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“All the Consent That’s Fit to Manufacture”

New York War Crimes

New York War Crimes

Palestine Coverage

There’s a Word for That

How can The Times report on a place it won’t name?
https://newyorkwarcrimes.com/media/pages/theres-a-word-for-that/6ee85461fb-1710019862/ospaaal-tricontinental-25a.jpg
Illustrations originally published with the James Higgins article “Imperial Self-Censorship,” Tricontinental 25 (Havana: OSPAAAL, 1971). Alfredo Rostgaard, art director.
March 14, 2024

Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians. The New York Times, however, would like its readers to believe that this is not the case. The Times presents the dead as the unfortunate toll of a just war to rid the world of evil. At a publication like The Times, word choice, syntax and style are all carefully deliberated and chosen. Every use of passive voice, every clause casting doubt on the Palestinian death toll, and every article that prints hasbara as though it were true is a vain attempt to clean Palestinian blood off Israeli hands and ease the conscience of readers whose taxes are paying for the annihilation of Palestinian lives, society and culture.

This style guide is intended to demonstrate just a few of the ways that The Times’ newsroom pushes the “just war” narrative and to provide tips for better coverage. This guide is mainly focused — with the exception of one op-ed from The Times editorial board — on the newsroom. (To document the racism and genocide denial of the opinions columnists would require a second website.) Should members of The Times newsroom staff wish to recommit themselves to truth, and cease providing cover for genocidaires, we make the following recommendations.



Blockade of Gaza

What Was Published
“Amid warnings of famine, the collapse of the health system and the massive displacement of the Palestinian population, UNRWA’s work is considered more important than ever.”

Our Suggested Edit
“Due to Israel’s blockade, bombardment and invasion of Gaza, widespread famine has broken out in the strip, health services can no longer provide essential services, and large swaths of the population are now refugees, making UNRWA’s work more important than ever.”

Why
The Times presents each of these tragedies — famine, the collapse of the health-care system, and displacement — as occurring without cause. The famine is considered “man-made” by the United Nations. The health-care system has broken down because the Israeli Occupation Force (IOF) has destroyed hospitals and prevented medical supplies from entering Palestine. Israeli bombardment has destroyed over 70% of homes in Gaza, forcing many Palestinians to become refugees.

The blockade alone is likely a violation of Article II (c) of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Failing to note this violation misleadingly frames the blockade as a legitimate, if tragic, dimension of Israel’s assault, rather than the perpetration of a war crime.


Famine

What Was Published
“Five months into Israel’s campaign against Hamas and its siege of Gaza, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are close to starvation, United Nations officials say.”

Our Suggested Edit
“Israel’s use of starvation as a weapon of war — a war crime — has brought hundreds of thousands of Palestinians close to starvation, United Nations officials say.”

Why
When The Times is forced to cover the hunger in Gaza, it knots itself in so many verbal contortions to avoid naming Israel’s intentional use of starvation as a weapon of war, as well as its siege and bombardment of Gaza. It prefers instead to use ambiguity and euphemism to portray the famine as a natural disaster, disconnected from any human cause. The reporter does not include any information about the allegations leveled by U.N. officials and Human Rights Watch that Israel has used starvation as a weapon of war, which is a war crime.

The author also writes that, “Almost no aid has reached northern Gaza for weeks, after major U.N. agencies mostly suspended their operations, citing mass looting of their cargoes by desperate Gazans, Israeli restrictions on convoys and the poor condition of roads damaged during the war.” However, the reporter does not state that Israel has blocked aid from entering Gaza, which has been well-documented.

The reporter also makes no mention of the “Flour Massacre” on Feb. 29 when Israeli soldiers opened fire on starving Palestinians who were waiting to receive food aid. The soldiers killed more than 100 people and injured about 750.


Genocide

What Was Published (Staff Editorial)
“But this war, on its current course, is leading to the wholesale killing of Palestinians while Hamas gains in international standing and the remaining Israeli hostages remain captive.”

Our Suggested Edit
“But this is now a genocide.”

Why
Leaked internal documents from the Times show that there are explicit instructions to avoid “‘Genocide’ and Other Incendiary Language,” within the Times’s own voice, and there should also be a “high bar for allowing others to use it as an accusation.” To call it a “war” obscures the stated aims of the Israeli government. There is ample evidence to show that Israel is intentionally targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. There is a word for “wholesale killing” — genocide.


Hospitals

What Was Published
“The Israeli military has said that intelligence showed Hamas militants were operating from within both Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals. The Red Crescent has rejected the allegations about Al-Amal, and Gazan health officials have denied Hamas uses hospitals as military assets, disputing accounts presented by the Israeli authorities.”

Our Suggested Edit
“Though Israeli military claims Hamas operated from both Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals, no credible source could verify the claims. The targeting of hospitals is a war crime under international law.”

Why
The Times presents the Israeli government’s position as credible and reasonable, failing to state that even if the claims were true, they do not justify the commission of war crimes. Importantly, The Times neglects to tell the reader that there has been no independent corroboration of Israel’s allegations. Further, The Times doesn’t offer the crucial context that previous Israeli claims about hospitals being used as military bases turned out to be false, which is important in establishing the credibility of their current assertions.

A line drawing of a standing figure reading the New York Times. Eight tendrils extend from the figure’s head into the newspaper spread.

The Invasion of Palestine

What Was Published
“The Israeli military suffered the deadliest day of its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on Monday when 24 soldiers were killed, about 20 of them in an explosion as they were preparing to level buildings to help create a buffer zone with the Palestinian enclave, Israeli officials said.”

Our Suggested Edit
“An Israeli military blast that was intended to destroy Palestinian civilian homes — a possible violation of the Geneva Conventions — instead killed about 20 Israeli soldiers during the military’s ground invasion of Palestine.”

Why
By omitting the fact that the destruction of civilian homes is a war crime, The Times normalizes Israeli aggression, while obscuring the fact that the deaths were friendly fire.


Iran

What Was Published
“The back-and-forth attacks in Syria, Iraq and Jordan — not to mention the tit-for-tat strikes that the United States and its allies have exchanged with the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen — have edged the region closer to a broader conflict, even as the administration insists it does not want war with Iran.”

Our Suggested Edit
“The back-and-forth attacks in Syria, Iraq and Jordan — not to mention the tit-for-tat strikes that the United States and its allies have exchanged with Ansar Allah in Yemen — have edged the region closer to a broader conflict.”

Why
If any militant group becomes a “proxy” once it is provided with “weapons, training, financing and other support” by another nation, then The Times would be obliged to call the Ukrainian army, the Israeli Occupying Forces and the mujahideen proxies of the United States government — something they obviously do not do.

The reason that The Times draws special attention to Iran’s relationship with Ansar Allah — or Hezbollah or Hamas — is to delegitimize the actual reasons these groups engage in armed struggle against Israeli occupation and the United States’ presence in the region, as well as to legitimize the armed conflict America seems eager to engage in with Iran. Rather than contextualize October 7 as a response to the brutality of occupation, starvation and death — or acknowledge that Ansar Allah’s disruption of trade is a response to the ongoing genocide — The Times simply chooses to say that Iran is pulling the strings, which paints those involved as irrational and violent, without just cause. The Times prints, without casting any doubt on the claim, that “the administration insists it does not want war with Iran,” so that the United States will seem like a begrudging, benevolent peacekeeper, rather than the aggressor, if it chooses to attack Iran.


Israeli Intelligence

What Was Published
“The Israeli military has said that intelligence showed Hamas militants were operating from within both Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals. The Red Crescent has rejected the allegations about Al-Amal, and Gazan health officials have denied Hamas uses hospitals as military assets, disputing accounts presented by the Israeli authorities.”

Our Suggested Edit
“The Israeli military has said that intelligence showed Hamas militants were operating from within both Al-Amal and Nasser hospitals, though their previous claims of such operations were not verified by independent investigators.”

Why
In a piece about January 6 The Times used the word “lie” when Donald Trump claimed the 2020 election was stolen. But Israel’s lies are not labelled as such by The Times. To name just a few since October 7: Israeli officials have falsely insisted that Al-Shifa hospital was a Hamas command center, that the rocket which hit Al-Ahli hospital was fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and that UNRWA is linked to Hamas. The Times credulously repeats claims by Israeli “intelligence.” This is not reporting, it is propaganda.

A line drawing of the top half of a human head. There’s a small hole on the crown of the head, into which is inserted a funnel made out of the New York Times.

Israel’s “right to self-defense”

What Was Published
“The United States has said that it supports Israel’s right to self-defense and that U.S. officials have made clear that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law, including taking steps to minimize harm to civilians.”

Our Suggested Edit
“The United States has said that it supports Israel’s right to self-defense — though such a right is contested under international law — and that U.S. officials have made clear that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law, including taking steps to minimize harm to civilians.”

Explanation
The claim that Israel has “the right to self-defense” has been so often repeated that readers may believe it is true. Israel’s legal right to self-defense likely does not exist. The United Nations Charter does not bind an occupying power and the population it occupies. Israel’s right to self-defense is, at best, contentious, and likely nonexistent. As Riyad Mansour, the permanent observer of Palestine to the United Nations, wrote in 2021, “Israel’s invocation of the principle of self-defense as an occupying Power is illegitimate and must be countered with a clear response rooted in international law, the same international law that it systematically breaches with contempt yet has the audacity to invoke when it deems it beneficial to itself.” Francesca Albanese, the U.N. special rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories, also stated that Israel “cannot claim the right of self-defense against a threat that emanates from the territory it occupies.”


“Massacre”

What Was Published
“The Gazan health ministry said in a statement that Israeli forces had killed more than 100 people and had injured 700 others in a ‘massacre,’ as they waited for food from the convoy.”

Our Suggested Edit
“The Gazan health ministry said in a statement that Israeli forces killed more than 100 people and injured 700 others in a massacre, as they waited for food from the convoy.”

Why
The use of quotation marks around the word “massacre,” while potentially signaling that this is a quote from the Gazan health ministry, casts doubt on whether shooting 800 unarmed people and killing more than 100 of them, is, in fact, a massacre. Using quotation marks signals to the reader that whether or not this was a massacre is a matter of opinion.


The Naming of Palestine

What Was Published
“The Israeli military suffered the deadliest day of its ground invasion of the Gaza Strip on Monday when 24 soldiers were killed, about 20 of them in an explosion as they were preparing to level buildings to help create a buffer zone with the Palestinian enclave, Israeli officials said.”

Our Suggested Edit
“An Israeli military blast that was intended to destroy Palestinian civilian homes — a possible violation of the Geneva Conventions — instead killed about 20 Israeli soldiers during the military’s ground invasion of Palestine.”

Why
Gaza is not a “Palestinian enclave,” it is part of Palestine. In its reporting, The Times uses “Palestinian” as an adjective, but does not use the noun “Palestine” except when quoting a source or as part of the name of an organization. In this respect, the paper does not substantially differ from the Associated Press style guide, which discourages references to Palestine “because it is not a fully independent, unified state.” This guideline disregards the United Nations’ and the majority of the world’s countries’ recognition of Palestine as a state and, instead, privileges Israeli policy toward Palestine. It is also inconsistent with The Times’ reporting on other cases in which a country has contested its neighbor’s statehood. To give just one example, in its coverage of Kosovo immediately following its declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008, The Times readily called the nascent country Kosovo, without qualification. Failure to print “Palestine” in its reporting raises serious questions for The Times: How can a paper report on a place that it will not name?

A line drawing of a human head. The human wears a tie, and has a large knife stuck in his head. The blade of the knife is made of the New York Times.

Passive Voice

What Was Published
“More than 25,000 Gazans have been killed so far, most of them civilians, according to health authorities in the enclave, following a punishing counterattack by Israel.”

Our Suggested Edit
“Israel has killed more than 25,000 Gazans so far, most of them civilians.”

Why
The Times uses the passive voice to avoid plainly stating the truth — that Israel has killed thousands of people. The Times’ own reporting does not suggest any disagreement over who murdered these people. The choice of passive voice distances Israel from its actions. This is a chronic issue, especially in the Times’ headlines.

Refugee Camp

What Was Published
"Videos verified by The New York Times captured the aftermath of an airstrike on Wednesday in the Falluja neighborhood of Jabaliya approximately half a mile from the site of Tuesday’s strike."

Our Suggested Edit
"Videos verified by The New York Times captured the aftermath of an airstrike on Wednesday in the Falluja neighborhood of Jabaliya Refugee camp approximately half a mile from the site of Tuesday’s strike."

Why
Eighty percent of people living in Gaza are refugees or descendants of refugees who fled other parts of Palestine during the Nakba and after. The Times explicitly advises against the use of the term “refugee camp” in an attempt to paste over this history. Their style guide instructs writers to “refer to them as neighborhoods, or areas.”

Terrorism

What Was Published
“Israeli officials obtained Hamas’s battle plan for the Oct. 7 terrorist attack more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show.”

Our Suggested Edit
“Israeli officials obtained Hamas’ plan for Oct. 7 more than a year before it happened, documents, emails and interviews show.”

Why
The Times’ use of the word “terrorism” ignores the decades of occupation and apartheid that preceded the attack, as well as the legal right of Palestinians to armed struggle. While the majority of the Israeli dead were civilians, more than one-third, or about 370 people, were members of Israeli security forces. Moreover, it is still not known how many Israelis were killed by IOF friendly fire. By comparison, 70% of the Palestinians — more than 21,000 people — that Israel has killed since October 7 were women and children, and yet The Times never accuses Israel of committing terrorist attacks. For The Times, “terrorist” is a moniker reserved for those who attack U.S. allies, especially if the alleged attackers are Muslim or Arab.

While an internal document from The Times is unequivocal that October 7th was a terrorist attack, it does not say the same for the IOF’s massacres at Al-Shifa Hospital, and at the aide stops.


Additional Resources

We encourage media workers to read Interrupting Criminalization’s guide on the dos and don’ts of covering Israel and Palestine, as well as AMEJA’s resource guide.