FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest

Photo by Matthew Hutchinson | Public Domain

The New York Times is justly renowned for its news reporting.  Its articles and headlines are generally accurate and insightful.   Yet its recent coverage of the Gaza March to Return protests appears deeply flawed.

In the past I would have voiced my complaints to the Times’ Public Editor. Unfortunately, however,  the newspaper eliminated that watchdog position last year.  So I turned by default to the person with overall responsibility for news reporting: Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Because the Times’s articles referenced in my letters below contain some misstatements, inaccuracies and serious omissions, I felt it important to raise questions about journalism quality with Mr. Baquet, the person with overall quality control.  The relevant parts of my letters are reproduced below.

Re: “Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem,” May 14, 2018, and “After Deadly Protests, Gazans ask: What Was Accomplished,” May 18, 2018.

+ Why the several references to a “border fence”?   The fence is not a border between countries, but rather an enclosure of two million people in an open-air prison (along with air and sea blockade).

+ Why the insistence that Hamas “organized the protests”?  Several on-the-ground observers called the protests mostly unorganized and the huge turnout largely spontaneous– with Hamas merely adding its encouragement and support. The “March” revealed a blockaded people expressing extreme desperation.  Is that the impression a reader would take away from the two Times’ articles?

+ Why did reports of the May 14 violence fail to mention the targeting of journalists and medics.  A wounded Canadian doctor reported on Democracy Nowthat one of his colleagues was shot dead while aiding an injured protester and that another 18 (including himself) suffered bullet wounds.

+ Why no specific reference to IDF use of exploding bullets?  The Times’ account says only that “some of the exit wounds from Israeli ammunition were ‘fist-size.’”

+ Why no mention of international law limits when your reporter quotes the hasbaraline that Israel has the “right to defend itself?”  Under international law, Israel had no legal right to use any lethal force against unarmed protestors.

+ Regarding the U.S.’s illegal move of its embassy to Jerusalem, why no reference to UN Security Council Resolution 478 (which reiterated the international status of Jerusalem and declared it off-limits to foreign diplomatic missions)?

+ In quoting an Israeli spokesperson that “Palestinian fighters were carrying firearms,” why did your reporters fail to ask why were there no Israeli casualties in the six weeks of protest?  If violence had been the object of the Hamas, why were there no rockets to accompany the demonstrations?

+ What evidence was offered to support your quoting of Israeli security forces that “some of the Palestinians who were killed had been armed with semiautomatic rifles?”

+ What basis did your reporters have for saying “Israel said the protesters were being use as cover by militants who intended to attack its soldiers and nearby communities”? The fact that some of the protesters killed may have been members of Hamas is irrelevant.

+ Why does the Times often refer to Hamas as a “terrorist organization?” If an organization that encourages its followers to lob stones and fire balloons is “terrorist,” what should  the IDF be called when it’s snipers fire exploding bullets on a peaceful crowd?

Re:  “Israel Calls Medic’s Killing Unintentional, ” June 6, 2018

The subject article is another example of bias toward Israel in your news coverage of the Gaza March to return protests.  The article:

+ Quotes Israeli official accounts of the killing three times, without citing any Palestinian accounts.

+ Fails to mention evidence from the chief medical officer of the as-Shifa Hospital in Gaza that Razam’s wounds were caused by exploding bullets.

+ Quotes the Israeli military as saying only “a small number of bullets were fired” by its soldiers. If so, how do Palestinian casualties in Gaza number (through yesterday) 123 killed and approximately 13,000 wounded?

+ States as fact that “Most of those killed on the Gaza side were shot by Israeli forces.”  If that were so, how did the others get killed.

Why does the Times regularly rely on the Israeli military and other official spokespersons for facts?  Don’t you have your own correspondents on the scene who can report on what they observe?  If not, why not?

Why do your reporters not reference the applicable international law for using lethal force?  Americans need to know the legal responsibilities of the parties.

Re: Israel Portrays Medic As an Agent of Hamas” June 6, 2018

The main problem with the journalism of this article is not so much its content but rather the headline.  Readers who get their news from headlines (as I often do) may conclude that Rouzam al-Najjar was a militant.  Shouldn’t the headline have highlighted conflicting stories about the shooting, in line with the article’s content– rather than once again repeating the official Israeli line?

A nagging question I forgot to ask in my earlier messages:  Ms. al-Najjar was killed on Friday, June 1.  Why did the Times delaying reporting her death until Wednesday, June 6?

Re: “At Gaza Protests: Kites, Drones, Gas, Guns and the Occasional Bomb,  June 8, 2018

+ Why did you feel it necessary to assign your reporter to a day with the Israeli military given the voice your reporters have already given to Israeli military spokespersons?

+ Why did Mr. Halbfinger pay so much attention to “smoldering fields” and “scorched earth” as if to say such “damage and destruction” fully justified the killing of 120 plus Palestinians and wounding 13,000 more?

+ Was your reporter certain that the “plumes of smoke” close to Israel’s fence was from farmland rather than from burning tires on the Gaza side?  The photos with the article are unclear where the smoke came from.

+ Did Mr. Halbfinger really see “repeated attempts to inflict harm on the Israelis?”  Did he observe soldiers being fired upon  and bombs or grenades hurled?  From the text I infer that such incidents came from the mouths of “military officials” rather than from the reporter’s own observations.  Yet readers would be inclined to take these reports as facts.

+ If there was such violence from the Gaza side as Mr Halbinger reports, why no Israeli casualties?

+ When your reporter says: “Soldiers chased them [“scores of Palestinians”] in jeeps and we heard a half-dozen live rounds,” he implies that the shooting came from the Palestinians when it more likely came from IDF soldiers who had the guns.  Accurate journalism?

+ Why did the reporter feel compelled to end his article with the Israeli senior commander’s quote: “Now you see the story– and this is a nonviolent day?”  With four Palestinians reported killed and 600 wounded, such a quote seems more than a bit ironic.

I  don’t expect a response from Mr. Baquet, but I hope my questions will inspire more accurate and balanced reporting on  Israel/Palestine issues.

More articles by:

L. Michael Hager is cofounder and former Director General, International Development Law Organization, Rome.

July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail