Media Analysis

‘NY Times’ human interest articles from Israeli pandemic leave out certain humans

The New York Times forgets about Palestinians, again
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As the coronavirus pandemic continues on its grim march across the globe, news outlets everywhere are including inspiring human interest stories to partly compensate for the horror. Add to this the New York Times’s long tradition of doing positive articles about Israel, and you have today’s latest: “‘It’s Really a Gift’: Israeli Hospitals Let Relatives Say Goodbye Up Close.”

David Halbfinger reports that until April 2, Israeli hospitals followed standard practice elsewhere with highly contagious coronavirus patients — not allowing relatives at their bedsides even when they were dying. But Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center decided to change its policy, and provide family members with protective gear. Halbfinger describes at length the final visit that Elisheva Stern was able to have with her 75-year-old father before he passed. 

Halbfinger’s report is moving. But in a divided land like Israel/Palestine, one question jumps to mind: are Palestinians, either in Israeli hospitals or in Gaza and the West Bank, also now allowed to visit their dying relatives in hospitals?

And there are other human interest stories that the New York Times has yet to cover, even though they have been reported elsewhere. It turns out that a large number of health workers in Israel are actually Palestinians; this site cited Israeli reports nearly 4 weeks ago that “The Israeli health system would collapse without Palestinians.” Just today, the indispensable Israeli newspaper Haaretz has a feature on the Majadlas, a large Palestinian Israeli family with 5 doctors who are fighting the pandemic.

Here’s Dina Kraft’s opening paragraph:

Dr. Riad Majadla’s 20-hour days begin in darkness, before sunrise. He awakens at 5 A.M. at home in the Arab village of Baka al-Garbiyeh in central Israel, and is soon driving south to Sharon Hospital 50 kilometers (30 miles) away, where he is the director of the coronavirus department at the only hospital in the country that’s specifically designated for those who who have contracted the virus.

Who is going to stop reading after that introduction?

So far the New York Times has avoided this angle. The paper last week did include another human interest story, a biased article glorifying Mossad, the Israeli spy agency, for supposedly using guile to obtain medical equipment from outside Israel to fight the virus. But it turns out Mossad may have duped Times reporter Halbfinger. Yossi Merman, in Haaretz, pointed out days later that 

Contrary to the flattering reports, including in The New York Times, about the cloak-and-dagger operations during the coronavirus crisis, most of the equipment was purchased officially in Europe and China.

Mistakes happen. Fortunately for the Times, the Majadla family of doctors is outspoken and accessible, and would doubtless be happy to talk to Times reporters. Listen to Dr. Riad Majadla respond to Benjamin Netanyahu’s racist anti-Arab insinuations:

If I am seen as a second-class citizen, how is it that I am head of my hospital’s coronavirus department? It’s painful to see the slurs. We see ourselves as an integral part of this country and demand full equality.

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Why is called The New York Times? It should be The Times of Israel, New York edition.