New York Times video whitewashing Hamas is condemned as ‘shocking’ ‘hatchet job’

A former Israeli diplomat, Lenny Ben-David, called the video a “hatchet job,” and said the Times video “relied on Gaza photographers & ‘fixers’ who are owned or threatened by Hamas.”

By Ira Stoll, Algemeiner 

The New York Times is being condemned for publishing a nearly-15-minute long propaganda video criticizing Israel for an attack that “could be a war crime.”

The video, headlined, “Gaza’s Deadly Night: How Israeli Airstrikes Killed 44 People,” carries the bylines of a staggering ten people: “Evan Hill, Ainara Tiefenthäler, John Ismay, Christiaan Triebert, Soliman Hijjy, Phil Robibero, Drew Jordan, Yousur Al-Hlou, Christoph Koettl and Patrick Kingsley.”

The video, in typical Times style, is full of self-congratulatory and self-referential hype.

“The Times spent more than a month investigating these attacks to find out what went wrong,” a narrator solemnly intones. “It was a complicated and intense month-long team effort.”

But, also in typical Times style, all this work by all these people ultimately delivers not much. “Experts say that the type of Israeli strikes we documented can easily lead to catastrophe and could be a war crime,” the script for the documentary speculates. “Could be?” After all that effort the Times can’t even find an expert to say it “is,” a war crime, just that it “could” be? And the expert turns out to be from the notoriously anti-Israel group Amnesty International: “Saleh Higazi of Amnesty International said that Israel should have foreseen the disastrous effects of such strikes on a dense civilian neighborhood could have. Attacking anyway, without warning and with heavy bombs, could be a war crime and should be part of an ongoing investigation into Palestine by the International Criminal Court, he said.”

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Several of the bylines on the video are of people with experience at advocacy groups and who were educated in Europe, which can tend to tilt more favorably toward the Palestinians and against Israel than US institutions. Evan Hill, a producer on the project, before coming to the Times spent three years as a Middle East researcher from Human Rights Watch, a notoriously anti-Israel advocacy group; before that, he worked for Al Jazeera. Triebert is a 2015 graduate of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, and Tiefenthäler is a 2012 graduate of Humbolt University of Berlin, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Kingsley, the Times Jerusalem bureau chief, was educated in England and came to the Times from the British Guardian newspaper.

A former Israeli diplomat, Lenny Ben-David, called the video a “hatchet job,” and said the Times video “relied on Gaza photographers & ‘fixers’ who are owned or threatened by Hamas.”

The executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Satloff, called the Times video “one-sided.”

Said Satloff, “the key element missing is what role #Hamas played in the creation of this video. It is not referenced in the credits. It is described early in the video just as ‘the group that governs #Gaza.’ It is not even called a terrorist organization, as labeled under US law.”

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“Given #Hamas‘ authoritarian control of Gaza, viewers have a right to know how and under what circumstances and conditions journalists accessed witnesses and victims, how they met with ‘Gaza police,’ how missile fragments were neatly collected, piled and identified, etc.” Satloff wrote in a thread on Twitter. “It is really shocking that @nytimes would endorse this video without giving viewers a full accounting of the role that #Hamas played, directly and indirectly, in its making, especially given its disturbing accusations. Viewers/readers of the NYT deserve better.”

Joe Truzman, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, tweeted, “There are some serious mistakes made” in the Times video.

A 2019 article in the Times said that journalists in Gaza who deviate from the Hamas line are severely beaten:

The Hamas police raided the home of a journalist, Osama al-Kahlout, who had shot photographs of the protests. Two members of the Independent Commission for Human Rights, a Palestinian watchdog group, were in his house at the time, taking testimony. The pair were forced into the street, beaten with batons and punched by dozens of security officers, according to their organization. Mr. al-Kahlout was detained.

Taif al-Bhaisi, 20, a citizen-journalist for the Gaza-based Sharq news agency, began live-streaming the protests near her home in the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in central Gaza, then ran into her house after Hamas forces began attacking the protesters. There, she continued filming with her cellphone.

The next day Hamas forces raided her house, assaulted young and old and broke the arm of one woman, she said. About five masked Hamas officers tried to confiscate her phone and beat her with batons, breaking her arm, she said. Photos of her with her arm in a splint were widely circulated among Gaza residents, prompting outrage.

The novelist and Fatah spokesman Atef Abu Saif was transferred to a hospital in Ramallah in the West Bank, apparently having been severely beaten and suffering from a fractured skull and broken hands and legs.

That 2019 article about Hamas beating opposition journalists appeared on an inside page of the print newspaper. It might have been a good topic for a 15-minute-long dramatic video with ten Times journalists spending a month investigating. But the Times, alas, instead prefers to deploy its video investigation resources to speculating about “could be” Israeli war crimes, not illuminating how Hamas violence shapes media coverage by intimidating journalists.

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Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.