Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The New York Times, the Blair Affair, and Israel

Writing in the April 29th New York Review about the fraudulent reporting issue that led to the firing of the junior New York Times reporter Jayson Blair,  Russell Baker describes the uproar at the newspaper over what it regarded as an unthinkable journalistic scandal, a violation of what Baker calls the paper's "passion for the integrity of its news columns...a nearly sacred mission with the Times."   This will strike those who are familiar with the routinely biased, distorted, disingenuous and context-free nature of Times' reporting on the Israeli-Palestine conflict--a matter of infinitely greater consequence than the Blair affair--as rather quaint.

In the last few years, a number of scholars, journalists, and bloggers have written detailed stories on the truly scandalous nature of the Times' ideological biases when it comes to Israel: most of its news reporting is in one way or another, sometimes subtly and often not so subtly, misleading--or worse.  If I may quote myself, several years ago I wrote a long article for a leading professional journal about how the Times treats Israeli issues, in which I concluded that the near-unconditional U.S. support for Israel's policies and behavior in its conflict with the Palestinians was "in reckless disregard for the easily observable and plainly disastrous consequences for the Israelis and the Palestinians, as well as for critical U.S. national interests.  Yet, without a reeducation of U.S. officials and the public at large, it is unlikely that there will be serious changes in U.S. policies.....A crucial place to begin this process of reeducation would be in the pages of the New York Times."

Don't hold your breath.  When it comes to a junior reporter falsifying essentially trivial matters, heads--even high ones--roll at the Times.  But when it comes to an issue with the gravest international, national interest, and moral consequences, to my knowledge the Times has almost never even acknowledged, let alone responded to, the increasing storm of criticism about its Israeli reporting (as well as of most of its editorials and opinion columns).