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Blatant Editorializing On Israel

ADL Letter to

We were shocked by the blatant editorializing in the front page story headlined, "Israel Advances Settlement Plan Near Jerusalem, Drawing U.S. Criticism."

December 3, 2012

Margaret Sullivan
Public Editor
The New York Times

Dear Margaret: 

We were shocked by the blatant editorializing in the front page story headlined, “Israel Advances Settlement Plan Near Jerusalem, Drawing U.S. Criticism,” (Dec. 1).  While the writers concede the announcement that Israel is considering an unoccupied piece of land near Jerusalem for resettlement was “leaked” and the information “somewhat vague,” they go on to describe the development as “…the diplomatic equivalent of what the Israeli military did last month when it massed tens of thousands of ground troops at the Gaza border.” 

Are the reporters really equating the settlement announcement – as admittedly uncertain and vague as it is described – as being that close to declaring an act of war?   If so, it is an outrageous comparison for a diplomatic disagreement between longstanding allies, the United States and Israel.  It should be noted here that Israel’s decision to call up troops was in response to a direct provocation – the unremitting shelling of Israeli towns and cities by Hamas rockets.  (At least 1,400 rockets fell on Israel from Gaza during the previous month alone). 

The story then continues by admitting that this new development, coming in the wake of the vote to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations, is “…a potent threat that may well, in the end, not be carried out because the Israeli government worries about its consequences.”           

Given that statement, one really wonders why The Times gave this story such prominence: above the fold on the front page with a boldface headline to describe a development that the story itself admits is “somewhat vague” and “may not be carried out.” 

It would seem that the decision to give this story such prominence and to allow the writers to include such blatant editorializing, even though the announcement was vague and the outcome uncertain, that some kind of less-than-fully-informed bias influenced the editorial decision-making process here.  At the very least, the story should have been rendered in “ragged right,” as is the Times’ longstanding practice to denote when it is presenting a commentary or analysis piece, as opposed to straight news reporting.

Sincerely,

The Anti-Defamation League

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