In all its many tributes to media critic David Carr, who died last week, The New York Times has praised his style, honesty and courage and held to light the dramatic arc of his life, but the paper has failed to mention one of his finest moments as a newsman: the day he called out the Israeli military for targeting and killing journalists.
Carr’s column, “Using War as Cover to Target Journalists,” appeared on Nov. 25, 2012, five days after Israeli missiles killed three newsmen traveling in marked cars in Gaza. Carr wrote, “Rather than suggesting it was a mistake, or denying responsibility, an Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, told The Associated Press, ‘The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.’”
He followed this with a terse comment: “So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as ‘relevance to terror activity.’”
Carr also noted that Israel had earlier struck two buildings housing “journalists and production personnel from a variety of local and international news media outlets,” and he reported the outraged protests from Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders over the killings.
All of this should have appeared in the Times news section, but Jodi Rudoren’s article the day of the strikes obscured the reality of what took place. She summed up one of the strikes in these words: “Just before 6 p.m., two camera operators for Hamas’s Al Aqsa Television network were burned to death when a bomb exploded their car on Al Shifa Street at the edge of the Beach Refuge Camp.”
Rudoren introduces this fact far into her story and she omits the death of a third journalist, also killed in a targeted strike that day. In her telling, Israeli forces had no responsibility for their deaths: It was simply that “a bomb exploded their car.”
It was not until Carr’s column appeared days later that readers were fully informed of Israel’s culpability. The difference was obvious to those members of the Israel lobby who monitor the news. They were silent following Rudoren’s story, but immediately after Carr’s column appeared the lobby responded—with letters to the editor and attacks in Zionist media, all of them saying the victims were terrorists, not really journalists.
The contrast is telling. Rudoren’s story shielded Israel; Carr’s column brought Israeli breaches of international law to public notice, and so he took the heat.
David Carr was doing the work that the Jerusalem bureau should have done, and his truth telling undermined the Times’ claim of neutrality, especially in regards to Israeli actions in Palestine. Along with his many other achievements, he should be remembered for this.