The NYT's Double Standard in Action
In its Sunday, Jan. 5 edition, the New York Times runs an article by Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner about a stumbling block in Mideast peace talks -- whether Israel will retain control of the Jordan Valley at the eastern end of the West Bank. Israel contends it needs this barrier to prevent potential attacks on its heartland. Palestinians are adamantly opposed to let Israel retain any presence -- military or otherwise -- in any part of the West Bank The valley now is home to 60,000 Palestinians and 6,500 Israelis ("Strategic Corridor in West Bank Remains a Stumbling Block in Mideast Talks" page 8).
Upon closer examination of Kershner's dispatch, however, it quickly becomes evident that her focus is less on strategic issues and more on drawing contrasts between living conditions of Palestinian and Jewish residents in this part of the West Bank.
Here are the first two paragraphs of her article:
"BARDALA, West Bank -- The residents of this neglected Palestinian farming village in the northern Jordan Valley area of the West Bank say they get running water once every three days, which they store in bottles and cisterns.
"The neighboring Jewish settlement of Mehola is a small paradise by comparison, with green lawns and a swimming pool."
With this as Kershner's starting point, readers readily can connect the dots. Deprived, suffering Palestinians living next to well-off Israeli suburbanites -- with Israel countenancing such gross disparity.
But hold on. If you continue to plow further into Kershner's story and eventually get to the third sentence of the 7th paragraph, the picture begins to change. Many Palestinians, Kershner tells Times readers, "complain of mismanagement and dysfunction on the part of the Palestinian Authority, which administers Jericho and the villages." So, lo and behold, the PA also bears some responsibility.
And if you plow ahead as far as the 14th paragraph, you might actually find out that water-deprived Palestinians in Bardala "stopped paying their water and electricity bills to the Palestinian Authority." Bardala owes the PA more than $560,000 in unpaid utility bills. In response, the PA "delayed funding for projects like new roads, a dam and a water network in the village." In short, it's not Israel, but Mahmoud Abbas's PA that's turned off the spigot.
But that's not exactly the impression left by Kershner's lead with its envious look at all that ample water supply for a Jewish settlement.
Why not mention PA malfeasance right from the start? Because the article typifies a pernicious journalistic double standard at the Times, whose correspondents use rose-tinted glasses when writing about Palestinians and somber, dark lenses when they report about Israel. First, an anti-Israel poison pill. Then, quite late and quite grudgingly, a whiff of Palestinian complicity.
Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers