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New York Times Failures in Israel Coverage Point to Larger Bias: Experts

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When a missile exploded near a Gaza hospital in October last year, the New York Times reported that hundreds had been killed in a blast caused by an Israeli missile that struck the hospital.

The Hamas terrorist group made all of those claims. None of them were true.

Western intelligence agencies over the next few days agreed with Israel that it was an off-course missile fired by Hamas or another terrorist group that exploded prematurely. The rocket hit a hospital parking lot where some people were gathered. And most reported the casualties as much lower.

The New York Times, regarded as the nation’s newspaper of record for nearly a century, backpedaled through numerous revisions and clarifications of the story over the following days and weeks. Those included an editor’s note about how they covered it and another editor’s note about the first editor’s note. But the newspaper never issued a clear retraction.

This doesn’t surprise those who track the newspaper closely. The New York Times has always had it in for the Jewish state, they say. The paper holds Israel to standards of proof it doesn’t require of, say, the Hamas terror organization running Gaza. The newspaper’s coverage implies, by its endless qualifications and hesitancies, that it doubts what Israel’s spokesmen and women say.

“What is the New York Times? It’s traditionally, of course, a liberal, left-of-center publication,” Alberto Fernandez told The Epoch Times.

Mr. Fernandez is vice president of MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. The group translates and publishes press and media reports from the Middle East, valuable information as, the group maintains, what speakers say in their native tongues to their home audiences is often very different from what they say in English or generally for foreign consumption.

The New York Times’ core audience “has a certain type of mindset. Kind of well-educated, university-educated, professional types or student types have been for a long time the New York Times demographic,” Mr. Fernandez said.

“There’s always this tension, of criticism of Israel, or Israel is always wrong. And that’s just the way it is, with the types of journalists that they hire and the type of audience that they have.”

On Oct. 7, when the attacks were underway, the fires on kibbutzes still burning and hundreds of Israelis lay dead in its border communities, The Times’ early headlines portrayed the Palestinians as victims, Mr. Fernandez said.

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Dozens of rockets were fired from the blockaded Gaza Strip towards Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

He alluded to a story headlined “Gaza Has Suffered Under 16-Year Blockade”  that ran on Oct. 7.

The New York Times has a history of skewed coverage of the Israel–Palestine issue, said Ricki Hollander, a senior media analyst with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

CAMERA has been tracking coverage by the New York Times and other publications and media outlets for years.

In the mindset of the New York Times, she told The Epoch Times, “the Arabs or Palestinians don’t have agency. They’re just victims. They don’t report on them as people who have agency, who can make decisions.”

Yoram Ettinger, an Israeli intelligence analyst, agrees.

“What we have seen before October 7, since October 7, is detachment from Middle East reality, in the sense that they have decided to ignore completely the track record of the Palestinians,” he told The Epoch Times.

The New York Times didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.

The Hospital Stories

The Times, in the opinion of CAMERA and others who track news coverage about Israel, rushed to judgment on Oct. 17, when an explosion took place at Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. It was initially reported as an Israeli missile hitting the hospital and killing 500 people.

“The most notorious thing since Oct. 7,” said Mr. Fernandez, “was the alleged hospital attack that didn’t actually happen at all. ”I should say, it seems like the parking lot was hit (by) a Palestinian Islamic Jihad missile. But you know, the initial report was hundreds of patients killed, the hospital destroyed, and that was, of course, false.”

“Number one, it wasn’t Israeli. Number two, of course, the hospital wasn’t destroyed. And number three, there were not hundreds of people killed either. So it was a triple-threat lie.”

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(Left) A screenshot of New York Times’ Oct. 17, 2023, homepage showing its website article on the explosion near Al Ahil Arab Hospital in Gaza. (Right) A screenshot of New York Times’ Oct. 17, 2023, newspaper front page with its article on the explosion near Al Ahil Arab Hospital in Gaza. (Screenshots by The Epoch Times, New York Times)

The false initial report, amplified by most of the news media, caused thousands of protesters to turn out against Israel in Arab countries, Iran, and the West Bank. Protesters tried to get into the U.S. Embassy in Beirut and the Green Zone in Baghdad, where government offices and foreign embassies are located. Rioters set a historic synagogue in Tunisia on fire. Leaders of Muslim nations denounced Israel and the West.

The Times’s “correction,” is a single paragraph running at the very end of the lengthy version of the original story, updated on Oct. 19.

“A correction was made on Oct. 18, 2023: An earlier version of this article described incorrectly a video filmed by a woman at the hospital after the blast. The hospital itself was not ruined; its parking lot was damaged most heavily in the blast.”

Journalism ethics codes often call for corrections to be played prominently, in a similar position to the original story. The Times didn’t do that here.

The Times’ print edition of Oct. 18, 2023, leads with the Oct. 17 first-day story of the bombing. “Blast Kills Hundreds At Gaza Hospital,” the headline screams. But a correction at the end of this story only shows on Page A12, where the front-page story jumps to its finish.
Neither does the print version of the following day, Oct. 19, contain a correction on its front page.

The lead headline, “U.S. Backs Israel As Cause of Blast Remains Disputed,” contains two subheadlines, “Biden Urges Caution in War on Hamas” and “Vow of $100 Million To Aid Palestinians.” A headline of another story underneath a photo of President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hugging, says “An Explosion, Then ‘Too Many Bodies’ To Count.”

None of these headlines suggests how badly the Times got it wrong the first day. They all keep a distance from Israel’s position, which most authorities accepted as correct over the next few days, and meanwhile amplify the magnitude of the death toll. Right before the jump, the story notes, “Neither side’s account could be independently verified, and the precise death toll remained unclear.”

The Times’ follow-up coverage over the next few days subjects readers to a slew of dense verbiage. But it never clearly states “we goofed” or says just how wrong they were.

There, a reader learns that “Gaza authorities”—all controlled by Hamas—had put out initial estimates of 500 to 833 fatalities, then settled on 471. Gaza health authorities, the source of many casualty statistics used by the media, are controlled by Hamas, and many press note that when using them.

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(Top) An aerial view of the complex housing Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City in the aftermath of an overnight blast on Oct.18, 2023. (Bottom Left) A man pushes a cart carrying salvaged mattresses, pillows, and sheets in Gaza City on Oct. 18, 2023. (Bottom Right) Destroyed vehicles after the stike near Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City on Oct. 18, 2023. (Shadi Al-Tabatibi/AFP via Getty Images)

But French intelligence analyzed the size of the crater and said it was consistent with about 5 kilos, or 11 pounds, of explosive, a size consistent both with Hamas’s own missiles and those it gets from Iran. It made a crater roughly a yard long, a little less than that wide, and about a foot deep. It doesn’t at all fit the profile of an Israeli airstrike or rocket attack, said the French.

“We don’t see at all that a rocket that size could have produced 471 dead. It is not possible,” said a French military intelligence official, speaking anonymously but with President Emmanuel Macron’s clearance.

The rocket apparently traveled on a south-to-north axis, also more consistent with a Palestinian launch than with an Israeli one.

A U.S. intelligence estimate put the death toll at between 100 and 300. Al Ahli Hospital officials would only say “in the hundreds.” The general director of another Gaza hospital said it was 250. Two witnesses said they thought the death toll was merely in the dozens, not the hundreds.

An updated version of the Times’s original story bears the headline “Hundreds feared dead.” A brief in a news roundup on Oct. 17 says, “Hundreds of people were killed by an explosion at a hospital in Gaza City on Tuesday night where thousands of civilians had been sheltering, a loss of life that ignited protests across the Arab world on the same day President Biden left for Israel.”

An Oct. 18 story under the byline “The New York Times” starts showing uncertainty but sticks with Palestinian claims, with the headline “What We Know About the Explosion at the Hospital in Gaza: Much is unclear about the strike that Palestinian authorities say killed hundreds.”

It once more cites Hamas, blaming it on “an Israeli airstrike.” Only after that does it mention Israel’s counterclaim of an errant Palestinian rocket. It quotes President Biden’s statement that U.S. intelligence data backed Israel’s decision. But it follows that up with, “The competing claims have not been independently verified.”

Another Oct. 18 story shows U.S. intelligence officials supporting the Israeli position. In its second paragraph, it notes, “Hamas has not provided any documentation of Israeli involvement.”

But it qualifies: “The officials cautioned that the analysis was preliminary and that they were continuing to collect and analyze evidence. Neither side’s claims about who was responsible have been independently verified.”

The New York Times has long tended to give the two sides’ claims equal weight despite Hamas’s being inherently less credible, critics said.

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Protesters demonstrate in front of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul after an explosion near a hospital in Gaza City, in Turkey, on Oct.17, 2023. (Burak Kara/Getty Images)

“They should have done what good journalists always do to be right—be skeptical of your source,” Mr. Fernandez said. “And to verify.”

“The media rush to get things out, which we all understand. But the other part was, they basically relied on Hamas. And that was the fatal flaw. That was a fatal mistake.

“And of course, it had a tremendous effect in the region and in the United States and so stoked both diplomatic results and diplomatic cancellations. People canceled Israeli demonstrations (about the Oct. 7 attack) in the United States.”

Corrections are well and good, he said. “But the initial impact, the first one, is what people go with.

A story on Oct. 19, “U.S. Intelligence Agencies Give Lower Estimate for Gaza Hospital Toll,” lays out American intelligence estimates but with numerous qualifications: that U.S. intelligence “cautioned that the casualty assessments could change.”

And while they said “the death toll was likely at the low end of that [100 to 300] estimate,” the Times qualifies yet again: “But even if it is revised downward further, officials emphasized that the blast had still caused a significant loss of life.” And “U.S. officials did not say what intelligence led them to their estimated death toll.”

And there’s another ‘could not be independently verified’ in the next paragraph, as well as another instance of giving the two sides’ claims equal weight, despite Israel’s having growing evidence and consensus on its side and Hamas having neither:

“Palestinian officials have blamed an Israeli airstrike for the blast, an assertion that was disputed by the Israel Defense Forces, which said it was caused by an errant rocket fired by the armed Palestinian faction Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Neither side’s account could be independently verified.”

[/epoch_video]

Coverage over the next few days equally avoids taking responsibility for a grievous error. An opinion column by Michelle Goldberg on Oct. 20 is headlined, “It Is Impossible To Know What To Believe In This Hideous War.”

Ms. Goldberg writes that she hadn’t tended to put much stock in Israel’s assertion of an errant Islamic Jihad rocket because Israel, in her opinion, had a history of blaming Palestinians for its own accidental killing of civilians.

In her column, she first analyzes Times investigations into such controversial incidents— the death of a Palestinian-American journalist in Jenin in May 2022, the death of five Palestinian boys in a Gaza cemetery a few months later—before she even gets around to stating, “As I write this, it looks increasingly likely that Israel was correct about an Islamic Jihad rocket hitting Al-Ahli hospital.”

Late in the story, Ms. Goldberg sympathizes with Israel in a backhanded sort of way. She says the hospital incident—the untruthful reporting vs. the facts of the matter—is most like the 2002 incident when Israel, retaliating after a Hamas suicide bomber killed 30 Israelis at a Passover Seder in Netanya, attacked Jenin. Palestinian leaders accused Israel of committing a massacre, and one, Saeb Erekat, told CNN at least 500 people had been killed. “People all over the world believed these reports,” Ms. Goldberg wrote.

But NGOs and the United Nations later concluded it wasn’t true; the death toll was less than 60.

“This finding, that the Israeli military had committed only a small fraction of the extrajudicial killings it was accused of, was not an exoneration. But it should have been a cautionary tale about accepting incendiary claims of Israeli atrocities at face value,” she wrote.

And the taint of the initial false claims stuck to Israel anyway. She quoted the Guardian: “Jenin already has that aura of infamy that is attached to a crime of especial notoriety,” predicting that it would “live on in memory and myth.”

In a fashion critics find typical of the New York Times, Ms. Goldberg manages to bend this around to target Israel:

“In much of the world, there will be no dissuading people from holding Israel and, by extension, America liable for the hospital bombing,” she wrote. “At the same time, Israel will be able to use this episode to deflect criticism of the violence it really is inflicting on the Palestinians.”

An Oct. 22 story— two days after the AP story on French intelligence’s analysis—was headlined “Hamas Fails to Make Case That Israel Struck Hospital.” The Times studiously goes through Hamas’s shifting claims and failure to produce evidence—including parts of the rocket, which mysteriously were taken from the scene—but quickly gets into the war’s death toll on Palestinians, labeling Israel’s actions “disproportionate and vengeful.”

And it faults Israel for a lack of transparency, saying it “has also turned down a request by The Times to provide logs of all its military activity in the area at the time of the strike,” as if Israel somehow owed the Times that sensitive and extensive information.

The thrust of the story, when not amplifying the war’s toll on Palestinian civilians, is “on the one hand, on the other hand,” and all the reasons why the Times held it couldn’t establish what actually happened. It concludes with a photo of corpses in body bags laid out at the hospital following the explosion.

Only on Oct. 23 does the Times admit any culpability,  and it does so in something labeled “Editors’ Note: Gaza Hospital Coverage” rather than correction.

And it isn’t before the third paragraph of it that it states, “The Times’ initial accounts attributed the claim of Israeli responsibility to Palestinian officials and noted that the Israeli military said it was investigating the blast.

However, the early versions of the coverage—and the prominence it received in a headline, news alert, and social media channels—relied too heavily on claims by Hamas and didn’t make clear that those claims couldn’t be immediately verified. The report left readers with an incorrect impression about what was known and how credible the account was.

Covering Jewish Issues

The Times has long had a spotty track record when it came to matters Jewish. The newspaper, which used to be a must-read for global leaders, obscured the Holocaust as it was happening during World War II, downplaying news about the murder of millions of Jews, according to “Buried by the Times, a book by Laurel Leff. Ms. Leff noted the paper’s ”hypersensitivity” to the fact that it was Jewish-owned.

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“Buried by the Times,” a 2005 book written by Laurel Leff. (Screenshot by The Epoch Times, Cambridge University Press)

Back in the day, Ms. Leff wrote, “the Times was less likely than other news organizations to miss what was happening to the Jews, but more likely to dismiss its significance.”

For a long time, its owners bent over backward to avoid having the nation’s leading newspaper perceived as, and perhaps dismissed as a Jewish newspaper, she wrote.

Ms. Leff wrote of the tightrope publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger, the current publisher’s great-grandfather, walked during the 1930s and 1940s. He was under pressure from the Jewish community, friends, and even his own relatives as European Jews came under more and more duress.

He meanwhile worried “that if the Times was perceived as a Jewish newspaper it might alienate the Protestant establishment that had embraced the newspaper for its thoroughness and dispassion, or that a Jewish Times might aggravate anti-Semitism by serving as a reminder of Jews’ power in American society,” Ms. Leff wrote.

It avoided covering significant news stories if the Jewish angle was too strong or held off until the government raised the issue and then just covered that, she wrote.

The newspaper soft-pedaled the difficulties German Jews—including cousins of the Ochs and Sulzberger families—were having getting out of Germany in the 1930s. It didn’t put its own weight behind doing anything about it, such as raising strict U.S. immigration quotas that effectively kept Jews out.

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Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of The New York Times, speaks at a press conference at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts at Pace University, in New York City on May 6, 2009. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

As the Holocaust unfolded, the newspaper’s downplaying of it had consequences, Ms. Leff wrote. Other papers, as well as government and political leaders, took their cues from the Times, with its extensive world coverage. They figured they were safe following the lead of a Jewish-owned newspaper—that its judgments on issues concerning Jews were sound.

So, other papers didn’t cover the Holocaust heavily either, she wrote, and government officials followed suit in downplaying the issue.

Had the newspaper done a better job, Ms. Leff wrote, it wouldn’t have necessarily saved Jewish lives.

“The press’ responsibility was not necessarily to affect government policy,” she wrote. “Rather the press’ responsibility was to harness the flood of information it received about the war—about battles, about strategy, about industrial capacities, and about civilian casualties—and to channel the most critical news to the public.”

The press was just one player, she wrote, and “alone could not have altered the currents of public discourse that swamped the news of the Jews’ destruction, and certainly a single newspaper could not have accomplished that.

“Still, the Times had an obligation to do more than be swept along with the tide.”

Neither did the newspaper support the formation of the state of Israel after World War II. Jewish Holocaust survivors, homeless and often stateless, were desperate for a place to go, and this became the moment of truth for Zionism, a movement started a half-century before. Jews had always lived in what was then called Palestine, but immigration increased with persecution elsewhere and the Zionist desire to create a Jewish homeland.

American Jews were divided on the subject. Ms. Leff wrote that many in the Reform Jewish movement opposed Zionism, the return of Jews to what became Israel, as a matter of principle.

Reform Jews often held that Judaism was a religion but not a race, people, or ethnic group. Most, committed to living in America, placed their faith and hopes into this land. They did not want to be accused of dual loyalty.

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Isaac Mayer Wise. (Public Domain)

The Reform rabbi who had been the leading proponent of this viewpoint, Isaac Wise, was the grandfather of Times publisher Arthur Hays Sulzberger’s wife, Iphigene. Rabbi Wise was the preeminent figure in American Reform Judaism in the 19th century, the founder of its national association, rabbinical association, and first rabbinical school.

Life has changed since that era, Leff wrote, when Jews struggled for social acceptance.

And the New York Times has changed too. Negative coverage of Israel and Jews seems to come from an entirely different place.

Some of the new attitudes at the New York Times are very contemporary, Ms. Hollander told The Epoch Times.

She acknowledged militant and young “woke” reporters are part of the problem now. These elements of the newspaper’s staff showed their power when they forced the resignation of editorial page editor James Bennet in 2020 for publishing an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.)

In it, the senator supported using the military against those in the Black Lives Matter movement rioting after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

Times staffers tweeted their outrage with posts like “Running this puts Black @NYTimes staff in danger.”

Ms. Hollander emphasized, though, that she has seen an anti-Israel vibe growing at the paper for more than 20 years.

There developed a mindset “that Israel is the strong man and that Palestinians are just victims,” Ms. Hollander said.

Bias against Israel on its pages has its ups and downs, she said. Sometimes it’s been worse, and sometimes not so bad.

She co-authored a 2013 study of its coverage of Israel in the latter half of 2011.
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Graphs depicting The New York Times’ coverage of Israel in the latter half of 2011, from a study by CAMERA. (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America)

It “reveals empirically that there is real cause for concern,” the study said. “The dominant finding of the study is a disproportionate, continuous, embedded indictment of Israel that dominates both news and commentary sections.

“Israeli views are downplayed while Palestinian perspectives, especially criticism of Israel, are amplified and even promoted. The net effect is an overarching message, woven into the fabric of the coverage, of Israeli fault and responsibility for the conflict.

“When The Times presents criticism of Israel more than twice as often as it does criticism of the Palestinians, when it features the Palestinian perspective on the peace process nearly twice as often as it does the Israeli perspective, when it consistently omits the context of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, when it rehashes the actions of the Israeli military aboard a Turkish ship but leaves out the precipitating violence by pro-Palestinian activists, and when it de-emphasizes Palestinian aggression and incitement while headlining Israeli defensive strikes, readers can be profoundly deceived about the realities.

“And when other media outlets emulate The Times, the effect of the distortion is greatly magnified.”

The Times’ own Jewish employees have sometimes criticized the newspaper for this.

A Columbia University journalism professor, Ari Goldman, formerly a Times reporter, wrote in 2011 how his reporting of the 1991 Crown Heights violence of African-Americans against Jews was altered by his editors to fit the “frame” preferred by the editors, one “about a purported race war between blacks and whites instead of the anti-Jewish attacks that Goldman had witnessed and described,” the 2013 CAMERA study said.

A 2002 CAMERA study, “The New York Times Skews Israeli-Palestinian Crisis,” exposed the newspaper’s “distorted emphasis on alleged wrongdoing by the Jewish state during a period of unprecedented terrorism against Israel,” the second Intifada. “While amplifying news of Israeli military responses, it ignored or minimized Palestinian attacks.

“The message was clear—Israel was culpable. Ten years later, the message is the same,” the 2013 study said

The 2011 period studied was not one of high Israel-Palestinian tension, the study noted.

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(Top) Debris from attacks during the Israel–Hamas war litter a street in the Jabalia camp for Palestinian refugees in Gaza City on Oct.11, 2023. (Bottom) Palestinians evacuate an area following an Israeli airstrike on the Sousi mosque in Gaza City on Oct. 9, 2023. (Mahmud Hams/AFP via Getty Images)

In 275 stories dealing with the issue in the six-month period, 187 were critical of Israel. Fewer than half as many, 88, were critical of the Palestinians, CAMERA found. In articles where journalists expressed opinions in their own voices, they weighed in 21 times against Israel and only nine times against the Palestinians.

The 98-page study dissects issue after issue and story after story. It contains charts and graphs illustrating findings in excruciating detail. It examines issues as broad as the peace process in the United Nations and as specific as Israel’s 2010 attempt to stop a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, from breaking an Israeli blockade to illegally enter Gaza.

A UN report on the incident came out during the 2011 period CAMERA studied. “Nearly 80 percent of New York Times stories on it that mentioned Israel’s use of force aboard the ship completely ignored the corresponding events—the violent attacks by anti-Israel activists on board that precipitated Israel’s response,” the study said.

Israel is widely known as the safest and most hospitable country for gays in the Middle East, a place where Arab gays sometimes flee for safety. But in one New York Times op-ed, a CUNY professor and radical activist, Sarah Schulman, said Israel’s support of gay rights was just a ploy, “pinkwashing,” to make it appear supportive of human rights while it supported human rights abuses against Palestinians.

An Israeli government official who tracks the New York Times agreed to be interviewed by The Epoch Times, provided the official’s name wasn’t used. The official said attitudes toward Israel vary by department.

The official thinks their reporters show bias. “It uses the same information as everyone else. They’re not reporting anything false. They’re very accurate. But the way that they frame the story or the way that they write the headlines, and the pictures that they use, are very biased against Israel.”

The editorial department has a better, more in-depth perspective on issues and shows less bias against Israel. The official, though, saw that department not as good for Israel—just less bad.

The Times’s Flagship Columnist

Epitomizing the Times’ record on Israel is its flagship columnist on the Middle East, Thomas Friedman. Once the New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief, Mr. Friedman has won the Pulitzer Prize three times: in 1983 for his coverage of the Sabra and Shatila massacres in Beirut, in 1988 for his coverage of the first Palestinian Intifada, and in 2002 for commentary.

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Yoram Etttinger, Israeli intelligence analyst. (Public Domain)

“I have no doubt that the New York Times, and particularly Tom Friedman … are driven by very positive and noble ideas and intentions,” Israeli intelligence analyst Yoram Ettinger told The Epoch Times.

“The problem is that those noble intentions and ideas, to bring peace, to produce peace, and to bring justice and morality and democracy, have nothing to do with the real Middle East.

“Many, many Western policymakers as well as public opinion molders such as the New York Times have been frustrated with Middle East reality because we’re talking about 1400 years of non-peaceful coexistence among Arabs and among Muslims. We’re talking about 1400 years of volcanic, shifty, unpredictable, intolerant, violent, fragmented reality.

“What can one expect of such reality when it comes to resolving the Palestinian issue or the Arab Israeli conflict?” Mr. Ettinger said. He labeled what they advocate as “a virtual alternative reality.”

“If you base your future plans, your policy, on unrealistic foundations, you produce more evil and more damage than those that already exist.”

An email from The Epoch Times to Mr. Friedman’s publicity agency requesting an interview with him received no response.

In a 2022 column, Mr. Ettinger attacked Mr. Friedman’s record writing about Israel, suggesting his predictions were unreliable and that he’d been wrong, again and again, for decades. Mr. Friedman has influence; policymakers in Washington and elsewhere read him.
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Thomas Friedman, New York Times’ columnist on the Middle East, arrives for the International New York Times Global Forum in Singapore on Oct. 25, 2013. (Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images for International New York Times)

Mr. Friedman was wrong, he wrote, in equating Palestine Liberation Organization founder Yassir Arafat with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as the Oslo Accords peace process began in 1993, and later failed.

Mr. Ettinger quoted Mr. Friedman’s writing (often referring to him as T.F.): “‘Two hands that had written the battle orders for so many young men, two fists that had been raised in anger at one another so many times in the past, locked together for a fleeting moment of reconciliation.’

“T.F. was trapped by Arafat’s strategy of dissimulation (‘Taqiyya’), highlighting Arafat’s peaceful English talk, ignoring Arafat’s violent Arabic talk, and playing down Arafat’s unprecedented terroristic walk since the 1993 Oslo Accord.

“In July, 2000, T.F. posed the question: ‘Who is Arafat? Is he Nelson Mandela or Willie Nelson?’ A more realistic question would be: ‘Who is Arafat? Is he Jack the Ripper or the Boston Strangler?’ ”

Mr. Friedman, wrote Mr. Ettinger, had been pro-Palestinian since his student days at Brandeis University, when he’d belonged to a “pro-Arafat, radical-Left Middle East Peace Group and Breira organizations.”

Reporting in Lebanon for the Times and Associated Press, Mr. Ettinger wrote, “he played down Arafat’s and Mahmoud Abbas’ rape and plunder of Lebanon, and their collaboration with Latin American, European, African and Asian terrorists, while expressing his appreciation of the PLO’s protection of foreign journalists in Beirut (who responded in kind . . . ).”

The 2020 Abraham Peace Accords between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan, Mr. Ettinger wrote, “were concluded—in defiance of T.F.’s worldview—because they centered on Arab interests, bypassing the Palestinian issue, denying the Palestinians a veto power over the Israel–Arab peace process.”

Mr. Friedman, in 2022, writing that Saudi Arabia considered the Palestinian issue central to its agenda, seemed oblivious to the “cold-to-negative Saudi walk on the Palestinian issue.

“Contrary to T.F.’s assessment,” Mr. Ettinger wrote, “all pro-U.S. Arab regimes do not welcome a Palestinian state, which they expect to be a rogue regime, and therefore have never flexed their military or diplomatic (and barely any financial) muscle on behalf of the Palestinians.

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A soldier searches cars in a compound of more than 1,000 destroyed vehicles following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks, in Tkuma, Israel, on Nov. 16, 2023. (Mohammed Abed/AFP via Getty Images)

“They consider Palestinians as a role-model of intra-Arab subversion, terrorism and ingratitude, based on the Palestinian terrorist track record in Egypt (early 1950s), Syria (mid-1960s), Jordan (1968-1970), Lebanon (1970-1982) and Kuwait (1990).”

The Palestinians, Mr. Ettinger told The Epoch Times, have destabilized every Arab nation that has hosted them, even that of Egypt’s Gamel Abdel Nasser in the 1950s, an icon of Arab nationalism and implacable foe of Israel.

The Arab states have a much more realistic view of the Palestinians than the New York Times does, Mr. Ettinger said.

Mr. Friedman has similarly painted current Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “as a moderate, peace-seeking and anti-terrorism leader, ignoring Abbas’ K-12 hate-education system, inciting sermons in Palestinian mosques, public monuments honoring terrorists and his monthly allowances to the families of terrorists. Since Oslo 1993, Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has been a most effective production-line and hothouse of terrorists.”

Mr. Ettinger found Mr. Friedman out of touch on numerous other issues. He was charmed by Bashar Assad when he rose to power in Syria and optimistically predicted he’d liberalize Syria, attract Western investors, terminate Iran’s involvement in Lebanon, and pursue peace with Israel, all predicated, of course, on Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights.

“However, as expected, Bashar decided to adopt his ruthless father’s brutality, demolishing T.F.’s assumptions and slaughtering Syria’s domestic opposition, irrespective of the Golan Heights and Israel’s existence.”

Mr. Friedman made similar optimistic predictions about the so-called Arab Spring in 2009. He tried to argue away the Muslim Brotherhood running the show in Egypt, Mr. Ettinger said. But they, in fact, took over when President Hosni Mubarak was deposed. Mr. Friedman rosily predicted democracy breaking out in the Arab world.

“He was determined to prohibit Middle East reality to alter his vision, which is consumed by globalization, modernity, democratization and the Internet. Unfortunately, the increasingly boiling and seismic Arab Street from Morocco to the Persian Gulf has repudiated T.F.’s Pollyannaish vision.”

Mr. Friedman has argued that a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River would serve U.S. interests. That’s not so, Mr. Ettinger maintains: it would likely bring down the pro-U.S. Hashemite monarchy in neighboring Jordan, “triggering a domino scenario southward, threatening the survival of all pro-U.S. oil-producing regimes in the Arabian Peninsula.” And that would be a strategic bonanza for Iran’s ayatollahs, Russia, and China, he said.

Mr. Ettinger said history shows that national security stems not from peace but from the posture of deterrence.

“It deters terrorism. It does not eliminate it, but deterrence minimizes terrorism, deters wars, and, in fact, also attracts peace partners,” he said.

“In order to be realistic, whether it’s the New York Times or the Washington Post, or LA Times, or NPR or CNN, whatever, [they] should recognize the nature of the Middle East.

“Under such circumstances, one cannot talk about peace now or peace around the corner. One has to adjust to long-term thinking.”

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