‘He hit me back first’ logic of the New York Times

by Lev Tsitrin

The New York Times is hardly a humorous publication, yet, in the midst of mayhem and destruction that yet gain engulfed Israel and Gaza, the paper offered a rare moment of levity. Consider this summary of what’s going on: “Israel launched dozens of airstrikes on the Gaza strip and militants responded with barrage of rockets.” Isn’t it a rendition of the proverbial, and hilarious, “he hit me back first”?

Yes, your eyes don’t deceive you: per New York Times, Israel “launched,” and the “militants” — which is the New York Times‘ moniker for Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad which have been designated as terrorists by much of the world — “responded.”

That’s New York Times‘ version of causality. That Hamas missiles fired from Gaza at Jerusalem triggered the current round apparently doesn’t count insofar as New York Times is concerned.

It appears that to the New York Times, being in the right is not a matter of the factual and legal rightness of one’s stand. Rather, it is a function of one’s relative strength in a conflict. When it is the poor against the rich, the strong against the weak, the poor and the weak are to be seen as deserving of sympathy, irrespective of the behavior that may have brought misery on them in the first place. If it takes a bit of twisting of facts — why not? After all, if the facts don’t fit the theory, too bad for the facts. Moreover, it is not difficult to do: just reverse the sequence of events, and you are all set. Causality is the key. Pretend that the effect is the cause, that “Israel launched dozens of airstrikes on the Gaza strip” causing the conflict — and “militants responded with barrage of rockets” comes as a legitimate response by the downtrodden.

The paper’s detailed report https://www.nytimes.com/live/2021/05/12/world/israel-jerusalem-gaza again excuses the Palestinians — and uses the same technique of making the guilty party look innocent: “Palestinian discontent has festered for years in the absence of peace talks between the two sides, and with little international pressure on Israel to compromise or grant any concessions to Arabs under occupation.” Why are there no peace talks, and for that matter, no peace, is not being explained. That Palestinian leadership consistently rebuffed multiple offers of reasonable settlement, preferring the conflict, is not mentioned: it would make the guilty look guilty, and contradict the picture of Palestinian innocence and Israeli guilt that the New York Times is carefully trying to build up.That the reality is polar opposite does not bother the “the paper of record” one bit.

A little lie goes a long way. After all, the ends justify the means. As far as the New York Times is concerned, “he hit me first” will be the impression that their target audience — those who do not follow the conflict closely, and whose views can be molded — will draw from its reporting: that the bad Israelis hit the innocent Palestinians.

Those who do follow the conflict won’t be deceived, however, and will wryly note that the New York Times uses the risible excuse in its defense of Palestinian terrorists: “he hit me back first.”  


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