New York Times censorship for imperialism: All the words you cannot say

Since October 7, the New York Times has had no trouble filling its pages with stories that fit its narrative that Palestinians are the aggressors in their conflict with Israel. And if you only go by the Times’ scenarios, there was no conflict between Palestinians and Israelis before October 7, when Hamas dared to resist and attacked illegal settlers just outside of Gaza.

Banner targets corporate media at protest honoring martyred journalists killed by Israel. Philadelphia, Jan. 22, 2024. WW Photo: Joe Piette

“Jewish babies were beheaded by Hamas” their headlines blared — even though this never happened. “Women settlers were raped by Hamas combatants” others claimed, with no actual proof — but since when did that ever stop this prestigious bourgeois newspaper?

Yet, apparently, the Times’ one-sided coverage of what it erroneously calls the “Israel/Hamas” war hasn’t been enough to stop the growing global movement opposing Israel’s genocidal campaign in Gaza and the Biden administration’s unwavering support.

So the “all the news that is fit to print” New York Times just issued a secret memo to staffers outlining “all the words you cannot use” if they are writing about the Israel/Palestine conflict — whoops, please avoid using “Palestine.”

The old adage that if you see it on the pages of the Times, it must be true, has morphed into if you don’t see it in the Times, apparently it never happened.

According to an alert from FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) on April 18, other words to be avoided according to the Times memo to staff include: “genocide,” “ethnic cleansing,” “occupied territories” and “refugee camps.”  Call them “neighborhoods or areas” instead.

Writers can use words like “terrorism” and “terrorist” when writing about the October 7 attack but “fighters” or “militants” are discouraged. The list approves phrases such as “the deadliest attack on Israel in decades” but frowns on writers reporting on Israel’s assault on Gaza or describing “widespread starvation” in Gaza.

FAIR notes that the memo, written by Times standards editor Susan Wessling and international editor Philip Pan, discourages the use of words like “slaughter,” “massacre” and “carnage” as terms that are “more emotional than informative” when describing Israel’s actions in Gaza. But it is apparently fine to apply these “emotional” terms to characterizing the actions by Palestinians against Israeli settlers on October 7. Throw in “brutal” and “horrific” for good measure.

Denying settler-colonial history

There is some irony in that the New York Times, which in 2019 published the historic “1619 Project” on the brutal U.S. history of enslavement and colonialism, is now instructing its writers to erase the history and present-day reality of the U.S.-backed Israeli racist, settler-colonial and genocidal occupation of Palestine.

Apparently, the only news these backers of imperialism see as “fit to print” must support the lies perpetuated by Zionists, up to and including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for decades.

The rest of the world clearly sees that Netanyahu is intent on eradicating the remaining Palestinian population, not only in Gaza but in the West Bank, Jerusalem and the whole original “48.” The Times knows this too, only its editors clearly refuse to acknowledge it.

Betsey Piette

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Betsey Piette

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