NYT defends lack of “occupation”

The New York Times is seemingly allergic to the word “occupation” when it comes to describing the Israel-Palestine conflict. It rarely mentions that all Israeli settlements, including those in East Jerusalem, violate international law. Daniel Okrent, the Times’ public editor, appears to see no problem with that. When describing Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, NYT is reduced to writing stuff like Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 and 200,000 Israelis now live there and Palestinians claim this land as theirs, ignoring completely that the weight of international law and all respected human rights organizations consider East Jerusalem occupied, and reducing the conflict to a matter of he-said, she-said.

Okrent writes April 24: [The New York Times] does not cede definitive authority to other organizations and sources. Last Tuesday, “Israel, on Its Own, Is Shaping the Borders of the West Bank,” by Steven Erlanger, angered Michael Brown for its unelaborated statement that Palestinians “argue that all Israeli settlements beyond the green line are illegal.” The Times, Brown believes, is obligated to note that “it’s not just the Palestinians who say it’s illegal, but U.N. Security Council resolutions.”

Ethan Bronner, the paper’s deputy foreign editor, is quoted:“We view ourselves as neutral and unbound by such judgments. We cite them, but we do not live by them… In 1975, when the U.N. General Assembly labeled Zionism as racism, would it have been logical for The Times to repeat that description as fact from then on? Obviously not. We take note of official views, but we don’t adopt them as our own.”

This part is really insidious. The fact of the occupation and illegality of settlements is more than an “official view.” It represents the body of international law and the opinion of all respected human rights organizations. Minimizing the legitmacy of Brown’s statement by pointing out the UN has also equated Zionism with racism is a total cop-out.

The Negotiations Support Unit of the PLO’s Negotiation’s affairs Department wrote a piece calling this phenomenon ” Spurious Equivalence: The Absence of Israel’s Occupation in the Press.”

Okrent also writes: “After reading thousands of criticisms (as well as insults, accusations and threats) of The Times’s Middle East coverage, I’m still waiting for one reader to say the paper has ever been unfair in a way that was damaging to both sides.”

Let me take you up on that Mr. Okrent — by continuing to see no reason to mention the cause of the conflict, the existence of the occupation and illegality of the ongoing colonization, you are serving to help the NYT perpetuate a pro-annexationist narrative. This is to the great detriment of both “sides,” as the conflict will continue as long as Israel continues to expand and Palestinians inevitably resist that expansion.

See also: Sharon’s 92 Percent Solution: How the Misperceptions Roll On, Counterpunch

Palestine Media Watch alert on Erlanger’s article

See our last post on the Occupied Territories.