Barry Lynn
Barry Lynn
Intersection of Science and Policy

Truth is not in the eye of the beholder

“Israel and HAMAS accept Gaza Cease Fire: More than 250 Dead — Mostly Civilians. World Keeps A Close Eye on Truce.” So screamed The New York Times Headline on May 21st, 2021.

Reading The New York Times the last few weeks, I couldn’t help but think that the paper engaged in a series of defamatory headlines and articles, targeting the very existence of the State of Israel itself.

As a scientist, I have always valued facts as the basis for discussion, and thought that these facts should form the basis for resulting opinions (or hypotheses).  However, when neither is true, one heads down the path untruths, or in the case of news reporting that of libel or slander.

Literally, “defamation is typically defined as a false statement someone makes about you, which they publish as a statement of fact, and which harms your personal and/or professional reputation…”   However, in this case, we’re not speaking about a person, but an entire country, the State of Israel.

Through its choice of headlines and subject matter, The New York Times defamed the State of Israel, and by its extension, its people.

Let’s take a look at this particular headline itself: The New York Times claims that Israel and HAMAS accepted a Gaza ceasefire.  Was the war really only in Gaza, or did HAMAS also attack Israeli cities stretching from Beer-Sheva in the south to Haifa in the North?  The headline claims that 250 people were killed, mostly civilians.  What does the word “mostly” or this number really mean?  To destroy military targets, Israel dropped more than 1000 bombs.  Assuming that half those killed were HAMAS or Islamic JIhad Operatives.  almost 90% of the bombs killed no one at all! In another article, the  NY Times claimed that “the high numbers of civilian deaths in Gaza have also heightened Palestinian anger at Israel and spurred international outrage. “Yet, we just noted that in context, the number of deaths were not high, and rather than committing war crimes, Israel was very judicious in its use of military force. Might the NY Times itself been stoking that anger of its readers (who, in comments, wrote that they were no longer supporters of Israel)?

The last phrase, describing the world watching, is also strange.  It gives the impression that somehow the events surrounding this rather short war (with relatively few casualties) was a defining moment in world events — disregarding all other wars, still ongoing, and far greater numbers of dead in wars or otherwise.

Throughout the  NY Times coverage of the war, there was description of events, often lacking context.   For instance, “Life under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict”  is a headline for an article describing, for example, difficulties Palestinians can undergo when passing through an Israeli checkpoint; yet the article doesn’t mention the reason for the checkpoints.  Moreover, the article describes life for Palestinians in the “West Bank,” not Gaza (where the war was fought), nor does the article mention that most Palestinians described within live in  the self-proclaimed “State of Palestine.”  The article also claims that the potential eviction of residents from an “east Jerusalem” building is the heart of the conflict, rather than the accumulation of missiles and extensive military buildup of HAMAS for its stated goal of eliminating Israel. 

During the fighting, the editors thought to publish various opinion pieces, including: “This Moment is Different and “Israel is Falling Apart Because the Conflict Controls Us.”  The first advocates for a “One State Solution,” while the second blames, for example, the second Intifada (“war”) on the failed peace process.  Is it really appropriate to publish an article suggesting that the best way for two antagonistic neighbors to get along is to have them live in the same home — when supporters of the other side are burning synagogues and lynching Israelis within their very home?  Is it really appropriate to blame the Intifada on the breakdown of the peace process, implying equal culpability,  or did the preplanned suicide bombings and shooting lead to its doom?

More recently, The New York Times  “Frontpage” showed the pictures of children killed in the war, which has been roundly criticized for being inaccurate as well out of context,  if not a blood libel. Within the paper, was another opinion piece entitled: “The Myth of Coexistence in Israel.” When complaints were made about the headlining of and use of inaccurate and misleading maps that accompanied the article, the deputy editor, Mr. Patrick Healy stated that the maps were simply illustrative art, and that the writer is entitled to her own opinions.

In a nutshell, that’s it. The  NY Times news stories use selective and out-of-context facts to bias its readers against the State of Israel, and its opinion pieces are entitled to use their own, made-up facts to suggest it should be made to disappear from the world altogether.

In summary, The New York Times is a case study is how news reporting has gone bad, and how rather than using their newspaper to inform, they use it to push their worldview, which I no longer want any part of.

About the Author
Dr. Barry Lynn has a PhD in Environmental and Atmospheric Sciences. He has an undergraduate degree in Biology. He is a researcher/lecturer at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and is the CTO of Weather It Is, LTD, a weather forecasting and consulting company.
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