Israel's Press: Read the 'Jenin Times'

An Israeli journalist responds to the NY Times posting of a picture of the mother of the killer of a young IDF soldier instead of a picture of the victim, a teenager stabbed while dozing on a public bus. Jenin is a city in the PA.

Haggai Segal

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צילום: אלירן אהרון

~~The New York Times has been outdoing Haaretz lately in the race for the title of most hated newspaper in Israel. Most Israelis have never actually read The Times in the original English, but the little that has been translated into Hebrew is enoguh to infuriate them, and despite the newspaper's longstanding reputation, they do not believe anything it prints. The paper's columnists' Israel-bashing, on almost every topic and on just about every issue, is notorious in Israel and has reduced the popular opinion of its objectivity to the level of the average Israeli's belief in the activities of the UN Human Rights Commission. Can't get lower than that. Thomas Friedman is beginning to be perceived here in Israel as an English version of Gideon Levy (an super-radical leftist Haaretz columnist, abhorred by most Israelis) and the paper's editorials about Iran are seen as messages received directly from the White House. Recent days saw a new cause for anger - an infuriating report on the paper's website of the young IDF soldier's murder in Afula last week, witnessed by an entire busload of people. Instead of posting a picture of the murdered stabbing victijm (a stabbing victim, that is, 'according to the police', the paper carefully hedged) the editors preferred to place a picture of the murderer's mother to illustrate the article's headline. She looked proud despite her "suffering", surrounded by worried acquaintances, managing to convey the impression that she is the real victim of the lethal act perpetrated by her son. "Every newspaper has its heroes" was the way I described it at the beginning of the week as I began writing this column. But several days ago, The Times apologized. The newspaper's ombudsman wrote that after waves of criticism were received from readers "I spoke with two senior editors and both agreed that the choice of picture was unfortunate." The blame was passed on to an assistant to the chief editor responsible for photographs, who reportedly claimed that she was trying to reach a "proper balance' in the reporting and didn't realize that "this effort is not suitable for the incident at hand". In other words, the assistant editor overdid her attempts to be balanced, in her way of trying to continue the longstanding tradition of the New York Times to strike a balance between the murdered and the murderers. Most of the time this effort is somewhat concealed, hidden tastefully among thousands of whitewashed words. This time there was a work accident. The Times was caught red-handed. And the picture is still there, apology notwithstanding.