Brenda Yablon

Is the New York Times on the Payroll of Hamas?

Anyone who is a regular reader of the New York Times would be hard-pressed to find Israel portrayed sympathetically, especially since Oct. 7, the day Hamas, without provocation,  invaded Israel, killed 1200 Israelis, injured many more, took over 240 hostages back to Gaza, and destroyed many houses by burning them to the ground, often with people trapped inside. Yet even more than four months into the war, the New York Times continues to churn out as many as 6 or 7 pieces a day on the destruction and suffering in Gaza, often with as many as 3 accompanying videos. But it wasn’t until today that I decided to take a closer look.

Today, Feb. 25, under Top News NYT offers us this headline: Sanitation Crisis in Gaza Spreads Disease. “It is a public health concern,” one UN official said of the lack of toilets for displaced people in the territory. “But the second thing is simply just dignity.”Dignity? That word got my attention. Is the NYT concerned about the dignity of over 100 Israeli hostages who are supposedly still somewhere in the over 500 kilometres of Gaza tunnels? We know from testimony of hostages who have been released that young women captives are habitually sexually abused as if they are personal concubines. Male captives have been humiliated by being forced to shave their underarms and private areas while their Hamas captors looked on and laughed. Where is the dignity of Israeli hostages deprived of daylight, air, water, food, and medicine for such a long time – indeed if they are still alive? How much compassion has the NYT shown towards Israeli hostages?

I decided to look at articles over the past 10 days. (Digital edition) I found exactly one article that even mentioned the hostages, on Feb. 21. But it wasn’t directly about them. It was entitled “Where Hostage Families and Supporters Gather, for Solace and Protest.” As might be expected, the reporter interviewed families and friends at Hostage Square in Tel Aviv. There were 4 photographs, one of the now iconic table with empty place settings, representing the captives, another of a woman playing the piano, one of a clock counting the time since the hostages were taken, and one of a makeshift tunnel. There was nothing particularly disturbing about the photos in and of themselves, and no videos. This was the only discussion of hostages by the NYT in 10 days of coverage. It bears mentioning that there was no reporting on Gaza on Feb. 17 since much attention was paid to Alexei Navalny who had died the day before in a Russian prison.

By contrast in the same edition of Feb. 21 the NYT showed a video of the Palestinian photojournalist, Motaz Azaiza, who “captured Gaza’s suffering.” The video runs 5 minutes and 34 seconds and was shown again 2 days later. Motaz is a soft spoken, instantly likeable young man, who speaks perfect, almost unaccented English. He says he wants to show Gaza “without any filters, without any lies”, while at the same time quietly acknowledging “you don’t have freedom to choose when living  in Gaza.” Undoubtedly he is speaking about himself, but that phrase slips by if you’re not paying attention. His work shows what we have come to expect of war coverage – buildings going up in smoke, injured being transported to hospital, and people crying over the body of a lost loved one. He says he has lost many family and friends, and that “journalists are the most targeted people.” Interestingly, he doesn’t say by whom. He shares with us a phone call he has received with no caller ID. He says those calls are usually from the IDF. The male caller says in English with a slight Russian accent, “Can you put story maybe condemning Hamas, so this can all end?” Motaz makes no comment which it itself speaks volumes especially since he finishes by telling us that he and his family were allowed to evacuate  the Gaza Strip and leave for Doha, Qatar where they are safely if sadly installed in hotel rooms. 

On Feb. 18 the NYT tells us that “another Gazan hospital is declared not functional.” These desperate conditions at El Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis were brought about by the IDF who raided it “in search of Hamas militants”.  We are not told why the IDF would be looking for militants in a hospital.  We are only told that there are 20 critically ill patients left in the hospital. “But even that is too many for it to handle, according to Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, the WHO director general. Conveniently omitted is the information that the IDF had already evacuated the hospital, which is why there were so few patients left. The NYT deliberately manipulated the facts to portray Israel as the villain, cruelly targeting and destroying a hospital. 

Feb. 23 there were no fewer than 6 pieces on Gaza. One is a video with the headline, Strikes Flatten Mosque in Rafah in Southern Gaza. The video shows large pieces of a minaret lying on the ground with people milling about. A well dressed, well groomed, clean and composed spokesman appears, speaking authoritatively, and is identified as “local resident” Khairy Abu Sinjel. This is not a random man from Gaza. He is obviously speaking on behalf of Hamas when he tells us that the mosque is “a religious institution. It isn’t a resistance position, nor is it a manufacturing workshop or anything.” There is no mention whatsoever by the reporter of the abundant evidence shown many times and made widely available by the IDF that Hamas have appropriated mosques and other civilian institutions under which they have built tunnels, munitions factories, and weapon storage facilities. Without even identifying the spokesman as a Hamas representative, his lying denial is allowed to stand, thereby giving readers the false impression that Israel destroyed the mosque for no good reason. 

The examples are legion. Instead of reporting on the Gazans lack of dignity because of inadequate toilet facilities, the NYT would do well to make its own reporting more dignified through more truthful and balanced reporting. 

About the Author
I was born in Montreal and educated at McGill University (BA 1966) and the Université de Montréal (MA 1969) I was a journalist in radio, television, newspapers and magazines, as well as a screenwriter. I made Aliyah 8 years ago and divide my time between Tel Aviv and Vancouver.