Over my years of blogging, I've been highly critical of the N.Y. Times's coverage of a variety matters, not least its coverage of the 2006 Lebanon War (e.g.). I think it's therefore only sporting to acknowledge that I think the Times has been much better this time, and by better, I don't mean "overtly pro-Israel," but engaging in some real journalism that goes well beyond the position implicitly taken in '06 (see link above) that the essence of any war is the suffering it creates on each side while the war is going on. Here, for example, is a new story on Israelis' perspective on the war in Gaza. Unlike many such stories, it doesn't go out of its way to quote outliers. And here's a scene from a Gaza hospital from Friday's paper:
A car arrived with more patients. One was a 21-year-old man with shrapnel in his left leg who demanded quick treatment. He turned out to be a militant with Islamic Jihad. He was smiling a big smile.
Hurry, I must get back so I can keep fighting," he told the doctors.
He was told that there were more serious cases than his, that he needed to wait. But he insisted. "We are fighting the Israelis," he said. "When we fire we run, but they hit back so fast. We run into the houses to get away." He continued smiling.
"Why are you so happy?" this reporter asked. "Look around you."
A girl who looked about 18 screamed as a surgeon removed shrapnel from her leg. An elderly man was soaked in blood. A baby a few weeks old and slightly wounded looked around helplessly. A man lay with parts of his brain coming out. His family wailed at his side.
"Don't you see that these people are hurting?" the militant was asked.
"But I am from the people, too," he said, his smile incandescent. "They lost their loved ones as martyrs. They should be happy. I want to be a martyr, too."
What explains the Times's turnaround? I don't know, but perhaps criticism from bloggers and others played a role. Maybe the restrictions Israel has put on journalists going to Gaza has made it more difficult to serve as propaganda agensts for the other side (but then why has the Washington Post been so bad?). Or maybe it's just a reflection of my pet theory about the Times's Israel coverage: Anti-Israel activists tend to think the Times is pro-Israel, and pro-Israel activists tend to think the Times is hostile to Israel, for the same reason. The ideological tenor of the Times's Israel coverage is "Meretznik"--like the Israeli Meretz Party, the Times is Zionist (pro-Israel), but on the left-wing, extreme peacenik fringe of Zionism. Given that even most Meretzniks in Israel, like my own father-in-law, are strongly supportive of the Gaza war, it's perhaps not surprising that the Times is showing some sympathy.