NY Times news judgment: Arrests of Hamas officials or Jerusalem Mufti's call to kill Jews?
The New York Times decided to weave two developments on the Israeli-Palestinian front into one story. But which one to pick for the lead?
On the one hand, there was the uproar over Mahmoud Abbas's Palestinian Authority TV airing a call by the PA's Jerusalem Mufti, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, to kill Jews in order to fulfill a mandate from the Prophet Mohammed. The Mufti's anti-Semitic incitement drew a demand by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for PA leaders to condemn such remarks.
On the other hand, in the same news cycle, Israeli security forces arrested a couple of Hamas members of the long-defunct Palestinian Parliament. The Hamas parliamentarians had been hiding in a Red Cross compound in East Jerusalem. While Abbas was silent about the Mufti's remarks, PA leaders criticized the arrest of Hamas officials as a blow to meetings between Israeli and Palestinian peace negotiators
Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner was given the task of fitting both these events into a single article. Which one did she pick for her lead - and thus maximum impact on Times readers?
No great surprise. Kershner led off with the arrest of the two Hamas legislators. This automatically gave this occurrence primacy for the five -column headline, which reads: "2 Palestinian Legislators Are Arrested in East Jerusalem Protest" (page A6). No mention in the headline of the Mufti's heinously dangerous incitement to murder Jews, which ended up as Kershner's second paragraph.
No surprise, because the New York Times is more invested in protecting Palestinian interests than life-and-death interests of Israelis. Strictly as news judgment - or lack thereof - it also falls short. After all, a previous Jerusalem Mufti forged an alliance with Hitler to murder Jews and, in a déjà vu development, threatening a new wave of Arab pogroms against Jews, one would think, would seem to be more compelling, newswise, than the arrest of a couple of Hamas officials in Jerusalem, who face no such dire consequences.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers