New York Times "mistakes" are always anti-Israel

The Jerusalem Post (www.jpost.com) has a good article that shows the leftist anti-Israel bias of the New York Times, the Washington Post and National Public Radio (NPR).

Consider the following items from the corrections columns of The New York Times:

Correction: An article yesterday about peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians referred incorrectly to United Nations resolutions on the conflict. While Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Middle East War, calls for Israel to withdraw its armed forces "from territories occupied in the recent conflict," no resolution calls for Israel to withdraw "to its pre-1967 borders." (January 23, 2001) .

[4 more New York Times corrections. All corrections fix an error or omission that was detrimental to the State of Israel]

In a more normal world, a newspaper's mistakes, particularly in its political and diplomatic reporting, would more-or-less be randomly distributed. One could, for example, expect a correction in which it was the Israeli position on Resolution 242 that had been cited in the original story, not the other way around. Or again, the story about Quneitra might have been faulted in the correction for reporting the Israeli version of history as uncontested fact. Yet while a search of NYT corrections over the past two years discloses the usual measure of forgivable bloopers, not once has the paper erred on the side of Israel. A pattern of bias, maybe?

Bret, not "maybe" but definitely a pattern of rabid anti-Israel bias. Most New York Times (and NPR) journalists are liberal leftists who have an agenda. Their agenda today is to discredit Israel's efforts in stopping Palestinian terrorism - and it shows.

I copy the full article below.





BRET STEPHENS'S EYE ON THE MEDIA
Department of corrections, Aug. 22, 2002
http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?
pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/
ShowFull&cid=1029920499698

"The study of error," Walter Lippmann once wrote, "serves as a stimulating introduction to the study of truth."

Just so. Consider the following items from the corrections columns of The New York Times.

Correction: An article yesterday about peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians referred incorrectly to United Nations resolutions on the conflict. While Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 Middle East War, calls for Israel to withdraw its armed forces "from territories occupied in the recent conflict," no resolution calls for Israel to withdraw "to its pre-1967 borders." (January 23, 2001)

Correction: An article on March 20 about the Bush administration's Middle East policy misstated a word in a comment from Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel, on the fatal shooting of an Israeli and on a mortar attack on southern Israel. He said such attacks "cannot be carried out without the authoritative body, Palestinian officialdom, being aware of it." He did not say "with the authoritative body." (March 28, 2001)

Correction: An article on Monday about the visit of Pope John Paul II to Syria referred imprecisely to the destruction in the Golan Heights city of Quneitra, where he has since delivered a prayer for peace. The city was captured by Israel during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It is the Syrians who contend that the Israelis used dynamite and bulldozers to level the town before they left in 1974. Israel says the damage was a byproduct of fighting in the wars of 1967 and 1973. (May 9, 2001)

Correction: Because of an editing error, an article about Hussam Khader, a Palestinian legislator who went from championing peace with Israel to advocating violence, misstated his view of attacks on civilians. While he does not approve of them generally, he condones violence against Israeli settlers living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, regarding them as occupying forces.
(March 4, 2002)

Now take note of two points: First, the Times's show of punctiliousness in identifying, admitting and correcting the mistakes in its reporting. And second, the ideological direction of the errors from which the corrections stem. These points are not unrelated.

In a more normal world, a newspaper's mistakes, particularly in its political and diplomatic reporting, would more-or-less be randomly distributed. One could, for example, expect a correction in which it was the Israeli position on Resolution 242 that had been cited in the original story, not the other way around. Or again, the story about Quneitra might have been faulted in the correction for reporting the Israeli version of history as uncontested fact. Yet while a search of NYT corrections over the past two years discloses the usual measure of forgivable bloopers, not once has the paper erred on the side of Israel. A pattern of bias, maybe?

In answer to this, of course, is the fact that the Times caught its mistakes. Yet a corrections column does more than simply acknowledge errors and, hopefully, help prevent their repetition. It also creates the appearance of honesty. "We take all criticisms very seriously," National Public Radio President Kevin Klose told The Jerusalem Post recently. "We report the news in a constant search for accuracy, and come back to it when we make a mistake." Joining in the sentiment, Washington Post ombudsman Michael Getler writes that "despite some lapses and shortcomings, a fair-minded reader would be very well informed by Post coverage during the course of this almost two-year-old uprising."

Put another way, by catching and correcting comparatively trivial errors, news organizations like the Times, the Post and NPR would have the public - and perhaps even themselves - believe that they are presenting the larger picture fairly.

But it is equally plausible that the appearance of honesty serves to disguise larger errors in fact and interpretation; that, as British novelist William McIlvanney once observed, "good lies need a leavening of truth to make them palatable."

In too many instances, that's exactly what's going on in the media's coverage of Israel today.

"Mohammed, 12, was the boy shot dead by Israeli troops during a gun battle in Gaza. The boy was caught on film by a French cameraman as he cowered behind his father and then slumped dead in his lap."

Thus did the Times's Deborah Sontag - along with most other journalists - report in October 2000 on the killing of Mohammed al-Dura. For this, the Times can be forgiven. At the time, the IDF confessed to the likelihood that its soldiers had accidentally shot Durra dead and badly wounded his father during a gun battle near Netzarim on September 30, 2000.

Still, it would have behooved the Times to follow up on a story that was to become so central to the world's "narrative" of the conflict. Within two months of the incident, the IDF released a second, more detailed report of the shooting suggesting "there is quite a possibility that the boy was hit by Palestinian bullets in the course of the exchange of fire." And several months after that, Esther Shapira of Germany's ARD television released a definitive documentary conclusively proving the IDF's revised case.

Number of New York Times stories and/or corrections on the broadcast: 0.

Number of Washington Post stories and/or corrections on the broadcast: 0.

Much the same goes for the other great myth of the intifada: that Ariel Sharon's "provocative" visit to the Temple Mount sparked the outbreak of violence in September 2000. Unlike coverage of the ARD story, the words "Sharon," "Temple Mount" and "provocative" appeared together an astonishing 424 times in English-language news accounts in the weeks following the outbreak of violence, so that it soon became all but impossible to lay the blame for the outbreak of violence on anyone but the future prime minister.

Yet from the start, eyebrows that should have been raised weren't. "Sharon Touches a Nerve, and Jerusalem Explodes," was the headline the Times attached to correspondent Joel Greenberg's story. "The precipitating incident," the paper added in an editorial, "was a provocative and irresponsible visit by the Likud leader." Neglected here was any mention of the fact that Marwan Barghouti had sent hundreds of Fatah youth to the Aqsa Mosque in anticipation of Sharon's visit. Neglected, too, in the Times's reportage, was any mention of Yasser Arafat's comments (reported in Time magazine) to Barghouti that he wanted "to light a fire, and I want it to burn the Israelis."

As a result, after 23 months of violence, New York Times readers have yet to be treated to an account of how the so-called Al-Aqsa intifada really got started. By now, of course, the story has moved on. But it has been decisively shaped by early coverage of events, coverage that in hindsight has proved fatally inaccurate, and for which news outlets such as the Times have yet to offer amendment.

Today, a similar pattern is emerging with the Times's coverage of America's war on terrorism. In late October, the paper ran a front-page piece by senior political writer R.W. Apple titled, "A Military Quagmire Remembered: Afghanistan as Vietnam."

"Like an unwelcome specter from an unhappy past," Apple wrote, "the ominous word 'quagmire' has begun to haunt conversations among government officials and students of foreign policy.... For all the differences between the two conflicts, and there are many, echoes of Vietnam are unavoidable."

Within days, the thinking had caught on. "This war is in trouble," said NPR's Daniel Schorr. "History is not encouraging," wrote Kathy Gannon of the Associated Press. "Now it may be the United States' turn to try a foray into the Afghan quagmire." "The United States is not headed into a quagmire; it's already in one," wrote Jacob Heilbrunn in The Los Angeles Times. And so on.

Ultimately, according to US News & World Report columnist John Leo, a total of 7,772 references to Afghanistan and Vietnam were made in print or on radio and TV between September 11 and November 26.

In the event, Kabul fell in mid-November, and talk about an Afghan quagmire was soon forgotten. Yet no sooner had public attention turned from central Asia to other fronts in the war on terrorism than the Times resumed its dark forecasts.

In July, it began publishing a steady stream of Pentagon leaks on the estimated costs of war - 250,000 troops, to be deployed on three fronts, a "profound effect on the US economy," the risk of an oil shock. An op-ed by Michael O'Hanlon and Philip Gordon, titled "Is Fighting Worth the Risk?" warned that "If we had to fight the Republican Guard in Baghdad, the urban combat could resemble that in Mogadishu.... American military casualties could number in the thousands." Echoes here of Times op-eds circa the last war against Iraq.

Most remarkable, perhaps, have been the Times's efforts to discover a groundswell of popular opposition to action against Iraq. Thus, on August 3, the paper ran a story by Michael Janofsky regarding public opposition in the US to a strike against Iraq. It found that, in Scottsdale, Arizona, "Democrats and political independents were nearly unanimous in their opposition to an invasion, and most Republicans felt the same way."

"To me, it's really scary," the Times quoted Cindy Morrow, a Republican, as saying. "War really opens up a can of worms for us. You don't know where it will go next, whether it could lead us to a third world war or what."

Plainly, the Janofsky piece was intended to give readers a sense of the public mood in Anytown, USA. Yet missing from it was any reference to the fact that a preemptive strike against Iraq enjoys overwhelming public support, somewhere in the vicinity of 70%.

But never mind. Last week, the Times devoted Page One coverage to the publication in The Wall Street Journal of an op-ed by former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft arguing against military intervention - and that, two days running. As with Janofsky's piece, the focus on Scowcroft was chiefly intended to highlight conservative opposition to a war. The Times also managed to allege that former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had come out against military action. In fact, what Kissinger said was, "The imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system and the demonstrated hostility of Hussein combine to produce an imperative need for preemptive action."

But again, never mind.

IN A SPEECH at a Times retreat a couple of years ago, then-executive editor Joseph Llelyveld took note of the rising number of corrections that the paper was being forced to run. "In the first 255 days of this year [2000]," he noted, "we've had 1,739 corrections, an average of 6.82 a day, up from a total of 173 corrections on the year." Among these, he listed 198 corrections for misspelled names; the misspelling of Stendhal's name, to which was "attached a nonexistent first name to that nom de plume"; and finally, "three times in recent months we've had to run corrections on the actual provisions of Resolution 242, providing great cheer and sustenance to those readers who are convinced we are opinionated and not well informed on Middle East issues."

Llelyveld's solution: "Sweat the small stuff," he admonished colleagues. "You look through the words to the facts. You look through the words as you'd look through a pane of glass."

To read much of the Times's coverage of the Middle East today is indeed like looking through a pane of glass - stained glass. Often, it makes for an intriguing picture. As a window on reality, it makes for a very distorted view. No corrections column alone will succeed in making it right.

bret@jpost.co.il

Posted by David Melle
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