The New York Times Soft-Pedals Israel’s Slaughter of Children, Shifts Blame to Victims

This was what the original The New York Times report of the Israeli military bombing to death four children while they were playing soccer on an otherwise generally empty beach.


They have since made the URL for this article redirect to a different one, that looks like this:


This is also the version NYT went with for its print edition. You can track the changes at Notice how they replaced the direct, plain-English headline “Four Young Boys Killed Playing on Gaza Beach” with the anodyne “Boys Drawn to Gaza Beach, and Into Center of Mideast Strife.” Language about individual children being “killed,” which implies killers and victims, is replaced by vague language which eliminates any conveyance of culpability, and characterizes the affair as just an unfortunate tragedy resulting from general regional “strife.”

As Justin Raimondo remarked on Twitter, “Somewhere, George Orwell is smiling, albeit a bit sadly…”

And the lead sentence shifts from characterizing the boys’ presence on the beach as understandable to borderline-scolding them for it. The original lead notes that the area “had been considered relatively safe from the intense Israeli bombing campaign of the past nine days,” while the new one virtually wags its finger at the dead children for having “defied” their parents, who “had ordered them to stay indoors – and especially away from the beach.”

Another interesting difference is that the co-authorship byline of New York Times photographer Tyler Hicks was removed. Hicks was on the scene when the strikes occurred. He recently wrote:

I had returned to my small seaside hotel around 4 p.m. to file photos to New York when I heard a loud explosion. My driver and I rushed to the window to see what had happened. A small shack atop a sea wall at the fishing port had been struck by an Israeli bomb or missile and was burning. A young boy emerged from the smoke, running toward the adjacent beach.

I grabbed my cameras and was putting on body armor and a helmet when, about 30 seconds after the first blast, there was another. The boy I had seen running was now dead, lying motionless in the sand, along with three other boys who had been playing there. (…)

Children, maybe four feet tall, dressed in summer clothes, running from an explosion, don’t fit the description of Hamas fighters, either.

What is potentially revealing is the fact that the one NYT staffer who saw the atrocity himself, and was evidently moved by it, was the one whose name was removed. Was the removed language that was more sympathetic to the boys his contribution? Or was he given the byline solely for his photography and the first-hand information he relayed to the writer? And did he withdraw his name in disgusted protest after the whitewash changes were made? It’s hard to know, since neither he nor Margaret Sullivan, the NYT public editor, have responded to inquiries on Twitter.

What is now even more clearly known, however, is that, with state-privileged media, the first casualty of war is truth, which is often replaced, if not by lies, by the “truthiness” of murder-absolving language.

UPDATE: Of a piece with NYT’s behavior is a recent decision by a top NBC executive to order the immediate departure from Gaza of another journalist, Ayman Mohyeldin, who was also on the scene of the beach bombing (in fact, he had been playing soccer with the victims just minutes before their deaths), and who also both evinced and evoked sympathy toward the victims. Glenn Greenwald has the incredible details, including this one:

Despite this powerful first-hand reporting – or perhaps because of it – Mohyeldin was nowhere to be seen on last night’s NBC Nightly News broadcast with Brian Williams. Instead, as Media Bistro’s Jordan Chariton noted, NBC curiously had Richard Engel – who was in Tel Aviv, and had just arrived there an hour or so earlier – “report” on the attack.

24 thoughts on “The New York Times Soft-Pedals Israel’s Slaughter of Children, Shifts Blame to Victims”

  1. NYT is owned by people whom are in charge of dictating the kind of news that protects Israel from any wrong doing, NYT is no different then CBS NBC CNN or BBC where their news is based on what the government wants to broadcast as propaganda fir the government or otherwise a department of Barack Hussein government or British David Cameron office, which 99,9% of the time is a lie. These juirnalists are not journalists, they don't have the courage nor willing to tell the truth, they are bought and sold as commodity like ships and cows in Texas, they are like their highly profiled comedian at comedy TV, they are simply comedian, or like their far right wing entity of the Fox News. They simply are lier as Bill Clinton or Madeline Albright or Dick Cheney or Berzinski or AIPAC and Neo cons are. What is disturbing is that if you shout down these news agencies, or for these agencies start to tell the truth, people who believe in their lies become zambis needing more and stronger medication to live.

    1. Hooray for Jojo. Your comment, unlike anything in the NYT, is devastatingly accurate. The U.S. has not had an unbiased news media for decades. Americans get only pro-Israel propaganda, which is the main reason for their ignorance.

    2. First, Find out who the owners of the media companies are. Second, identify where they are coming from (their bias or agenda.)

  2. War monger Richard Engel can always be counted on to deliver the imperialist view for corporate media giant NBC.

  3. Stop using the nebulous term "Corporate Media". It's individuals that control or own the media. Identify who they are, their bias and agendas, and let the nation know about it.

    1. The media is corporate owned. According to U.S. law, corporations are persons. Thus, if "individuals" are identical to "persons" legally, then to say corporate media or it's individuals that control or own the media is to say the same thing.

  4. The reporters at ABC, CBS, etc. don't even bother to mention these slaughters. Ann Compton might as well get an Israeli flag tattooed on her butt…unless the NeoCons have come up with one.

  5. A Palestinian life is worth 25shekls to an Israeli magistrate cum judge means nothing.As the yanks proudly acclaim during the invasion of Iraq "SAND NIGGERS"

  6. Most Americans have no idea that what we are fed by the news media is nothing more than a portrayal of what powerful corporations want us to believe, that what happens to pass as education is as often as not mere propaganda, that what we learn in church may have very little or nothing to do with the truth, that what our parents teach us may be nothing more than an accumulation of their own personal biases, no doubt a rather subtle modification of what they were taught by their parents. And through such a process, governments and nations around the world wield control as to what their citizens, believe, value, and do.

  7. So where was NYT half of a front page photo when the Fogel family was stabbed to death in their home, and crib, including kids age 3, 5, and 9 months? Oh, and by the way, how come after the brutal Indian partitioning there are no refugee camps?

  8. I just need to point out something here in response to weeks of incessant claims by the usual Israeli suspects, officials and military talk-bots, that they are just responding to an intolerable situation due to Hamas etal., and Palestinians in general.

    These facetious creeps constantly implore the western world to explain what we would do, if our own cities were being constantly rocketed like this? This is their favourite faux canard and excuse to their pending further barbaric acts of daily child butchery and general war crime formulations and narcissistic committal to the avoidance of peace and a credible and decent negotiation process.

    I’m quite astounded and appalled that no mainstream ‘journalist’ has not immediately slapped-down such sickening Israeli apologists with the simple and obvious observation that Western-world cities are not just blatantly stealing other people’s land, towns, hills, valleys and groves for the past sixty years – occupying them, bombing them, bulldozing civilian homes, creating refugee camps, targeting and assassinating their leaders, walling them in, repeatedly destroying all civil infrastructure, eliminating accommodation to create mass homelessness and generally butchering, terrorising, tormenting, impairing, retarding and oppressing, both the children and their parents.

    As a result of western cities generally not doing any of that, to our neighbours, western cities are consequently not being repeatedly counter-attacked with thousands of rockets, on a semi biannual basis.

    Pretty clear right?

    So why is no one in the western world’s media pointing out this very simple observation to these pathological Knesset and IDF apologists for their endless barbarism and absurd excuse making to a torrent of endless crimes against humanity?

    With all the budget resources and material capacity available to western media organisations not even one of these media organisations has brains enough, nor basic moral pluck to stand up and slam these shameless Israeli war criminals, in the IDF and Knesset, into shocked silence, and get them running for cover yet? Can’t one of these western media outlets take Netanyahu to the global woodshed and lay waste to his every excuse and prevarications for avoiding any semblance of viable peace?

    If these media groups (and many of them Western state media with massive budgets) can’t even manage to do this simple verbal task, what good are they to themselves, or anyone else? Why do they exist? Why do we need them?

    My home is not getting rocketed today simply because myself and all my neighbours have made enduring peace with all our other neighbours, and we keep making peace with them daily. As a result, we are fairly confident they will never seek to hit our cities and homes with thousands of rockets, any decade soon.

    Is this simple thing such a complex subject to plop in front of Netanyahu and all the other fowl and completely disingenuous Israeli political and military-bot drop-kicks and apologists?

    I wouldn’t have thought so.

  9. The state of American journalism is deplorable and probably going to decline further. A lot of people make excuses for it by saying that there is no conspiracy, journalists are just lazy or incompetent. But this article shows that these stories are carefully written and re-written to massage public opinion.

    Thanks for doing the due diligence and actually tracking the story down.

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