Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mideast Media Sampler 1/5/12: Two Examples Of New York Times Media Bias In Action

From DG:
1) Telling the whole story I

In its section devoted to news about the Gaza Strip the New York Times offers a summary of recent news from Gaza. Presumably this provides background for current reporting from Gaza. For example this is how Cast Lead is described.
After the truce lapsed on Dec. 19, rocket firing stepped up quickly, and Israel responded with an invasion. 
The Israeli government's stated war goals were relatively modest: to reduce Hamas's ability and will to fire rockets and to change the security equation in the south. The extent of the destruction wrought by the Israeli military was breathtaking. Bombs pulverized the Parliament and cabinet buildings, the Ministry of Justice, the main university and the police station, paralyzing Gaza's central nervous system and leaving residents in a state of shock. Thousands dragged belongings from ruined homes. 
Support for the invasion was nearly unanimous among an Israeli public long frustrated at having to endure rocket attacks from what they regarded as an implacable foe. But the fighting drew widespread international criticism, particularly as only 13 Israelis were reported killed to as least 1,400 or more Palestinians, especially civilian casualties. The conflict also strained relations between Israel and the United Nations, when Israeli mortars hit a school run by the United Nations, killing more than 40 people, and an airstrike hit the organization's compound. Israelis blamed Hamas fighters for mingling with civilians, and for firing rockets and mortars from the vicinity of schools and mosques.
There are a lot of problems here.
The second paragraph quoted above tells us that the "extent of destruction" was "breathtaking." Given the targets mentioned, doesn't really tell the whole story. It would make sense that if Hamas was using its bases to attack Israel, that its institutions would be attacked in return. The specificity of the list of destruction in Gaza is in marked contrast to the spare details provided to explain the reason for Cast Lead. The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center has the relevant background information omitted here by the New York Times.

The third paragraph is worse. First of all by providing a ratio of those killed on each side, the New York Times sets up a false equivalence. Second of all as even Hamas has admitted that 600 - 700 of its men were killed during the fighting, the ratio of civilians killed to combatants was about 1:1, so the mention of "especially civilian casualties" is highly misleading. Yes Israel was condemned internationally, but it was due to dishonest reporting, which the New York Times here takes pains to perpetuate.

This isn't just a matter of history. A report two weeks ago about Ismail Haniya's planned trip abroad gratuitously mentioned that during Cast Lead "...some 1,300 people were killed," providing absolutely no context. (Also note that the recent news story puts the number of casualties at 1300, not 1400 that the summary has, suggesting that casualty totals aren't exact.)

The story about the UN run school is also false.

Later on the "historical" summary tells us:
The change started in summer 2010 after a Turkish flotilla tried to break the Israeli siege by sailing to Gaza. Israeli commandos, meeting violent resistance aboard one of the ships, killed nine men. International outrage followed and the Israeli authorities acknowledged that their policy of keeping Gaza on economic subsistence was neither ending Hamas’s rule nor helping Israel’s declining international image. A change was ordered.
Actually it doesn't mention that a significant reason Israel eased up on the blockade was due to (misplaced) American pressure, something the New York Times itself reported.

In addition to the "international outrage" reported here, the article twice mentions "international criticism" of Israel is mentioned and another time there's "Israel’s declining international image." All are reported with no qualifications. Was the criticism and outrage warranted? Or was it a response to outrageously biased reporting and to enemy propaganda being accepted without reservation?

There is a lot more to complain about this page at the New York Times. Resources provided on the right side of the page are mostly anti-Israel sites. Other elements of recent history are similarly distorted.

Recently Jonathan Sacerdoti writing at the New Statesman argued that it was time to Stop ignoring the facts about Cast Lead:
In 2006, following the Israeli disengagement and pullout from the Gaza Strip, there was an increase of 436 per cent in the number of Palestinian rockets launched towards Israel from that very territory. For some time, Israel resisted a large-scale military response to such acts deliberately aimed at civilians. As a result, the attacks got worse, and every country, including Israel, has the moral responsibility to defend its people from such actions. 
Increased Palestinian terror attacks from Gaza were the cause of Operation Cast Lead. Yet Israel's is a conscript army. Indeed Israel goes to extraordinary lengths to protect its young soldiers (witness the efforts make to secure the release of the kidnap victim Gilad Shalit), and does not send them to war easily. 
In the three years since the operation, there has been an unprecedented 72 per cent decline in the number of rockets launched from Hamas-controlled Gaza. No surprise, then, that Israel's Defence Forces Chief of Staff should call the operation "an excellent operation that achieved deterrence for Israel vis-a-vis Hamas". (However, that deterrence is still not enough to have prevented Palestinians from launching 1,571 rockets since the operation, including one attack with an anti-tank missile on a clearly identifiable Israeli school bus.)
This is an excellent antidote to so much of the specious writing about Cast Lead.

2) Telling the whole story II

Yesterday I complained that the New York Times failed to provide necessary context for fears about the Muslim Brotherhood. Fortunately Israel Hayom provided this context. (via Daily Alert):
The U.S. needs to face up to the threat presented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood across the Middle East, Israel’s National Security Council concluded during a strategic discussion several days ago. The council, responsible for providing the prime minister with strategic assessments, said it was concerned about the Muslim Brotherhood’s pronouncements, repeated this week, that call the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty into question. The Brotherhood’s second-in-command, Dr. Rashad Bayumi, said on Sunday that the Muslim Brotherhood, which is set to dominate Egypt’s new parliament, will never recognize Israel and will even work to amend the Egypt-Israel peace treaty. In its assessment, the council, headed by Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, concluded that Israel needed to accept the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood would eventually assume power in most Arab countries, with Egypt first and foremost. The council believes that the Muslim Brotherhood is not just a religious and cultural force, but also a reincarnation of the totalitarian fascist movements seen in Europe over the past century. Nevertheless, council members believe that the U.S. and key European countries can still exert influence over Muslim Brotherhood governments through economic leverage. The council also stressed that Egypt, regardless of which government is in power, is united with Israel in its opposition to Shiite Iran’s nuclear program through which it plans to control the region.
This is far different from simply saying (as Ethan Bronner of the New York Times wrote yesterday) that there's a practical or moderate side to the Islamists. This is arguing that that it might be able to contain the damage wrought by the radicalization of Egypt (and other Middle Eastern countries) but it will be necessary to take a stand and pressure the Islamists when necessary. Is the will there? If Iran's any indication, maybe not.
In a statement issued as he signed a defense bill into law on Saturday, Obama said several provisions including the sanctions that target Iran's central bank "would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations."
The president, a Democrat, said in his statement that if any application of these provisions conflicted with his constitutional authorities, "I will treat the provisions as non-binding." 
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