In Times Speak, International Law Is a “Poison Pill”

The New York Times has singled out the culprit in the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, and it is Mahmoud Abbas. The lead story in the print edition today states it clearly: “Abbas Takes Defiant Step, And Mideast Talks Falter.”

The story by Jodi Rudoren, Michael Gordon and Mark Landler tells of Abbas signing requests for membership in 15 international agencies and goes on to quote both Abbas and United States officials. Israeli officials, who had remained silent about the move, are missing from the story.

Echoing U.S. and Israeli talking points, it states that this was “a move to gain the benefits of statehood outside the negotiations process” and that “the Palestinians’ pursuit of the international route is widely viewed as a poison pill for the peace talks.”

The Times does not say who views the move as a “poison pill.” It leaves the impression that the international community is against such actions, when, in fact, the world at large, voting in the United Nations, has supported such Palestinian efforts by wide margins. The 2012 Palestinian bid for non-member observer state status, for instance, won by 138 to 9 votes in the General Assembly.

In today’s story the Times says only that the U.S. voted against the 2012 bid and blocked an earlier effort in the Security Council.

The story fails to mention primary obstacles in the way of the peace process: continued settlement building in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, attacks that have left some 50 Palestinians dead since the talks began last August, and Israel’s claims on the Jordan Valley.

In fact, before Abbas held his signing ceremony yesterday, Israel announced plans to build another 700 housing units within occupied East Jerusalem. The Times omits this fact, although other media outlets give it prominence.

Some reports said that the first document Abbas chose to sign was the Geneva Convention. This treaty was mentioned briefly in the Times story but developed more fully in other publications.

In Reuters, for example, Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning write that “the convention lays down the standards of international law for war and occupation” and signing it “would give Palestinians a stronger basis to accede to the International Criminal Court and eventually lodge formal complaints against Israel for its continued occupation of lands seized in the 1967 war.”

It seems that the Times would rather not look too closely at international law when it comes to Israel and Palestine. It glosses over UN actions and worldwide support for the Palestinian cause, and in spite of the fact that the peace process has been faltering for months, singles out yesterday’s act as the “poison pill” responsible for it all.

Israel has been building settlements on confiscated land and killing Palestinians with impunity, but the Times avoids mention of these crimes. It would rather take aim at a man with a pen as he appeals to the dictates of humanitarian values and international law.

Barbara Erickson





6 thoughts on “In Times Speak, International Law Is a “Poison Pill”

  1. Times Warp, will you clone yourself into a sibling NPR Warp? I just listened to Aaron David Miller explain the situation. The word settlements did NOT come up. Only prisoners and Israel’s failure to deliver them, which is why the process stopped. Mind you, he admitted that the Palestinian position (which he made sure to clarify he was only REPORTING, not advocating for) did have some credibility.


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