In an impassioned and unequivocal statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said Palestinian incitement was directly responsible for yesterday’s brutal murder of Jews praying in a Jerusalem synagogue. The murders were “a pure result of incitement,” and of calls by Palestinian leaders for “days of rage” against Israel.
It was an important and newsworthy indictment by one of the highest ranking US officials. But readers picking up a copy of The New York Times this morning learned nothing about it. That’s because the newspaper, whose reporters had at one point quoted the most dramatic portion of Kerry’s condemnation, first replaced it with a less pointed passage, and later excised any reference whatsoever to the comments.
We at CAMERA have often criticized The New York Times for its failure to cover with the seriousness it deserves the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, and anti-coexistence messages that saturate Palestinian society and inflame the conflict. This latest example, in which editors actively removed Kerry’s dramatic criticism of incitement, highlights the extent to which the newspaper feels uncomfortable exploring Palestinian responsibility for the conflict in the same way they scrutinize Israeli actions — especially if such hard-hitting coverage might reflect poorly on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is often described by the newspaper as a “moderate.”
Kerry’s remarks, which came before his meeting in London with the British Foreign Secretary, were among the most direct and cutting condemnations of Palestinian incitement by a high-ranking US official. After an introductory statement about the importance of the US-UK relationship, Kerry quickly turned to the slaughter in Jerusalem, his voice betraying his emotion:
The reason I was delayed walking in here: I was just on the phone to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel. This morning, today in Jerusalem, Palestinians attacked Jews who were praying in a synagogue. And people who had come to worship God in the sanctuary of a synagogue were hatcheted and hacked and murdered in that holy place in an act of pure terror and senseless brutality and murder.
I call on the Palestinian leadership at every single level to condemn this in the most powerful terms. This violence has no place anywhere, and particularly after a discussion that we had just the other day in Amman, where the prime minister of Israel flew to Amman, sat down with the Custodian of the al-Aqsa Mosque, King Abdullah of Jordan, and went to the extent of restoring in absolute terms the status quo with respect to the management of that mount, including lowering the age, taking away any age limits on people who could visit, guaranteeing that there were peaceful, completely uninterrupted visits over the weekend. And to have this kind of act, which is a pure result of incitement of calls for days of rage, of just an irresponsibility, is unacceptable.
So the Palestinian leadership must condemn this and they must begin to take serious steps to restrain any kind of incitement that comes from their language, from other people’s language, and exhibit the kind of leadership that is necessary to put this region on a different path.
Very early in its coverage of the incident, The New York Times quoted Kerry’s call on the Palestinian leadership “to condemn this in the most powerful terms.”
A few hours later, shortly before 8 a.m. (EDT), the most damning and newsworthy portion of Kerry’s statement was added to the copy. “Secretary of State John Kerry of the United States called the attack ‘a pure result of incitement,’” the newspaper acknowledged.
But then the backtracking began, until the story was ultimately reshaped to better fit the newspaper’s world view. Around noon, the quote of Kerry blaming the attack on Palestinian incitement disappeared from The New York Times website. It was replaced with a quote in which Kerry called on Palestinians to condemn the attack and “restrain any kind of incitement”—not quite as powerful as the Secretary of State assigning responsibility for the attack directly on the Palestinians and their leaders, but still at least an acknowledgment of his attention to incitement.
Apparently, though, even that was too much. At around 9 p.m., the story was finally scrubbed of any reference to Kerry’s remarks. A quote by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the attack was “the direct result of the incitement” by Palestinian leaders was likewise cut. So was a passage suggesting that Abbas denounced the attack only as a result of Kerry’s demand for Palestinian condemnation.
By the time the paper went to print, the word “Kerry” didn’t appear in a single Mideast news story. The word “incitement” appeared only once — in reference to Mahmoud Abbas’s allegation that Israel is supposedly guilty of incitement against the al Aqsa mosque, a holy Muslim shrine built on the holiest site in Judaism.
Clearly, Palestinian incitement, and Mahmoud Abbas’s share of responsibility for ongoing strife, do not fit the newspaper’s script about the Arab-Israeli conflict. And so the newspaper sculpted and trimmed and shaped, fall what may onto the cutting room floor. It is another reminder that readers hoping to be exposed to the full assortment of views about the Arab-Israeli conflict — even the full assortment of the US administration’s views, never mind those that are even more skeptical and critical of Palestinian behavior — need to look elsewhere.
Author’s correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of times the New York Times cited Palestinian allegations that Israel is responsible for incitement. There was one reference to such allegations, not two.