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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 31 - 38 of 38

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EdBriody

We are defeating the purpose of the UN by vetoing decisions condemning the criminal actions of the Israeli Government.
We are supplying the most advanced weapons to Israel to initiate and cleverly provoke wars against its neighbors. And then the supporters of Israel's crimes in our Government wonder why Israel lives in a hostile neighborhood!
The same US Governvent elected Congressmen and Presidents give Israel the advanced aircraft to deliver Nuclear Bombs on neighboring States. (Another reason people from those menaced States go to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill our American soldiers).
Our chosen leaders deny with Israel that over 500,000 Palestinians were driven off their land by a Zionist master plan and deny the right of their return ignoring the 1948 UN resolution recognizing that right.
Of course it is difficult since the Zionist plan was to rob personal goods, destroy the homes, destroy hundreds of villages and rename the areas with made up names (and teach children it did not commit these crimes). Thinking only Israelies deserve justice Zionists decided Jews who never lived or even owned something in Isarel have 'the right to return'.

EdBriody

We are defeating the purpose of the UN by vetoing decisions condemning the criminal actions of the Israeli Government.
We are supplying the most advanced weapons to Israel to initiate and cleverly provoke wars against its neighbors. And then the supporters of Israel's crimes in our Government wonder why Israel lives in a hostile neighborhood!
The same US Governvent elected Congressmen and Presidents give Israel the advanced aircraft to deliver Nuclear Bombs on neighboring States. (Another reason people from those menaced States go to Iraq and Afghanistan to kill our American soldiers).
Our chosen leaders deny with Israel that over 500,000 Palestinians were driven off their land by a Zionist master plan and deny the right of their return ignoring the 1948 UN resolution recognizing that right.
Of course it is difficult since the Zionist plan was to rob personal goods, destroy the homes, destroy hundreds of villages and rename the areas with made up names (and teach children it did not commit these crimes). Thinking only Israelies deserve justice Zionists decided Jews who never lived or even owned something in Isarel have 'the right to return'.

Anonymous

Take a look at Prof Walt's site and the study by the Center for American Progress named Fear Inc., The Roots of Islamophobia in America. It details how specific right'wing foundations have spent millions of USD to artifically and consciously foster hate toward a group. http://foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/08/26

And NYT. Lest we forget, that newspaper was especially involved in drumming up pro-Iraq War sentiments, to the extent of hiring Judith Miller to make up stories and various retired military "experts" planted and paid for the by US Dept. of Defense to flog the war, and whose columns the NYT printed under the guise of independent analysts.

Anonymous

Take a look at Prof Walt's site and the study by the Center for American Progress named Fear Inc., The Roots of Islamophobia in America. It details how specific right'wing foundations have spent millions of USD to artifically and consciously foster hate toward a group. http://foreignpolicy.com/posts/2011/08/26

And NYT. Lest we forget, that newspaper was especially involved in drumming up pro-Iraq War sentiments, to the extent of hiring Judith Miller to make up stories and various retired military "experts" planted and paid for the by US Dept. of Defense to flog the war, and whose columns the NYT printed under the guise of independent analysts.

Leo Glickman

I don't disagree with anything in this article. Nor do I disagree with most articles appearing in Adbusters about Israel (I'm a long time subscriber).

I do think Adbusters gets it wrong when it ignores spontaneous protests and revolutions in the Arab world against oppressive leaders. Qadaffi, Mubarak, Assad, the Saudi royals -- to name but a few -- are oppressors of individual freedom, something we Adbusters readers thrive on, and violators of human rights. Yet I can't think of an article about that.

I don't get why the Adbusters community is not rallying around rebel fighters in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and protesters in Saudi and finding ways to effectively assist. I don't understand why Adbusters apparently believes that being just as honest about the Arab/Muslim middle east, which in terms of governance and individual freedoms would be the laughing stock of the world if it weren't so tragic, as it is about Israel would somehow undermine the Israel message.

That Adbusters doesn't see the irony in the very excellent article they've published is surprising.

Leo Glickman

I don't disagree with anything in this article. Nor do I disagree with most articles appearing in Adbusters about Israel (I'm a long time subscriber).

I do think Adbusters gets it wrong when it ignores spontaneous protests and revolutions in the Arab world against oppressive leaders. Qadaffi, Mubarak, Assad, the Saudi royals -- to name but a few -- are oppressors of individual freedom, something we Adbusters readers thrive on, and violators of human rights. Yet I can't think of an article about that.

I don't get why the Adbusters community is not rallying around rebel fighters in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and protesters in Saudi and finding ways to effectively assist. I don't understand why Adbusters apparently believes that being just as honest about the Arab/Muslim middle east, which in terms of governance and individual freedoms would be the laughing stock of the world if it weren't so tragic, as it is about Israel would somehow undermine the Israel message.

That Adbusters doesn't see the irony in the very excellent article they've published is surprising.

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