Ben Clerkin

All the anti-Israel bias fit to print

The New York Times and the rest of the US media swallows the Hamas line without questioning it

November 22, 2023 16:26

A month ago, there was hope that there might be some contrition. That those who had published, as fact, false reports from a terrorist organisation -- which inflamed the Middle East and endangered Jewish lives, might engage in some serious soul searching.

How capable of self-reflection would the journalists at the New York Times and other US media organisations be? They had credulously swallowed whole the Hamas press release stating that Israel was behind a Gaza hospital blast that killed 471 people. Israeli, US and western intelligence services said, in fact, it was a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket and estimated far fewer had died in the 17 October explosion. 

Briefly, there was a change. To every story that quoted the Gaza Health Ministry, the NYTimes in common with others, added the caveat “which is run by Hamas”.

But even that vestige of objectivity has now been forgotten. 

Headlines and stories contain huge numbers of deaths, again, taken straight from the Hamas press office. 

In fact, more often you will only find caveats in place on statements from the Israeli military and government.

This came into sharp focus last Sunday when the NY Times reported on a video released by the IDF showing two hostages being taken into Al-Shifa hospital.

The newspaper could not bring itself to call the two men one frogmarched at gunpoint, the other guarded by gunmen on a hospital bed hostages, but only what Israel “described as hostages”. 

However, it had no such qualms about quoting verbatim a press release from Gaza’s Health Ministry, which is run by Hamas, without qualification. 

“Given what the Israeli occupation reported, this confirms that the hospitals of the Ministry of Health provide their medical services to everyone who deserves them, regardless of their gender and race,” it said.

Despite this statement from Hamas as good as admitting they were hostages -- and with even the BBC writing about it -- the NY Times consigned the story to just a few paragraphs within another story. Not a big deal, apparently.

Objectivity has become a casualty of a civil war being waged in US newsrooms, a battle between progressive ideas, hothoused on college campuses, and the established principles of news reporting. Activism versus journalism.  

It has erupted into the open at the NYTimes which has a strict policy against staff signing petitions or commenting on issues if it might compromise their “ability to function as neutral observers in covering the news”. As a result, two members of staff have felt compelled to resign. Poetry editor Anne Boyer left citing a conspiracy theory that the war was being waged for the “deadly profit of oil interests”. Jazmine Hughes, a feature writer, quit after signing a petition saying Israel was pursuing a “genocide against the Palestinian people”.

Both resignations may give an insight into the worldview of their former colleagues who treasure their pay cheques a little more. And add credence to claims that their “objectivit” is subjective.

No such qualms at the LA Times. Shortly after reprimanding a number of journalists for signing an open-letter calling for a ceasefire, its editorial board capitulated and wrote an op-ed calling for exactly that. It comes just weeks after the paper’s managing editor, Sara Yasin, who describes herself as a Palestinian-American, was accused of sympathy towards Hamas. A review of Yasin’s tweets revealed, among other things, that she has accused Israel of “practising genocide”.

With a completely straight face, the Washington Post wrote in a headline that Hamas had accused Israel of crimes against humanity. Perhaps they thought that the baby-burning, child-raping, hostage-taking terror group has some relevant expertise in the area? It stated that IDF action at Al-Shifa hospital might constitute “war crimes and crimes against humanity, a senior Hamas representative said”. 

It came after Post columnist Megan McArdle leapt to the defence, on X/Twitter, of a journalist employed by the NY Times, CNN and AP who was photographed riding into Israel with Hamas fighters. When it was pointed out to her that he was holding a grenade she replied: “If a Hamas fighter who was giving me a ride on his operation handed me a grenade, I might not risk his anger by handing it back.”

CNN, for once, is standing a little taller than the competition. Anchor Jake Tapper’s reports on the war are forcing the issue of rape and sexual abuse by Hamas terrorists onto the US news agenda. His team is digging up exclusives without fear or favour.   

However, his colleagues took a more inflammatory approach when they interviewed a trans rabbi on CNN This Morning who claimed the ‘fundamental threat’ is Israel, not Hamas.

For many in the US media, objectivity is no longer obligatory: it is optional.

The question for these activist journalists is: if they are so confident that they are right, why do they fear letting their readers make up their own minds?

November 22, 2023 16:26

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