The pro-Palestinian gullibility of the New York Times

In its Dec. 19 print edition, the New York Times carries a story by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner about Israel's release of 500 additional Palestinian prisoners as part of the swap deal with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza for five years ("Israel Frees Palestinians In 2nd Stage of Exchange" page A6)

Bronner goes to great lengths to make the point that these Palestinians were imprisoned for minor offenses and didn't really represent any grave threat to Israel's security.  Israel, he writes, calls them "light security prisoners" and besides, a third of them were serving terms of two years or less, "often for offenses like throwing stones or incendiary bombs or possessing weapons."

As his main and only example, Bronner cites a warm family reunion -- "Sarah Abu Sneineh came with her family to greet her grandson Izzedine Abu Sneineh, who was arrested three years ago at age 15 for throwing stones and hanging Palestinian flags from telephone poles.

'He was just a schoolkid when he was arrested,' she said as she waited for him outside the tomb of Yasir Arafat.  'We want him to go back to school.  Only education is the way forward."

Very touching, indeed.  Just a kid throwing a few stones and hanging Palestinian flags -- and he gets three years in jail.  One can't but sympathize with grandma for the grandson's harsh sentence.

But it turns out that's not exactly the real story.   A gullible Bronner, in accepting grandma's version, apparently didn't bother to check a listing by the Israeli Prisoner Service that identified each of the released prisoners and the crimes for which they received prison sentences.

Had he bothered to verify Izzedine Abu Sneineh's crime sheet, he would have found that he wasn't convicted for throwing a few stones and hoisting Palestinian flags.  Had Bronner done his homework instead of relying on grandma's heart-tugging version, he would have found that this teenager actually was convicted of weapons training, attempted murder, and possession of weapons, including ammunition and explosives.

Belatedly, after being tipped off that Bronner wasn't exactly true to the Times' claim of providing "all the news that's fit to print," his article was updated on the paper's website to reflect the real offenses of this Palestinian teenager.  But the misleading Bronner article in the print edition obviously couldn't be retrieved, even if the editors perchance were to run a short, inconspicuous correction later this week.

Just as well, since this sheds some light on the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel pre-conceptions that shape the paper's coverage.