Given the New York Times' disgraceful history* of skewing its editorial and Op-Ed pages with anti-Israel opinion columns, it is unsurprising that on January 8, in the midst of Israel's war with Hamas, it loaded its Op-Ed page exclusively with columns condemning Israel.
Regular columnist Nicholas Kristof contributed "The Gaza Boomerang" faulting Israel with everything from "helping nurture" Hamas to undermining peace, while fellow Times/International Herald Tribune columnist Roger Cohen (in the online edition) repeatedly asserts in "The Dominion of the Dead," that he is "shamed by [Israel's] actions."
Instead of balancing these anti-Israel views with others presenting a different perspective, New York Times editors selected two guest columns — "Fighting to Preserve a Myth " by Gideon Lichfield and "What You Don't Know About Gaza" by Rashid Khalidi — which went even further in attacking Israel.
Lichfield. argues that Israel should not respond with military force to Hamas' attacks against civilians within Israeli sovereign territory, that Israel should accept whatever Hamas offers, even if it is only a temporary truce.
Rashid Khalidi, a well-known propagandist and a former PLO spokesman – a fact that the New York Times neglects to mention in its author blurb – presents a list of anti-Israel canards. Khalidi's column is full of glaring errors, including one that is contradicted in the news section of the same newspaper issue.
He contends that "nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year." But according to news coverage on the same day:
The United Nations estimated a few days ago that a quarter of the dead were civilians.... But Palestinian residents and Israeli officials say that Hamas is tending its own wounded in separate medical centers, not in public hospitals, and that it is difficult to know the number of dead Hamas fighters, many of whom were not wearing uniforms. (Steven Erlanger, "As Gaza Battle Goes On, Israel Is Set to Negotiate With Egypt on Cease-Fire")
Khalidi trots out the usual canards about Israel's 1948 war, "occupation," "blockade", etc. For example, he claims that Gaza is still occupied by Israel even though it completely withdrew its troops and settlers more than three years ago:
Israel still controls access to the [Gaza] area, imports and exports, and the movement of people in and out.
Although Israel does, of course, control its own border with the Gaza Strip, the Gaza-Egypt border is controlled by Hamas and Egypt – not Israel. This has been made clear by Egypt's periodic opening of the crossing point without regard to Israel's wishes. (See: BACKGROUNDER: The Rafah Crossing and Restrictions on Cross-Border Movement for Gaza Palestinians)
The writer also contends that Israel is "choking" off "fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip" to "punish" Gaza's civilian population "for exercising its democratic rights." Surely Khalidi cannot mean to imply that it is a democratic right to rocket and shell Jewish civilians within Israel's sovereign territory?
Perhaps most egregious is Khalidi's conclusion of his column with a fabricated quote. He writes:
Far more revealing are the words of Moshe Yaalon, then the Israeli Defense Forces chief of staff, in 2002: "The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people."
Khalidi uses the same fabricated quote in his book Resurrecting Empire, citing in the footnote an interview with Ari Shavit in Haaretz Magazine, August 30, 2002, as quoted in Arnaud de Borchegrave, "Road Map or Road Rage?" Washington Times, May 28, 2003.
But, in fact, Ya'alon said no such thing in the Shavit interview. On the contrary. He said that Palestinian Arabs must understand that terrorism would not make Israelis into a defeated people. Khalidi, in other words, reverses the meaning of Ya'alon's words with a fabricated quote. (Click here for the full interview: Part I and Part II )
Below is Shavit's question and Ya'alon's answer:
Shavit: "Do you have a definition of victory? Is it clear to you what Israel's goal in this war is?
Ya'alon: "I defined it from the beginning of the confrontation: the very deep internalization by the Palestinians that terrorism and violence will not defeat us, will not make us fold. If that deep internalization does not exist at the end of the confrontation, we will have a strategic problem with an existential threat to Israel. If that [lesson] is not burned into the Palestinian and Arab consciousness, there will be no end to their demands of us."
Ya'alon repeated in the same interview:
The facts that are being determined in this confrontation — in terms of what will be burned into the Palestinian consciousness — are fateful. If we end the confrontation in a way that makes it clear to every Palestinian that terrorism does not lead to agreements, that will improve our strategic position.
While the New York Times is more constrained on its news pages, its editors feel they have free reign to attack Israel on the Op-Ed pages. As Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times editorial page editor, acknowledged, "we do not feel the obligation to provide the kind of balance you find in news coverage – because it is opinion."
But although no journalistic code requires the Times to present a balanced picture on its opinion pages, one would expect a basic commitment to fair-play. Moreover, Times editors do have an obligation, according to the journalistic code of ethics, to fact-check the opinion columns they run — something they clearly have not done.
*(See: also: "Study: NY Times Op-Eds: Forum for Contentious Issues or One-Sided Advocacy?", "More Anti-Israel Propaganda in New York Times Op-Eds ", "New York Times Anti-Israel Bias in Editorials As Bad As Ever", "The New York Times' Knee-Jerk Editorial Bias")