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Systematically Biased Reporting

On Israel, the New York Times is perniciously one-sided.

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

Although the spin is hard to detect for the average reader, New York Times reportage of Middle East affairs is perniciously biased. In their seminal book, Israel-Palestine on Record: How the New York Times Misreports Conflict in the Middle East, Princeton professor Richard Falk and media critic Howard Friel argue that “the Times regularly ignores or under-reports a multitude of critical legal issues pertaining to Israel’s policies, including Israel’s expropriation and settlement of Palestinian land, the two-tier system of laws based on national origin evocative of South Africa’s apartheid regime, the demolition of Palestinian homes, and use of deadly force against Palestinians.” In other words, what is not said by the New York Times may be even more important than what is said.

In June of 2010, a year and a half after the Israeli military launched what a United Nations investigation described as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population,” the New York Times sent a photographer into Gaza to capture a slice of daily life. Ethan Bronner, the Times Jerusalem bureau chief, wrote the narrative for the photo essay entitled “Gaza, Through Fresh Eyes,” in which he gushes about “jazzy cellphone stores and pricey restaurants … endless beaches with children whooping it up … the staggering quality of the very ordinary.” Seemingly lifted from an apolitical travel magazine, Bronner’s article merely alludes to families who have been “traumatized,” and omits any mention of the UN allegations of recently committed Israeli war crimes and human rights violations. Other than an oblique reference to “destroyed buildings” and “rubble,” Bronner’s travelogue also elides the vast civilian infrastructure Israel destroyed during the onslaught, including chicken farms, a flour mill, a sewage treatment plant, a UN school, vast tracts of civilian housing, government buildings, a prison, police stations, TV stations, newspapers ... and between 600 and 700 factories, workshops and businesses. The impression left by Bronner? Gaza is an OK place; nothing remarkable to see there, least of all evidence of Israeli war crimes; move along, move along.

And yet, what is not disclosed is that Ethan Bronner is married to an Israeli citizen and has a son who is enlisted in the Israeli army. When news of these familial connections broke, Times public editor Clark Hoyt wrote an op-ed recommending that Bronner be reassigned to avoid any potential for bias. Executive editor Bill Keller refused, waiving the Times’s normally strict conflict of interest standards.

Times reporter Isabel Kershner is similarly compromised by elisions and distortions. When Kershner reported on Palestinian refugees in Syria who, in June 2011, nonviolently marched into the Golan Heights to protest, she failed to mention that the Golan Heights is Syrian territory illegally occupied by Israel. No government in the world recognizes the Golan Heights as legitimately part of the state of Israel. Kershner also omits the fact that the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homes is enshrined in UN resolutions and that Israel has consistently violated international law in preventing the refugees from returning to their homes. Let us also not forget that at this nonviolent protest the Israeli army killed 22 Palestinian and Syrian protesters. In addressing the apparently overwhelming violence against unarmed protesters, Kershner reports: “Israeli officials say they tried every nonlethal method of crowd control at their disposal” before they opened fire “at the feet of the protesters,” implying that the killings were unintentional, and unavoidable, and defied the laws of physics. Kershner quotes none of the protesters as to what they saw. If she had, she may have heard what activist and eyewitness Salman Fakhreddin told independent journalist Jillian Kestler-D’Amours: “Israel decided to kill people in order to frighten them because Israel is afraid of the delegitimization of the state of Israel and Israeli policy in the international community.” By now it may not be a surprise to learn that Kershner is an Israeli citizen who is married to an Israeli citizen and who spent “a couple decades in Israeli journalism and Jewish education” before joining the American paper in 2007.

In large part because of Ethan Bronner and Isabel Kershner’s ahistorical, context-free, reporting-in-a-vacuum, the New York Times is to blame for what Adbusters has previously called “the United States of Amnesia.” American citizens are left unaware of Israel’s current and historical violations of international law and are thus unable to question their government’s multibillion dollar military giveaways to Israel, a state that just happens to be these two reporters’ adopted home.

Send a letter to the Times letters editor Thomas Feyer at [email protected] or tweet him @tomfeyer.

Last year, Matthew Taylor, a writer and activist, disrupted a speech by Prime Minister Netanyahu with chants of “the occupation delegitimizes Israel.” Matthew can be contacted at matthewtaylor.net

38 comments on the article “Systematically Biased Reporting”

Displaying 21 - 30 of 38

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EJ

I don't know about the original commenter, but I'd be happy to lose the 'terrorist' label altogether. There are 'terrorist' acts, and those should be reported on in such a manner that - when the label is applied, the article explains how it's a terrorist act (i.e.: targeting non-combatants). But for people & groups - yeah, the same standards should be applied to the various 'sides' in a conflict, i.e. 'reprisals' - sure, use that for both Israeli and Hamas acts.

Or point out that specific acts (by both) "are _seen as_ reprisals for previous acts by the other side" - if that language was always used, to apply to both groups, ok that's a start. Then perhaps mention the history, and how the creation of the state of Israel itself was not done in the most... let's say, fair & inclusive manner. I.e., that the roots of (legitimate) upset go deep into the past many decades. Mention the (illegal) 1967 war that violated (expanded) the previous boundaries of Israel (for all intents & purposes - 'boundaries'? how about "land under Israeli control"), which themselves weren't negotiated fairly.

Perhaps point out some analyses of how Israel, for better or worse, planned or opportunistic, has become the US's main military 'point person' in the Middle East. I.e. that there's a reflexive reaction amongst some of the entrenched more militarist power elite in this country to flinch at any consideration that Israel can ever do any wrong... "They're our best ally", "They're the only democracy in the Middle East". Ignoring the fact that, while not a theocracy, their intermingling of economic rights w/ religion/ethnicity makes them not really a democracy as we'd even assert it. And ignoring the fact that, (multiple!) fair, two-state settlements (over many years...) have been opposed by the staunch militarists who've been in power in Israel for most of the past few decades.

And as far as labeling groups terrorist, I would hope that we all know there's a political dimension to that.. yeah, the UN Gen'l Assembly has condemned Israel's illegal occupation & settlements, but all heck would break loose if anyone would imply that this makes them a 'rogue state' or worse, a state sponsor of terrorism & genocide (even though, one could make that case). Again, I'd prefer that the actual facts be reported on, without emotionally charged buzzword labels.

EJ

I don't know about the original commenter, but I'd be happy to lose the 'terrorist' label altogether. There are 'terrorist' acts, and those should be reported on in such a manner that - when the label is applied, the article explains how it's a terrorist act (i.e.: targeting non-combatants). But for people & groups - yeah, the same standards should be applied to the various 'sides' in a conflict, i.e. 'reprisals' - sure, use that for both Israeli and Hamas acts.

Or point out that specific acts (by both) "are _seen as_ reprisals for previous acts by the other side" - if that language was always used, to apply to both groups, ok that's a start. Then perhaps mention the history, and how the creation of the state of Israel itself was not done in the most... let's say, fair & inclusive manner. I.e., that the roots of (legitimate) upset go deep into the past many decades. Mention the (illegal) 1967 war that violated (expanded) the previous boundaries of Israel (for all intents & purposes - 'boundaries'? how about "land under Israeli control"), which themselves weren't negotiated fairly.

Perhaps point out some analyses of how Israel, for better or worse, planned or opportunistic, has become the US's main military 'point person' in the Middle East. I.e. that there's a reflexive reaction amongst some of the entrenched more militarist power elite in this country to flinch at any consideration that Israel can ever do any wrong... "They're our best ally", "They're the only democracy in the Middle East". Ignoring the fact that, while not a theocracy, their intermingling of economic rights w/ religion/ethnicity makes them not really a democracy as we'd even assert it. And ignoring the fact that, (multiple!) fair, two-state settlements (over many years...) have been opposed by the staunch militarists who've been in power in Israel for most of the past few decades.

And as far as labeling groups terrorist, I would hope that we all know there's a political dimension to that.. yeah, the UN Gen'l Assembly has condemned Israel's illegal occupation & settlements, but all heck would break loose if anyone would imply that this makes them a 'rogue state' or worse, a state sponsor of terrorism & genocide (even though, one could make that case). Again, I'd prefer that the actual facts be reported on, without emotionally charged buzzword labels.

matthew_1

Yes, EJ, fact-based reportage would be a welcome change from the emotionally-driven, familial and nationalistic bias that affects most of the US MSM's coverage of this issue! Agreed.

matthew_1

Yes, EJ, fact-based reportage would be a welcome change from the emotionally-driven, familial and nationalistic bias that affects most of the US MSM's coverage of this issue! Agreed.

Tpayne

Uh..yeah. I think the whole world would be happy if "Israel" was finally outed for what it is: fraud, crime against humanity and terrorism.
Lets not forget that Hamas was democratically elected in an election observed by the likes of Jimmy Carter, etc. The same of course cannot be said of the representatives of "Israel." No international monitors to assure the fairness of their alleged "election."
Yeah I think most people would agree that a double standard such as the glaring one practiced by The NYTimes implies bias and therefore renders incompetent the integrity of your supposed journalism.

And being labeled a "terrorist" by the U.S government these days is meaningless. Heck it's almost the equivalent of being given street cred in the global rebellion against imperialism, corporatism and late-stage capitalism.

What will you be left with, oh Zionist cannon-fodder, when all your usual canards have been deconstructed? "Anti-Semite"? Gone. No longer holds any power - has been thoroughly deconstructed and exposed. "Terrorist"? Debunked. Useless. Too many students see through your laughable attempt at monopolizing language. What else? How about the Jewish myth of race? Seriously. All your propaganda is being unraveled. Soon you will be gone? Absorbed into the fold of humanity. And you know what? It's about time. Get off your fucking high-horse of Judeo-Supremacy with your absurd "Chosen" myth and join the rest of the world. So we can all move on. And evolve.

Tpayne

Uh..yeah. I think the whole world would be happy if "Israel" was finally outed for what it is: fraud, crime against humanity and terrorism.
Lets not forget that Hamas was democratically elected in an election observed by the likes of Jimmy Carter, etc. The same of course cannot be said of the representatives of "Israel." No international monitors to assure the fairness of their alleged "election."
Yeah I think most people would agree that a double standard such as the glaring one practiced by The NYTimes implies bias and therefore renders incompetent the integrity of your supposed journalism.

And being labeled a "terrorist" by the U.S government these days is meaningless. Heck it's almost the equivalent of being given street cred in the global rebellion against imperialism, corporatism and late-stage capitalism.

What will you be left with, oh Zionist cannon-fodder, when all your usual canards have been deconstructed? "Anti-Semite"? Gone. No longer holds any power - has been thoroughly deconstructed and exposed. "Terrorist"? Debunked. Useless. Too many students see through your laughable attempt at monopolizing language. What else? How about the Jewish myth of race? Seriously. All your propaganda is being unraveled. Soon you will be gone? Absorbed into the fold of humanity. And you know what? It's about time. Get off your fucking high-horse of Judeo-Supremacy with your absurd "Chosen" myth and join the rest of the world. So we can all move on. And evolve.

Anonymous

You allege bias at the New York Times but accept the word of Richard Falk who has never written a positive word about Israel. Israel should negotiate a two-state agreement and vacate the settlements, but the Arab Spring has made it clear that the Arab governments are the greatest oppressors of Arab people. In Syria, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen et al, more Arab people have been killed by their governments this year than by Israel during any 10-year period.

Anonymous

You allege bias at the New York Times but accept the word of Richard Falk who has never written a positive word about Israel. Israel should negotiate a two-state agreement and vacate the settlements, but the Arab Spring has made it clear that the Arab governments are the greatest oppressors of Arab people. In Syria, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen et al, more Arab people have been killed by their governments this year than by Israel during any 10-year period.

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