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July 22, 2022 1:36 pm

New York Times Ignores Its Own Investigation of Journalist Slain in Jenin

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avatar by Ira Stoll


A photo of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, who was killed in the West Bank city of Jenin on May 11, 2022. Photo: Reuters

A New York Times staff editorial on “What Biden Got Right on His Trip to the Middle East,” reports, “Given the situation in Israel, there is little Mr. Biden can do to breathe life into the moribund peace process, and the visit took place just a couple of months after the death of a popular journalist and American citizen, Shireen Abu Akleh. She was killed while covering an Israeli military operation in the West Bank, and Palestinians are convinced that she was deliberately shot. They do not buy the State Department’s conclusion that while the bullet was likely fired by an Israeli, there was ‘no reason to believe that this was intentional.’”

This wasn’t merely the State Department’s conclusion. It was, pretty much, the New York Times’ conclusion. The Times did its own elaborate investigation of the death, carrying the names of no fewer than eight named Times journalists, and concluded in part, “The Times found no evidence that the person who fired recognized Ms. Abu Akleh and targeted her personally. The Times was unable to determine whether the shooter saw that she and her colleagues were wearing protective vests emblazoned with the word Press.” That part of the Times investigation, unlike other parts of it, hasn’t yet been subject to factual corrections. Yet the editorial-writing staff didn’t deem it worth mentioning.

Instead, the editorial just reports the Palestinians are convinced of something, without doing the necessary journalistic work of adding context and perspective. The Times frequently bends over backward to provide this sort of independent fact-checking, sometimes even heavy-handedly, when it comes to claims about US election outcomes or public health matters. But when it comes to Palestinian accusations against Israel, no claim is too wild, inflammatory, or unverified for the Times to pass along. It’s the latest in a flurry of negative Times coverage that kicked in after a street protest outside the newspaper’s Manhattan headquarters called for harsher coverage of Israel, accusing the Times of being “complicit in colonial violence.”

As for the claim that “Given the situation in Israel, there is little Mr. Biden can do to breathe life into the moribund peace process,” I suppose that’s better than the Times calling on Biden to crudely ratchet up pressure on Israel for additional concessions. But it shares the conceptual flaw of assuming that it’s “the situation in Israel” — rather than the situation in Ramallah or Gaza City or Tehran or Jenin or the New York Times editorial offices — that is the constraint on progress on the Israel-Palestinian track.

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.

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