Is the New York Times Complicit in a Plausible Genocide?

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Is The New York Times Complicit in a Plausible Genocide?

“Strikes Pound Rafah, Flatten Large Mosque,” The New York Times reported on Feb 22nd. Was anyone killed? Who dropped the bombs? And what is Rafah? The title conceals all the important information, namely, that Israel killed scores of Palestinian civilians.

As Dr. Assal Rad has documented, this is one of dozens of headlines deployed by The New York Times to conceal Israeli war crimes (e.g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16)

A Feb 29th headline reads: “As Hungry Gazans Crowd a Convoy, a Crush of Bodies, Israeli Gunshots, and a Deadly Toll.” Why are the Gazans Hungry? Did the Israeli gunshots kill the Palestinians? In the words of Rad, the Times wrote a “haiku to avoid saying Israel massacres Palestinians that they’re deliberately starving in Gaza.” 

In another piece on the flour massacre titled “Lack of Plan for Governing Gaza Formed Backdrop to Deadly Convoy Chaos,” the article seems to blame the victims of a genocide for having gotten themselves killed: “More than 100 were killed and 700 injured, Gazan health officials said, after thousands of hungry civilians rushed at a convoy of aid trucks, leading to a stampede and prompting Israeli soldiers to fire at the crowd.” 

Another headline reads, “Gazans who sought shelter in Rafah are fleeing again.” For Rad, this headline needed a complete rewrite. “No place is safe in Gaza as Israel bombs and attacks anywhere Palestinians go.”

The headline debacles are the tip of the iceberg. According to a recent Intercept study, The New York Times used the word “horrific” 11 times to describe Palestinian violence, but only once to describe Israeli violence from Oct. 7th through mid-late November. The Times also used the words “slaughter” and “massacre” 22 and 53 times more often to describe Palestinian violence than Israeli violence, respectively, even though Israel had killed 13 times more Palestinians during the period under investigation.

The headlines conceal Israel’s war crimes, the word choice whitewashes Israeli violence while the focus of attention centers Israeli victims. 

The Intercept study also found that for every two Palestinian deaths, Palestinians are mentioned once. For every Israeli death, Israelis are mentioned eight times.

Then there's the paper's peculiar commitment to documenting Hamas atrocities. What is worthy of 150 interviews? What story does the paper stand behind “200%”? What story does the paper provide as much time as needed for interviews and investigative research? 

Not Israel’s plausible genocide; not Israel’s systematic torturing of prisoners; not Israel’s targeting of apartment buildings and civilian infrastructure (e.g. +972 reporting); not Israel’s killing of its own civilians on Oct. 7th (Electronic Intifada reporting); not Israel’s starving Palestinians to death; not even Hamas’s killing of 764 Israeli civilians on Oct. 7th. Nope. Nothing having to do with anyone killing anyone at all.

Instead, the New York Times decided it wanted to published a Hamas rape story and poured limitless resources into it. Anat Schwartz, a co-author of the now infamous Times piece, “Screams Without Words,” said as much in an interview with Israeli Army Radio on December 31. According to Schwartz, “The New York Times said, ‘Let’s do an investigation into sexual violence’.” Remarkably, the Times had to convince Schwartz, a former Israeli soldier with no journalism experience, to do the story. Schwartz was asked, “it was a proposal of The New York Times, the entire thing?” She responded: “Unequivocally. Unequivocally. Obviously. Of course.”

No surprise the sponsor of the piece, Executive Editor Joe Kahn, has strong pro-Israel sympathies. Also no surprise that Schwartz told interviewees the point of the article was to present Israel in a positive light. This fact was revealed by the lead author of the story as well, Jeffrey Gettleman, who said the point of the investigation was not to assess the veracity of testimonies collected, but rather the point was to present a story to move people. 

And, indeed, the paper did not seem bothered by reporting fiction as fact. Raz Cohen, a key witness, had already changed his story at least 3 times before the Times cited it as fact. The family of the main character of the story, Gal Abdush, rejected the accusation that she was raped, claiming “the media invented” the entire thing. The spokesperson of Kibbutz Be’eri also rejected the claim in the article that the sisters, Yahel and Noiya Sharabi, were raped. The paper relied on Zaka testimonies, the organization responsible for intentionally spreading some of the most insidious lies that have circulated about Oct. 7th.

The pro-Israel bias at the Times has been more than a century in the making. From 1914 to 1930, the paper communicated the Zionist viewpoint giving almost no attention to the Palestinian Arabs. 

During the Nakba, or Israel’s ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948, the Times barely talked at all about Palestinians even though it had a correspondent on the ground at the time.

The pro-Israeli bias continued to shine throughout the 1960s and 1970s. During this period, Israel was depicted as a struggling nation trying to thrive in the face of hostile Arab neighbors. The narrative, in a nutshell, was that Jews survived the Holocaust and heroically built a state the evil Arabs are trying to destroy. “The bulk of the news about and from Israel,” writes Neil A. Lewis, was “distinctly favorable.”

Another study of the New York Times found that, of the 2,490 articles written about Palestinians from 1979-2019, less than 2% of them were written by Palestinians. 

Study after study has documented the bias. During the second intifada (2000-2005), the Times over-reported Israeli deaths and and under-reported Palestinian deaths; it often called the Palestinian Occupied Territories "disputed” and referred to illegal Israeli settlements as "neighborhoods” and, whenever Palestinian civilians were killed, they were "caught in the crossfire." Moreover, the paper often described Israelis as dovish or peaceniks, but never Palestinians.

Similarly, during Israel’s 2014 War on Gaza, another study found that the New York Times often justified Israeli violence while condemning and exaggerating Palestinian violence.

All of these findings are a direct consequence of the newspaper’s curious choices for Jerusalem Bureau chiefs. The paper has a knack for finding journalists deeply embedded in Jewish Israeli society: Ethan Bronner’s child served in the Israeli military; Isabel Kershner has family ties to an Israeli think tank that promotes a positive media image of Israel; Thomas Friedman has said on numerous occasions he is deeply committed to the idea of the Jewish State. 

How many more studies of the paper’s selection of editors and writers, headlines, word choice, focus of attention and carelessness with facts are necessary before its editors ask themselves, are we complicit in Israel’s genocidal war on the Palestinians?