Wednesday, August 10, 2016

NYT Covers Up Its Own Scoop on Gaza - Micah Halpern

by Micah Halpern

Why reporting on corruption ends if Palestinians are involved.

On Wednesday, August 3rd The New York Times stumbled onto a story of corruption and the misuse of funds.  In typical fashion, once more details emerged, they let their scoop flop.

The NYT story begins innocently enough in Australia where the writer starts up a conversation with an Australian cop.  After exchanging a few pleasantries the Australian finds out that the writer covers the Middle East.  Brendan, the cop, recalls that years earlier, through a Christian charity called World Vision, he had become a "sponsor" for a kid named Othman in the Palestinian village of Husan. Over the years he sent the boy $39 dollars a month - amounting to "at least $1,100, along with Christmas and Easter cards".   There was never a response from the Palestinian youngster. In a later email to the NYT writer, Diaa Hadid, Brendan wrote, "My curiosity has got the better of me.  If you could ask around in your travels, I'd love to know that he is OK."

Hadid went out in search of the boy.  The family exists, but they never ever received any money and, in fact, had no idea that it had ever been sent.  They did recall that someone had come around and taken pictures of children when Othman was a youngster.  And it turns out that, according to the man who managed the local World Vision program, "At one point, every newborn was put up for sponsorship".

At one point, Hadid wonders:  "So had I uncovered a scandal in which a well-meaning foreigner, lured by an adorable child's needy face, sent money to an organization that failed to deliver it to its promised recipient?  Not exactly." (Hadid is not known for her love of Israel)

On Thursday August 4th, the very next day, unrelated to the story in The New York Times, the Israeli Government Press Office (GPO) sent out a long and detailed press release about the arrest of a Hamas operative who had infiltrated an international charity named World Vision and siphoned very large sums of money and resources and directed it to Hamas over the course of many years.  According to the press release, "on behalf of the military wing of Hamas" Mohammed El-Halabi, director of the Gaza Branch of World Vision "had exploited the organization's budget and resources for Hamas."

The GPO explains that World Vision is an American NGO and receives support from the UN and Western governments.  It also says that "El-Halibi is actually a major figure in the terrorism/military arm of Hamas".

So in answer to the reporter's question - yes!  A scandal had been uncovered! Which leaves us with a big question of our own.

Other than a re-work of the GPO press release which puts more emphasis on the fact that neither Mr. Halibi nor the aid group "have had a chance to review the evidence and respond to specific charges" than it does to the wrong that was done to the people of Gaza, why didn't The New York Times run big time with their scoop instead of just dropping it and making believe they hadn't covered a similar scandal about the same organization just the day before?

Here's why.

This story does not fit the narrative of The New York Times.

Palestinians defrauding other Palestinians, Palestinians stealing from good will Westerners and exploiting their own people by not giving them money raised on their behalf, is not a story the Grey Lady tells.

To The NYT this story is not essential.  The main story line in the NTY narrative about Palestinians, even Palestinians living in Hamas-controlled Gaza, is that Israel oppresses the Palestinians and that is a justification for all Palestinian activity.  The cause then of all Palestinian problems and societal ills is Israel - it is never one of their own.

The problem with this analysis is that it removes any sense of responsibility from the Palestinians.  They can never be held accountable for their deeds or misdeeds. The Palestinians are reduced to a population that is too immature, or too weak, or too poor, or simply incapable of knowing better or of taking care of themselves.  In their attempt to help the Palestinian cause, The NYT has instead fostered an attitude that can only be described as patronizing and pitiful.

This is an example of a story where the values of the editors gets in the way of uncovering truth and pursuing justice.  If they really respected the Palestinians, The New York Times should have exposed the corruption - some of which their own reporter stumbled upon and uncovered - without hesitancy or fear.

Micah Halpern


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