Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Irresponsibility of the New York Times, Exhibit Number Who Knows How Many

The middle of this morning’s lead New York Times story on the Israeli attack against the flotilla attempting to deliver aid to Gaza, in defiance of the Israeli blockade or economic siege, includes a brief paragraph stating that the blockade was imposed as a response to the “takeover [of Gaza] by force in 2007” by Hamas, “an organization sworn to Israel’s destruction.” An innocent sounding passage—unless you happen to remember the truth.

The Israeli economic strangulation was intensified following the June 2007 Hamas takeover, but it began in February 2006 as a response to the Hamas legislative victory in free elections. Moreover, shortly after it won the elections, Hamas leaders made a number of private and public overtures to the Bush administration and Israel, indicating it was seeking a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Not only were these overtures ignored or contemptuously dismissed as “tricks,” but it has now been revealed, through confidential documents corroborated by U.S. sources, that following those elections the Bush administration sought to foment an internal Palestinian coup against Hamas (David Rose, “The Gaza Bombshell,” Vanity Fair, April 2008)—a secret from the American people but undoubtedly not from Hamas, whose full takeover of Gaza just might have been a response to the coup plot.

Thus, the Times’ description of Hamas’s goals ignores the wealth of evidence, known to all close observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that the organization has been steadily moving away from its founding Charter, which indeed calls for the destruction of Israel, towards a more pragmatic, de facto acceptance of a two-state solution based on a return to Israel of its pre-1967 war borders. In fact, Hamas is closely following the path of Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Liberation Organization, which gradually moved away from its early radicalism and intransigence towards an acceptance of a two-state solution, but which officially renounced its founding Charter’s call for the destruction of Israel only after Israel began negotiating with it.

In short, the Times story is either seriously and deliberately misleading or is unforgivably ignorant of the real course of events. Not that this is anything new for the Times, which in its coverage and commentary on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict regularly commits crimes against truthful journalism.


Juan said...

Here's the problem as I see it: Reporters at the Times and all other MSM have strong incentives to follow the "official" line on the Middle East conflict (and on lots of other issues, as well). There are powerful disincentives to telling the truth when it might embarrass or contradict the favored views of one's employer. Just the potential denial of access to government sources
is enough of a threat to bias most reporting. Loss of one's job is another. The MSM in turn do not want to antogonize the government or The Lobby. So, I agree that the NYT is pathetic as a source of truth and that it biases its "news" in exactly the ways you have spelled out so clearly, Prof. Slater. So, how do we proceed from here?

Jerome Slater said...

I wish I knew, Juan. Nothing, but nothing, gets through to the Times on this issue. It never even deigns to respond to the mounting criticism. Maybe because it can't.

Paul Lookman said...

Noam Chomsky was in Paris recently to give two lectures on politics, two on linguistics, a lot of interviews with radio and TV and a meeting with representatives of French trade unions. One of the questions he answered after his lectures was: “Who are the change agents today?”. The answer was: “The same forces as ever: mass popular movements. Intellectuals can contribute, provided they are prepared to break with their traditional vocation: as ‘intelligent minority’ to keep the population under control. If they join the emerging social movements, they can help formulate objectives clearly. But the most important force must come from the people. That is how it always was, and that is how is will continue to be”.

It is sad to see that the American media do not perform their (independent) role. If it is any consolation: European media are not any better. That leaves us no option than to pursue change the ‘bottom-up way’: protests, demonstrations, letters to politiciansn and other decision makers, and … bloggers can help, too!