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Once again, ‘NYT’ distorts the news, dishonestly making Palestinians the aggressor and Israel the victim

Media Analysis
on 22 Comments

Here’s today’s misleading headline in the Times; “Gaza Militants Fire 250 Rockets, and Israel Responds With Airstrikes.” This is a classic Times tactic to rig its Israel/Palestine coverage; distort the timeline to make it seem like the Palestinians started the violence, and that Israel is (reluctantly) “responding.”

Amos Harel, who covers the military for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, is hardly a supporter of Hamas. But he is an honest reporter, and you can turn to him (or one of his colleagues), rather than to the New York Times whenever there is a new outbreak of violence so you can try and figure out what is actually happening. 

Amos Harel tells a more complicated story. He reports that the day before the rocket barrage, during Friday protests along the Gaza border, an Israeli jeep came under fire; one Israeli officer received “moderate” wounds and a soldier was wounded lightly. Then, 

Israel responded with tanks and aerial strikes, killing two Hamas military wing members. Two more Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli fire in separate incidents along the border.

Four dead Palestinians. Only then did the Gaza militant groups “respond,” with the rocket attack.

Of course Israeli has placed Gaza under siege for years, an act of war, so that if anyone is “retaliating” here it is the Palestinians. The Times almost never makes this point. But the paper also distorts the immediate background to the latest outbreak of violence.

Times reporter Isabel Kershner writes that the militant armed groups in Gaza are increasingly frustrated “over what they consider the slow pace of Israeli concessions meant to ease an acute economic crisis in Gaza.” Notice her biased use of the term “Israeli concessions” when she should say something like “ease up slightly on strangling Gaza economically and militarily, which has created one of the worst humanitarian crises anywhere in the world.” But you have to turn to Amos Harel and his colleagues to learn that Israel was in fact dragging its feet in implementing the slight easing of the blockade, which had been negotiated by Egyptian officials.

(The Times report deploys another classic technique of bias. Kershner writes about “weekly protests [along the Gaza border], which have often turned violent. . .” Notice the “turned violent,” like a change in the weather for which no humans are responsible. In fact, human rights groups agree that Israel’s military is overwhelmingly responsible for the worst violence, reflected in the death toll; 183 Gazans since the Great March of Return protests started last year, vs. 0 [or 1] dead Israelis.)

The Haaretz reporters make clear that the Eurovision Song Contest, which Israel will host on May 14-18, is also motivating Gazans. Tens of millions of Europeans will be glued to their television sets during this extravaganza, and as one Hamas political source told Haaretz, “The Eurovision can’t happen in Tel Aviv when no relief is felt in Gaza. It can’t be that they will sing and enjoy while we suffer.” (The Times online version did mention the Eurovision contest, but only in passing.)

Haaretz’s thorough coverage went even further.  Reporters Yaniv Kubovitch and Jack Khoury cited contacts within the Israeli military who had cautioned before the latest wave of violence that Israel’s delay in easing the blockade as agreed upon risked weakening the ability of Hamas to restrain other armed groups in Gaza:

Israeli defense sources warned the political echelon in recent weeks that if significant steps are not taken to implement the undertakings with Hamas, the group controlling the Gaza Strip will struggle to prevent other organizations in the coastal enclave from acting against Israel.

None of this nuance appears in the New York Times report, which characteristically leaves the reader with the impression that Hamas is simply a bloodthirsty, terrorist movement that attacks at every opportunity without provocation.

Sadly, the Times is not alone in its bias. The headline in the Washington Post also read, “More then 200 rockets fired into  Israel from Gaza; Israel responds, killing 3.”

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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22 Responses

  1. Maximus Decimus Meridius on May 5, 2019, 12:17 pm

    Is this a spot of pre-Eurovision lawn mowing? Or the start of yet another full-scale Israeli massacre? I dout that the Israelies would want their cute little PR extravaganza to be sullied by all that unpleasantness down the road, but it does seem a lot more serious than previous ‘escalations’.

    As for the New York Times and Washington Post, is anyone really suprised? Same rubbish from the BBC and of course The Guardian. As George Galloway so rightly put it to that benighted Sky News idiot over a decade ago, the clock only starts ticking when it suits the Israeli PR plan.

    And no doubt like just about every single Israeli massacre to date, it will have sky high approval ratings among the Israeli people.

    • CigarGod on May 5, 2019, 10:45 pm

      David Green (and others) at NPR does the exact same thing.
      He always does a little editoralizing/setting the stage when he brings on a “guest” to bring us up to date on the war or conflict between Israel and the “terrorist regime.”
      They do the same with Venezuela, Syria, NK, etc.
      All the intro’s to their stories are designed to prepare us for how we are supposed to swallow.

  2. Kay24 on May 5, 2019, 1:08 pm

    Of course the NYT will give their own spin on the truth, to make it more favorable for the aggressor ,and justify what may turn out to be yet another killing spree by Israel.

    Brett Stephens of the NYT was on Real Time with Bill Maher (Bill’s favorite and frequent guest along with Bari Weiss), equating anti Zionism with Anti-Semitism, when they discussed the NYT’s cartoon of Trump and Bibi. It was that Star of David that seemingly made it “anti-semitic”. Cartoonists will have a hard time drawing political cartoons of Israel, as emblems like the Star of David, and the Israeli flag, which is usually a reference to describing, or implying it is, Israel, being met with howls of anti-semitism. Maybe the word “occupier” or “illegal settlements” might work, or will that be called “anti-semitic” too?

  3. brent on May 5, 2019, 4:04 pm

    It is obvious Israel’s policies toward Palestinians, especially in Gaza, are cruel and inhumane. It may even be those policies are specifically intended to encourage violence by Palestinians, who do not have the advantage of a one-gun policy. Violence by armed militias and lone wolves are seldom criticized or punished.

    It should come as no surprise firing across the fence intending to kill a soldier and officer would bring a strong response notwithstanding how many times the IDF has done exactly that. Perhaps that decision by a Palestinian to open fire will have some different effect now with Trump likely asking for restraint leading up to his diplomatic initiative. On the other hand, because it is unlikely to draw criticism within Palestine, it undermined the concept and political advantage of non-violent resistance so many Palestinians have aspired to achieve as the most effective way to get to peaceful coexistence. While violence can easily be justified, its unlikely to create political allies, in America or Europe and ends up doing more harm than good.

    • Truthbug on September 9, 2019, 4:51 pm

      I tend to agree that peaceful resistance could be more effective than hopeless battles against a far superior adversary. Still, it’s necessary to point out that, as far as I know, International law declares that it is entirely legal for Palestinians under the illegal occupation by Israel to kill Israeli soldiers, as in any other state of war.

      That’s one reason it’s very hard for the Palestinians to not use violence. Said another way, it’s very difficult not to bite the fat ass of the oppressor who is sitting on your face.

      But seriously, we need to come up with practical and effective measures of peaceful resistance that an organized Palestinian population can use to fight off the Israeli government, which is determined to annex all of remaining Palestine. The BDS movement is of course the best method in that regard. But maybe there are others?

      • mondonut on September 9, 2019, 6:14 pm

        @Truthbug , entirely legal for Palestinians under the illegal occupation by Israel to kill Israeli soldiers, as in any other state of war.

        See “lawful combatants”.

  4. Davnew on May 5, 2019, 4:37 pm

    This article gives context to the current nightmare unfolding in Gaza. However, in my view it misses the important point that no matter the context, and no matter Israeli’s disproportionate response, and no matter how frustrated or desperate the situation in Gaza is, the rockets fired at Israel are neither morally justifiable or tactically helpful. The rockets are fired at completely random targets. They are as likely to kill a Palestinian grandmother as an IDF general. They are meant to terrorize a complicit civilian population. They are also meant as a show of defiance towards a powerful and cruel enemy. These are not morally justifiable reasons for violence. Their indiscriminate nature also makes them a violation of international law governing rules of engagement. Despite Israel’s provocations they can not be considered self-defense. Furthermore, apart from the moral bankruptcy of random acts of violence the rockets are a tactical error. There is more to be gained by not giving in to Israel’s provocations and thereby seizing the moral high ground, than there is to a show of morally indefensible defiance and indomitability. The world is beginning to understand the scale of the injustice perpetrated against the Palestinian people by Israel. Firing rockets is counterproductive if your aim is to gain the sympathy of a largely disinterested world.

    • umm al-hamam on May 5, 2019, 8:58 pm

      This is one area where following Haaretz cannot be helpful because the Israeli military has enforced censorship of unwanted news in the Israeli media with increasing zealotry since the 2008-9 massacre, when TV stations and newspapers in Israel revealed and openly discussed many things the military would rather not have been made public (e.g. the use of white phosphorus and depleted uranium).

      Sources within Hamas and Islamic Jihad that I’ve come across, as well as journalists on the ground in Gaza, claim—and have video evidence—that far from being random and purposeless, they have focused on striking IDF vehicles and military emplacements with anti-tank missiles & believe they have killed or wounded a number of IDF personnel. The Israeli press has reported on the targeting of a factory near Ashkelon, resulting in two casualties (only one of which the Israeli press has been permitted to name), but Palestinian press reported that the factory was occupied by an IDF combat engineer unit.

      Obviously it’s best to wait for confirmation from outside sources, which given the degree of media censorship will take some time, but Izz ad-Din al-Qassam and the Al-Quds Martyrs’ Brigade have essentially developed into competent and professional military units that the IDF has no desire to engage with, and I suspect their strategy has paid off—Israel seems to be back at the negotiating table now and IDF attacks on Gaza have ceased, at least for the moment (writing this at 4 AM Monday local time).

      • jon s on May 6, 2019, 5:07 pm

        The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists launched nearly 700 rockets at our civilian population, each and every rocket being a criminal act. Here in Beer Sheva there were several salvos , my wife and I slept in our “security room” and school was cancelled . The kids were delighted at the cancellation of an important math test…
        The casualties:
        Moshe Agadi, 58, a green grocer from Ashkelon
        Ziad Alhamada, 49, a Bedouin from an “unrecognized village” , killed in the factory where he worked in Ashkelon
        Moshe Feder, 67, from Kfar Saba, an agronomist.
        Pinchas Menachem Pshuzman, 21, a Gur Hassid, killed by a rocket in Ashdod.
        All innocent civilians, murdered by terrorists.

      • eljay on May 6, 2019, 7:20 pm

        || jon s: The Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists launched nearly 700 rockets at our civilian population, each and every rocket being a criminal act. … ||

        What, no soccer score?

        You and/or your Jewish supremacist (Zionist) co-collectivists were doing evil to the non-Jews of geographic Palestine before this attack and you and/or your Zionist co-collectivists will continue to do evil to them after it.

        But I agree with you: Let’s end all colonialist and (war) criminal activity in geographic Palestine, hold all colonialists and (war) criminals accountable for their actions and insist that international laws, human rights and equality be respected and upheld.

      • echinococcus on May 7, 2019, 12:30 am

        Johnny S complaining that the war of aggression he went to join is a war…

      • umm al-hamam on May 7, 2019, 2:00 am

        || jon s: All innocent civilians, murdered by terrorists. ||

        Yes, collateral damage does happen sometimes in war, especially when fighting an enemy (Israel) that places its military units and sites within civilian areas. In their airstrikes in response, Israeli terrorists killed 15-16 innocent civilians alongside at least 9 Hamas and Islamic Jihad soldiers. It seems that Hamas & Islamic Jihad did a better job at respecting the principle of distinction than the IDF.

      • umm al-hamam on May 7, 2019, 2:10 am

        In any case, because Israel is the occupying power, the responsibility for all civilian deaths within Israel as a result of self-defense by the occupied people falls entirely within the Israeli government. Israel’s government’s failure to end the blockade of Gaza and the occupation of the West Bank and to come into compliance with international law is what kills Israeli civilians, not “terrorism”—if Israelis are upset they should take it up with Mr. Netanyahu et al. and demand that they lift the blockade and enter peace negotiations with Hamas & Islamic Jihad.

      • jon s on May 7, 2019, 10:32 am

        Nobody expects Hamas and the other terrorists to refrain from targetting innocent civilians. That’s what terrorists do . It would be like expecting a hyena to become a vegetarian.
        As usual , Hamas cynically uses their own civilians as human shields.

        I note that in this latest round there was virtually no support for Hamas , not in the Arab world , not even among the Palestinians. It’s possible that people have figured out what Hamas is up to. And I’m pretty sure that many Gazans looked up at all those rockets fired towards Israel and wondered how many schools and hospitals and economic enterprises could have been built with all the money squandered on rockets, tunnels and such. Someday, when Hamas rule ends, we’ll hear what the people of Gaza went through under Hamas, what they really felt towards the disastrous path Hamas led them down.

      • eljay on May 7, 2019, 10:54 am

        || jon s: Nobody expects Hamas and the other terrorists to refrain from targetting innocent civilians. That’s what terrorists do . … ||

        And, sadly, no-one expects Israel and Zionists to refrain from continuing with their decades-long and on-going campaign of aggression, oppression, theft, military occupation, colonialism, religion-based supremacism and sundry (war) crimes. That’s what colonialist, (war) criminal and supremacist states do.

      • oldgeezer on May 7, 2019, 1:39 pm

        @jon s

        Ya gotta love the Israeli left. A years worth of murder by Israel of innocent women, children and babies and here you are whining away as usual.

        Blame your own government jon. Blame yourself and your fellow citizens. Blame the violent and immoral zionists that support your country whether citizens or not.

        You expect them to go to the slaughter without fighting back. It’s impossible to blame people who are fighting for their lives even if I don’t approve.

        Israel is not fighting for it’s life. It is fighting to steal more territory and to deprive millions of people of their basic human rights.

        I have little doubt that at some point in the future we may well hear all of the problems people have with Hamas. I sure wouldn’t live under them or the Government of Israel. Two sides of the same coin. But that’s another issue and not related.

        Where’s your proof of human shields in this latest mass murder perpetrated by Israel?
        Do you have any or is it just another baseless slur and smear by you?

        You’re a work of art. A land thief. A racial supremacist. You represent a lot of what is wrong with this world.

      • eljay on May 7, 2019, 2:28 pm

        || oldgeezer: @jon s … ||

        …is a typical Jewish supremacist (Zionist) hypocrite who wouldn’t for a moment accept a self-proclaimed “right” of others to do unto Jews the acts of injustice and immorality he, his fellow supremacists and his “Jewish State” construct have been doing to the non-Jews in and of geographic Palestine.

        Moreover, those non-Jews must be peaceable victims who do not pursue justice, accountability or equality.

        What does he expect of Zionists? “Kinder, gentler” Jewish / “Jewish State” supremacism.

    • CigarGod on May 5, 2019, 11:07 pm

      1. What?
      “…rockets are fired at completely random targets.”
      You can fire randomly, but you cannot target randomly.
      A target is a target.
      2. What?
      “Their indiscriminate nature also makes them a violation of international law.”
      Just because their guidance systems are not as advanced as IDF systems, doesn’t mean the are not aimed at a target. You and I can square off with bottle rockets fired from hand held coke bottles and we would not be in violation of international law.
      3. What?
      “There is more to be gained by not giving in to Israel’s provocations and thereby seizing the moral high ground…”
      Palestine has owned the moral high ground for over 100 years. They have never let go of it. Israel has never even tried to seize the moral high ground.

  5. wondering jew on May 6, 2019, 12:53 am

    Although one can take many positions regarding how the Gaza conflict should be dealt with at this moment, I think it pays to listen to someone who knows. This is from Gershon Baskin’s facebook page:
    “Hamas must understand that Israel will not implement all of the agreements to loosen the siege on Gaza while the bodies of 2 Israeli soldiers and 2 living Israeli civilians remain in Gaza. Israel must understand that Hamas will not release the bodies of the soldiers and the 2 living civilians while the 40+ Shalit deal prisoners remain in Israeli prisons plus an additional number of prisoners to be agreed to in a new deal. This is what both sides need to understand.”

    • oldgeezer on May 7, 2019, 1:42 pm


      “Hamas must understand that Israel will not implement all of the agreements to loosen the siege on Gaza while the bodies of 2 Israeli soldiers and 2 living Israeli civilians remain in Gaza. ”

      Shorter wj: Agreements with Israel aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

  6. Citizen on May 6, 2019, 6:57 am

    Fox News just spent about 25 minutes telling us How Israel is defending itself against yet another deluge of Palestinian rockets & Trump tweeted his 100% support of Israel. Other topics included: US sending aircraft carrier to defend US interests against Iranian terrorism, including by its proxies Hezbollah & Hamas. US also doubling down on its economic sanctions against Iran. US has been collecting information from its informants in the region showing Iran getting more dangerous warlike by the minute.

  7. Ossinev on May 7, 2019, 12:49 pm

    @Jon s
    “Nobody expects Hamas and the other terrorists to refrain from targetting innocent civilians. That’s what terrorists do”

    As did then the Haganah,Stern Gang etc ? With their psychopathic terrorist leaders Begin and Shamir going on to become Prime Ministers of the S..te unto the Nations.

    Never too late then following your logic for the International Community to condemn this bunch of scum for what they were (and what their successors continue to be)?

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