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December 9, 2000
Write back at them
By Ahmed Amr.

The anguish of many a scribe is that they will wake up one morning and have nothing to write about. All I need to do is pick up a copy of The New York Times. It just makes you want to write back at them.

The amount of advocacy journalism on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is enough to make most editions of the Times a subject of a good-sized chapter on the tainted journalism of provincial pamphleteers. Take Deborah Sontag, William Safire and Thomas Friedman. Please. When will these three ever stop masquerading as "neutral'" observers of the Middle East. They are welcome to do their best Tom Paine imitation. A bit of Paine's intellectual honesty would be welcome common sense.

While the Times spills a ton of ink on its unrelenting pro-israeli advocacy journalism, it is the stories they don't cover that keeps me at my keyboard. You know, the Palestinian stories. Make no mistake, this is a well-crafted paper which spares no effort to applaud itself. In its own words, this is what the Times writes about itself "Thousands of print news organizations cover the nation and the world. But none enjoy (sic) the international recognition, respect and global status of The New York Times. Through our commitment, vision and unwavering editorial standards, The New York Times has remained among the small corps of leaders. We create a daily record of national and global news, rich with perspective and driven by the highest journalistic standards."

Lets start with the audacious claim about covering the world. For a paper that is considered a local rag in the city that hosts the United Nations, the Times has seen fit to dismiss virtually all General Assembly resolutions condemning the vicious thirty-three year Israeli military occupation of Palestinian and Syrian land. The staff and management of the times have derided these resolutions as nothing but a seasonal third world ritual by malcontent third world countries kowtowing to the sheiks of Araby.

What about the Europeans and the Chinese and the Russians? Well, that is just the arrogant New York contempt for everything outside Manhattan. Hell, they think Rhode Island is part of the third world.

So, if you are Canadian, don't take it personally. Take it from an ex-New Yorker, the folks who live on the banks of the Hudson are as provincial and ethnic as those who live by the banks of the Nile.

Even if we were to allow the canard that the IDF military occupation is a defensive posture by a 'besieged Israel', what exactly justified three decades of Israeli land confiscation and cruel humiliation of the native Palestinians? What exactly justified moving in 200,000 Jewish settlers to change the demographics of the occupied territories? What about the thousands of Palestinians who have been murdered, maimed and mutilated during this last outbreak of IDF military repression? Why not provide some international protection for the Palestinians? Well, because that is not the approved 'policy' at the New York Times. It is uncanny how 'Middle East policy changes at The New York Times move in tandem with the evolution of Israeli policy.

The only parties that have consistently voted against international measures to protect the Palestinians are Israel, the United States, the Marshall Islands and The New York Times. I personally think the United Nation should give the New York Times observer status in exchange for an end to that paper's state of belligerency against the Palestinians. Another favorite solution is to get the United Nations out of New York City.

One would think that an "international" newspaper would pay a passing nod of respect to international law like the Geneva Convention. Take a peek at the extensive New York Times archive on the Middle East and forget about the nod. The six million Israelis get more coverage than the 300 million Arabs or the three billion Asians. Those archives speak volumes about a paper that digs into the most arcane details of an Israeli election and barely covers the tribulations of Chirac's Parisian closets. The New York Times is too 'international' to bother with Canadian elections and provinicial enough to intensively monitor the tempo of Tel Aviv cafe gossip.

The bottom line is that the Israelis get to tell their story more often and the New York Times is there to assist with a translation that might sell in Peoria and Washington, DC. Todo, por la causa Zionista. Far from being a "global" paper, the Times is first and foremost a "New York" paper. It is a provincial and ethnic paper that very sensibly caters to its audience, the largest Jewish community in the world.

I have no problem with advocacy journalism. Most print papers have an agenda to peddle, advertisers to please, and an audience that wants to hear an echo of their own prejudices. If you are a Yankee fan, you don't want the New York Times pushing the Atlanta Braves. And, God forbid, that they should support a

foreign team like the Blue Jays of Toronto. In the New York Times, God forbid, you should write a word or two criticizing Israel.

As for the "international" recognition. Well, maybe for the Book Review Section and the glossy advertising. Lets face it, these guys know how to stitch together a good municipal paper. But a lot of folks in Syracuse and Buffalo think it's full of one-sided self-serving "Big Apple" bias. And that is just upstate New York. I won't even go near Jersey. Among Palestinians and Arabs, especially those who live in New York, it is considered a pro-Israeli journal that rivals The Jerusalem Post. In the Arab Middle East, it is considered a hostile Israeli propaganda tool. Of late, other Muslim nations have also come to consider this New York City paper as a daily pamphlet of contempt for everything Islamic. Considering how much of their coverage is devoted to that region, where exactly are they getting these "respectful" vibes from? I would guess it is largely from a few other New Yorkers.

Global, huh? The coverage of Latin America is too sporadic to be considered significant. Florida and California papers have the edge in that part of the world. The Wall Street Journal is what sells in Asia.

The Europeans have dozens of daily journals that have real "international" coverage that would shame every New York Times employee. The Times, much like the Post and the Daily News, is just a local city paper that has championed every Israeli regime's attempt to dispossess the Palestinians of the only bit of real estate that shows every promise of becoming an independent Palestinian "shelter country".

The sheer cruelty of that kind of advocacy is sufficient enough to strip the Times of its self-laudatory proclamation of "commitment, vision and unwavering editorial standards". As for their "daily record of national and global news" it is rich with drivel and ranks with the lowest journalistic standards of any major municipal paper in the world


  January 3, 2001