NY Times Blogger Destroys Israeli Spin 

Robert Mackey in his NYTimes.com blog, The Lede, has published a video showing the killing of two Palestinian teenagers during a protest and in the same post destroys an Israeli journalist’s claim that he was “attacked and beaten” by a hostile Palestinian mob.

Kudos to the Times for giving Mackey the latitude to publish his piece online (even though his blog is out of sight of the casual browser). Mackey has shown dedication to the truth before, attracting the ire of pro-Israel watchdog groups like CAMERA. In 2010, for instance, he published a raw video of the murderous Israeli attack on the flotilla ship Mavi Marmara.

This time he posts a video released by Defense of Children International that shows the scene outside Ofer Prison in the West Bank on May 15, when a group gathered to demonstrate on Nakba Day, the commemoration of the “catastrophe,” when over 700,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes to make way for the State of Israel.

The video shows the moment each boy was shot and substantiates the claims of witnesses that neither posed a threat. Although an army spokesperson described protestors as a menacing mob, throwing stones and firebombs and ignoring orders from soldiers, the DCI film shows otherwise. Each of the teenagers was walking alone in an open area when he fell to the ground. One was actually heading away from the action and was shot in the back. Both young men died at the scene.

Mackey’s post also takes on the claims of Israeli journalist Avi Issacharoff, who wrote that he and a colleague were “seconds away from being beaten to death” by a Palestinian mob during the protest. They survived only by pure chance, he writes in The Times of Israel, because plainclothes members of the Palestinian security forces rescued them

Mackey quotes an Israeli activist and a French journalist who saw the exchange between the two men and the Palestinians. There was pushing and shoving but nothing more, they said, adding that the Palestinians were afraid that one of journalists was videotaping protestors to turn over to security forces.

The print story of the shooting appeared in the Times under the byline of Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren. She quoted the Israeli military, who claimed that they used nonviolent means to disperse the crowd, but also cited Palestinians and Amnesty International, who disputed the army account. It was a fair story in itself.

Last week Rudoren wrote a reasonably sympathetic (though limited) piece about the Nakba, which appeared only in the international edition, and last month, when Hamas and Fatah announced their unity deal, the Times published a range of op-ed pieces online, featuring commentators who rarely get mention in print.

The lesson here is this: The gatekeepers who reject news and commentary that fails to hew closely to the Israeli spin are hard at work in the print news section of the Times. There we find contorted efforts to hide negative stories under misleading headlines, articles that give the first and last word to Israeli spokespersons and commentary limited to Israeli and U.S. official; there we often hear nothing at all about innocent victims of trigger-happy Israeli troops.

Beyond that sphere, online and in the international edition, real reporting occasionally challenges the official narrative of Palestine-Israel, and when it appears it can shine a sudden light on the usual murk in the Times. But even there the day-to-day coverage is missing. Reporting that challenges the official narrative concerning Palestine appears only sporadically in The Lede, online and in the international edition.

Readers need to follow alternative media such as Mondoweiss and The Electronic Intifada to find daily reports from unofficial and on-the-ground perspectives. And they can always go to Palestinian sources, such as Ma’an News and the International Middle East Media Center.

Mackey’s latest post, however, keeps hope alive that eventually the fortified walls surrounding the news and opinion section of the Times may begin to crumble. Meanwhile, readers can search online for the occasional breakthrough and keep watch here for TimesWarp updates.

Barbara Erickson

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