Feb 26, 2013

NY Times Watch: Getting Gaza Wrong... Predictably cc @Sulliview

When the ceasefire went into effect between groups in Gaza and Israel after an eight day bombing campaign just before Thanksgiving last year, I knew it would only be a matter of time before reports of the ceasefire being broken began to cross the wire. But I also knew that regardless of who fired first, when or how often, it would be the Palestinians who would be blamed for breaking the ceasefire. In 2008, The New York Times reported correctly the events of 4 November 2008 when an Israeli airstrike broke a ceasefire leading to the Israeli assault on Gaza named "Cast Lead." Yet when "Cast Lead" began, The New York Times' editorial ignored its own reporting stating at the time:
Israel must defend itself. And Hamas must bear responsibility for ending a six-month ceasefire this month with a barrage of rocket attacks into Israeli territory.
As the Israeli assault on Gaza last year commenced, the mainstream media also failed to properly contextualize it in preceding events.

That's why we put together a post in early December tracking Israeli ceasefire violations. We've continued to update it since. Do you think The NY Times ever reported these incidents in the context of breaking the ceasefire? Nope.

Yet, today, for the "first time in more than three months" Israeli security officials reported that a rocket from Gaza landed in Israel. The NY Times headline: "Rocket From Gaza Hits Israel, Breaking Ceasefire".

The absurdity of this reporting is exceeded only by its predictability. The story categorically states that this rocket violates the ceasefire in both the headline and the lede:
For the first time in more than three months, at least one rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landed in southern Israel early on Tuesday morning, according to Israeli authorities, breaking a ceasefire that had been in place after eight days of intense violence between Israel and Gaza last fall.

How does the author handle all the Israeli violations? She states that a Hamas lawmaker
accused Israel of violating the ceasefire first, citing several incidents in which Gazans have been shot near the strip’s borders with Israel and fishermen attacked at sea; the Israeli authorities have said their soldiers and sailors were only responding to efforts to breach the new limits set out in the ceasefire agreement.
There you have it. The notion that a projectile from Gaza breaks the ceasefire is presented as fact, which the author stands behind with her own voice, but the notion that Israel has violated the ceasefire persistently is presented as a he said/he said between a Hamas official and Israeli authorities. No doubt an American audience is conditioned to believe the Israeli version.

UPDATE: Time to give credit where credit is due. While the text of the blog post above accurately reflects the New York Times article as it first appeared, the Times has since edited the story. It is much shorter now. It no longer refers to the cease-fire in the headline or assigns blame on party in Gaza for breaking it but instead reads "Israel Struck by Rocket From Gaza After a Death". Further, its description of cease-fire violations by the parties is far more accurate:
The rocket, which came down on a road outside the city of Ashkelon and caused no injuries, was the first from Gaza to hit Israel in the three months since a cease-fire agreement ended eight days of cross-border violence. Israel has violated the cease-fire several times by firing on fishermen and farmers approaching newly relaxed security perimeters, but the agreement has otherwise held.
This is a far better representation of reality than what appeared earlier. Hopefully it is this version which made it into the print edition. Of course it would have been best had the Times reported on the Israeli violations when they occurred,  as they did with this single rocket, but nonetheless the updated version of this article is far improved. 

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