NY Times Getting Tougher on the Israel lobby?

Some surprising headlines seen in the last week or so of the New York Times: “With ‘Annapolis’ a warning to Israel”, “Israel cries wolf” , and “Israel on Trial”. The war on Gaza, the Israeli move to the right in its recent election, and the new US administration may be having some non-trivial effect on both who and what is appearing in the mainstream press, in particular, the New York Times.

It’s difficult to know if this implies a significant change or an exception that proves the rule.  It is clear, however, that there is, to some extent, a different type of dynamic being set by the Obama administration compared to previous years, one which might actually hold the Israelis, and not just the Palestinians, accountable for their actions.  For example Obama’s recent and unambiguous call for a process based on Annapolis “With ‘Annapolis’ a warning to Israel” goes directly against statements  recently made by Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman.

“Let me be clear: the United States strongly supports the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security,” Mr. Obama said. “That is a goal that the parties agreed to in the road map and at Annapolis. That is a goal that I will actively pursue as president.”

The bully pulpit of the Presidency clearly has some effect on any paper of record, as the New York Times, claims.  No matter the in-built biases of those running the news and editorial divisions or the demands/protestations of its readers. No matter the advantages or disadvantages of a one or two state solution there may be some little cause for, if not optimism, slightly less pessimism.

Further, in the last week the NY Times has published a hard-hitting op-ed “Israel on Trial” by the Palestinian American George Bisharat (professor of law at Hastings Law School in San Francisco) listing Israel’s frank war crimes in Gaza (not protecting civilians, collective punishment, deliberately employing disproportionate force, and illegal use of weapons such as white phosphorous)

“CHILLING testimony by Israeli soldiers substantiates charges that Israel’s Gaza Strip assault entailed grave violations of international law……..Israeli political and military personnel who planned, ordered or executed these possible offenses should face criminal prosecution…….The stature of international law is diminished when a nation violates it with impunity”

Further, regular Times columnist Roger Cohen in his column “Israel cries wolf” questions the Israeli push for action against Iran and raises the issue of Israel’s own nuclear weapons program, as well as US support for anything Israel wants,

“Israeli hegemony is proving a kind of slavery. Passage to the Promised Land involves rethinking the Middle East, starting in Iran.”

Something hardly seen in the mainstream press.  In a one week span, the NY Times has published positions and news that present a starkly different view of Palestine-Israel than has previously been seen. Further, the headlines themselves show Israel in a negative light.  In the past, it is true that occasionally the NY Times will publish a piece, (by Arafat or Jimmy Carter, etc)  in isolation, that counters the typical pro-occupation viewpoint, but the recent combination of both news and op-ed pieces may signal a slight trend toward a more even-handed treatment of things Palestinian and Israeli.

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