As Gazans Pull Bodies from the Rubble, the NY Times Strives to Give Israel the Moral High Ground

There is a bright spot in The New York Times today, a story out of Gaza by Ben Hubbard, but the editors would rather you placed your attention elsewhere, on their efforts to sell the Israeli point of view over the news of Palestinian deaths.

The front page of the print edition gives us a teaser, “One-Sided Cease-Fire in Gaza,” directing readers to a Page 10 article on Israel’s acceptance of a ceasefire extension, an agreement rejected by Hamas. The online edition also prominently displayed this story.

Meanwhile, Hubbard’s story is relegated to the bottom of the page and tagged with a skewed headline: “Pause in the Fighting Gives Civilians on Both Sides a Moment to Take Stock.” This implies parity in the experiences of the two populations, but the article makes it clear that there is no such thing.

“The 12-hour lull granted people an ability to move,” he writes, “with Israelis visiting their troops and Palestinians discovering damaged neighborhoods and dead bodies.” The story tells of “vast destruction” that “in places stretched for blocks.” In the Gaza area called Beit Hanoun, “scores of buildings, including a hospital and a mosque had been damaged or destroyed.”

And then there are the dead, a total of 1,139 at that point, the vast majority civilians. Hubbard tells of one attack, just before dawn, when the truce was to take effect. This assault on a home killed 21 people in the al-Najjar family.

Hubbard asks the Israeli security forces to explain this massacre and tells us that the army has nothing to say. A spokesperson “could not explain the airstrike some 19 hours after it happened,” he writes.

This is all worth reading, but the Times places its emphasis elsewhere, on the ceasefire story, which seeks to disparage Hamas because it rejected terms that left Israeli soldiers still deployed in Gaza. The paper also runs a lengthy article on the opposite page, “Amid Outcry Abroad, a Wealth of Backing in Israel for Netanyahu.”

This story, by Jodi Rudoren, mentions “mounting international outcry over civilian casualties” but provides no details about these protests. She says only that Israelis are feeling isolated and “outraged over the anti-Semitic tinge of pro-Palestinian protests around the world.”

Readers hear nothing about the specific charges against Israel, the numbers of protestors taking to the streets nor the expressions of condemnation and alarm emanating from the United Nations and human rights groups. We also learn nothing about what has given the protests an “anti-Semitic tinge.”

We do hear a lot about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is presented in the best possible light as a “guy who has a historical view of events,” patient even with his opponents and “very human.”

Readers need to look elsewhere to learn about the “international outcry.” They can read that more than a million people have taken to the streets to protest the carnage in Gaza, that the International Red Cross has protested Israel’s attacks on medical workers and that even evangelical Christians are abandoning support for Israel.

They can also see photos of some of the massive demonstrations taking place in cities around the world.

Fortunately, we had Ben Hubbard in Gaza even though Times editors would rather that you give his reporting less attention than their attempts to promote Israel. We shall see how long this journalist is allowed to report from the beleaguered territory and what happens to his future articles in the Times.

Barbara Erickson

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