Three recent New York Times articles demonstrate yet again how one of the US’s most influential media outlet sometimes excludes or marginalizes Palestinian voices and perspectives in news stories touching on Israel’s discriminatory policies towards Palestinians. While in fairness many New York Times news articles do include Palestinian perspectives, the types of failures represented in these three articles are frequent enough to result in biased framing of news reporting about Palestine and Israel by The New York Times.
Michael Gordon’s April 28 article “Kerry Expresses Regret After Apartheid Remark” included no comments from Palestinians about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s withdrawal of his statement that Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state.” Gordon chose to quote four views – AIPAC and Senator Marco Rubio both rejecting the use of the word apartheid to describe Israel; Aaron David Miller saying Kerry’s use of the word apartheid was “unwise,” and JStreet suggesting the attacks on Kerry that followed were inappropriate. Thus two pro-Israel lobbying groups, a former US government negotiator and a Republican senator commented, but no Palestinians, the self-described victims of apartheid, was allowed to comment on whether they believe Israel is practicing apartheid now, or risks practicing apartheid in the future, or about their view on Kerry’s withdrawal of the use of the term.
Gordon, the long-time New York Times military correspondent, is probably best known for teaming up with Judy Miller to hype the threat of Iraqi WMDs in The New York Times. On May 1 he teamed up with Isabel Kershner to double down on reporting on discriminatory Israeli policies without Palestinian comment in the article “Netanyahu Plans to Promote Legislation on Jewish State Designation.” The article quotes Benjamin Netanyahu, John Kerry and cites an unnamed “official in Mr. Netanyahu’s office.” Netanyahu is quoted saying, “The State of Israel will always preserve the full equality, in personal and civil rights, of all its citizens, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, in a Jewish and democratic country.” Again, no Palestinians are allowed to comment on whether Palestinians citizens of Israel feel they have full equality in Israel or suffer from discrimination, or on how Palestinians might feel about Netanyahu’s proposed legislation. The issue of legislation of a Jewish state is framed primarily as an issue related to the “peace process,” and a discussion between Netanyahu and John Kerry.
Reporting in The Times on accusations of discrimination against any group of people, without any comment from the group who perceive themselves as victimized, is inappropriate.
While a review of Times’ reporting shows that New York Times reporters frequently do seek out Palestinian views on issues relating to their lives, at other times they give less space to Palestinian views as I noted recently, or they completely ignore Palestinian commentators, as in these Michael Gordon articles and in other news articles recently documented by Adam Horowitz, and Ali Abunimah.
New York Times reporters seem prefer to frame news stories about Palestine and Israel around the “peace process,” negotiations, armed conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, Palestinian “hardships” and discussions about creating a Palestinian state in the West Bank, and perhaps the Gaza Strip. Subjects that fall outside of that framework – human rights, accusations of Israeli racism and discrimination against non-Jews, related discussions of the applicability of the term apartheid, reports about the situation and rights of Palestinian refugees, and news reports on Israel’s discrimination against its Palestinian citizens, 20% of Israel’s population, or against African refugees – are rare in the paper. In the few cases whenThe New York Times does report on Palestinian citizens of Israel, it typically avoids using the word “Palestinian” to describe them, sidestepping a term that shows their ties to Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories and to refugees in the diaspora. Instead The Times uses the terms Arab-Israeli and Bedouin, and presents even those categories as unrelated, thus wittingly or unwittingly supporting Israel’s divide and rule policies towards Palestinians.
The Times belated April 17 coverage of the detention of journalist Majd Kayyal is fairly typical. On top of the The New York Times’ compliance with Israeli government censorship of Kayyal’s arrest, the article avoided identifying Kayyal as a Palestinian citizen of Israel, calling him in the headline and the lede an “Arab-Israeli” and an “Arab citizen of Israel” who is for some unexplained reason “a Palestinian rights advocate.” The Times described Kayyal as an “Arab” though Alex Kane and Allison Deger of Mondoweiss who recently interviewed Kayyal told me that Kayyal identified himself to them as Palestinian in their discussions. It was left to a statement by the Israeli human rights organization Adalah at the very end of The Timesarticle to finally raise his identity as a “Palestinian citizens of Israel,” an identity which connects his experience with those of Palestinians living in the Occupied Territories, and helps explain his advocacy for Palestinian rights. Still the article treats Kayyal’s experience as a singular phenomenon and studiously avoids any references to allegations of systematic Israeli discrimination against Palestinians.
These recent articles and others again show how The Times is an unreliable news source when it comes to allowing Palestinians to describe and frame the realities they experience, particularly when those experiences relate to Israeli racism, apartheid, and systematic Israeli discrimination against Palestinians, whether living in the Occupied Territories, in Israel or as refugees in the diaspora. Instead one of the US’s most important media outlets often tends to replicate Israeli approaches of denying Palestinians the right to define their reality.
(This article is a compilation of the comments that I emailed to New York Times reporters and editors following each of Michael Gordon’s articles).