Robert Mackey, Portrait of a Propagandist

There was a time when New York Times could be considered a respectable daily, when featured articles were both informative and engaging. When prolific writers such as A.M. Rosenthal and William Safire presented balanced Op-Eds that were not necessarily in lockstep with upper elitist echelons of the Times’ editorial board and when articles could be relied upon to present facts and not base propaganda and fabricated nonsense. That time has long since passed. Today’s New York Times is a mere shell of its former past and has sadly degenerated into a propaganda outlet whose news articles feature a convoluted blend of radicalism and yellow journalism.

Consider Robert Mackey’s recent column in “The Lede” concerning a violent Palestinian protest where two demonstrators were killed. A video, released by the pro-Palestinian group “Defence (sic) for Children International Palestine” purports to show the killing of two seemingly innocent people moseying along on a placid street. The article’s headline says it all; “Video Shows Killing of Palestinians on ‘Nakba Day.’” There you have it, Israel is guilty and the video proves it. Of course no one has scrutinized the heavily edited video and it still has to undergo an authentication process but Mackey, turned judge, jury and executioner accepts the Palestinian narrative without reservation or equivocation and has turned an allegation into fact. By contrast, other publications that covered the incident featured headlines that treated the story as an allegation or claim that had yet to be proven.

Mackey attributes the video to “Defense (sic) for Children International.” Here Mackey demonstrates his subtle mendacity. He forgets or rather neglects to add “Palestine” after “International.” By omitting “Palestine,” Mackey is attempting to lull the unsuspecting reader into believing that this is an impartial group when in fact, it is as partisan as they come. Interestingly, the group features Mackey’s article, or more appropriately, propaganda piece, on its website presenting a good example of propaganda feeding off propaganda.

The screed continues with Mackey stating that in 1948 “hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes into exile.” Driven from their homes? Really? Most mainstream scholarly sources who have studied the matter of the Palestinian refugees have concluded that for a variety of reasons, including economic hardship, low morale, general fear and a call by the Arab leadership to vacate pending an invasion, the majority of Palestinians fled on their own volition. Yet Mackey again adopts the debunked Palestinian narrative by making it appear as though at least as many were expelled (by Israel) as fled.

Mackey, who refers to Israel as the “occupation authority,” engages in a transparent effort to pile on malicious criticism. He embeds twitter posts by an obscure, fringe blogger named Gershon Baskin who unsurprisingly condemned Israel for both the deaths and the so-called “occupation,” which he termed “immoral and unjust.” Baskin’s positions are regarded as well to the left of Israel’s left and are similar to the repugnant views expressed by the likes of Roger Waters and Richard Falk. That Mackey sees fit to mainstream Baskin’s odious views speaks volumes about his pernicious agenda.

Mackey then takes the opportunity to take a swipe at respected Times of Israel correspondent Avi Issacharoff who was nearly lynched by an enraged Arab mob while covering the violent demonstration. Mackey fails to note that Palestinian journalists betrayed their profession and actually aided and abetted in the assault by alerting the thugs to Mr. Issacharoff’s nationality. This gross deviation of journalistic norms strangely doesn’t seem to faze Mackey the journalist. Instead Mackey questions the validity of Mr. Issacharoff’s claim by introducing posts featured in the notoriously unreliable and rabidly anti-Israel blog, Electronic Intifada. Regrettably but predictably, Mackey’s dubious sources easily passed muster through the Times’ vetting process.

Throughout the article, Mackey goes to great lengths to buttress Palestinian narratives while attempting to discount and deflate Israeli claims. Mackey’s views as expressed in this story are unsurprising. His past history suggests a visceral hate for the State of Israel, evidenced by well documented anti-Israel bias compiled by the media watchdog, CAMERA.

Mackey has even been known to discount Israeli positions when those positions are supported by UN findings as was the case in November 2012 when an errant Palestinian rocket fell short (of its intended civilian target) and landed on a Palestinian house killing an infant. Israel was initially blamed but in one of those rare instances of UN lucidity, a subsequent UN investigation revealed that the cause of the blast was likely Palestinian rocket fire. Mackey went through torturous lengths to cast doubt on the UN report. Despite overwhelming evidence exonerating Israel, Mackey gives credence to the notion that Israel was to blame and this proved too much to bear for many of his readers who, in the talkback section, offered scathing criticism of his skewed take. In fact, one commentator, noting some glaring omissions in Mackey’s reporting, actually forced Mackey to revise the article and include the omitted material. Aside from the noted correction, Mackey struck a defensive tone when responding to his detractors and attributed the criticism to petty partisanship. Now if that’s not the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is.

About the Author
Ari Lieberman is an attorney and former prosecutor. He has authored several articles covering political and military issues concerning Israel, the United States and the Mideast at large.