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New York Times Video Depicts Israeli Soldiers Winning Pizza Coupons by Shooting Palestinians for ‘Fun’

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

The New York Times is out with another anti-Israel video — this one accusing Israeli soldiers of shooting Palestinians for “fun,” and drunk Israelis on Purim throwing bottles at a Palestinian baby.

Israeli soldiers were rewarded with coupons for pizza if they shot a Palestinian, the video alleges. The video also depicts Jewish children chanting “slaughter the Arabs.”

A Times opinion newsletter promoting the film is headlined “A Rare Look at Israeli Soldiers in the West Bank City of Hebron.” The “senior commissioning editor for Op-Docs,” Christine Kecher, who joined the Times this year with no apparent previous newsroom experience, writes, “We hope it will resonate with you the way it has with audiences around the world.” The Times didn’t commission this film, which, as the newsletter explains, has already been created and shown elsewhere, and debuted in Amsterdam nearly a year ago. But the Times is hosting the 22 and a half minute “Mission Hebron” movie on the New York Times website and promoting it on the Times homepage under the headline, “I Asked Fellow Ex-Israeli Soldiers to Tell Me Their Stories.”

The Times is depicting it as Israeli self-criticism: “Director Rona Segal learned filmmaking the Israeli army. Now, she turns the camera on her fellow soldiers.”

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But the final credits disclose foreign involvement, with “thank you” to “The European Union,” the “International Solidarity Movement,” and “DCA ACT Alliance.” The European Union — well, we all know unfortunately what happened to the Jewish people the last time they entrusted their security to France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The International Solidarity Movement was founded by “extreme leftist Americans,” according to the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. And the “ACT” in DCA ACT Alliance stands for Action by Churches Together — it is an alliance of the World Council of Churches and Lutheran World Federation. Those churches’ involvement might explain the Purim angle or the depiction of Jewish bloodlust that infuses the Times-promoted video; already back in 414 in Inmestar, Syria, Christians were accusing Jews of seizing and killing a Christian child on Purim. As Henry Abramson has written, “it didn’t take much to convince Christian audiences that Jews were in fact bent on committing acts of horrific violence. From Inmestar to Norwich to Nazi Germany and beyond, the noxious lie of the blood libel continues to plague innocent Jewish communities.”

The New York Times doesn’t explain why these three groups are being thanked at the end of the video. Did they help pay for it? Provide other assistance? The paper’s readers are left with no disclosure of precisely what role, if any, these churches or the European Union played in creating a Times-presented film. Likewise, there’s no disclosure by the Times that Breaking the Silence, an advocacy group with which many of the former soldiers in the film are affiliated, is also funded by European governments, church groups, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, according to NGO Monitor.

The Times labels the video “opinion” but a more accurate label would be propaganda. All the usual methods are employed, from ominous music to subliminal text. “Free Palestine. Zionism is racism” is shown in the background at one point, with no further explanation, shortly before one former Israeli soldier explains “A sterile route is a route that is free of Palestinians.”

“How old was the youngest child you arrested?” a narrator asks at one point. “Ten years old, maybe younger,” is the answer.

Another character in the video reports, “soldiers really like shooting rubber bullets. It’s fun.” A voice chimes in, “Everyone high fives, you’re so awesome, you got him.”

Jewish residents of Hebron are depicted as yelling at the soldiers, “you are worse than the Nazis, you’re leftists,” while Jewish children are depicted chanting “slaughter the Arabs.” On Purim, the Hebron Jews who “have been drinking all day” are “throwing bottles at the Palestinian home,” and “then we started hearing a baby cry.” Another Jewish resident of Hebron is described as completing the “Baruch atah” formulation that begins a Hebrew blessing, ending it, “the Arabs are sons of bitches.”

The Israeli Jewish general public is described as ignorant. “If my mother knew what I really did,” one soldier said, “she’d slap me … there’s things she doesn’t really know.”

In keeping with standard Times practice, the Jewish critics of Israel are depicted as brave risk-takers and truth-speakers, when in fact they are met with predictable adulation and attention from the anti-Israel left — and when in fact their account, by omitting or downplaying the reality of Palestinian Arab terrorism, incitement, and rejectionism of Israel, is deeply misleading and incomplete.

Other Times videos published this year have offered other slanted accounts. One, which ran nearly 15 minutes, I reported on for The Algemeiner under the headline “New York Times Video Whitewashing Hamas Is Condemned as ‘Shocking’ ‘Hatchet Job.’” Another seven-minute video, a follow-up, I reported on under the headline “New York Times Video Depicts Israelis as Having ‘Forced’ Foreign Laborer to Work Under Rocket Fire.” At 22 and a half minutes, this latest effort is the lengthiest yet, and breaks new ground by not involving any Times news staff — just mainlining to the paper’s readers European and Christian-funded propaganda depicting Jews as bloodthirsty child-abducters.

There’s no response in the video from a representative of the Jewish community of Hebron, or from an Israeli army spokesperson. Nor does there appear to be any independent fact-checking about whether the soldiers’ accounts are accurate. If the accounts are accurate, many of them are certainly troubling. But the situation can be troubling without it being all Israel’s fault; and the video portrays it as all Israel’s fault.

The Times has been beefing up its “standards” desk recently, earlier this month announcing that Susan Wessling “will take the lead in directing standards oversight of audio, video, TV/film and newsletters.” This, the paper said, would give her “an even larger leadership role in protecting the quality and credibility of our report.” Looks like Wessling should have taken a closer look at this train-wreck of a video before the Times put it up on the home page. She didn’t immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

In the end, though, responsibility for spreading this sort of hateful propaganda rests not with any Times standards bureaucrat but with the newspaper’s publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, who wrote to subscribers this week telling them that home-delivery subscription rates will be increasing by $78 or $52 a year — increases of nearly 8 percent. “Thank you again for supporting The New York Times,” the letter concluded.

It’s one thing to fork over that kind of money for Times journalism, flawed and tendentious as it often is. It’s another thing entirely to pay it to provide a platform for an externally-funded propaganda initiative aimed at portraying Israeli soldiers as monsters.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His 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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