Is the New York Times moderating its stance on Israel?

I was pleasantly surprised by the tone of a New York Times' recent report from Gaza by Patrick Kingsley, "Hamas, Claiming Victory Over Israel, Is Stuck in Same Old Cycle" — a tone I don't think I have heard from that paper before.  With bemused irony, the article ridiculed Hamas's claim that it won the latest round of fighting with Israel in May and laughed off its leaders' assurances that "[t]he state of Israel will be history" and their plea to "Palestinians outside Palestine: Prepare your papers.  You will return to Palestine after the liberation."

The punch line came at the end of the article:

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of the movement, said the group simply needed to wait patiently for Israel's downfall, just as the Taliban waited two decades for American forces to leave Afghanistan. To him, Israelis are a temporary colonial presence, rather than a people with a millennia-long connection to the land. "Once the Taliban succeeded," Dr. al-Zahar said, "the Americans escaped."

This implicit affirmation of the reasonableness of Jewish claims to the land, and the stress on the ridiculousness of the Palestinian position that Israel is an invading foreigner rather than a native to the area, that it is a temporary colonial power rather than a viable and legitimate national project, is also highly unusual for the New York Times.

I wonder: what happened?  Is it just an aberration, a one-time blip in a usually hostile coverage?  Or does it signify a genuine change of heart on the part of the New York Times?

It could go either way.  Recently, the paper wound up with egg on its face when, due to investigation by CAMERA — an organization that keeps an eye on the accuracy of Middle East coverage, and points to factual errors and omissions in it — a New York Times article by the same Patrick Kingsley about a Palestinian professor of literature objectively and sympathetically teaching his class Hebrew poetry proved to be utterly bogus, causing the paper to issue a de facto retraction.  So the piece on Hamas may have been written to compensate for that blunder.  Or maybe (and hopefully) the paper's editors realized that their overall viewpoint on the conflict was simply wrong and that they took their sympathy for the Palestinians too far and are now correcting their editorial course.

Only time will tell.  The reports from the area appear in the paper with a great deal of regularity; Mr. Patrick Kingsley, who reports from the area for the New York Times, is a busy writer.  It won't take long for us to see whether his change of tone toward Palestinians and Israelis signified the change of heart on the part of the paper.  One certainly hopes that it does.  We'll know soon enough. 

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