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Times Mistakes Gaza Terrorists For Journalists

David Carr makes a huge reporting mistake

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There are few journalists who write as capably and accessibly about media and journalism trends as the Times‘ David Carr. A lot of people seem to carry this opinion, so I imagine there was some surprise when the above-pictured tweet went out from Carr’s Twitter account to his 400,000 or so followers.

Carr had decided to go fishing for a story about journalists who had been targeted in Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense. As someone who followed the war closely, I assumed that his unnerving search would yield little results; after all, for a mind as insightful and sharply tuned to nuance as Carr’s, I wouldn’t have expected him to bite on a story that wasn’t true. But he did.

In his ominously-titled column “Using War as Cover to Target Journalists” today, Carr starts by describing a scene at a Waldorf Astoria gala for the Committee to Protect Journalists, before citing one of the organization’s grim statistics:

The C.P.J. reports that government officials and their allies are now suspected of being responsible for more than a third of the murders of journalists, a higher proportion than killings attributed to terrorist groups or criminal enterprises.

For his first example, Carr doesn’t dig into Syria, where approximately 20 journalists were killed from November of last year until this September. He doesn’t start with Russia or Mexico either. He starts, of course, in Gaza.

On the same day as the Waldorf event, three employees of news organizations were killed in Gaza by Israeli missiles. Rather than suggesting it was a mistake, or denying responsibility, an Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, told The Associated Press, “The targets are people who have relevance to terror activity.”

So it has come to this: killing members of the news media can be justified by a phrase as amorphous as “relevance to terror activity.”

The outrage would be righteous if the men were simply journalists. But when Leibovich told the AP that the men were linked to terrorist activity, she wasn’t making some callous statement about targeting journalists who disagree with the state.

As the IDF Blog reported (or really anyone with internet access could have reported), one of the men killed was a senior Hamas member:

Muhammed Shamalah, commander of Hamas forces in the southern Strip and head of the Hamas militant training programs, was targeted by an Israeli air strike while driving a car clearly labelled “TV”, indicating it to be a press vehicle, abusing the protection afforded to journalists.

To that the Elder of Ziyon added about Mohamed Abu Aisha, a man whom Carr describes as the “director of the private Al-Quds Educational Radio” in the story:

In the case of Mohamed Abu Aisha, he clearly was a uniform-wearing member of Islamic Jihad. Islamic Jihad doesn’t describe him as a journalist, but as an instructor for the Mujahideen of Al-Quds Brigades in Deir al-Balah Battalion Brigade.

The post includes a picture of Aisha in his military garb. Carr goes on for paragraphs more, citing excoriations by Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders as proof of Israeli perniciousness. He then rightly and finally delves into the rest of the world, saving a remark about Syria–”the deadliest country for journalists this year”–to kick off one of the last paragraphs on the article’s second page.

Of course, Carr’s not wrong to want to defend journalists. But what about the truth?

At Leasts 19 Journalist Killed in Syria Since November [Reuters]
Senior Terrorist in Gaza Disguises Himself as Journalist [IDF]
Or Journalists as Cover for Waging War [Elders]

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Cool_Romeo says:

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Tablet has really taken a turn for the better over the past several months.

I will be hugely impressed with David Carr if he doesn’t resort the standard New York Times feint when it comes to being questioned, throwing up a smokescreen of condescension and wounded vanity. Looking forward to the follow-up.

thanks for writing abt this. infuriating allegations

Barbara Mazor says:

Thank you for writing this. I had been following the war closely and was quite surprised to read Carr’s column because I had read about terrorist operatives using journalists for cover. Carr complains that the media building was attacked. But Islamic Jihad confirmed to AFP that Ramez Harb, a senior commander in its armed wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, was killed in the attack. So glad to see this issue taken up by a real publication.

Ean Seeb says:

Thank you Adam.

Of course, some people slap “The New York Times” on their byline and pretend to be journalists.

Daniel P says:

What is your source that the alleged journalist Hussam Salama described in the Carr article is the same person as the senior Hamas member Muhammed Shamalah? The IDF blog that you link to doesn’t say anything about Hussam Salama.

ginzy1 says:

“But what about the truth?”

Since when is “truth” relevant at the NY Times, in particular when it doesn’t fit their established “frame” (http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york-news/telling-it-it-wasnt)?

The Times has long suffered from an intellectual honesty deficit and Carr is merely another link in that hoary tradition.

hg

J’lem / Efrata

JimTreacher says:

Oh well.

JimTreacher says:

Oh well.

haggadah says:

I think that Chandler’s attack
on Carr is way too facile. Truth is that most journalists are partisans
in one way or another. An American journalist (whether “MSM” or not)
embedded with a U.S. Army unit is obviously partisan, but the “rules of
war” still say that s/he is not fair game, especially if traveling in a
vehicle marked “press” or “TV” or whatever. Undoubtedly the Taliban
would disagree and kill anyway, if they got the chance. It’s certainly
not great PR for Israel to adopt that line. Ironically, one reason
Israel got better press in this Gaza war than in the last one was that
they did allow journalists in — last time they banned all journalists,
leaving the only news from Gaza in the hands of partisans. But choosing
to assassinate these three was, I think, a bad mistake. Carr is the messenger, not the one at fault.

Leslie78 says:

Agreed. Someone appears to have figured out that the liberal viewpoint isn’t the only one out there, and in many instances isn’t the honest one either.

Saint_Etienne says:

I think you’ve got the wrong analogy. The two men mentioned by name in the article were not journalists embedded with the Hamas – rather, they were apparently active-duty militants who also dabbled in writing (and that’s taking, the charitable view – has anyone ever read an article by any one of them? most likely, they were just using the TV wagon for protection, the way they’d normally use a Red Cross vehicle or any other guise). Fair game.

I don’t for one second believe that he “bit”. I believe he, as a loyal NYT reporter sought a a tag, and provided what the anti-Israel NYT wanted. And a big ditto to Tablet for exposing the lies.

PhillipNagle says:

I find it hard to believe that Carr’s errors were not deliberate. Even a cub reporter knows enough not to make those types of errors. The New York Times has turned itself into an anti Israel propaganda sheet and Carr was just doing his job as a good employee.

Chuck Stamford says:

Can someone point out to me a significant difference in the content of a “news” article written by David Carr, and the content of a radio broadcast by “Tokyo Rose”, “The Nightingale of Nanking”, “Little Margie”, and other radio propagandists during WWII?

Laura Dailey says:

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2000

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Times Mistakes Gaza Terrorists For Journalists

David Carr makes a huge reporting mistake

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