As I’ve written, in a story about a viral video of an Israeli soldier in Hebron who threatened Palestinian youths, The New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren chose to initially report, unchallenged and with no attribution, a claim that a Palestinian youth in the video “had brass knuckles.” After a video emerged showing convincingly that the youth was holding prayer beads and not brass knuckles, The New York Times issued a correction with no mention of the video and that I believe serves to cast further suspicions on the youths and seems to confer The New York Times’ legitimacy to an Israeli military investigation of “whether any of the youths had weapons.”
Added information raised more questions about the original, uncontested reporting of the claim. Issa Amro, a Palestinian activist from Youth Against Settlements in Hebron who published the initial videotape and then the second one, responded to me by email that he had told Ms. Rudoren that the youth did not have brass knuckles in an interview conducted before her original article was published, but this denial did not appear in her original article.
The discussion of this single New York Times story, however, is only significant when seen as part of a larger pattern by the newspaper of sometimes marginalizing and silencing Palestinian views, while privileging Israeli perspectives, a pattern that is common in US mainstream media in general.
I sent a link of my Mondoweiss post to a number of New York Times Editors and Jerusalem Bureau Chief Jodi Rudoren and received a response from Senior Editor for Standards Greg Brock, who wrote among other things:
“We erred in one key way: we should have attributed our statement about the brass knuckles — a point you made in your original complaint. So that was the ultimate goal of the correction. And we used the language we have used many times: we overstated what was definitively known about the situation. — at the time we published the article.”
“Were we able to go back and start over, we would add attribution. But we would not have deleted the information because reports of brass knuckles were in fact part of the news story.” …
“I am sorry that you do not agree with the way we handled this, or with our decision. But for correction purposes, we are not going to revisit it further. I consider this issue closed and plan no further responses.”
With no expectation of any further response or of any changes, I’ve written back to those other New York Times editors asking why, if the goal of the correction was to add attribution, did they not satisfy themselves with just the first two sentences of the correction, saying: “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.” I questioned why they then felt compelled to add this closing sentence, which both revives and broadens accusations against the youths involved and seems to defer to and put The New York Times’ weight behind an Israeli military investigation: “The Israeli military is still investigating the episode, including whether any of the youths had weapons.” As a side note, that sentence has since been put in parenthesis by The New York Times.
I’ve also sent The New York Times staff the excerpt below from Israeli journalist Amira Hass’s article today about that Israeli military investigation that The New York Times felt it so important to note was not yet completed in their correction:
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit also chose not to respond to questions concerning the arrest of Saddam Abu Sneinah, the youth from the video who was holding prayer beads, and who Adamov said was holding brass knuckles and supposedly threatening him, the poor guy. Threatened? In a settler area, in front of a checkpoint manned by armed soldiers? Next to a military camp? Chief of Staff Benny Gantz – With soldiers who are so weak, insecure and delusional, you should be very worried.
Soldiers beat Abu Sneinah when they arrested him. The IDF Spokesperson did not deny or respond to this assertion. Because it’s the norm. Soldiers beat handcuffed Palestinian detainees. It’s part of the dehumanization, of the routine violence. It’s gone on for 47 years (the occupation), for 66 years (the State of Israel), and we’re not done yet. Nor did the IDF Spokesperson issue a response when asked whether the fact that such beatings are the norm meant the commanders support the beating of detainees. The soldiers kept Abu Sneinah handcuffed and blindfolded for an entire night, on a concrete floor with no mattress. The IDF Spokesperson did not deny or respond when asked if this was torture. The IDF Spokesperson did not identify either the commander who ordered Abu Sneinah’s arrest or the commander who was responsible for the atrocious conditions in which he was kept. The IDF Spokesperson also did not respond when asked why, when Abu Sneinah was released, after 24 hours, he was rearrested by different soldiers at the checkpoint near Shuhada Street. He was held for another hour, and the heroic soldiers beat him some more.
I wonder if the Israeli military has now completed its investigation of whether any of the youths had weapons, following their two beatings, and handcuffing and blindfolding of Saddam Abu Sneinah overnight on a concrete floor, or if that investigation is still on-going?