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May 2, 2017 12:07 pm

New York Times Touts Hamas ‘Moderation,’ Ignores ‘Truly Disgusting’ Video in Which Group Taunts Bereaved Israeli Parents

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Hamas fighters. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“Hamas Tempers Extreme Stances In Bid For Power” is the headline at the top of the front page of the New York Times.

You have to read all the way to the tenth paragraph of the story, inside the paper, to find out, “Experts on all sides of the complex struggle here say the new document is unlikely to represent any profound change in Hamas’s true position toward Israel. The group recently chose a hard-liner, Yehya Sinwar, as its new leader in Gaza, and it has still in no way recognized Israel or renounced violence.”

Well, if it is “unlikely to represent any profound change,” why in the world does it merit a top-of-the-front page headline in the Times?

The Times article goes on, further down:

In Israel, which has fought three wars with Hamas since 2008, the document was greeted with skepticism.

“Not even one mind” will be changed in Israel, said Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired Israeli brigadier general who led the army’s research arm. “Nobody will be affected by this.”

Again, if “nobody will be affected by this,” why is it a top-of-the-front page story?

Maybe instead of the misleading headline “Hamas Tempers Extreme Stances,” the Times headline should have been something more accurate, like, “Nobody Will Be Affected by Move That Everyone Agrees Makes No Difference.”

Better yet, instead of overplaying news that doesn’t matter, the Times might quit ignoring news that actually does matter — news that demonstrates the true nature of Hamas.

To give but one significant example, Hamas recently released a Hebrew-language video taunting the parents of two slain Israeli soldiers, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul. Israel says Hamas has been holding the bodies of the soldiers as a bargaining chip rather than returning them for a proper burial. That story got coverage in the Israeli press (see here and here.) A year ago, the Times wrote an online-only news article when Hamas published photos of the Israeli soldiers. But this year, the Times chose to ignore the video. The Times didn’t publish any story at all about the video, as far as I can tell, let alone a top-of-the-front page story about it. Nor was the video mentioned at all in today’s long, top-of-the-front page dispatch about how, as the Times inside-the-paper headline over the continuation of the story put it, “Hamas Moderates Extreme Stances.”

This video isn’t just some right-wing talking point. Former President Barack Obama’s ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, tweeted about it, commenting, “Truly disgusting.” The tweet has been retweeted or “favorited” on Twitter more than 100 times, and that — rather than any Times coverage — is how I heard about it.

There is a “dog bites man” versus “man bites dog” phenomenon in news judgment. “Hamas are sicko terrorists” is easily dismissed as a “dog bites man” story, something that everyone already knows and happens all the time. “Hamas moderates” has at least potential to be a “man bites dog” story, something unexpected, even if, as in this case, it doesn’t really mean anything.

Even discounting for the “man bites dog” phenomenon, though, the Times wildly overplays the “Hamas moderates” story while totally ignoring the “truly disgusting” taunting video story. It amounts to a failure of news judgment.

Given other recent Times coverage or non-coverage (see “New York Times Finds Gaza Cancer-Patient Terror Attempt Unfit To Print” and “The New York Times Whitewashes Hezbollah Terrorism”), the newspaper  risks slipping into such a disappointingly bad pattern that when and if it actually does cover something well on the Israel beat, this will be a “man bites dog” type surprise.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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