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September 29, 2015

"European Advocate for Palestinian Rights" Misleads New York Times

hebron knife hashlamoun.jpg

The New York Times hasn't needed much help lately skewing its reporting against Israel. Recall its recent coverage of the Israeli driver killed after his vehicle was stoned by Palestinian attackers. The Times said that the attackers, whose national background it did not specify, "pelted the road he was driving on with rocks." The road, not the car. In a follow up reference to the attack, the same reporter, Diaa Hadid, described the death as a result of an "accident."

But apparently they take help where they can get it. After a recent incident in which a Palestinian woman was shot at a checkpoint near Hebron, New York Times Hadid was able to rely on a anonymous witness described as "a European advocate for Palestinian rights" to cast doubt on Israel's contention that the woman was shot while holding a knife. According to the article's opening paragraph,

Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian woman early Tuesday at a checkpoint in Hebron in the West Bank. The Israeli military said the woman had pulled out a knife, but a European advocate for Palestinian rights, who said he had witnessed the episode, said the woman appeared to be only trying to open her purse for inspection.

Another witness quoted in the article, Fawaz Abu Aisheh, did not contradict the European witness's claim.

Israeli authorities later released a photo of the knife they say the woman, Hadeel Hashlamoun, was holding.

But Amnesty International, whose hostility toward Israel far exceeds even that of The New York Times, also spoke with Abu Aisheh. And according to the advocacy group, he said that upon being shot, the woman dropped "a knife with a brown handle that she had been holding under her niqab."

Putting aside Amnesty's predictable conclusions about excessive Israeli force — an Israeli investigation will hopefully determine whether the soldiers behaved appropriately relative to the clear danger they faced — some additional conclusions about New York Times reporting of the incident are apparent.

First, its lead witness, the European activist, was obviously wrong. Intentionally or not, he misled the newspaper, and an untold number of its readers.

Second, the newspaper did not get, or did not report, the full story from its second witness. This might be because, when questioned by The Times, he didn't want to admit what he saw, only to later decide to come clean. Or it might be because the reporter didn't do a sufficient job skeptically questioning the witness. (The only other possibilities: that that the Palestinian witness actually didn't see a knife but inexplicably decided to lie to Amnesty — extremely unlikely — or that he told the journalist about the knife and she decided not to report it — hopefully equally unlikely.)

The bottom line is that this was a journalistic failure, whether due to dishonest witnesses or other because the reporter couldn't get the essential quote that another organization managed to get. The New York Times should be concerned. And so should its readers.

Posted by at September 29, 2015 03:49 PM


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