New York Times Doubles Up on Flawed Coverage of US Aid To Palestinians
The New York Times is so worked up about what it describes as the Trump administration’s reduction in aid to the Palestinian Arabs that it covered the news not once, but twice.
The first article was in Saturday’s Times, under the print headline, “$200 Million in U.S. Aid To Palestinians Is Redirected.” It began, “The Trump administration announced on Friday that it would not spend more than $200 million set aside for Palestinian aid in the West Bank and Gaza, the latest in a series of measures that have infuriated the Palestinians.”
This first article was odd for several reasons. Despite the first sentence about having “infuriated the Palestinians,” not a single Palestinian is quoted in the Times article. Instead, for reaction, the Times finds “J Street, a liberal Jewish organization that advocates better relations between Israel and the Palestinians,” as well as “Josh Block of the Israel Project, a right-leaning advocacy group.” And “a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington.”
Then the article contradicts itself. “Mr. Trump has largely abandoned the role American presidents have for decades sought to play as a broker between Israel and the Palestinians,” the Times reports. Then it refers to “efforts by Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, to forge a wide-ranging Middle East peace deal.”
Also odd is the Times claim that in recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, President Trump was “reversing decades of American foreign policy.” In fact a US law, the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, states as “the policy of the United States” that “Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the state of Israel.” That law also includes as a congressional “finding,” “Since 1950, the city of Jerusalem has been the capital of the State of Israel.”
This first Times article appeared with the byline of Gardiner Harris, who was last seen in these columns having to publish an “epic” correction for a “hatchet job” profile of a critic of the Iran nuclear deal.
The second Times article about the same news, in Sunday’s paper, appears under the headline “Palestinians Call U.S. Cut In Assistance ‘Blackmail.’” That article, too, is not without its flaws. It claims “the move in May of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to the contested city of Jerusalem, had already infuriated the Palestinian Authority, led by President Mahmoud Abbas.” Truth is, the Times describes the Palestinians as “infuriated” or angry more or less consistently, and long predating the embassy move or the Trump administration. Here, for example, is a 2006 Times article about how an Israeli airstrike in Gaza was “infuriating Palestinians.” Here is a 2015 Times dispatch that appeared under the print headline “Palestinians Set Their Rage To Violent Beat.” In addition, the Times contrast between “Tel Aviv” and “the contested city of Jerusalem” is misleading, because. alas, plenty of Arabs believe that the Israeli or Jewish presence in Tel Aviv is just as colonialist, illegitimate, and in need of eradication as is the Israeli or Jewish presence in Jerusalem.
The Sunday Times article concludes, “In an additional blow to the Palestinians, FIFA, the global soccer governing body, on Friday banned Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestinian Football Association, from all soccer-related activity for a year for ‘inciting hatred and violence’ over a planned exhibition match between Israel and Argentina that was canceled in June.” It’s certainly possible to perceive this, as the Times apparently does, as a “blow to the Palestinians.” It’s also possible to perceive it as a favor to the Palestinians, because it might convey to them that there are negative consequences to them for actions that are hostile to Israel, and that such actions won’t be tolerated by the rest of the world. In the best case, that message might even lead to positive changes in Palestinian behavior, which might in turn improve their situation. The Times coverage doesn’t even consider the possibility of such a chain of events, either in connection with the soccer action or the American aid.
I understand that news organizations often publish a first news story and a second follow-up story with reaction to the news. In this case, though, both Times articles included the news and reaction to it. I also understand that sometimes the content of news articles is driven by logistics of time zones or local holidays as much as by any editorial agenda. Even stipulating those points, however, this Times one-two punch seemed as if it could have used some better editing.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.