NYT Stokes Israeli-Palestinian Tensions

Leo Rennert
Tensions are rising between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and across the Gaza border, fueled by baseless accusations by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel was responsible for the death of a jailed Palestinian prisoner afflicted by cancer.

So how does the New York Times report this event? With equal, balanced coverage of hard medical evidence pitted against the Abbas-led Palestinian hue-and-cry campaign? Forget it. The Times long ago shed its "all the news that's fit to print'' motto, substituting an all-out pro-Palestinian agenda to shape its news coverage.

A glaring example of this agenda journalism can be found in an article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner in the April 4 edition ("Tensions Rise As Israel And Gaza Swap Strikes" page A8).

Here is Kershner's lead paragraph: "Israeli-Palestinian tensions rose sharply on Wednesday with a resumption of clashes at the Gaza border as Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails declared a three-day hunger strike to protest a fellow inmate's death, saying Israel was responsible."

Is Israel responsible for the death of Palestinian terrorist Maysnia Abu Hamdiya, serving a life term for sending a suicide bomber to a Jerusalem café? To say the least, this is a highly inflammatory charge. But does it stand up to further scrutiny? And what does Israel have to say about it? And what evidence is there?

Given the highly-charged accusation against Israel in the lead paragraph, one might expect prompt placement of Israel's response and the actual medical findings. Say in the second or third paragraph? But not at the Times.

After her lead paragraph, Kershner diverts instead to this week's clashes between Israel and the Palestinians, returning to Hamdiya's death only in the 13th paragraph, which mentions in the second sentence that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer.

It is not until the 16th paragraph -- in a 17-paragraph story -- that Kersner finally mentions that Israel had conducted an autopsy in the presence of a Palestinian expert of forensic medicine, which found that the imprisoned Palestian terrorist had died from "complications of cancer" and had been a heavy smoker.

Even that doesn't begin to tell the full story. Kershner omits the specific findings of the autopsy which make it clear that the cancer complications were so vast and had spread so far that Hamdiya's condition was beyond any possible medical treatment -- the throat cancer had spread to the lungs, neck, chest, liver, spine and ribs. Also, the autopsy showed "no evidence of bruising" -- a clear indication that the prisoner had not been subjected to physical abuse or torture. None of this appears in Kershner's piece.

Yet, having reported in her lead paragraph Palestinian propaganda that "Israel was responsible" for Hamadiya's death, shouldn't Kerhsner have disclosed all available evidence to the contrary -- and played it near the top of her article? She, of course, did neither.

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian propaganda trumps hard Israeli evidence at the Times, with the latter getting back-of the-bus treatment, or no mention at all.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers

Tensions are rising between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank and across the Gaza border, fueled by baseless accusations by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that Israel was responsible for the death of a jailed Palestinian prisoner afflicted by cancer.

So how does the New York Times report this event? With equal, balanced coverage of hard medical evidence pitted against the Abbas-led Palestinian hue-and-cry campaign? Forget it. The Times long ago shed its "all the news that's fit to print'' motto, substituting an all-out pro-Palestinian agenda to shape its news coverage.

A glaring example of this agenda journalism can be found in an article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner in the April 4 edition ("Tensions Rise As Israel And Gaza Swap Strikes" page A8).

Here is Kershner's lead paragraph: "Israeli-Palestinian tensions rose sharply on Wednesday with a resumption of clashes at the Gaza border as Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails declared a three-day hunger strike to protest a fellow inmate's death, saying Israel was responsible."

Is Israel responsible for the death of Palestinian terrorist Maysnia Abu Hamdiya, serving a life term for sending a suicide bomber to a Jerusalem café? To say the least, this is a highly inflammatory charge. But does it stand up to further scrutiny? And what does Israel have to say about it? And what evidence is there?

Given the highly-charged accusation against Israel in the lead paragraph, one might expect prompt placement of Israel's response and the actual medical findings. Say in the second or third paragraph? But not at the Times.

After her lead paragraph, Kershner diverts instead to this week's clashes between Israel and the Palestinians, returning to Hamdiya's death only in the 13th paragraph, which mentions in the second sentence that he had been diagnosed with throat cancer.

It is not until the 16th paragraph -- in a 17-paragraph story -- that Kersner finally mentions that Israel had conducted an autopsy in the presence of a Palestinian expert of forensic medicine, which found that the imprisoned Palestian terrorist had died from "complications of cancer" and had been a heavy smoker.

Even that doesn't begin to tell the full story. Kershner omits the specific findings of the autopsy which make it clear that the cancer complications were so vast and had spread so far that Hamdiya's condition was beyond any possible medical treatment -- the throat cancer had spread to the lungs, neck, chest, liver, spine and ribs. Also, the autopsy showed "no evidence of bruising" -- a clear indication that the prisoner had not been subjected to physical abuse or torture. None of this appears in Kershner's piece.

Yet, having reported in her lead paragraph Palestinian propaganda that "Israel was responsible" for Hamadiya's death, shouldn't Kerhsner have disclosed all available evidence to the contrary -- and played it near the top of her article? She, of course, did neither.

When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian propaganda trumps hard Israeli evidence at the Times, with the latter getting back-of the-bus treatment, or no mention at all.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers