“For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of deceit have they opened against me; they have spoken unto me with a lying tongue.” Psalms 109:2 (The Israel Bible™)
The New York Times generated a storm of outrage when it published an op-ed on Sunday by Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist currently incarcerated in Israel for five counts of murder, describing the author simply as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian”. The description was amended, but the error was so egregious that some suggest it was intentional attack on Israel by the publication.
Barghouti’s op-ed was ostensibly a call for a hunger strike inside Israeli prisons due to “mass arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners”. In the original article, the NY Times failed to mention that Barghouti is serving 5 life sentences for orchestrating three shooting attacks that killed five people. When arrested by Israel in 2002, Barghouti headed the Tanzim (PLO terror faction). After he was convicted and imprisoned, he was re-elected member of the Palestinian Authority parliament.
After harsh reactions to the description of Barghouti, the NY Times added an editor’s note that Barghouti was convicted of “five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization”. It also added that “Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.”
Yari Lapid, head of the Yesh Atid Party, responded in his own op-ed in Times of Israel, in which he said the NY Times description of Barghouti as a parliamentarian “isn’t an error, that is an intentional deception.”
“The attempt by the New York Times ‘to be balanced’ amuses Barghouti,” Lapid wrote. “He understands that this sacred attempt at balance creates equal standing between murderer and murdered, terrorist and victim, lie and truth.”
In an interview with Israel Army Radio, Former Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren called the op-ed “a journalistic terror attack”. He noted that the article was published on a Jewish holiday, the Seventh Day of Passover, when the Israeli government would be unable to respond.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely (Likud) sharply criticized the publication.
“The New York Times has provided a platform to a terrorist without noting the fact that he planned and carried out the cold blooded murder of Jews simply for having been Jews,” Hotovely said on Monday night
“This is not a matter of freedom of speech. It is anarchy. When a major newspaper with a reputation for responsible journalism becomes a platform for murderers, it provides legitimacy for terrorism. This is a very disappointing decision by the editors which seriously undermines the credibility of The New York Times.”
Barghouti called the hunger-strike was called after a year and a half of negotiations between the prisoners and the prison authority broke down.
The Times of Israel suggested that Barghouti had a personal motive for calling the strike but his motives may be more personal.
Many Palestinians see Barghouti’s move as chiefly an internal power play in an attempt to send a message specifically to the Fatah leadership and to Abbas, who excluded Barghouti’s loyalists from a recent Central Committee meeting and did npt give Barghouti the anticipated position of deputy head of the PA.
The Palestinian Authority has called for mass protests in support of the hunger-striking prisoners. The Israeli Prisons Service has placed Barghouti in solitary confinement as a result of his actions.
This is not the first time Barghouti has called for a prison hunger strike. During a previous hunger strike in 2004, the Israel’s Prison Services released a video showing Barghouti, who was being held in solitary confinement, eating in his prison cell. At the time, Prison Services spokesman Ofer Lefler said, “I want to show the world and the Palestinians that we are dealing with terrorists… Barghouti is sitting on a pot of meat and he sends his friends to die.