Tag Archives: The New York Times

Truth in the New York Times

Truth

The New York Times has been waging a not-so-subtle war on Trump’s “Fake News” campaign with its full page messages, such as the one above.  Or this one.

Facts new york times

Clearly, this is a very thoughtful campaign by the Editors at the New York Times to discredit Trump’s war on facts and on the news media. Good for them.

We should be asking ourselves, however, why the NYT Editors chose to focus on “truth” and not “facts.” Some might argue that “truth” and “facts” are synonymous, there is no difference. In an ideal world, I might agree.

The wise ones know we don’t live in that utopia.

We live in a world where the media giants, the consolidated empires like the Sinclair Broadcast Group, massage and filter and repeat ad nauseum the “truth” they deem fit to share.

Few media sources disseminate outright lies and fabrications. There’s an element of “truth” in every story, whether you find it on Fox News, Rachel Maddow’s show or The New York Times.  (I can hear my liberal friends howling “you can’t compare Fox News and The New York Times in the same breath!”)

What’s new is the relatively recent attack on the “truth” our commander-in-chief doesn’t like.  He prefers the way Fox News massages the “truth” rather than the mainstream media that criticizes him, even trying to punish journalists with whom he disagrees.

But don’t be fooled.  Both Fox News and The New York Times massage the truth to fit a worldview that they want you, the news consumer, to digest and accept.

One small example.

In the Spring of 2014, I read a New York Times story online that referred to the Gaza Strip as “occupied.” This story was published years after the State of Israel had formally removed its settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, and Israel’s position was that it no longer “occupied” Gaza.

I was shocked and pleasantly surprised that The New York Times was not parroting Israel’s line, but instead acknowledging international law in a back-handed sort of way. Under international law, since Israel maintains “effective control” over the people of Gaza, it occupies the Gaza Strip.

A few hours later I returned to that same article online and found that the Editors had removed the term “occupied” and “occupation,” followed by a short disclaimer at the bottom noting that the original version had been a mistake. Over the next month, I engaged in a volley of letters back and forth with the Editors about this change. The New York Times Editors’ response to me is here.

Anyone who has been following The New York Times’ coverage of Israel-Palestine for any length of time understands that the paper massages the facts, at times more subtly than at other times, to favor Israel’s perspective.

If Americans are interested in the “truth” as presented by Israel and The New York Times, then some facts will be highlighted and other facts ignored or deliberately buried, as in the case of Gaza.

The Gaza Strip is occupied; the State of Israel is the occupation power; the future of the Palestinians and Israelis depends on Americans understanding the facts.

A good place to begin is by watching The Occupation of the American Mind, Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States. (The video link is here.)

Then let’s tell The New York Times and every media outlet that we want the FACTS. With the facts we will be the judge of what is the truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day #49 – Aug. 24, 2014 – NY Times Blames the Victims

I’m sharing a blog post published today on TimesWarp written by Barbara Erickson, a professional journalist. She dissects  a recent article in the New York Times about the lack of reconstruction efforts in Gaza since last summer’s military assault.

As Gaza Lies in Ruins, The NY Times Blames the Victims.

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Day #9 – July 15, 2014 – Media Bias

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 herehere, 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.

Times Warp

Here’s an example:

Over 260 Dead in Gaza, and Rocket Overkill in the Times

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.

Barbara Erickson

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The U.N. Report on 2014 Gaza War – What do you see?

We see what we want to see.

(Those 7 small words explain everything.)

Whether it’s the Pope’s Encyclical on Care for Our Common Home, or the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision about Same-Sex Marriage, or the Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict, we read them with our own biases and expectations, finding exactly what we thought we would find in each.

The psychologists call it confirmation bias.

Confirmation bias is a phenomenon wherein decision makers have been shown to actively seek out and assign more weight to evidence that confirms their hypothesis, and ignore or underweigh evidence that could disconfirm their hypothesis.

Pope Francis is either meddling in politics, or he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Justice Kennedy and four of his breathren on the bench who ruled that same-sex couples have the right to marry, have either dealt a blow to our Constitution or they’ve advanced liberty and equality in our country.

And how was the U.N. Independent Commission’s Report received?

1463753_799190196793221_801938964638193132_n

If people read all 217 pages (I did), they will find alot of substance (summarized in a follow-up blog post). However, the swift reactions to the report were nearly as telling as the evidence gathered by the U.N. Commission. There were those who condemned it, others praised it, and a few wished to ignore it. But everyone found what they were looking for.

  • Israeli officials tried to preempt the U.N. Commission’s Report by releasing their own report a few days earlier. “Israel predicts the new report from the United Nations will be a hatchet job. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that anyone who wants to read ‘the truth’ should download the Israeli report. ‘Whoever wants to automatically — and without foundation — blame Israel, let them waste their time with the U.N. Human Rights Council report,’ he said.” Netanyahu probably didn’t appreciate the irony in his words — automatically jumping to conclusions, as he was, without seeing the U.N. Report. (Israel says war in Gaza was moral and deaths are the fault of Hamas, Washington Post, June 14, 2015, William Booth).
  • When the U.N. Report was released, Israeli officials appeared “particularly stung by its lumping together of the Israeli army with its arch enemy, Hamas.” … “Any fair inquiry into armed conflict must always draw a distinction between the aggressor and the side asserting its right to self-defense,” Dore Gold, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said in an interview. “The fact that the United Nations report fails to distinguish between Israel and Hamas is one of its most central flaws.” (U.N. report on Gaza: Israel, Hamas may both have committed war crimes, The Washington Post, June 22, 2015, William Booth and Ruth Eglash)
  • The Washington Post summarized the “United Nations’ rather even-handed approach,” including links to other reports and opinions, but ended with a cautionary note that the U.N. Report would likely be added to the “growing case file at the International Criminal Court” which could place Israeli leaders alongside heinous fugitive war criminals such as Uganda guerrilla Joseph Kony, further deepening Israel’s growing international isolation. (The U.N. report on Israel’s Gaza War: What you need to know, Washington Post, June 22, 2015, Ishaan Tharoor)
  • What was the official U.S. government position?  Predictably, we echoed our good friend, Israel, and concluded the U.N. Report was biased from the start. Asked during a press conference if the State Department is reading the report, John Kirby, the State Dept. spokesperson responded: “Certainly we’re reading it. But as I also said yesterday, we challenge the very mechanism which created it. And so we’re not going to have a readout of this. We’re not going to have a rebuttal to it. We’re certainly going to read it, as we read all UN reports. But we challenge the very foundation upon which this report was written, and we don’t believe that there’s a call or a need for any further Security Council work on this.” (John Kirby, Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, June 23, 2015)
  • An opinion piece in The Guardian castigated the U.N. Commission’s Report for failure to establish the context of the conflict. Naturally, the context the author wanted to see was his own version of history. (The U.N. is preserving the Israeli occupation, The Guardian, June 26, 2015, Ari Shavit opinion)
  • The New York Times published an opinion piece by a retired British Army colonel who warned that the U.N. Report is “flawed and dangerous” and will “provoke further violence and loss of life.” (The U.N.’s Gaza Report is Flawed and Dangerous, The New York Times, June 25, 2015, Richard Kemp opinion). The author had earlier testified before the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry. Just to be even-handed, let’s see if The New York Times publishes an opinion piece by the parents of the four Bakr boys killed on the beach in Gaza.

Boys at beach

  • Norman Finkelstein, a controversial scholar and critic of the Israeli occupation, also found much to criticise in the U.N. Report. In an online Q&A, Finkelstein wrote: “A huge gap existed between the descriptions compiled in the report and the concomitant legal analysis in each section. The descriptions were graphic and compelling, but the legal analysis seemed to minimize Israel’s accountability. The reader senses that the person writing the legal analysis (probably [Judge Mary McGowan] Davis) was straining to be “fair,” to the point that it became unserious.” (UN report on Gaza war is ‘tepid,’ ‘unserious,’ and exhibits ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’. Mondoweiss, June 27, 2015)
  • The New York Times Editorial Board concluded that “It’s unrealistic to expect Hamas to follow international law but Israel has a duty, and should have a desire, to adjust its military policies to avoid civilian casualties and hold those who failed to do so accountable.” (War Crimes and the Gaza War, The New York Times, June 23, 2015, The Editorial Board)

In the report released on Monday by the UN commission of inquiry on the 2014 Gaza war, one passage stands out. “Palestinian and Israeli children were savagely affected by the events. Children on both sides suffered from bed-wetting, shaking at night, clinging to parents, nightmares and increased levels of aggressiveness.” Those words are a reminder that, in all the positioning and spinning that follows a report of this kind, the heart of the matter is the human cost, usually paid by the most vulnerable.

The death toll of last summer’s violence was lopsided – with more than 2,200 Palestinians and 73 Israelis killed – but the UN report strains to understand the Israeli as well as Palestinian narrative behind those numbers.

Both sides like to claim the moral advantage, even while locked in a vicious conflict. If they really believe that, then they must bring those accused of grave crimes to justice.

Some found the U.N. Report provocative, inciteful or perhaps insightful, destructive, courageous, newsworthy, or a waste of time —- but each found the truth he/she was looking for.

A summary of the U.N. Report and “my” conclusions

follow in the next blog post.

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Filed under Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Media, People, United Nations