuggling suicide bombers into Israel. At least one Red Crescent medic became a suicide bomber herself, killing or injuring over 150 Israeli civilians at a west Jerusalem shopping arcade last year...

When the Times has sympathetically profiled women who have died in this conflict, it has more often been the suicide bombers than their Israeli victims..The Times's distorted presentation of events is especially troubling given the very high respect in which the paper is generally held by its readership, policymakers, and other members of the media. The Times's framing of the conflict has for years contributed to bad diplomacy at the State Department and elsewhere, and has fueled negative images of Israel among the public at large...

The slants and omissions in the Times extend well beyond basic reporting. For example, in last year's "Year in Review" calendar (December 29, 2002), the Times highlighted the most important events of the year. The entry for March 28 read: "Arab world agrees to relations with Israel if land is returned" (this is hardly news; it is a claim some Arabs have made for decades) — followed directly by, on March 29, "Israel invades Yasser Arafat's headquarters, 5 Palestinians, 1 Israeli die." The reader is left with the impression that Israel's only response to the supposed Arab peace offer was violence. In fact, on March 27 (on which only the death of comedian Milton Berle was marked by the Times), 29 Israelis — including an 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor, Sarah Levy-Hoffman — were blown up while celebrating a Passover seder at a Netanya hotel, something the Times did not list in its calendar. (The Times does mention the Passover bomb in a footnote to its calendar, but says only that "more than a dozen people died," an odd way to characterize a group of 29 people. Incidentally, six Israelis — not one — were killed by Palestinians on March 29.)...

Indeed, the New York Times's idea of balance almost seems to be to run alternating pieces — first by Palestinians and others condemning Israel, then by far-left Jews condemning Israel. When an outside op-ed writer, the noted international human-rights expert Prof. Anne Bayefsky, included a sentence sympathetic to Israel in her article (May 22, 2002), the Times tried to muzzle her. Only through dogged persistence, Bayefsky says, did she manage to persuade the Times to restore a sentence criticizing the U.N. Human Rights Commission for directing a full 30 percent of its resolutions against Israel.

The Times also likes to devote ample publicity to anti-Zionist Jews. Last March and April, for example — in a period when it ran almost no stories on the hundreds of Israeli victims and survivors of suicide bombs (which were then occurring at a record rate) — the Times carried at least four stories quoting Adam Shapiro, an American Jew who entered Ramallah to protect and assist Yasser Arafat when Israel responded...

Over the last year, the New York Times has devoted hundreds of thousands of words to both Arafat and Saddam Hussein. Yet you would be hard-pressed to find any reference to Arafat's continuing support for Saddam...