The New York Times reported the shooting of a Palestinian child in the Gaza Strip by Israeli soldiers on Sunday. But nothing in the title or in the opening sentence indicated that the victim was only 10 years old. Including the eight-word-long title, it took the New York Times thirty-three words to finally identify the most important detail: Israel had targeted a child.
Considering the vast implications of the media’s framing of Palestinians, this is far from being a non-story. Considering Israel’s persistent assault on Palestinian children, this was a reckless editorial decision by the New York Times. Details do matter, especially when Israel is on record for killing over 2,000 Palestinian children since 2000, including at least 519 children in Gaza just a few months ago.
Palestinians are typically subjected to a very odd and unbending pattern when it comes to national and international news coverage — that is, if coverage exists in the first place. Israel time and time again prevents journalists from entering the Gaza Strip, targets news agency staff and headquarters, and issues indefinite gag orders on particularly gruesome assaults on Palestinians in the West Bank. But when the news does get out, Palestinians are not always given an equal platform.
In this New York Times article, the story follows the usual sequence of steps to get the news out with little to no attention spared for the inhumanity of the issue at hand.
You would think that a detail as relevant as the victim’s age would make it into the title the way a shooting of a non-Palestinian boy might, but this is not the case. By the time he is identified as a minor, the article has committed two egregious fouls. First, it implicitly suggests that the victim was up to no good (which is later reiterated quite brazenly with a direct quote from the Israeli military). Second, it cites the very individuals responsible for the shooting, thereby framing the rest of the story according to the Israeli military’s version of events.
Americans will recognize this style of reportage in the way racially-charged police shootings are covered, in which the police are given the space to slough off responsibility and to defend their officers’ actions before the rest of the story even makes it to print.
Furthermore, not a single Palestinian voice is included in the 238-word article. There is more than enough space to quote an eyewitness or a relative of the boy, maybe even a parent whose child had not returned home, or even a Palestinian health official who can speak about child endangerment under military occupation. If none could be reached, indicating that an attempt was made can go a very long way.
Instead, the New York Times cites the Israeli military twice. It also cites an Israeli spokeswoman for the hospital treating the boy two more times. And at the very end, where the article takes a very random course and connects the shooting to an unrelated incident in Jerusalem as if to suggest that the Palestinian boy was shot as payback for the stabbing of an Israeli man, the New York Times cites the Israeli police. Palestinian voices, 0. Israeli voices, 5.
If the New York Times is really the standard of journalism in the United States, we have a lot of work to do.