Memo to NYTimes Correspondents re anti-Israel Bias

To: Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren

Subject: June 6 article, with your by-lines, about Israeli approval of housing construction plans in East Jerusalem and the West Bank

Predictably, Israel gets hammered on the international scene for adding more housing across the Green Line. In turn, you oblige with a four-column, 27 paragraph article (“Israel Expands Settlements to Rebuke Palestinians.”)

Your lead paragraph sets the scene:  “The announcement enraged the Palestinians and flouted international opinion.”

Paragraph No. 2:  Israel drew “criticism from foreign allies, including Britain, France and the United States.”

Paragraph No. 5 -- State Department: “We are deeply disappointed. As we have consistently said, these actions are unhelpful and counter-productive to achieving a two-state solution.”

Paragraph No. 6 -- British Foreign Secretary William Hague deplores the Israeli decision “to expand a number of illegal settlements, many of which are deep within the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem.”

Paragraph No. 10 -- Palestinian Authority will “respond in an unprecedented way.”

Paragraph No. 11 -- Saeb Erekat, the PA’s senior negotiator, says Palestinians will complain “to international bodies they had joined in April, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Plenty of complaints and criticism of Israel. No doubt about it.  But curiously and glaringly, one missing actor: ISRAEL. We’re half way in this lengthy article with its drumbeat of anti-Israel criticism, and no word from Israel about its whys and wherefores on this issue.

That part of the story is relegated to paragraph 21, where an Israeli official in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office finally is allowed to explain that “the new construction would all be in areas that Israel intended to keep under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.” In other words, construction will all be within areas Israel already has.

Thus, very, very belatedly readers are let in on the fact that Israel doesn’t plan to create new settlements, or expand existing ones, or seize any Palestinian lands, but will limit itself to building more homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and in Jewish communities in the West Bank.

Question: Under any fair journalistic criteria, shouldn’t Israel’s response have been played much higher in your article?  Had you done so, it would have immediately demolished the British foreign secretary’s false assertion that Israel is about to “expand a number of illegal settlements, many of which are deep within the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.”

So, why give Israel back-of-the-bus treatment? Wouldn’t it have been fairer to summarize Israel’s explanation and rebuttal in the third paragraph, for example, instead of Paragraph No. 21?

Incidentally, Israel also gets the short end of the stick from whoever wrote the headline: “Israel Expands Settlements to Rebuke Palestinians” Amid all this brouhaha, the Times fails to alert readers that there is no planned expansion of settlements, no new settlements, no enlargement of settlements. 

Instead, it falsely accuses Israel of land grabbing – “Israel expands settlements.” Not so. As even the two of you seem to acknowledge in Paragraph No. 4, where you report that Israel’s housing ministry published bids for “the construction of nearly 1,500 housing units IN settlements.” Inside settlements, within existing settlements. But definitely not expansion of settlements as the headline falsely alleges.

Perhaps you could get the Times to print a correction of the headline? And perhaps also start giving Israel the same treatment you accord its critics. That might go a long way to heal your journalistic credibility.

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

To: Isabel Kershner and Jodi Rudoren

Subject: June 6 article, with your by-lines, about Israeli approval of housing construction plans in East Jerusalem and the West Bank

Predictably, Israel gets hammered on the international scene for adding more housing across the Green Line. In turn, you oblige with a four-column, 27 paragraph article (“Israel Expands Settlements to Rebuke Palestinians.”)

Your lead paragraph sets the scene:  “The announcement enraged the Palestinians and flouted international opinion.”

Paragraph No. 2:  Israel drew “criticism from foreign allies, including Britain, France and the United States.”

Paragraph No. 5 -- State Department: “We are deeply disappointed. As we have consistently said, these actions are unhelpful and counter-productive to achieving a two-state solution.”

Paragraph No. 6 -- British Foreign Secretary William Hague deplores the Israeli decision “to expand a number of illegal settlements, many of which are deep within the West Bank, and in East Jerusalem.”

Paragraph No. 10 -- Palestinian Authority will “respond in an unprecedented way.”

Paragraph No. 11 -- Saeb Erekat, the PA’s senior negotiator, says Palestinians will complain “to international bodies they had joined in April, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Plenty of complaints and criticism of Israel. No doubt about it.  But curiously and glaringly, one missing actor: ISRAEL. We’re half way in this lengthy article with its drumbeat of anti-Israel criticism, and no word from Israel about its whys and wherefores on this issue.

That part of the story is relegated to paragraph 21, where an Israeli official in Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office finally is allowed to explain that “the new construction would all be in areas that Israel intended to keep under any future peace deal with the Palestinians.” In other words, construction will all be within areas Israel already has.

Thus, very, very belatedly readers are let in on the fact that Israel doesn’t plan to create new settlements, or expand existing ones, or seize any Palestinian lands, but will limit itself to building more homes in existing Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and in Jewish communities in the West Bank.

Question: Under any fair journalistic criteria, shouldn’t Israel’s response have been played much higher in your article?  Had you done so, it would have immediately demolished the British foreign secretary’s false assertion that Israel is about to “expand a number of illegal settlements, many of which are deep within the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.”

So, why give Israel back-of-the-bus treatment? Wouldn’t it have been fairer to summarize Israel’s explanation and rebuttal in the third paragraph, for example, instead of Paragraph No. 21?

Incidentally, Israel also gets the short end of the stick from whoever wrote the headline: “Israel Expands Settlements to Rebuke Palestinians” Amid all this brouhaha, the Times fails to alert readers that there is no planned expansion of settlements, no new settlements, no enlargement of settlements. 

Instead, it falsely accuses Israel of land grabbing – “Israel expands settlements.” Not so. As even the two of you seem to acknowledge in Paragraph No. 4, where you report that Israel’s housing ministry published bids for “the construction of nearly 1,500 housing units IN settlements.” Inside settlements, within existing settlements. But definitely not expansion of settlements as the headline falsely alleges.

Perhaps you could get the Times to print a correction of the headline? And perhaps also start giving Israel the same treatment you accord its critics. That might go a long way to heal your journalistic credibility.

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

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