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‘NYT’ reports differing perspectives when there is no doubt that one is false

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My take on the December 24 NY Times news story on Breaking the Silence is somewhat different from that published here yesterday. Of course, I’ve always been the glass-is-half-empty rather than the glass-is-half-full kind of guy.  Maybe I’m just too cynical, but I read the story as a classical NY Times story on Israel:  essentially dishonest—ok, maybe half-honest–but just informative enough to pass for a fair and unbiased piece, when in fact it is grievously misleading in a number of  ways:

First, it’s the usual he-says, but she-says story, reporting “perspectives” when there is not the slightest doubt that one of the perspectives is clearly true and other is clearly false.  Yes, it’s a good thing that the Times is discussing the growing prominence of Breaking the Silence, and its support by some retired generals and Shin Bet directors, but then such statements are “balanced” by criticism from the attackers of BTS.  What’s missing is a discussion of the incontrovertible facts.  For example, in yesterday’s Haaretz Zeev Sternhell, Israel’s most eminent political philosopher and commentator, says that “In not one case have reports and testimonies collected by Breaking the Silence have been proved wrong.”

Sternhell’s rebuttal of the critics of BTS could have gone much further: over many years literally dozens of impartial investigations and reporting of human rights and international organizations as well as hundreds of news stories (even in the NY Times) and long articles by journalists and academic specialists have made it absolutely incontrovertible that Israel repeatedly commits war crimes and acts of state terrorism.  If anything, Breaking the Silence doesn’t go nearly far enough, though of course one can fully understand why it doesn’t.

Second, the Times story reports that the BTS opponents “question” why it’s not enough for the military to investigate itself, and quotes the defense minister as saying that it tried to, but was “unsuccessful.”  The Times reports this with a straight face.  Surely it knows that no serious observer thinks that  Israel’s own “military investigations” of the kind of war crimes examined by BTS are anything but blatant white washes.  When it comes to its methods, the “most moral army in the world” routinely lies about its behavior, and every serious, informed, and unbiased observer knows it.  And of course it lies, what else can it do?:  the actions it purports to “investigate” are the consequences, and usually the intended consequences, of its own attitudes and policies.  Not a hint of these facts in the Times’ story.

Third, the Times story says that “critics [of BTS] emphasize that the group is partly funded by donations from European governments, which they say amounts to meddling in Israel’s internal affairs;”  however, the story neglects to note that the U.S. government provides far larger and unconditional funding to the Israeli government and armed forces (despite their war crimes), or that wealthy  American right wing extremists, like Sheldon Adelson, provide far more funds to the extremist Israeli groups who are leading the charge against BTS.  Yet more: wouldn’t you think that Times might note that the European governments in question are liberal democracies, with all the implications that follow?

And I could add more.  In the end, should we be grateful for some half-truths from the NY Times?  Perhaps so, but I’m afraid that’s not how I see it.

About Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

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32 Responses

  1. joemowrey
    December 26, 2015, 3:31 pm

    Thanks Jerome. It’s fairly safe to say that whenever The Times publishes an article which contains some element of criticism of or truth about Israel, the real purpose of that article will be to salt half-truths and outright lies into the discussion. This is a tried and true method of propagandizing which so many writers at the times have perfected. Not only does it serve to promote pro-Israel mythology, it also serves as a token “criticism article” of Israel so the Times can have something to point to pretend they are actually reporting and not just spewing propaganda. It’s a win win for them, lose lose for the cause of truth in journalism.

  2. JWalters
    December 26, 2015, 5:25 pm

    Another fine article in the Pulitzer Prize-worthy series at Mondoweiss on the New York Times’ corrupt dishonesty in reporting about Israel.

    The importance of this series is in direct proportion to the NYT’s importance in the world of news reporting, which is to say, one of the summit peaks.

    The significance of this corruption at the NYT is not merely that the NYT sets a corrupt standard for other news organizations to follow. Because other news organizations, if motivated to report the facts honestly, and being bolstered by the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, can break from the NYT’s corrupt dishonesty.

    Therefore the corruption at the NYT reveals a more serious problem. Namely, the same corruption has also captured the other mainstream news organizations. The inescapable conclusion is that America’s entire mainstream news establishment is under the corrupt control of Israel, and Americans whose primary allegiance is to Israel regardless of its corruption.

    The facts are also plain that this corruption is destroying America at home and abroad. In defense of free speech and democracy, domestic and foreign, we need more editors and reporters to rally in rebellion against this tyranny.

  3. Maximus Decimus Meridius
    December 26, 2015, 6:22 pm

    I haven’t paid a huge amount of attention to this particular story, but I definitely agree that this tendency to focus on ‘perspective’ rather than facts, and to turn everything into a ‘X says this, but on the other hand Y says that’ is a cop-out tactic used by media who don’t dare to report the actual facts – and yes, facts do exist – because they know they will invariably reflect very poorly on Israel. So they retreat to the comfort of ‘perspectives’. And it’s not just the New York Times, but the BBC and increasingly The Guardian and probably most other mainstream news sources too.

    I remember during last summer’s World Cup massacre, Ali Abunimah was on the BBC (naturally they tucked him away at about 4am when they knew nobody would be watching). When the interviewer tried the usual ”But the Israelis claim……” line, Ali just retorted by saying ”There is such a thing as facts. Maybe you should focus on them”. The interviewer seemed flustered at such a novel approach and lamely finished the interview by saying something about trying to give a ‘balanced’ report. Funny how ‘balance’ is only ever required when it comes to Israeli massacres and occupations.

    • diasp0ra
      December 26, 2015, 7:52 pm

      Yeah, it’s called the “Middle ground fallacy”.

      It’s the same reason why people bring in a scientist that doesn’t believe in global warming when discussing global warming, even though almost the entirety of research confirms that climate change is a fact.

      Just because two people hold different views doesn’t mean that they are equally valid, and it’s not always that the truth is somewhere in the middle.

      • Maximus Decimus Meridius
        December 27, 2015, 10:23 am

        “Yeah, it’s called the “Middle ground fallacy”.

        Excellent expression. Thanks for pointing it out!

        I guess it’s a variation on the ”both sides” tactic. A bit like how ‘rockets’ which do nothing more than knock off a few roof tiles are equated to bombs which destroy entire buildings and wipe out whole multi-generation families in one go.

  4. MaxNarr
    December 26, 2015, 8:49 pm

    BTS has been debunked on several occasions. Use Google since the moderators won’t let me post the evidence.

    • Citizen
      December 26, 2015, 10:06 pm

      They won’t let you post one hot link?

    • Kris
      December 26, 2015, 10:10 pm

      sorry, duplicate post

    • Kris
      December 26, 2015, 10:11 pm

      @MaxNarr: “…the moderators won’t let me post the evidence.”

      Uh, huh. We’ve been through this before, MxN. If BTS has been “debunked,” the information would be available on a variety of news websites, not just on racist/hate-mongering websites.

      Maybe you’re confused, and are thinking of the debunking of a “debunking,” as described in this article, about a Jewish Israeli legislator being caught lying in an attempt to discredit BTS: http://www.timesofisrael.com/likud-mk-lies-to-lefty-ngo-in-attempt-to-embarrass-it/

      • MaxNarr
        December 26, 2015, 10:31 pm

        I’m Generally referring to their completely unsubstantiated hearsay claims that no one can prove and are easily debunked. Remember, the burden is on proving they are true. So go ahead, show me evidence for once claim ever made by BtS

      • talknic
        December 27, 2015, 6:10 am

        @ MaxNarr “Remember, the burden is on proving they are true. So go ahead, show me evidence for once claim ever made by BtS”

        Would a first hand witness be good enough? Like a soldier who has broken the silence.

        Meanwhile there’s a scummy little creep on MW who has repeatedly refused to post any evidence for their numerous false accusations

      • diasp0ra
        December 27, 2015, 7:46 am

        @MaxNarr

        “I’m Generally referring to their completely unsubstantiated hearsay claims that no one can prove and are easily debunked. Remember, the burden is on proving they are true. So go ahead, show me evidence for once claim ever made by BtS.”

        Then do it, debunk any of their claims if they are so easily debunked. If they have no evidence behind them, show just one case where they have been debunked in their entire history.

        BtS present evidence of their claims but need to protect it to keep it confidential, and they do an amazing amount of research to make sure that it is true and not made up. Multiple times have they been approached with false information and since it didn’t check out they refused to publish it. Yeah, sure sounds to me like a group that just wants to demonize Israel without any facts!

        So if you can’t present ANY situation where they have been debunked, Max, then stop saying they are debunked. You claim they are frauds, back up your words, otherwise you’re just using defamation to hide facts you find inconvenient.

      • Vikram
        December 27, 2015, 8:12 am

        In any self-respecting state, governed by the rule of law, where serious crimes, such those brought to light by BTS, were alleged a full independent public inquiry would be held. The mere fact that the legislature in Israel does not call for such an inquiry is indicative of corruption at the heart of the state.

      • Mooser
        December 27, 2015, 12:41 pm

        “I’m Generally referring to their completely unsubstantiated hearsay claims that no one can prove and are easily debunked.”

        “MaxNarr” are there some people here who think that Jews lie? Tell me their names! How dare they call Jews liars!

    • Talkback
      December 27, 2015, 5:20 am

      MaxNarr “So go ahead, show me evidence for once claim ever made by BtS”

      You know what a witness is, right? It’s you who has to prove that the witness account can’t be true.

      • MaxNarr
        December 27, 2015, 11:44 am

        Wrong: When the org is funded by hostile Europe states, it’s up to you and them to prove the lies are true.

      • talknic
        December 28, 2015, 2:18 am

        @ MaxNarr “When the org is funded by hostile Europe states..”

        States asking another state adhere to the law are hostile. Right. Got it. Ziosprecht 101

        ” it’s up to you and them to prove the lies are true”

        You’re the one making the accusation of lies. The soldiers from BTS are confessing!

      • Talkback
        December 28, 2015, 10:55 am

        MaxNarr “Wrong: When the org is funded by hostile Europe states, it’s up to you and them to prove the lies are true.”

        Actually it’s up to Israel to investigate. But you allready know why it would never do that, don’t you?

      • MHughes976
        December 28, 2015, 11:37 am

        I’m surprised that the British Embassy in Israel has sometimes funded BTS, or rather I”m surprised that our generally pro-Zionist governments have let them get away with it. I have heard indirectly that diplomatic staff are often utterly appalled by what they see in Israel. This is far from making me suspect that BTS reports are false.

      • Shmuel
        December 28, 2015, 12:44 pm

        I’m surprised that the British Embassy in Israel has sometimes funded BTS, or rather I”m surprised that our generally pro-Zionist governments have let them get away with it.

        Hi MHughes. BtS is not a particularly “radical” organisation. They don’t advocate boycott or prosecution, and refer exclusively to the territories occupied in ’67. They have nothing to say about the Bedouin of the Naqab, the Nakba, Palestinian RoR or the theft of Palestinian land within Israel. Their activities lie entirely within the “international consensus” regarding Israel/Palestine, otherwise known as “it’s the occupation, stupid”.

        Even within Israel, I doubt BtS would have been targeted like this, had it not been for the need to: a) bolster public support for Shaked’s “NGO law”, and b) undermine President Rivlin’s standing following his successful visit to the US (by digging up the fact that both he and a rep. of BtS had participated in the same Haaretz-sponsored conference in New York, albeit not at the same session – and when that didn’t quite work, they found a flag kerfuffle to latch onto).

    • amigo
      December 28, 2015, 9:17 am

      “BTS has been debunked on several occasions. Use Google since the moderators won’t let me post the evidence.”mn

      Better complain to the person running the comments policy and if you get nowhere there , then start your own blog and no one but no one can stop you from posting evidence.

      Does the comment policy include sanctions for “RBS” (repetitious b–l s–t) .

      Also , shouldn,t intentional dishonesty , such as refusing to back up claims with sources also come under the heading of trolling and trying to hijack the discussion.

      Sounds to me that Max Narr should be sent packing back to hasbara central.

  5. Mooser
    December 27, 2015, 2:10 pm

    “When the org is funded by hostile Europe states…”

    “MaxNarr”, are you are pretty much a bottomless cesspit of slanderous and unfounded accusations, or did I miss something in the story?

    • JWalters
      December 27, 2015, 7:17 pm

      My hunch is that Narr’s comments are not intended for rational, informed adults. They might be for 12 year old Zionists in-brainwashing who happen to stumble across Mondoweiss. His message is, “Don’t you believe what all these meanies are saying, they’re just making it all up. See? Here’s an adult standing up for your dream.” (i.e. It’s not really a nightmare.)

      Even if so, it remains important to have his empty comments thoroughly demolished.

      • Mooser
        December 28, 2015, 12:32 pm

        “Here’s an adult standing up for your dream.” (i.e. It’s not really a nightmare.)”

        I don’t know. Do you think those kids will be impressed by “MaxNarr” saying that all the Jews involved with BTS are liars?

        Why would these Jews lie, “MaxNarr”? And about their very own country!

      • JWalters
        December 28, 2015, 7:23 pm

        “Why would these Jews lie … about their very own country?”

        Excellent question!

      • Mooser
        December 28, 2015, 8:10 pm

        “Excellent question!”

        Easily answered, too. You may have noticed that Zionists seem convinced that Judaism, even in Israel, is shot through with disloyalty, with mosers, self-haters, kapos, weak sisters, admirers of Christmas lights, and the like. BTS is just another symptom of that awful tendency toward self-hatred which must always be carefully guarded against!

  6. Shmuel
    December 27, 2015, 2:33 pm

    “critics [of BTS] emphasize that the group is partly funded by donations from European governments, which they say amounts to meddling in Israel’s internal affairs;”

    That’s what all serial violators of human rights say: It’s an internal matter.

  7. Donald
    December 27, 2015, 3:48 pm

    I agree with the half full perspective. The NYT actually did a decent job a few days ago writing about the war crimes committed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen with US support. There was no hedging about it, no pretense that Saudi denials should be taken seriously. Though I don’t want to give the NYT too much credit–I suspect they were honest because Obama officials have expressed some discomfort over Saudi behavior. This didn’t happen with the bombing of Gaza, except for that moment when Kerry was sarcastic on Fox News, apparently not realizing he was still being recorded.

    My theory is that the NYT won’t be honest about Israeli crimes until they ar given political cover by some prominent American politicians willing to stick their own necks out.

    • JWalters
      December 27, 2015, 7:08 pm

      Interesting theory. I’m not sure that’s the way the lines of control flow though. It seems to me any such politician would first have to get that direction from their Israeli-first donor. The NYT would have to get that direction from their Israeli-first owner. The donor and owner are likely working in synch. A renegade politician could arise, but would probably be quickly money-bombed out of office.

      Regarding the report on the Saudis, the NYT has to do SOME factual reporting they can point to. And it’s better for Israel to focus America’s attention on the Saudis as bad guys.

      • Donald
        December 27, 2015, 10:32 pm

        My theory wasn’t meant to be complete. I’m only claiming that the NYT likes to have some cover before gingerly pointing out that theUS government has innocent blood on its hands. I’m not sure how much cover they would need before reporting forthrightly about Israeli crimes, but right now there is none to speak of.

        And yes, even that gives them too much credit, as I think they are actively trying to cover up Israeli wrongdoing.

    • Donald
      December 27, 2015, 10:27 pm

      Good grief– what I meant to say is that I agree with the half empty perspective. I accidentally said the opposite. The NYT has been really bad in its reporting lately and this article should be seen in that context. They are presenting “Breaking the Silence” to Times readers, but trying to undercut their claims. They didn’t do this with Yemen, though they did try to present the US in as sympathetic a light as possible while still reporting our support for war crimes there.

  8. Ossinev
    December 28, 2015, 10:02 am

    @MaxNarr
    “I’m Generally referring to their completely unsubstantiated hearsay claims that no one can prove and are easily debunked. Remember, the burden is on proving they are true. So go ahead, show me evidence for once claim ever made by BtS”

    Interesting approach and theory. So basically you would say then that the claims by individuals and groups such as the German “White Rose ” group about Nazi atrocities in World War II including the concentration camps were easily debunkable at the time as they were “unsubstantiated hearsay”.

    Would be really interested to hear your thoughts on this.Not sure whether or not to hold my breath.

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