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The ‘New York Times’ stops being a stenographer for the Israeli army (today anyway)

Media Analysis
on 11 Comments

Maybe all the criticism of the New York Times’s coverage of Israel’s massacres in Gaza is having an impact. Today’s news analysis, by David Halbfinger, is strikingly more balanced than the paper’s previous reports. The article gives four paragraphs to Yousef Munayyer, who directs the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, who points out, accurately, that:

This is not a battle that protesters are coming to with guns. They’re coming to it with their bodies and they’re confronting very real policies of violent repression. The protesters paid with their lives to get people to question whether these policies are justifiable.

In this article, the Times also stopped being the stenographer for the Israeli army. It notes that of the 20 Gazans killed by Israeli soldiers on March 30, the first day of the protests, “Videos showed that some were shot as they had their backs turned to the fence.”

Halbfinger also counters the Israeli contention that the Gazan demonstrators plan to invade en masse. He noted that this past Friday, April 6, although “. . . many protesters threw stones or rolled burning tires toward the fence, far more could be seen doing little more than standing around — chanting, singing and shouting.”

The analysis does quote a retired Israeli general warning darkly that the barrier fence is “not as strong and robust as people might think.” But then Halbfinger immediately adds his own rejoinder: Israel’s soldiers are still “aiming rifles at unarmed people.”

The article also adds credibility by quoting a genuine expert: Nathan Thrall of the International Crisis Group. It is an open secret in mainstream journalism that you can slant an article by picking whom to quote, and the Times has a proven record of digging up pro-Israel ideologues and stooges. Not Thrall.

Today’s news analysis is far from perfect. Here are a couple of suggestions for further improvement:

* The article does mention that Israel shot 7 journalists. The Times could follow the lead of the Washington Post and profile at least one of them: the 30-year-old who was killed, Yaser Murtaja, a remarkable young man whose courage and kindness touched both Gazans and outsiders who visited the occupied territory to report.

* The Times describes Hamas as “the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza and seeks Israel’s destruction.” Halbfinger is surely aware that Hamas has issued many statements strongly suggesting it is willing to compromise, including establishing “a truce.” Professor Jerome Slater is just one of the genuine scholars who have analyzed Hamas’s increasing flexibility. Halbfinger does not have to believe Hamas; he just has to report this side of the story alongside the bone-chilling warnings about Israel’s “destruction.”

Finally, regular readers of the Times’s coverage will gasp in astonishment at this long quote from the excellent Yousef Munayyer:

Frankly, I think [the protest inside the Gaza border] is Israel’s Achilles’ heel. And it’s very important in this moment for the international community to be supportive of the protesters. They’ve always said, ‘Abandon militancy, abandon violence.’ If the international community allows the violent repression of these protests without any real condemnation or intervention to stop the killing, it’s going to send a message that the world doesn’t want any Palestinian resistance — not violent, not nonviolent, not anything in between.

Hasbara Central is certainly in shock over the Times’s change in tone today. We will be watching the newspaper’s letters to the editor and elsewhere to see how Israel tries to counteract these signs of glasnost.

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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11 Responses

  1. Ira Glunts on April 8, 2018, 12:40 pm

    Good post, James. I had just read this pleasantly surprising piece before seeing your review. As others have written on social media, the picture editor got to do some pushback it would seem.

    • JosephA on April 8, 2018, 7:38 pm

      I found the Washington Post article (and headline) to be far closer to actual journalism. This is certainly a baby step in the right direction.

  2. RoHa on April 9, 2018, 1:37 am

    I note that the NYT doesn’t know the difference between a sling and a slingshot.

  3. genesto on April 9, 2018, 12:12 pm

    I think it’s important to continue to clarify that this whole idea of the destruction of the Jewish state is really about the end of Zionism and the establishment of a truly democratic state in Israel. No one is seriously talking about ‘throwing all the Jews into the sea!’

    • amigo on April 9, 2018, 1:42 pm

      ” No one is seriously talking about ‘throwing all the Jews into the sea!’”.genesto

      The Zionists are.

    • wondering jew on April 9, 2018, 1:48 pm

      With 5 million Syrians taking flight, how seriously should I take this denial that a mass movement of zionist Jews is a primary thought of those envisioning a post zionist Palestine.

      • Emory Riddle on April 10, 2018, 5:32 pm

        Millions of Syrian refugees as a result of the Greater Israel Project is used to fortify the Jews as victims narrative? Simply mind boggling.

    • echinococcus on April 9, 2018, 5:16 pm

      No one is seriously talking about ‘throwing all the Jews into the sea!

      It will be the exact opposite, in fact. The Zionist invaders will be trampling each other to jump into it asap. I remember the last days of French Algeria, when the colonist riffraff got offered Algerian citizenship. It was like devils getting offered Holy Water.

  4. Helena Cobban on April 9, 2018, 4:22 pm

    Please also, absolutely do note that back on April 3, the online version of the NYT published this great little op-ed by the great Palestinian writer Rawan Yaghi, who wrote it from inside Gaza. Things are moving, slowly. (And talented women like Rawan are helping that happen.)

    By the way, she is also a contributor to the short-story collection “Gaza Writes Back”.

  5. Cazador on April 9, 2018, 8:13 pm

    The NYT must be much too busy repeating the West global fake news of Bashar al-Assad using chemicals against children and civilians, again, in Syria, while the White Helmets are being filmed doing their best to save children by having them drink water, while no «Helmet» is protected from the deadly chemicals with masks, suits, gloves, etc.

    That’s some lack of imagination, repeated often enough to make anyone wonder how come the US and its very concerrned president, their UK partner in crime president, and the Rothschild-selected French presidend Macron have not bombed the whole Syria to total destruction. Oh! I forgot the oil, the Syrian oil, the one zionist Israel and friends would love to control and sell to Europe, replacing Russia in the process.

    Of course the NYT is also busy repeating the Pentagone’s and White House’s plan to stop Iran from backing Syria, while Israel is rubbing its hands in the hope that it will get all that it wants, including total silence about the very bad Good Friday that unarmed Gazans lived, and died, while marching in protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, the Israeli’s biggest most inhumane open-air prison in human history, named Gaza.

    The Israeli apartheid, fascist, genocidal plans have the whole West keeping them secret by protecting them from access to independent media as much as possible…

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