Two days is an eternity in the news business – but NY Times blackout of Amnesty’s ‘apartheid’ report continues

New York Times headquarters (File)

James North

Mondoweiss  /  February 2, 2022

The New York Times relies on Amnesty International often but is ignoring the organization’s report charging Israel with “apartheid”.

Two days is an eternity in the breaking news business — but that’s how long The New York Times has already gone without publishing a single word about Amnesty International’s landmark report calling Israel an apartheid state. What explains the paper’s inexcusable reticence? It has a large staff, including several reporters who are on the scene in Israel/Palestine. Is the Times hoping, maybe unconsciously, to let the Amnesty news continue to simmer down, thus lessening its impact? 

Other U.S. mainstream media have at least reported something, even if their coverage has so far been mostly inadequate. 

Let’s contrast the Times’s continued silence with how Israel’s most prestigious newspaper, Haaretz, is covering the Amnesty finding. So far, Haaretz has already prominently published 5 articles, with a range of views. Anshel Pfeffer, a regular columnist, is a liberal Zionist, but his thrust is that the Israeli government’s campaign to discredit Amnesty is “hysterical,” particularly the charge that the report is “antisemitic.” He says that Amnesty has “long decades of credibility,” and adds:

Whatever the legitimate claims that Israel has against the report, this all-out attack on Amnesty, rather than arguing about the report on its merits, is basically a declaration of war on the entire human rights community. It will convince no one but the already convinced.

 Mordechai Kremnitzer attacks the Amnesty report, calling it “an extremely pretentious document,” and argues that it “fails to generate a real discussion about the fundamental problems of Palestinians living within and outside Israel’s territory.” Hagai El-Ad is the executive director of the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which last year issued its own report saying Israel is characterized by “apartheid. The headline over his article read:

“Bullets, brutality and bulldozers: What Israeli apartheid is really like.” Gideon Levy is a regular Haaretz columnist, and his headline asks: “Tell me what’s untrue in Amnesty’s report on Israel.” And reporter Jonathan Lis reports that Israel officials are worried that the United Nations “will adopt ‘apartheid’ narrative this year.”

The pro-Israel lobby has long argued that if you don’t actually live in Israel, with the risks of war or “terrorism,” you have no right to judge Israel’s policies. Haaretz regularly undermines that view. Its owners, reporters and columnists do live in Israel — presumably they, or their children, have served in the Israeli military — but they are not afraid to air a range of opinions, some of them harsh. 

Meanwhile, how long can the New York Times continue to black out the Amnesty apartheid report?

Original Post from February 2:

The New York Times respects Amnesty International, and relies on it often. Last month alone, the paper cited Amnesty 7 times, ranging around the globe from Nigeria to Myanmar to Kazakhstan. So when Amnesty released its landmark report yesterday charging Israel with “apartheid,” you might have expected that the Times would report it.

So far, as of this morning, nothing. The Times did, however, find space for a long article on the actor/comic Whoopi Goldberg, who was suspended from a television program for 2 weeks after she made allegedly antisemitic remarks on air.

The Washington Post did somewhat better. It first buried the Amnesty report in paragraph 17 of an article about the Israeli military’s reaction to the suspicious death of Palestinian-American Omar Assad at a West Bank checkpoint last month. (The Times left Amnesty out of its simultaneous report on the same subject.) But yesterday the Post’s website included a report by Miriam Berger that summarized Amnesty’s findings. 

National Public Radio also did somewhat better. NPR’s on air reports have still said nothing, but an online article by Bill Chappell went on at some length.

CNN also covered the blockbuster Amnesty finding, in a balanced online article. The cable network even found room on its international channel to interview Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary-general, on the air.

(Of course, reliable reporters like Mehdi Hasan did cover the Amnesty report.)

Back to Whoopi Goldberg. The New York Times report went on for 25 paragraphs, and included extensive comment from Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League and others. It included Goldberg’s apology: “I regret my comments, and I stand corrected. I also stand with the Jewish people, as they know and y’all know because I’ve always done that.”

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades; he lives in New York City