NY Times troubling corrections: Hebron youth who first ‘had brass knuckles’ now investigated for possessing ‘weapons’ (Updated)

Israel/Palestine
on 18 Comments
New York Times headquarters. (Photo: Wikipedia)

New York Times headquarters. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Unfortunately in the upside down world of the New York Times’ reporting on Palestine and Israel, where Palestinian voices often count less than Israeli voices, bringing exculpatory evidence to light and requesting a correction doesn’t always result in greater clarity. It can instead result in further impugning the always-accused Palestinians.

In an article datelined May 1 about a viral April 27 video of an Israeli soldier cocking his gun at Palestinian youths in Hebron,NY Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren reported as fact that, “It also turned out that one of the teenagers in Hebron had brass knuckles.” This supported a narrative that, while the soldier visibly behaved in an aggressive manner using his gun to threaten Palestinian civilians, the soldier himself acted because he felt threatened by an armed Palestinian youth.

The accusation that one of the boys was wearing brass knuckles seemed to stem from a cursory viewing of a video posted by the Hebron-based Palestinian human rights group “Youth Against Settlements.” The Times of Israel, for example, noted on April 30th that, “While officials said that the soldier could face dismissal after he finishes his prison sentence, they stressed that IDF soldiers have the right to draw their weapons in situations where they feel threatened, and that pictures from the incident clearly show the Palestinian boy had brass knuckles in his hand.” In the Youth Against Settlements video, something is visible in the right hand of a young man in white pants and a black shirt, but it is difficult to see what. Still, the claim that the youth had brass knuckles made its way into one of the US’s most important media outlets, The New York Times, unsourced and stated as fact.

Following these accusations, Youth Against Settlements from Hebron, which had posted the original video, looked into the issue and then posted a second video on May 2nd showing that the same young man in white pants and a black shirt was holding prayer beads in his right hand in another related encounter with the same Israeli soldier, and showing a close up of the original video displaying the same prayer beads in his right hand. Youth Against Settlements wrote, “This Video shows that the palestinian had was a set of small, hand-held prayer beads, more info, please call issa amro 0599340549.” The Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz posted the videounder the headline, “Video sheds new light on fight between soldier, Palestinian: After first video goes viral, second video shows Palestinian to have held prayer beads, not brass knuckles.”

After seeing the Ha’aretz article and the video, I, among others, emailed on May 4th to The New York Times corrections staff, Jodi Rudoren and others at The Times requesting a correction.  With no response, I wrote again on May 7th, and on May 8th I received this response from Jodi Rudoren, “Patrick, I believe a clarification is in the works. Sorry for delay.”

Having witnessed a number of troubling “corrections” by The New York Times on Palestine and Israel, after Ms. Rudoren’s email, a friend joked with me that the correction would accuse the youth instead of having a gun in his pocket, rather than brass knuckles. Sadly, his joke turned out to be not far from the truth.

The sentence in the article’s text was changed yesterday to: “There were also widespread reports that one of the teenagers in Hebron had had brass knuckles.” And the following note was added at the bottom of the article:

Correction: May 8, 2014

An earlier version of this article overstated what is known about one of the Palestinian teenagers pictured in the video. Local media initially reported that he had brass knuckles, but the youth later said he was holding prayer beads instead. The Israeli military is still investigating the incident, including whether any of the youths had weapons.

The correction noted “local media” (translation, Israeli media) reports that the youth had brass knuckles, and the Palestinian youth’s subsequent denial, but it gave the last and implicitly authoritative word to the Israeli military that is “still investigating the incident” and has not yet concluded whether any of the youth had “weapons.” So instead of one boy accused of having brass knuckles, all of the youth are now ominously under investigation for possessing “weapons,” with The New York Times passing on the Israeli militaries typical, vague, dark innuendo, which could of course include guns or explosives.

And what about the investigation by the Palestinian organization “Youth Against Settlements” that produced actual and convincing video footage that was the basis for the original story, and shows clearly that the youth was holding prayer beads? This Palestinian “investigation” and video were not deemed worthy of mention by The New York Times in its correction, even though Youth Against Settlements and Issa Amro have a long history of documenting human rights violations. Instead the “official” Israeli military investigation was highlighted, with the implication that it would provide the final word, though groups like Human Rights Watch have documented repeatedly that “Israel has a poor record of military investigations into alleged violations against Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.” My personal experience with Israeli military statements about events that I’ve witnessed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is that they are typically spin, designed to exonerate the Israeli military and cast blame on Palestinians.

While now acknowledging the youth’s denial, with this correction The New York Times ignored the investigation and video evidence from the Palestinian civil society organization “Youth Against Settlements,” implied reliance on an unreliable Israeli military investigation, and granted legitimacy to the Israeli military’s new and ominous innuendo that the Palestinian youths may have had “weapons.” This case provides a small echo of The Times’ deference to Israeli government authority recently critiqued by New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan when The Times complied with an Israeli government gag order on publicizing the detention of Palestinian journalist Majd Kayyal. And it serves as one more of many examples of how Palestinian voices and views are sometimes marginalized or excluded in the New York Times.

As a footnote, also today, in yet another small example of this ongoing problem, The New York Times’ Jodi Rudoren disappeared the voices and agency of 13 Palestinian human rights organizations in a brief article noting that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch had urged the Palestinian Authority to join the International Criminal Court. AP, for example, found it fit to note that 13 Palestinian organizations also signed the statement.

UPDATE: When I asked Issa Amro of Youth Against Settlements by email if the two videos were from the same day, Issa responded, “It is the same day and the same video.”  When I asked Issa about his discussions with The New York Times, because the original article does quote him, Issa responded, “They called me before they made the report and I told them that it was not brass knuckles. They were very biased.“ But Issa’s assertion that the youth did not have brass knuckles was not reflected in the original New York Times article that stated as an uncontested, unsourced fact that he did. Issa told me it was Jodi Rudoren who called him about the original article. Issa said that no one from The New York Times called him about the correction or about the second video he posted. Issa also told the Palestinian news outlet Ma’an that the Youth Against Settlements office was raided and searched three times since they posted the original video.

About Patrick Connors

Patrick Connors is a member of Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel.

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18 Responses

  1. Shuki
    May 9, 2014, 12:07 pm

    Prayer beads… oh, the lengths to which you all will suspend reality for your agenda.

    • talknic
      May 9, 2014, 1:52 pm

      @ Shuki So what is dangling from his hand at 00:33 ?

      Another view at 00:37…Why is the soldier not afraid at that point? What ever it is is clearly visible to him!

      • talknic
        May 9, 2014, 9:09 pm

        seems Shuki has finished posting bullsh*t already. What a waste of valuable brainwashing!

    • lyn117
      May 9, 2014, 2:25 pm

      The soldier didn’t arrest the youth – which he would have if the youth had any weapons or actually threatened him. And the youth is clearly holding prayer beads in other parts of the videos. It’s obviously the zionists & Jodi Rudoren who suspend reality.

      • Giles
        May 9, 2014, 3:54 pm

        How can these people at the NY Times live with themselves?

      • Kay24
        May 9, 2014, 4:54 pm

        They believe they are protecting their jobs, even if they lose their credibility. They must feel they are “defending” Israel, by keeping the propaganda going,

      • Ellen
        May 9, 2014, 4:01 pm

        Arrest? That soldier would have shot him. He was aching to shoot someone, anyone.

    • Annie Robbins
      May 9, 2014, 2:57 pm

      Abu Sneinah…..says he was holding a Misbaha, a string of Muslim prayer beads…The new video confirms his claim, but nevertheless the saga … – refuses to die.

      link to haaretz.com

      haaretz wouldn’t report that in such definitive terms unless they had investigated and confirmed it themselves. so it’s for you to find counter evidence or reports published after the date of their article sucki.

      rudoren knows this as does the nyt. clearly it’s been buried. i even heard one allegation they could have been metal prayer beads! and i could swear when i first read the article on the blaze they had a close up (photoshopped!) of these alleged brass knuckles that has now been removed. but i could be wrong about that.

      it wasn’t solely “Palestinian voices” claiming initial reports were wrong, which Connors reported in the text of his article, but the opening paragraph implies that to the casual (lazy) reader this was taken on the word of the boy. it wasn’t. besides haaretz i’m sure experts have poured over that video by now.

    • a blah chick
      May 9, 2014, 7:18 pm

      “…oh, the lengths to which you all will suspend reality for your agenda.”

      Shuki, there are times when I find your cluelessness almost endearing.

    • Giles
      May 10, 2014, 7:39 am

      Yeah, why believe your lying eyes. Better to swallow the self serving statements of the Occupier

  2. TwoRedDogs
    May 9, 2014, 4:50 pm

    Rudoren is a disgrace even to NYT. She waits around for something that can be peddled as a negative for Palestinians instead of reporting the day to day negatives on Israel. She has not written anything on:

    — the nearly price tag attacks on Palestinian and Christian property
    – ex-Shin Bet officials disclosing why Israel doesn’t want to tackle the price-taggers
    – the controversial back and forth between Indyk and Israel as to who is to blame for failure of peace talks
    – the outrage expressed by Israel on the Newsweek article about Israeli spying in US

    Instead, she waits around and reports about Hamas executing 2 people for spying for Israel. Sure, she should report on that, but she should also report on the rest instead of acting like Netanyahu’s PR arm.

  3. Kay24
    May 9, 2014, 4:58 pm

    ‘The Israeli military is still investigating the incident, including whether any of the youths had weapons.”
    That my friends is the face saving lie. Remember the flotilla incident? They doctored tapes, called the unarmed activists, terrorists and liars, even said they were “armed”
    when in reality they used sticks and chairs to defend themselves from evil. After all that the mighty Bibi had to make a non apology apology to the Turkish people.
    This must be yet another disgusting effort to make an unarmed kid, who had a gun pointed to his head, look bad, so that the IDF thug will seem justified for his crime.

  4. Boomer
    May 9, 2014, 5:44 pm

    Thanks for the good reporting on your part. Alas, the shamefully bad reporting in the NYT will be read by far more people.

  5. jimby
    May 9, 2014, 6:59 pm

    Jodi Rudoren is small fry compared to Judy Miller. Miller belongs is a cell for life. She was crucial in getting us into the invasion of Iraq.The NY Times has shown itself to be a mouthpiece for the Israeli far right as long as I can recall. I think they are really worried about losing paying subscribers to the paper in Westchester. county.

  6. Annie Robbins
    May 9, 2014, 10:46 pm

    that’s quite a revealing update Patrick. worthy of a post all in itself. or a headline anyway.

  7. George Smith
    May 10, 2014, 8:05 am

    Uri Avnery has posted an interesting and disturbing commentary on the incident at Counterpunch: link to counterpunch.org. Among other things you’ll learn why the soldier, David Adamov, is called David Nahlawi. Also why there’s no way the army is going to be able to evacuate the 50,000 or so settler extremists who would mount armed resistance to a two-state “solution.”

    • ToivoS
      May 10, 2014, 11:49 pm

      Your’e right, that was a interesting piece by Avnery. He makes a very good case that the IDF command has lost control over the army if its orders go against the right wing Zionist interpretation. That means the political leadership is greatly constrained in what it can do.

      There seems to be something like this going on in Ukraine right now. The armed militias that put the current regime in power still control the streets of Kiev and probably most of western Ukraine. There is some suspicion that the current regime would not be able to issue them orders that conflicted with their right wing, nationalistic views. This is counterbalanced to some extent that the Ukrainian army is largely unwilling to follow orders to shoot at eastern Ukrainians (though we have seen a few exceptions to that lately).

      Somehow it is hard to be upset when repressive regimes lose control of their military, but if those troops are motivated by ultra right wing ideologies it is hard to see how much good can result from mutinies.

  8. traintosiberia
    May 11, 2014, 10:08 am

    “As successful as media conditioning is, some elements of the U.S. government feel they must go the extra mile to guarantee that the public receives an acceptable view of events. Take the revelations given in a recent report by Amnesty International on the trial of the so-called Cuban Five (five Cuban residents of Florida arrested for espionage on the part of the Cuban government). Amnesty’s official report on the trial of the five defendants alleges that “the United States [government] paid journalists hostile to Cuba to cover the trial and provide prejudicial articles in the local media asserting the guilt of the accused.” Under such circumstances the “free press” was transformed into a vehicle for government propaganda and this, in turn, helped to generally devalue the right of free speech. We do not know how often the government acts in this corruptive way.” LawrencecDavidson . Professor. West Chester University
    link to counterpunch.org

    How are the NYT reporters ( covering I-P) any different from those covering Cuba5?

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