Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Has New York Times Coverage Of Israel Actually Improved? (Updated)

If this keeps up, maybe.

The New York Times reports on a tragedy that happened on Monday
A Palestinian mother and her four young children were killed in northern Gaza on Monday during an Israeli operation against militants there, and a dispute quickly arose over exactly how they had died.

The Israelis said they shot a missile from the air that hit two armed men who were carrying heavy explosives, which blew apart the family’s house behind them. Palestinian witnesses said they believed an Israeli tank shell or a missile from a drone flew into the small house, killing the four as they were eating breakfast. Two other children from the same family were badly wounded and hospitalized.
The first thing that is striking is that the article wastes no time presenting succinctly what each side claims happened, even mentioning Israel first. Haven't we read articles where all too often more weight is given to the Palestinian side?
Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed Hamas. “We see Hamas as responsible for everything that happens there, for all injuries,” he said while on a tour of an Israeli weapons factory, Israeli radio reported. “The army is acting and will continue to act against Hamas, including inside the Gaza Strip.”

The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, a bitter rival of Hamas, condemned the killing of the mother and her four children. It said in a statement that the Israeli army escalation in Gaza “would harm the efforts to agree on a cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians.”

After Hamas took over Gaza last June in a battle with forces from Fatah, which now leads the Palestinian government from the West Bank, Israel imposed a blockade on the area, severely limiting supplies into it. Thousands of crude rockets have been launched against southern Israeli towns and communities in recent years by Hamas and smaller factions, which oppose Israel’s existence.
The article actually gives a context to why Israel has imposed a blockade. True, there is still no mention of the 'T' word, but no one is going to finish the article thinking it is reporting that Israel has put the blockade in place because they are out to get the Palestinian Arabs.

Also, note how Hamas' motive is described--not as resistance to Israeli occupation, a misleading claim since the land was never Palestinian-controlled land to begin with and is best described as disputed--but instead that Hamas is opposed to the very existence of Israel. How often have we read that in The New York Times!

Instead of mentioning border closings and the reduced supplies to Gaza without a context, the article describes the actions taken by the terrorists as the reason behind Israel's actions:

Militants have tried to infiltrate the border crossing into Israel five times in recent weeks. That has led Israel to keep the border closed more often, further reducing supplies and worsening the already severe humanitarian crisis there. Cooking gas has essentially run out since the supplier became too afraid to deliver, Israeli security officials and Gazans say, closing most bakeries.
A quote is even given squarely putting the responsibility for the increased suffering in Gaza on the shoulders of Hamas:

The United Nations agency that provides the most aid in Gaza suspended its work for four days because of fuel shortages. While United Nations and other international officials complain angrily about Israel’s policies, the attempted infiltrations have recently prompted criticism of Hamas by the European Union, which accused it of actions that “lead to further suffering of the population.”

Maybe part of the reason for the change is Israel's own reaction to what happened. Unlike the Gaza Beach incident--where Israel rushed to apologize before investigating and discovering evidence that the forensic evidence indicated that mines Hamas planted on the beach were responsible--here the IDF made clear from the start where responsibility lay:
The IDF Spokesperson wishes to stress that the responsibility for the injuring and killing of uninvolved civilians lies with the terrorist organization Hamas, which operates within civilian population, using them as human shields and risking their lives by keeping bombs and explosives near them.

The question is whether Israel can continue to take necessary measures in defense of Israeli citizens, undeterred by the terrorist tactics of Hamas--and say so, and whether the media is willing to bring real balance to its reporting by given context to its articles.

Till that time, this New York Times article will remain an oddity.

UPDATE: Check out Elder of Ziyon: Al Jazeera and B'Tselem agree that missile didn't hit house

Crossposted at Soccer Dad

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