NYT magazine draws heat for cover story on Palestinian village known for protests

(JNS.org) A New York Times Magazine cover story is under fire from critics in the pro-Israel community who say it too sympathetically depicts a Palestinian village known for holding weekly demonstrations against Israel.

The story titled “Is this where the third Intifada will start?” about the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh was written by Ben Ehrenreich, who in 2009 penned an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times headlined “Zionism is the problem.” 

Click photo to download. Caption: The New York Times Magazine cover that included the story, “Is this where the third Intifada will start?” Credit: New York Times.

Andrea Levin, director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), told JNS.org, “Ben Ehrenreich has shown himself in other writing to be on the radical fringe in his views, arguing that Israel is worse than apartheid South Africa and that the Jewish state should not exist as such. To invite someone like this to write 8,000 words for a cover story tells you a lot about the editorial thinking at The New York Times. And it should worry anyone who cares about where the paper is headed. It appears to be turning into something like Britain’s ‘Guardian,’ a far-left paper whose editorial themes spill into its news pages.”

“CAMERA’s recent monographIndicting Israel, New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, documents the troubling trend,” Levin added.

Ehrenreich writes of Nabi Saleh’s residents in The New York Times, “In December 2009 they held their first march, protesting not just the loss of the spring but also the entire complex system of control—of permits, checkpoints, walls, prisons—through which Israel maintains its hold on the region. Nabi Saleh quickly became the most spirited of the dozen or so West Bank villages that hold weekly demonstrations against the Israeli occupation.”

But Nabi Saleh was also the home of Ahlam Tamimi, a Palestinian woman who in August 2001 transported both the bomb and the bomber to the Sbarro pizza restaurant in downtown Jerusalem in an attack that killed 15 civilians, including seven children (Tamimi was sentenced to 16 life terms, but was one of the 1,027 Palestinians prisoners freed in the Gilad Shalit deal). Arnold Roth—father of Malki, a 15-year-old girl who died in the Sbarro attack—wrote in a blog entry that Malki “was the kind of young woman whose life and achievements ought to have entitled her to at least a fraction of the media coverage bestowed by the NYT editors and others on the murderer.”

The Nabi Saleh story says Tamimi remains “much-loved” in the village. But Roth noted on his blog, “A convicted felon and a mass-murderer convicted on multiple homicide charges, she has never denied the role she embraced and justifies it fully.”

Haaretz columnist Chemi Shalev called the Nabi Saleh story a “pro-Palestinian manifesto.” Seth Mandel of Commentary magazine pointed out what he considered to be the inflammatory nature of the story’s headline, “Is this where the third Intifada will start?”

“Note the word ‘will,’” Mandel wrote. “There will be blood, says the Times; who will get the glory? Incitement is the only theme of the piece.”

New York Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy defended the story, telling the Washington Free Beacon, “Sunday’s magazine story was intended to provide a close-in look at one particular perspective in the Mideast conflict and we think it did so thoughtfully and sensitively.”

Posted on March 18, 2013 .