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Palestinians remain marginalized at the New York Times

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Qalandiya Checkpoint, the Occupied Territories, Feb. 19, 2010. (Photo by Anees of Jerusalem)

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).

Patrick Connors
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. James Canning
    James Canning on May 5, 2014, 2:18 pm

    Clearly it would be a good thing for theNYT to have comments from Palestinians and supporters of Palestine, in articles pertaining to Israel/Palestine. There are a few members of the US Congress prepared to make such comments.

  2. ritzl
    ritzl on May 5, 2014, 2:21 pm

    Unreliable on Palestine, unreliable on everything — i.e. editorially incapable of accuracy or fact.

    Hell of a way to run a “news” org.

    • Krauss
      Krauss on May 5, 2014, 3:05 pm

      The NYT is still the greatest newspaper in the world, or at least the best Western newspaper. The coverage that it has on news in general is unmatched, but I/P is notoriously biased.

      And as bad as it gets, it is still better than outright shrill newspapers like WaPo or WSJ.

      The NYT merely reflects the Zionist concensus among the older, established classes in America. It is still a very Jewish paper, in no small part because it is based in New York. So of course all these things color the coverage deeply.

      We care much more about the NYT because most of us left/liberal types read it and have it as our primary news source for much of the world. And also because we recognize that the NYT sets the liberal agenda, and thus the agenda of large parts of the cultural classes, to a much greater extent than any other paper. It is also the newspaper with a huge elite readership outside the States. It has 20+ million unique visitors each month and those numbers are already several years old.

      So it isn’t just important for setting the daily conversation in America, but also across much of the Western world. If the NYT turns, the entire conversation turns. And while I don’t think any of us harbors any delusions that it will come on the side of human rights and democracy any time soon in Palestine, at least it should become less stridently biased towards Israel and become more neutral.

      But that process will take years and years. We may need an entire new generation of journalists, shaped in the new American liberal understanding of Israel, and what it has become(and in some ways what it always was).

      • just
        just on May 5, 2014, 3:29 pm

        “The NYT is still the greatest newspaper in the world, or at least the best Western newspaper.”

        Krauss– I agree with you wrt NYT when it comes to arts, food, leisure, and reportage of the obscure events that others don’t have the $$$ to cover. Other than that, not so much at all. I get my information from the worldwide net, not the current tp that the formerly respectable, must-read NYT was.

      • seanmcbride
        seanmcbride on May 5, 2014, 3:52 pm


        The NYT is still the greatest newspaper in the world, or at least the best Western newspaper.

        This was true until the Internet and the World Wide Web came along. Now the New York Times is just one of a zillion websites — and it hasn’t been particularly interesting for at least a decade. Thought leaders don’t hang out there. The general tone is one of mumbling mediocrity. Some of the science and tech articles are ok but one can find much better coverage of these topics on dedicated science and tech sites.

        As for the Washington Post: it is difficult to believe that this was once an influential publication and not a joke. Jennifer Rubin? Charles Krauthammer? Jackson Diehl? Fred Hiatt? When is the last time it broke an important story?

        Both newspapers are neocon propaganda outlets, with all that implies — and they are still living with the damaging repercussions of having backed the Iraq War with all their might.

        A single individual (and a blogger, essentially) — Glenn Greenwald — has recently had more impact on the public conversation where it counts than these two declining corporate behemoths.

      • Citizen
        Citizen on May 5, 2014, 7:37 pm

        @ seanmcbride

        Yes. Greenwald all by himself is more important than the NYT when it comes to US foreign policy, and objective news on it.

      • Abierno
        Abierno on May 5, 2014, 4:17 pm

        Not so. The NYT, the Wall Street Journal under Rupert Murdoch and the Washington Post under Lally Weymouth have been thoroughly discredited as a result of consistently biased reporting on both domestic and foreign policy issues. Internationally, the Financial Times is rated highly and domestically favorable ratings are assigned to the Los Angeles Times and the Atlanta Constitution. Even in these papers Palestinian politics are sparsely represented. Be that as it may most of those under forty (or is it fifty?) get their news from a pastiche of Internet websites like this one if they are looking for information on Israeli/ Palestine issues.

      • RoHa
        RoHa on May 5, 2014, 9:50 pm

        My goodness, what a lot of research into the world’s newspapers you must have done to be able to come to so confident a judgment.

        Some years ago I would have unhesitatingly given that accolade to The Times, but now, since it became a Murdoch rag, my footman refuses to iron the pages and my butler holds it between finger and thumb.

        I have no doubt you can tell us why the NYT is superior to 毎日新聞, 人民日报, or The Straits Times.

        And in the narrower field of merely Western newspapers, I would think the NYT is. no better than Die Zeit, Le Monde, or (two of my favourites) Neue Zürcher Zeitung and Dagens Nyheter.

        Many of us think of the NYT as just another major American newspaper, on a par with The Christian Science Monitor and The Los Angeles Times; important, but not a world-shaker in the way the The Times used to be.

        But I’m sure you are right.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on May 6, 2014, 1:42 pm

        Those wishing to know what is actually going on in the world need to read the Financial Times, in my judgment.

      • Boomer
        Boomer on May 6, 2014, 8:53 am

        RE: “The NYT merely reflects the Zionist concensus among the older, established classes in America. It is still a very Jewish paper, in no small part because it is based in New York. So of course all these things color the coverage deeply.”

        True. Perhaps it is not inconceivable that the views of the owners play a role too.

      • James Canning
        James Canning on May 6, 2014, 2:08 pm

        Most of the Americans I know are among the “established classes”, and most of them despise Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.

        Organised pressure on the NYT by rich and powerful Jews, to “protect” Israel, has been with us for many decades.

  3. LanceThruster
    LanceThruster on May 5, 2014, 2:25 pm

    Well put.

    But as a disseminator of propaganda?…pretty much par for the course.

  4. Citizen
    Citizen on May 5, 2014, 2:27 pm

    Hey, if you want to know which way the money goes, look at Rand Paul’s recent bill in congress to cut off aid to Palestine.

    He thinks this will get big Zionist campaign dollars, but it’s not ZOA who has tons of cash for him, but AIPAC, and they know US aid to Palestine is 1/3rd devoted to the kapo Palestinian security sector. As you may realize, the Palestinian security sector (40% of total Palestinian public servants) is devoted to Israel’s security.

  5. Kay24
    Kay24 on May 5, 2014, 4:12 pm

    NYT is typical of the zionist media in the US. I still wait to hear some credible news source discuss the failed talks in depth. They talk about Bengazhi, Ukraine, even the Pistorius case, but the refusal of Israel to give up announcing more and more illegal settlements in exchange for peace, not a peep. No criticism, no reference, not one courageous journalists asking the American people if our effort to help our dear friend and ally in the ME, was worth it.

  6. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned on May 5, 2014, 4:31 pm

    The New York Times is a stickler for factual accuracy. NYT employs fact-checkers to go over articles, verifying the facts in the articles. Lots of other newspapers don’t employ fact checkers.

    There are, of course, limitations on accuracy.
    First, opinion pieces are NOT fact-checked. Tom Friedman can blather all he wants about how the globalizing market place is good for everybody. He won’t be fact-checked.

    Second, the truth is sometimes deemed “unfit to print” in the NYT because of an ideological position. Certainly, the Palestinian cause is underreported, and Palestinians are marginalized in the NYT. There are other cases, too.

    For example, right now, the US media is reporting that “Ukraine” is doing this or that against Russia. The media does not report that the current Ukrainian “government” is far-right group that seized power in a coup, backed by the US.
    See the excellent coverage on CounterPunch recently by retired Princeton history professor Arno J. Mayer and by the excellent journalist Diana Johnstone, author of Fools Crusade, an important book about Bill Clinton’s war against Yugoslavia.

  7. mjordan
    mjordan on May 5, 2014, 10:15 pm

    NY Times coverage also completely ignored the recent Human Rights Watch Report on the targeting of Palestinian civilians on the Gaza border (4/24).

    “Month after month, Israeli forces have wounded and killed unarmed Palestinians who did nothing but cross an invisible, shifting line that Israel has drawn inside Gaza’s perimeter,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s appalling that soldiers have shot men, women, and children apparently for simply crossing a line.”

    B’Tselem basically said the same thing 2 months before.

    Imagine if Israeli citizens (farmers, children, gravel collectors, peace activists, women, mentally ill) were randomly being picked off on an imaginary line enforced by Palestinian militants – do you think there is any chance in hell that the NY Times would ignore this story (if even 1 civilian were hit)? Two reports by two prominent human rights orgs – on the same topic – and nothing by the NYT? It’s appalling – they need to retool their entire team. There’s no reason Rudoren should still be the editor in chief – beneath even my lowest expectation for the job.

    • James Canning
      James Canning on May 6, 2014, 1:43 pm

      And most American adults have “not even a clue” as to what transpires in Israel/Palestine in this regard.

  8. Citizen
    Citizen on May 6, 2014, 8:44 am

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