“All the Consent That’s Fit to Manufacture”

New York War Crimes

New York War Crimes


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Suzanne Spector, spector@nytimes.com
Philip Pan, philip.pan@nytimes.com
Joseph Kahn, joe.kahn@nytimes.com

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Re: “Screams Without Words”

To the editors directly responsible for the publication of “Screams Without Words,”

This letter is to inform you that I am unsubscribing from The New York Times. I am horrified by the recent news that Jeffrey Gettleman, the reporter you assigned to investigate events of October 7, hired an ex-IDF fixer who applauds the genocide of Palestinians on social media. But I am not surprised. The scandal surrounding the manufacture of “Screams Without Words” is only the latest incident in your newsroom’s decade-long history of journalistic malpractice in its coverage of Occupied Palestine.

I ask that you not only retract “Screams Without Words” in full, but also issue an apology for your consistent failure to cite credible sources, include the perspectives of Palestinians, and name the perpetrator of the violence being unleashed on the people of Gaza.

The problems with the piece, which purports to be about “how Hamas weaponized sexual violence,” precede the news of Anat Schwartz’s Twitter activity. As many media watchdogs have pointed out, the article lacks forensic evidence and relies heavily on sources from the Israeli military, which has been known to propagate lies to justify its brutal violence against Palestinians. The article portrays the Israeli citizen Gal Abdush as a rape victim, despite her family’s public refutation of these claims. (Etti Brakha, Gal Abdush’s mother, revealed in an interview with YNET that the family was first informed about the allegations by a journalist from your publication, not by any official or forensic reports.) Finally, in lieu of testimony from survivors, we hear from ZAKA volunteers. It is hard to imagine a more disreputable source.

A survey of articles on your website indicates that your company hired Anat Schwartz and Adam Sella, two of the article’s authors, after October 7. The former has a background in film and appears to work for an Israel state-run television network. Sella, who appears to be Schwartz’s nephew by marriage, was writing about beer fests for Wine Enthusiast before being conscripted into war reporting. I am deeply perplexed by The Times’ decision to hire two novices to cover the extremely sensitive issue of sexual violence, especially given that the charge of sexual violence has, in this case, become a pretext for the collective punishment of Gaza.

Jeffrey Gettleman is a concerning choice of author for this story. In a 2018 interview with The Times of Israel, he said Arabs and Muslims fail to distinguish between Jews and Israelis — a common Islamophobic trope. In a 2015 piece about Robert Mugabe published, he lifted quotes from a satirical magazine and attributed them to the late Zimbabwean president. In 2019, he interviewed a Rohingya rape survivor, with disastrous results.

It is important to emphasize that issues with the authors of a single Times article should not distract from the wider problem of the organization’s reporting on Palestine. Between its failure to attribute a genocidal bombing campaign to the perpetrator and its regurgitation of the Israeli military’s unsubstantiated claims linking UNRWA to Hamas while Palestinians in North Gaza starve to death, The Times has proven over the past four months, and indeed, over many brutal years of Israeli occupation and siege, to be completely incapable of covering Palestine.

I have no doubt that I am far from the only person who finds themselves in my position. Until The New York Times commits to a comprehensive, top-to-bottom overhaul of its coverage, I will no longer be able to continue to support The Times financially or to trust it as a source of news — about Palestine or anything else.

Yours sincerely,