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September 8, 2022 1:37 pm

New York Times Walks Back Nonsensical Claim That World Ignores Palestinian Deaths

avatar by Ira Stoll


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 backing away from its false claim that “Palestinian deaths rarely attract international scrutiny,” though it’s stopping short of issuing a formal correction.

A June New York Times “investigation” into the death of Shireen Abu Akleh, a journalist for Al Jazeera, made the preposterous assertion. At the time, I denounced the claim as factually inaccurate, citing multiple examples of scrutiny from the Times itself.

This month, in its latest update on Shireen Abu Akleh-related developments, the Times repeats a version of the claim while also modifying it in a way that basically amounts to a concession that the original claim was false. The new Times formulation is “Palestinian deaths rarely garner international attention, except during major escalations.”

It’s not even clear how this context, accurate or not, newly modified or not, is relevant to this particular case. The Times can’t quite decide whether Shireen Abu Akleh’s death should be described as a “Palestinian” death or whether to emphasize, as a Times editorial did, that she was “an American citizen.”

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The June Times investigation hasn’t been corrected to add the “except during major escalations” caveat.

It’s the prescriptive language masquerading as descriptive language, which is particularly grating. The Times editorial lectured, explicitly, “Israelis should care more.”

For comparison’s sake, there have been 290 murders in New York City this year to date, according to the New York Police Department. Few of those have garnered international attention or attracted international scrutiny; few of them have even been written up in the New York Times. When they are, they don’t frequently get a context sentence saying that the murders rarely attract international scrutiny. Many of the Palestinian deaths, in contrast to the New York murders, have been accidental or justified by self-defense.

Maybe one reason Palestinian deaths haven’t been attracting as much international scrutiny as the Times news editors and reporters apparently wish they would is that Israeli security forces, while human and therefore imperfect, overall are pretty careful and restrained while confronting a terrorist enemy dedicated to wiping the Jewish state off the map.

In any event, Times readers presumably have their own independent sense and recollection of how much international scrutiny Palestinian deaths do or do not attract. It’s not something that a Times news article needs to elbow them in the ribs about. With the caveat about “except during major escalations” or without the caveat, what the Times is up to here isn’t just-the-facts-ma’am journalism. Instead, it reads more like cheerleading, as if the Times news columns are propagandizing for the Palestinian Arab side.

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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