‘NYT’ abided by Israeli gag order even as ‘EI’ scooped it repeatedly

Israel/Palestine
on 36 Comments
Ali Abunimah's new book is titled The Battle For Justice In Palestine.

Ali Abunimah

Last Saturday, Israel arrested Majd Kayyal, an Israeli Palestinian journalist who works for the human rights group Adalah, after he had visited Lebanon, then detained him incommunicado.

Matt Lee of the Associated Press brought up the journalist’s arrest at the State Department briefing on Monday, and Ali Abunimah reported on the case for several days running at Electronic Intifada, noting:

Israeli media are strictly prohibited from publishing any details about Kayyal’s detention under the terms of a Shin Bet gag order approved by the judge.

The Times reported on the case yesterday, when Kayyal was released to house arrest, and referred to the gag order in passing– “A court-imposed gag order on the case was lifted on Thursday.”

Now it turns out that the New York Times also abided by that gag order.

Today the Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, published an article about the gag order, stating that the Times bureau accepted it. Sullivan reports considerable confusion inside the Times about whether it does such things. The piece is highly embarrassing to the Times. As Abunimah summarizes the matter: “The New York Times agrees to be gagged by Israel.”

Sullivan quotes Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren saying that the Times wouldn’t have covered Kayyal’s arrest very much anyway: “We probably would have written a modest story or brief about this arrest earlier if there had not been a gag order.”

But Sullivan isn’t buying. It doesn’t matter how big the story was, “I find it troubling that The Times is in the position of waiting for government clearance before deciding to publish.” And in giving credit to EI, Sullivan makes clear how important a story this was for Palestinians:

Meanwhile, an online publication called The Electronic Intifada published a number of articles about Mr. Kayyal’s detention over the past several days.

The author of those articles, Ali Abunimah, said in an email that “readers have a right to know when NYT is complying with government-imposed censorship.”

And Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and the Palestine Center, wrote to me that this seems to go against journalistic principles: “It would seem to me that a story that a state specifically wants to prevent from seeing the light of day is something that should make a journalist’s mouth water. That’s what journalism is all about, isn’t it?”

Sullivan goes on to quote foreign editor Joseph Kahn questioning why readers weren’t informed of the gag order in the article yesterday.

Rudoren meets with American Jewish Committee group

Rudoren meets with American Jewish Committee group

Rudoren, shown above speaking to an American Jewish Committee group on its visit to Jerusalem this year, justified the policy in this manner to Sullivan:

The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past.

Is it really like a traffic light? No one could possibly object to a reporter obeying traffic rules.

Abunimah, the author of a new book, “The Battle for Justice in Palestine,” writes sensibly that the Times should have challenged the gag order by publishing news of Kayyal’s detention and risked getting tossed by Israel, an unlikely scenario indeed. It’s hard not to agree with his conclusion:

But that would take a very different kind of Times bureau – one prepared to challenge Israeli government actions rather than serve as Israel’s chief explainer and apologist. I’m not holding my breath.

(I believe this is yet more evidence of Israel-centrism at the New York Times. Lately Rudoren said she first visited Israel with United Synagogue Youth and “I come [to Jerusalem] knowledgeable about the Jewish American or Jewish Israeli side of this beat.”)

Update: The Kayyal story was also closely covered by Richard Silverstein, who broke important news last week as the Times was donning the gag. I should have mentioned his work in this post initially.

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36 Responses

  1. just
    April 18, 2014, 12:25 pm

    Ms. Sullivan is on the right path….. it’s welcome news.

    Ms. Rudoren, on the other hand, is wholly wayward and owned by Israel. Her obeisance to the apartheid state should be grounds for a very public dismissal from the NYT. (I’m sure she can find work elsewhere.)

    Rudoren should state clearly that she is Tel Aviv’s bureau chief– not Jerusalem’s.

    ““We probably would have written a modest story or brief about this arrest earlier if there had not been a gag order.””

    This statement is so very telling, eh?

  2. seanmcbride
    April 18, 2014, 12:26 pm

    The New York Times agrees to be gagged by Israel.

    I believe this is yet more evidence of Israel-centrism at the New York Times.

    It really would be useful to know precisely which individuals within the New York Times hierarchy are responsible for the pro-Israel propaganda machinations at the paper and what precisely are their ties to Israel.

    These are important facts that the American public deserves to have in its possession.

    And the same point applies to the Washington Post.

    • libra
      April 18, 2014, 3:25 pm

      Sean McBride: It really would be useful to know precisely which individuals within the New York Times hierarchy are responsible for the pro-Israel propaganda machinations at the paper…

      I doubt that it’s the janitor.

      • Les
        April 19, 2014, 10:59 am

        Could it possibly be the Ochs and Sulzbergers who do actually own the place?

  3. Woody Tanaka
    April 18, 2014, 12:58 pm

    Nothing that Rudoren does surprises me. (Well, if she actually covered something without a pro-Isreali bias… that would surprise me.) This is just confirmation of something that was clear a long, long time ago: the New York Times is an organ of the Israeli government as far as its coverage of the goings on in Palestine.

  4. ckg
    April 18, 2014, 1:08 pm

    Kudos to EI’s Ali Abuminah. And kudos also to Richard Silverstein who, judging by time/date stamps, scooped everyone.
    http://www.richardsilverstein.com/2014/04/12/israeli-security-services-arrest-israeli-palestinian-journalist-activist-israeli-media-under-gag/

    • Les
      April 19, 2014, 11:02 am

      Kudos too to Silverstein for revealing Shamai Leibowitz’s information that caused him a 20 month Federal prison sentence.

  5. ckg
    April 18, 2014, 1:23 pm

    Also, it appears to me that Richard brought it to the attention of Matt Lee: https://twitter.com/richards1052/status/455548513959415808

    • Henry Norr
      April 18, 2014, 2:29 pm

      I agree with cog: Richard Silverstein deserves a lot of credit in this case, along with Ali Abunimah of course. Silverstein, for his part, credited Jamil Dakwar of the ACLU for first alerting him to the case, via a tweet citing a Facebook post in Arabic and Hebrew by Adalah, “The Legal Center For Arab Minority Rights In Israel.”

      Richard’s latest post on the case is an treating critique of the way Israeli liberal journalists, including at 972 Magazine, have now written about the case.

      In addition, he has created a Facebook group in support of Majd Kayyal:
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/701243046602952/

      • James Canning
        April 18, 2014, 3:02 pm

        Bravo, Richard Silverstein.

  6. James Canning
    April 18, 2014, 1:38 pm

    Israel’s effort to suppress the story is fascinating.

  7. Sycamores
    April 18, 2014, 1:43 pm

    so a Shin Bet gag order for Israeli media applies to an American daily, the NYT?

    Ali Abunimah http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/new-york-times-agrees-be-gagged-israel

    Unconvincing

    Sullivan’s article leaves a number of questions that still need answers:

    Why does Rudoren believe she is bound by gag orders when two senior editors said they were unaware of the newspaper ever agreeing to be bound by such gag orders?

    Contrary to the claim that Israeli gags have never been challenged, I found at least one instance where the Times does indeed appear to openly defy an Israeli gag order.

    A May 2008 article by Alison Leigh Cowan ( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/07/world/africa/07iht-07olmert.12632880.html?_r=0 ) about corruption investigations into then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert states: “Police have imposed a strict gag order that forbids publication of information about the case in Israel.”

    Yet the article goes on to provide Times readers with all the censored information, including the names of witnesses and suspects in the case that the gag order forbid media from naming.

    Besides Ali Abuminah and Richard Silverstein proves that gag orders don’t work in the age of the internet.

  8. Sycamores
    April 18, 2014, 2:03 pm

    here’s i believe is another example of the Times ignoring an Israeli gag order

    in 2010 there was a gag order on an Israeli journalist who is being charged with serious espionage in Israel, yet NYT didn’t mine publishing about it two days before Israel lifted the gag.

    Debate in Israel on Gag Order in Security Leak Case http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/world/middleeast/07israel.html

    By THE NEW YORK TIMES

    Published: April 6, 2010

    2 days later

    Israel Lifts Order of Silence in Journalist’s Spying Case http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/09/world/middleeast/09israel.html

    By ISABEL KERSHNER

    Published: April 8, 2010

    • James Canning
      April 18, 2014, 3:13 pm

      Bravo, Sycamores.

    • LeaNder
      April 19, 2014, 10:15 am

      I was vaguely thinking about the Blau affair, too. I appreciate that you remind us of it in this context. …

      I have also to admit –however you want to look at it–as “aside” or as confession: I could easily develop conspiracy tales about how Ari Shavit’s book was ordered by the powers that be. Since they were aware of Max’ upcoming publication. Well, I have to admit, I studied literature. ;)

      In any case what restrictions does “the only democracy in the ME” have both inside and outside, and how are related? And how? And to what extend?

      • Sycamores
        April 19, 2014, 4:40 pm

        Hi LeaNder,

        thanks for the constructive criticism.

        i just read that Richard Silverstein was the first to published details on the Blau Affair in the US through his blog back in early March 2010.

  9. a blah chick
    April 18, 2014, 2:43 pm

    “We probably would have written a modest story or brief about this arrest earlier if there had not been a gag order.”

    Ho, hum, just another politically motivated prosecution of an Israeli Palestinian. Move along folks, nothing to see here.

  10. American
    April 18, 2014, 3:07 pm

    ”The Times is “indeed, bound by gag orders,” Ms. Rudoren said. She said that the situation is analogous to abiding by traffic rules or any other laws of the land, and that two of her predecessors in the bureau chief position affirmed to her this week that The Times has been subject to gag orders in the past”>>>>>

    Absolute bs. The US press is ‘not bound’ by any ‘gag order’ of a foriegn government.
    The US press could be and has been bound by gag orders in the past under the ‘national security’ claim but that gag order/request has to come from the US government.
    And this sure a hell wasnt a national security matter for the US or Israel for that matter—it was covering up for Israel’s actions.

    Any questions left about who owns the NYT or what they report?
    Not for me.
    BDSers should take on the job of *delegitimizing the NYT.*..and some others also.

    • Woody Tanaka
      April 18, 2014, 3:25 pm

      “Absolute bs. The US press is ‘not bound’ by any ‘gag order’ of a foriegn government.”

      That’s exactly right. Now, if the NYT printed, the Israelis could have kicked the NYT out of the country, but that’s not the same as being bound. And, in fact, if the NYT was ANY kind of decent press outfit, it would have specifically chosen to print every story it possible could that is under such “gag orders” and dared the Israelis to kick them out. Because then THAT would be journalism in action, showing what kind of loonies are in charge over there. (Of course, NYT readers : Israel :: pre-teen girls : Justin Bieber, so there’s no chance they’d actually act like real journalists.)

  11. lysias
    April 18, 2014, 3:27 pm

    Walter Duranty still lives.

    (Funny nobody mentions him so much these days, with Ukraine so much in the news.)

  12. justicewillprevail
    April 18, 2014, 4:09 pm

    Incredible. So the NYT accepts military and state censorship of its stories. No doubt Putin will be very interested to find out that he can order the NYT not to print anything which might be embarrassing to Russia, by declaring a gag on such information. Unless, of course, Israel is somehow different to other despotic regimes, and has the power to dictate what goes in the Times – as it does in its own country where ‘military’ censorship is the norm. If the Times is an Israeli newspaper perhaps they should inform of that, and change their title. I don’t even know how the NYT has the gall to call itself a newspaper, or how journalists can take it seriously.

  13. Hostage
    April 18, 2014, 5:03 pm

    “The New York Times agrees to be gagged by Israel.”

    Of course they did . . . Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!

    • LeaNder
      April 18, 2014, 6:03 pm

      New York, New York. Are you alluding to Sullivan’s timing or are you pleased to be there?

      • Hostage
        April 18, 2014, 9:21 pm

        New York, New York. Are you alluding to Sullivan’s timing or are you pleased to be there?

        Yes, I was alluding to the proverbial SNL “fellate-a-donkey for Israel” skit and commenting that the list of volunteers who would line-up to be gagged would almost certainly include the staff and editors of the NYTimes: http://mondoweiss.net/2013/02/fellate-donkey-israel.html

      • LeaNder
        April 19, 2014, 4:54 am

        Ok, get it.

        Hostage, huge thanks by the way for one of your recent sources. John B. Quigley, Palestine is a State: A Horse with Black and White Stripes is a Zebra. That helps a lot, since I am slightly puzzled for longer now by what I call the terra incognita argument.

        Made me aware of this ebook. Amazon.de uses a really peculiar listing for John B. Quigley. Although his book about the Six Day war is listed as John Quigley, versus simply Quigley as in the book above, for whatever reason you don’t find it if you search John Quigley. I am working on it.

        But back to his the Statehood of Palestine. Absolutely fascinating. I didn’t know how the Balfour Declaration was used in WWI. It may well be one of the tiny pieces of the puzzle that may have fed into the larger stab-in-the-back-myth / Dolchstoßlegende on the extreme right over here. These tiny bits of evidence that get blown out of proportion, is exactly what I am interested in.

        Highly interesting author. I doubt there are many in his field with such a solid knowledge of Russia. Thanks for alluding me to him. The Question of Palestine is on its way from the US. I keep wondering how they can send it with the same shipping terms as if they were in Europe. Am I sponsoring slave work if I do order there?

      • Hostage
        April 19, 2014, 10:38 am

        Am I sponsoring slave work if I do order there?

        No, Jeff Bezos is still trying to figure out a way to implement slavery. He may slip it in as part of the structure for the new Amazon “drone” program;-) In the meantime, I have a prime account and order enough discounted used books from vendors (fulfiled by Amazon) to give all of the Amazon warehouse pickers carpel tunnel syndrome and a hernia to boot. So I’ll have to recuse myself from sitting in judgment of this case and let others decide.

        I’ve always enjoyed the late Musa E. Mazzawi’s Palestine and the Law: Guidelines for the Resolution of the Arab-Israel Conflict. It’s full of little bits of the puzzle and key details needed to unravel some of the age-old arguments. He points out that none of the parties concerned, including the AHC, the British government, the Jewish Agency, or the UN member states, ever questioned the General Assembly’s legal competence to convene a special session and adopt a legally binding solution on the question of Palestine. The problems arose when it tried to adopt one that wasn’t near and dear to everyone’s own heart. He explains why international law doesn’t work like that. He also noted that the Israelis and the Arabs constantly refer to the other party’s “violations” of the UN resolution, which undermines the basis they employ to excuse their own violations – that it was only a non-binding recommendation. He uses the historical record and the applicable law to deconstruct a plethora of supposed loopholes and falsehoods that obscure the real underlying issues.

      • LeaNder
        April 19, 2014, 11:27 am

        He may slip it in as part of the structure for the new Amazon “drone” program;-)

        That’s the problem I have with the unions occasionally over here. More jobs gone easily nowadays. Another Amazon strike over here, apparently. And to be quite honest, many union representatives I met during my life ultimately were as corruptible as their counterparts “the business elites”. The human element always trumps whatever basic ideas.

        I like the way they integrated the used book sellers option. It seems to work for students, who can get rid of books at relatively good prices when they don’t need them anymore. Although I have no idea how much Amazon gets.

        Lately I made a curious discovery. A merchant in Frankfurt, who apparently is quite good at using existing structures, adopting to the times-that-are-a-changing. He sells over Amazon.de too, but even when I ordered via his online shop with in his Frankfurt base ultimately the item was handled and sent by Amazon.de. I would assume it pays for him, both storing and sending, otherwise he wouldn’t use it. -But yes, no doubt he has to pay less people doing the job.

      • adele
        April 19, 2014, 11:28 am

        Am I sponsoring slave work if I do order there?

        I stopped buying from amazon after I became aware of how badly the warehouse workers are treated. If you’re interested, the article below does a pretty good job of exposing the labor conditions in their warehouses.

        http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/02/mac-mcclelland-free-online-shipping-warehouses-labor

  14. LeaNder
    April 18, 2014, 5:59 pm

    For whatever reason I seem to have this vague memory, that all correspondence for foreign media on the ground are somewhat restricted by rules in their reporting.

    While this is of course highly interesting, it would also be interesting to know more about the larger context.

    But maybe I am misguided.

    • LeaNder
      April 19, 2014, 3:37 am

      ooops, correspondents, not correspondence. I guess I was tired. Initially it was foreign journalists, and then wondered about foreign in that context. Some surely are more foreign than others. On the other hand that is not really an ally I like to go down.

    • Hostage
      April 19, 2014, 11:05 am

      For whatever reason I seem to have this vague memory, that all correspondence for foreign media on the ground are somewhat restricted by rules in their reporting.

      Correct, but that originates from the use of military censors, not from gag orders issued by the Courts.

      While this is of course highly interesting, it would also be interesting to know more about the larger context.

      It’s pretty pervasive. I remember during the 2006 war the foreign press was staying on kibbutzes that also served as military operations and staging areas. The press couldn’t even turn their cameras around and show viewers the locations of the artillery batteries that were directing out-going fire at Lebanon from the hotel parking lot. Viewers were frequently left with the false impression that the kibbutzes were under attack. The same sort of thing applied to press reports about Hezbollah rockets that were purportedly aimed at the inhabitants of Haifa and falling harmlessly into the harbor. The press didn’t report that they were barely missing an enormous Israeli naval base, that happened to a valid military objective. I was surprised that the military censors even allowed those scenes of the harbor to be broadcast at all, since they could have provided very useful targeting information to the Lebanese crews who were firing the missiles that would have allowed them to make corrections and strike their intended targets instead.

  15. David Doppler
    April 18, 2014, 6:10 pm

    Is there a distinction between Rudoren residing in Israel obeying Israeli civil law, vs the Times publishing articles by someone not in Israel on the same topic?

  16. American
    April 18, 2014, 7:50 pm

    The press and news media is rapidly becoming obsolete for people who actually look for some news.
    The cable news biggies are really nothing now but left vr right tit for tat and guest opinions…more like a Hollywood Squares show…with the same worn out pundits in their little boxes taking turns pontificating about the parties or politicians.

  17. Sycamores
    April 18, 2014, 10:52 pm

    NYT Slammed for Honoring Israeli Govt Gag Orders

    Times Jerusalem bureau admits compliance with Israel-ordered media blackouts

    – Sarah Lazare, staff writer http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/04/18-6

    The New York Times made a rare admission that it submits to Israeli state gag orders, fueling charges from critics that the globally-influential publication plays fast-and-loose with journalistic ethics to give favorable coverage to Israel.

    The revelation emerged when the The Times delayed its coverage of the Israeli detention of a Palestinian journalist, due—as it turns out—to a gag order from an Israeli court. ……..

    ……. Blogger Richard Silverstein wrote on Saturday about Kayyal’s detention and later released a copy of the gag order. Journalist Ali Abunimah, writing for Electronic Intifada, on Sunday reported on the arrest and published classified court transcripts that revealed the existence of the gag order on the media regarding the case.

    Thanks to an appeal from legal rights organization Adalah, the gag on Israeli media coverage was lifted Thursday. ……

    ….. Newsroom lawyer for The Times confirmed the compliance. Sullivan writes:

    I asked The Times’s newsroom lawyer, David McCraw, about the situation. He told me that he was consulted by Times journalists this week as they considered publishing an article about Mr. Kayyal’s arrest. Although the situation is somewhat murky, he said, “the general understanding among legal counsel in other countries is that local law would apply to foreign media.” Similar issues arise when America news media organizations cover the British courts, he said.

    But the restriction in Israel has not been tested, he said.

    Yet The Times managing editor, Dean Baquet, and assistant managing editor, Susan Chira, told Sullivan that they were not aware of any instances in which the paper complied with Israeli gag orders.

  18. puppies
    April 19, 2014, 12:26 am

    OK, I will start circulating in my neighborhood a collection sheet, where you can sign and donate some small change to help officially move the NY Times headquarters to Tel Aviv, leaving here a NY correspondent. Title: Let’s Help Move the New York Times to the Country of its Dreams!
    I am sure there are internet equivalents to this, much more powerful, but that’s for those knowledgeable.

  19. Nevada Ned
    April 19, 2014, 1:33 pm

    First of all, congratulations to Ali A and EI for scooping the NYT.

    You don’t have to do much research to find evidence of extreme bias in the NYT coverage in the I/P conflict.
    Walt and Mearsheimer provide a lot of background in the their book.
    In addition, EI and MW regularly cover “This Week in Palestine”, documenting Israel’s oppression of Palestinians (in Israel itself and in the OPT). The NYT with rare exceptions ignores the “elephant in the room”, deeming it “not fit to print”.

    The owners and editors of the NYT don’t routinely intervene to make sure the oppression of the Palestinians is suppressed. Instead, the Times hires journalists who identify at the gut level with Israel: Isabel Kershner, Jodi Rudoren, Ethan Bronner. Bronner and Kershner are married to Israeli Jewish spouses. Bronner’s son was in the IDF.
    None of this is news to readers of MW.
    My point is this: it’s not that the NYT coverage of I/P was somehow highjacked by reporters, who somehow wormed their way into a position of power without anybody noticing.
    When the NYT chooses to hire Ethan Bronner, and ignore (say) Rashid Khalidi or Ali Abunimah, the NYT know what coverage they’re going to get.

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