Friday, May 20th | 19 Iyyar 5782

November 14, 2017 11:20 am

New York Times Hurls an Adjective at a Palestinian Leader

avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times’ practice of hurling adjectives at Israeli politicians and pro-Israel Americans has been criticized here.

But sometimes the Times journalism is just bad journalism, not biased journalism. So in fairness to the Times, it’s worth noting that the newspaper has also hurled a not-exactly-favorable adjective — actually, a present participle — at the president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas.

A front-page news article in Sunday’s Times by Peter Baker reported, “Abbas is aging.”

That is hardly news to careful readers of the Times.

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A September 1, 2015, dispatch from Ramallah by Jodi Rudoren reported, “Mahmoud Abbas, the aging Palestinian president, may be paving the way for his exit from political life — or he may be trying to consolidate power by crippling all his rivals. “

A March 14, 2016, Times staff editorial described Abbas as “a weak and aging leader who has given up on peace.”

An April 17, 2017, dispatch from Jerusalem by Ian Fisher said Abbas “is aging and unpopular.”

And an October 10, 2017, report from Jerusalem by Isabel Kershner referred again to “the aging and unpopular Mr. Abbas.”

I’m no fan of Abbas, and I suppose “aging” is better than the words like “inflammatory” and “combative” or “brash” or “ultra-nationalist” that the Times uses to describe Israelis or pro-Israel Americans.

But it’s ridiculous nonetheless, and not only because of the repetition.

We’re all — at least all of us who haven’t discovered the Fountain of Youth — aging. Not one of us is getting any younger. “Aging” is the human condition. If the Times thinks that Abbas is senile, or decrepit, or just plain too old to do his job effectively, it may want to consider reporting out a story on that topic, with quotes or anecdotes and details, rather than euphemisms or innuendo. But plenty of 82-year-olds are still pretty sharp and in pretty good shape. Warren Buffett is 87. Rupert Murdoch is 86. Richard Meier is 83. The Times manages to write about them without constantly describing them as “aging.”

Times readers themselves aren’t exactly a bunch of spring chickens, as evidenced by the ads in the print newspaper for adult diapers, cane-like walking sticks and special reading lamps to help those who have vision difficulties. As for the newspaper’s editors, it’s hard to tell if they are too old to catch this sort of mistake or too young to notice it. But they are “aging,” too, no matter how old they are. It goes without saying.

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


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