As a consumer of the mainstream American media, I naively assumed for my first 30-something years that The New York Times, The Washington Post and the rest of our “flagship” print and TV media were professional, objective, trustworthy sources for the news I needed. I knew there was a big difference between The Nation and Fox News, but I didn’t spend the time or energy to critique the stories about Israel and Palestine in The New York Times.
Not sure exactly when I became a more discerning news consumer, but I’m embarrassed that it took so long. And now I think every high school education should include a course in fostering critical thinking skills for media consumers. It’s not that everyone should agree with my worldview, but everyone should know which worldview editors and journalists are pushing.
The New York Times is publishing a pro-Israeli world-view. I clearly saw the evidence in March 2014 and wrote about it here, here, here, and here. Barbara Erickson, a professional reporter, editor, and journalism teacher at UC-Berkeley, maintains a blog critiquing The New York Times’ coverage of Israel and Palestine — The Times Warp — which I highly recommend. Reviewing her posts in July and August 2014 highlight The New York Times’ bias in its coverage of Operation Protective Edge.
Here’s an example:
For the second time in eight days, The New York Times has devoted an entire story to Gaza’s rockets, even as the death toll from Israeli weaponry climbs. Meanwhile, Times readers have yet to see a similar article addressing the military might directed against the residents of Gaza.
“From Gaza, an Array of Makeshift Rockets Packs a Counterpunch” by Jodi Rudoren appears on page 11 in the July 18 print edition, mirroring a similar story by Steven Erlanger on July 10, “A Growing Arsenal of Homemade Rockets Encounters Israel’s Iron Dome,” published on page 9.
It seems the Times can’t emphasize the point enough: This is all about rockets and Hamas, they claim, not about the blockade or the death toll in Gaza. A page one story mentions gunboats, warplanes, tanks and drones in the course of its narrative about the ground invasion, but none of these killing machines merit any more scrutiny in the Times.
Although Israel insists that it takes precautions to prevent civilian deaths, three quarters of those killed in Gaza have been children, women and other noncombatants. It is fair to ask what weapons are causing this carnage, how many Israel has in stock and what is their source.
Also missing from the Times’ reports are news of the consensus of protests from human rights groups over the targeting of homes and a 10-year ceasefire offer from Hamas. The rights groups include the Israeli organization B’Tselem, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. All agree that it is illegal to target homes without proving a clear military objective. The Times has only mentioned the HRW report.
The Israeli rationale, that a resident is involved in military activity, is “unfounded and illegal,” B’Tselem states. “Euphemisms such as ‘surgical strikes’ or ‘operational infrastructure’ cannot hide the facts: illegal attacks of homes, which constitute punitive home demolition from the air, come at a dreadful cost in human life.”
Meanwhile, even as the Times gives play to the ceasefire talks that exclude Hamas, it has failed to report on Hamas’ offers. The Jerusalem Post, however, has told us that Hamas has offered a 10-year ceasefire in return for certain agreements.
These include withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border, freeing prisoners arrested after the killing of three youths, lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people, establishing an international seaport and airport under United Nations supervision and increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers.
It seems we are not supposed to know about these kinds of offers from Hamas. Nor are we to know that Hamas held its fire for some 19 months, attempting to stop other more militant groups in Gaza from launching their rockets. It was only after an extrajudicial killing in Gaza on June 11 and the crackdown after the abduction of three teens that Hamas started firing again.
We should credit the Times for running a piece by a photographer who witnessed the deaths of the four children playing on the beach, and we can note that reporters have expressed some concern about civilian deaths, questioning the reasoning behind some of the attacks. But the overall message to Times readers is that Israel is defending itself and forced to let the bombs fall on Gaza.
The Times prefers to put forth that narrative, omitting reports that contradict the Israeli claims of necessity in attacking Gaza. It would rather leave the impression that Hamas has rained down missiles on Israel for more than a year without pause. Readers are to focus on the arsenal of rockets cached in Gaza and pay no heed to Israel’s overwhelming military might, the past history of Hamas restraint and its present effort to become part of a ceasefire discussion that pointedly excludes it.