By any stretch of the word, one would think that the blistering critique of Israel’s apartheid practices by Amnesty International would constitute ‘news’. And yet, as James North writes, a week has passed and the New York Times has still not written a single word on the report. This is from the newspaper that prides itself as being the ‘newspaper of record’ and has on its masthead the slogan “All the news that’s fit to print”, implying that within its pages you will get all the news that you need to know.
This will not come as a surprise to veteran media watchers who have long known that this newspaper serves as a conduit for the message of the Israel lobby in the US, providing cover for Israeli apartheid practices under the guise of being even-handed by occasionally allowing minor criticisms to be written.
Let me start this indictment of the New York Times’ coverage of Israel/Palestine on a personal note. I’ve been following the U.S. mainstream media closely for more than a decade for Mondoweiss, with a particular focus on the Times. In 2019 I spoke at the annual conference of the excellent Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and my topic was “How the New York Times Rigs News on Israel Palestine.” (My talk, available on YouTube, has gotten nearly 27,000 hits, which suggests that there is interest in the subject).
So when it comes to New York Times bias, I’m not naive. But I admit to being astonished, almost speechless, at the fact that more than a week has passed since Amnesty International released its landmark report charging that Israel was characterized by “apartheid” — and that so far, America’s newspaper of record has not printed a single word. The omission is especially stunning because Times journalists often cite Amnesty reports about human rights violations elsewhere in the world. Just last month, for instance the paper mentioned Amnesty in 7 different articles.
Haaretz, the leading newspaper in Israel, has not been afraid to run at least 5 articles so far about the Amnesty report. So the Times’s failure to report any of this is no oversight, but a deliberate effort to suppress the news.
North thinks that the newspaper will eventually be forced to address the AI report, at least so that the most fervent apologists on its editorial board like Thomas Friedman and Bret Stephens can argue as to why the report should not be taken seriously. They are likely trying to figure out how to best counter the message of the AI report while still maintaining the facade of neutrality. North gives the example of how they treated the report by Human Rights Watch last year that reached the same conclusion as AI.
Last April, when Human Rights Watch released a similar report that said Israel practices “apartheid,” the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, did publish an article — even though he attacked the report before he even summarized it fully. A source in the Israel/Palestine journalism world is nearly certain that Kingsley has pitched an article this time around, but that Times editors have blocked it so far.
How long can the Times news blackout continue? Is it possible that the paper’s higher ups recognize that they will have to eventually publish something, but by the time they get around to it the news will have simmered down enough to pass with less notice.
North contrasts the newspaper’s deafening silence on the AI report to the strong statement made by the Rabbinical Council of Jewish Voices for Peace that said:
“We, the Rabbinic Council of Jewish Voice for Peace, stand by the recent reports which use the term ‘apartheid’ to describe Israeli rule over Palestinians. The past year’s reports by B’tselem, Human Rights Watch and now Amnesty International contain well-documented evidence describing how the State of Israel maintains a system of identity-based domination over Palestinians. This detailed evidence demonstrates the systemic and shocking human rights violations and extreme violence and cruelty unleashed upon Palestinians living both under Israeli military and civil jurisdiction.”
The Times is not alone in this blackout of the AI report. I went through NPR’s flagship programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered after the AI report was released on February 1 and there too I did not find any mention of the report. (There was an article on the NPR website but as far as I can tell it was not on any radio program.) This is typical. Many so-called liberals and progressives, individually and in the media, shy away from saying anything that shows the Israeli apartheid system for what it is.
This is how the propaganda system in the mainstream media operates, by ignoring, delaying, underplaying, and slanting coverage of any news that reflects badly on the US or Israel or any other US ally in order to make the coverage more favorable while doing the opposite to make an adversary look worse.