What You Wouldn't Know About About Israel and Gaza If You Read the New York Times
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The New York Times’ reporting on Israel’s latest assault on Gaza has been a rollercoaster. Unfortunately the high points have been few, short and quickly followed by dizzying and prolonged plunges back into a morass of lazy, credulous recitations of Israeli government talking points, and efforts to portray balance and symmetry in a dramatically unbalanced situation, all permeated by an absence of skepticism and critical analysis, and a failure to explain context. Though Israel has slaughtered over 1000 Palestinian civilians in Gaza and only three civilians have been killed in Israel, in The Times’ upside down world, every Palestinian weapon is a major threat, while Israeli weapons are either defensive or non-existent.
As a result, a few days of strong, urgent reporting by Anne Barnard and Tyler Hickson the ground in Gaza have been overwhelmed by embarrassing headlines, false equivalencies, and a seemingly unembarrassed willingness to promote Israeli perspectives no matter how obviously outrageous they might be. Who can forget, just in the last days as the Palestinian death toll soared, “ Israel Shells Are Said to Hit UN School,” “ Israel Says Its Forces Did Not Kill Palestinians Sheltering at UN School,” “ Pause in the Fighting Gives Civilians on Both Sides a Moment to Take Stock,” and “ Neighborhood Ravaged on Deadliest Day So Far for Both Sides in Gaza;” or these oldies, “ Israel on Edge after Possible Revenge Killing of Arab Youth” and “ Missile at Beachside Gaza Cafe Finds Patrons Poised for World Cup”?
At it’s worst The Times’ reporting on this crisis has reminded some readers of Judy Miller’s and Michael Gordon’s enthusiastic shilling for the US attack on Iraq. There is so much that could be written about these failures, but I’ll focus on a few highlights – The Times’ failure to examine Hamas’ involvement in kidnappings or the manipulation of information about Israeli teens’ deaths, The Times’ failure to explain basic context about Gaza, Times’ explainers that grossly distort reality, and the papers’ hyping of Palestinian military capacity, in contrast to the invisibility of Israel’s massive arsenal.
Failure to Examine Hamas’ Involvement in Kidnappings or the Manipulation of Information about Israeli Teens’ Deaths
The stage was set early by The Times’ reporting on the development of the current crisis. When the Israeli government launched a crackdown on Hamas in the West Bank, blaming Hamas for the abduction of three Israeli teens in early June, The Times generally repeated Israeli government claims of Hamas responsibility for the kidnapping, while also occasionally introducing some uncertainty about Hamas involvement, and at least once quoting Hamas denials of those claims. But The Times never published a piece examining the suspicious lack of clear evidence that Hamas was responsible, unlike Shlomi Eldar on Al Monitor or Sheera Frenkel onBuzzfeed. And in the last weeks, as some Israeli authorities have been quoted saying that they had concluded that Hamas was not responsible for the abductions and killings, The Times has not looked back. The growing consensus that the Israeli government based the escalation against Hamas that led directly to the current fighting in Gaza on false claims seems not to interest The Times.
Even more damning, however, The Times’ Jerusalem-based reporters never examined the revelation that the Israeli government likely knew from day one that the three teens were killed by their kidnappers within hours, even as the Israeli government launched a massive manhunt and PR campaign for their freedom, and claimed they were operating on the presumption that the teens were alive. Gunshots could be heard followed by a groan in an audiotape of a call from one of the teens to the police that was circulating in Israel. Additionally, shell casings, blood and DNA found in an abandoned car suggested the teens were killed there. The Israeli government placed this information under a gag order, but the rumor of gunshots on the audiotape were reported on social media almost immediately, and later detailed by outlets like this site on June 23.