Short Take: Friend Or Foe? A Side Is Chosen (Update)

It sucks to be Israel, a rational player in an irrational game. You can rightfully criticize its policies. This sentence has two very distinct meanings, one beingthat its policies toward the Palestinians can be justifiably criticized as unduly harsh and aggressive. But it also means you have the ability to criticize its policies, because it allows for criticism. Its neighbors are not so generous.

Marwan Barghouti was a member of the Palestinian parliament. He was also the head of the Tanzim militia. In the former, he was a proponent of the two-state solution, a position that many, Jews included, agree with. In the latter, he was convicted of killing five people in what was described as a terrorist attack, for which he was sentenced by an Israeli court to five life sentences.

Notably, he was neither stoned to death nor had his head chopped off. Also notably, he was able to write an op-ed for the New York Times to express his views. It’s a political polemic, for sure, reflecting his perception of the legitimacy of his views and the horrors of his captors.

Among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whom Israel has taken captive are children, women, parliamentarians, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, academics, political figures, militants, bystanders, family members of prisoners. And all with one aim: to bury the legitimate aspirations of an entire nation.

Instead, though, Israel’s prisons have become the cradle of a lasting movement for Palestinian self-determination. This new hunger strike will demonstrate once more that the prisoners’ movement is the compass that guides our struggle, the struggle for Freedom and Dignity, the name we have chosen for this new step in our long walk to freedom.

Barghouti is fighting for “Freedom and Dignity.” It’s not just that he must be credible or he wouldn’t be given real estate in the Times, but lest there be any doubt, the Times bolsters his words in their description of the author.

What sort of terrible country would imprison a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian? Only a nation against which this cry for “Freedom and Dignity” must be believed. And note that this op-ed appears on page A1 in the International edition. It would be entirely different if this polemic was written by a terrorist imprisoned for murdering five people, but nowhere is that mentioned.

Update: After seeing/hearing the backlash to the omission, the New York Times’ Public Editor, Liz Spayd spoke to Editorial Page Editor Jim Dao about it.

Dao noted that the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences but he acknowledged that it doesn’t state the crimes for which he was convicted. “We are drafting an editors’ note that will provide that information,” he said.

Much as it was big of him to “acknowledge” the facial omission of facts, it fails to explain why he caused/allowed this to happen at all. To admit the obvious isn’t exactly a big deal. But Spayd either didn’t ask, or didn’t get an answer, to why Dao failed to include the salient information. By including an editors’ note, all would be fixed.

This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.

The New York Times is a morning paper, so this note came too late to undo the damage. Even so, it not only includes the omitted details of murder, but also an irrelevant apologia to blunt its impact. That Barhouti “declined” to defend himself was his choice. No one deprived him of a defense. And even if he had defended himself, would the result have been any different? Would the five dead people be alive? Was the proof not overwhelming.

Dao compounded the error, and Spayd couldn’t be more pleased with it.

In this case, I’m pleased to see the editors responding to the complaints, and moving to correct the issue rather than resist it. Hopefully, it’s a sign that fuller disclosure will become regular practice.

It’s a sign of something, that’s for sure.

14 comments on “Short Take: Friend Or Foe? A Side Is Chosen (Update)

  1. Austin Texas piñata

    It’s likely true that too few people will be familiar with Mr. Barghouti, or even have the diligence to find out more about who his is and what his work has been. – and they will simply accept what they read at face value without critical thought.

    You could easily make the same arguments substituting Menachem Begin (King David Hotel; killed-91, Injured-46) or Nelson Mandela (though more associated with the ANC’s MK organization, Church Street; K-19, I-217).

    1. SHG Post author

      You can “easily make the same arguments” if you really suck at analogies, failed to grasp that this post was about the New York Times’ attribution and prefer defensive logical fallacies to anything remotely resembling critical thought. I always consider it unfortunate when the first comment to a post is mind-numbingly stupid. It sets a poor tone.

      1. Liam McDonald

        SO if I understand you correctly, your post is about the fact that the NYT did not mention in the original article that he was a convicted terrorist rotting in an Israeli prison. Even though it is common that normal everyday people who did nothing are also charged with that crime so there is the possibility that he did not do the aforementioned crimes but because they failed to mention it in the original publication they are hypocrites.

        That about sum it up?

  2. B. McLeod

    This is the Times indulging its double standards. If this guy did the same thing for the same reasons in our country, he’d be facing a death sentence, and we’d hear nary a peep from the Times about it.

      1. B. McLeod

        I’d like to see a reality TV show where they parachute New York Time editors into Palestine to see how long they can last. I would pay money for that.

  3. JimEd

    My search cache is probably hopelessly corrupted, however the first few pages of “famous parliamentarian” are not encouraging.

  4. Nagita Karunaratne

    Have they taken a side? Does simply publishing confer legitimacy? After all an op-ed is an opinion piece opposite the editorial page.

    If they had completed the bio with his convictions it’s intention would have been clearer.

    But for what it’s worth the NYT has been endorsing presidential candidates since Lincoln so taking sides is nothing new.

    1. SHG Post author

      Try this exercise: when you fail to grasp something that others see as clear and obvious, rather than default to the presumption that your inability to see it must be right, ponder why you fail to see it and what’s wrong with your ability to grasp the obvious. It’s not that you are necessarily wrong, but you can only come to that conclusion after a serious assessment of your inability to grasp what everyone else does.

      You ask a question. You have no argument against it, but just can’t seem to understand it. As the adage goes, I can explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you. That you can’t understand it for yourself is beyond anyone else’s ability to fix.

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