By Ricki Hollander
“Shrill.” “Strident.” “Stubborn.” “Abrasive.” “Derisive.” “Cynical.” These are adjectives used by New York Times journalists this month to describe Israel’s prime minister or cabinet ministers.
And that was just in news articles. New York Times editorialists added a few additional descriptors to that list – “aggressive,” “combative,” “sarcastic,” “eager for a fight,” and “sabotaging diplomacy.”
In fact, the only Israeli political party that merited a positive characterization by the Times was the far-left Meretz party, which was described in a news article as “peace-seeking.” The Meretz party with six seats of 120 in the Knesset is hardly representative of the mainstream. And while nearly all other Knesset members, including those in power, claim to be seeking peace, the New York Times is not having any of that. Nor do they want their readers to.
Indeed, looking at this month’s coverage of Israel-related news items, it would appear that reporters are reserving positive labels for those whose positions they support, and negative ones for those with whom they disagree. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received a positive label this month: He was said to be “conciliatory.”
That reporters are characterizing the subjects of their news articles with pejorative adjectives would indicate they are trying to influence readers about how to view events. This seems to contradict the New York Times’ self-declared editorial guidelines that claim to provide readers with “impartial” reporting and “the complete, unvarnished truth.” Yet, such injection of commentary into what are supposed to be news stories is allowed to continue.
What then is the newspaper’s notion of “impartiality” and “unvarnished truth”?
In a recent article about a “conciliatory” Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren contrasted the Israeli prime minister negatively, characterizing a speech he made to Israeli diplomats and academics as “strident” and comments he made about a historical figure, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Hajj Amin Al Husseini, as “derisive.”
Mr. Netanyahu talked about the root of the ongoing Arab-Israeli conflict, which included a historical review of the Grand Mufti’s incitement of Palestinian Arabs to riot and massacre Jews in pre-1948 Palestine, and his notorious alliance with Hitler and Nazi Germany. The Israeli prime minister quoted directly from a 1942 propaganda broadcast by the Palestinian leader:
I quote, “If England is defeated and its allies overwhelmed, it will provide a final solution to the Jewish question, which in our mind is the greatest danger.”
These are incontrovertible facts, borne out by extensive historical documentation, including recordings and photographs. The reason for mentioning them, Mr. Netanyahu explained in his speech, was that the Mufti’s actions and desire to uproot Zionism lay “at the root of the [Arab-Israeli] conflict” and because “the Mufti is still an admired figure in the Palestinian national movement.”
The term “derisive” with its connotation of mockery and contempt is generally not used to describe historic, if unpleasant, truths. Does the New York Times reporter believe that the Mufti’s genocidal hatred of Jews and Zionism should remain unmentioned? Evidently so. Nor did she make any mention of President Abbas’ glorification of the Grand Mufti – as well as Palestinian terrorists from Fatah, DFLP, PFLP, Islamic Jihad and Hamas – in her coverage of a January 2013 speech by the Palestinian leader that was publicly aired on Palestinian Authority TV.
To report such things would be to present readers with a less conciliatory image of Palestinian leaders, and a more balanced picture of the roots of the conflict. And that, apparently, is not what the New York Times wants its readers to see. Mr. Netanyahu’s speech was thus dismissed as “strident” and his historical review of the Mufti’ as “derisive” comments about “the support that a long-ago Palestinian mufti of Jerusalem provided the Nazis.”
The New York Times has declared its concern about maintaining its reputation as “the newspaper of record.” According to its own guidelines:
At a time of growing and even justified public suspicion about the impartiality, accuracy and integrity of some journalists and some journalism, it is imperative that the Times and its staff maintain the highest possible standards to insure that we do nothing that might erode readers’ faith and confidence in our news columns.
But it is difficult to see how readers can retain confidence in a news organization that attempts to influence them with incomplete and partisan news reporting.
Ricki Hollander is a senior analyst at CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.