By all accounts, Peter Baker is a straight shooter when it comes to fair and honest reporting, and he enjoys a stellar reputation as a result. Before joining the New York Times in 2008, he worked as a reporter for 20 years at the Washington Post, where he covered the White House during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush years. He went on to become the chief White House correspondent for the Times, and is now preparing to cut his teeth as the paper’s Jerusalem bureau chief this summer. It may be the challenge of his career, given the anti-Israel bias and inaccuracies that keep stubbornly appearing in news stories.
A journalist who knows Mr. Baker personally says the one thing he won’t stomach is to have his great name tarnished during his term as bureau chief. This is good news and it bodes well for the New York Times and its readers.
One of the first things Mr. Baker may need to do upon arrival (if not sooner) is study the case of Diaa Hadid, a reporter who joined the Jerusalem bureau a year ago after a lengthy stint at the Associated Press. In just a short amount of time, she has somehow managed to kick up a sandstorm in the pro-Israel advocacy press, where she had been pilloried and satirized for her prejudices and errors. Mr. Baker might also note that Ms. Hadad’s path to the AP and the Times was certainly not the traditional road that journalists travel – but was instead through Palestinian advocacy groups.
The bottom line: Mr. Baker is inheriting a situation that he should examine thoroughly (if he hasn’t already), as his own credibility as a bureau chief may rise and fall with Ms. Hadid’s. Right now, it’s very hard not to conclude that most of her journalism seems better suited for the op-ed section, and not for the news pages that Times-lovers rely on to follow what’s happening on a daily basis in one of the most important regions on earth.
this what Israeli army top brass have been asking soldiers not to do for weeks, but still goes on: https://t.co/3HPBTwOG3B
— Diaa Hadid ضياء حديد (@diaahadid) March 24, 2016
As one of many examples, consider this tweet (above) that she wrote on Thursday. It pertains to the widely-circulated grisly video (below) that shows an Israeli soldier shooting a terrorist in the head after he was already subdued. One wonders: What exactly have IDF leaders “asked” soldiers to do, as Ms. Hadid writes, as opposed to issuing them directives. And where is her evidence of the asking? Is she trying to say that soldiers have been politely requested not to shoot terrorists in the head when they are already lying on the ground injured?
More importantly, “still goes on” suggests that this incident, for which the soldier is being investigated for murder, is fairly commonplace. Is it? If so, where is her proof? Israel’s prime minister publicly stated that the actions of the soldier, who was arrested, “do not represent the values of the Israel Defense Forces.” Israel’s defense minister also quickly condemned the soldier’s actions. Ms. Hadid has written a news story about the case, and we may presume will continue penning them. Unless she can back up what she says in her tweet, one must ask how she can cover the unfolding news story objectively and fairly.
Mideast Dig sent the tweet to Eado Hecht, a defense analyst at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, a leading Israeli think tank. “She is merely being nasty — turning a news report into propaganda, he writes back regarding Ms. Hadid. “The IDF’s Rules of Fire are simple: You shoot when you identify a threat, NOT against a ‘suspect,’ but against someone who is actually brandishing a weapon and moving towards you or someone else — until the target is ‘neutralized’ (that is the official wording, i.e. can no longer function as a threat, not necessarily dead), and then you stop.”
Mr. Hecht adds: “It hasn’t been ‘going on’ [as Ms. Hadid writes] and the IDF’s top brass did not change the rules some weeks ago to stop this sort of thing from happening, because these have been the rules for years and years. The problem is always identifying the situation in the field — at what point exactly does a threat begin and when is the target neutralized. A couple of weeks ago, the [IDF] chief of staff, in a lecture at a high school, explained that — for example (the example he used) — if a young girl with scissors is attacking you, but there is a concrete block between you and her, then there is no need to empty an entire assault-rifle magazine into her in order to stop the attack. Some foreign journalists immediately exploited the example to claim that he was ‘admitting’ that this is what the IDF soldiers were actually doing. The New York Times reporter is making the same deliberate misrepresentation.”
It is worth noting that the soldier being investigated for murder was not present during the original incident when the terrorist attacked and was first shot. He arrived minutes later. According to his family (he himself reportedly has no access to the media), he claims that he thought the terrorist was wearing a suicide-bomb vest, saw him moving, and thought he was going to set it off. “He apparently did not know that the presence of a suicide-bomb vest had already been ruled out, as he was not present when this had been checked,” says Mr. Hecht. “At least for now, the soldier’s version is not being accepted by the IDF’s police investigators.” Meanwhile, bits and pieces of various evidence reports are being leaked to the Hebrew-language press, and is sometimes being distorted — meaning that it’s still too early to reach ultimate conclusions.
Getting back to Diaa Hadid, if her tweet suggests hostility towards the Israeli military — a hostility that could cloud her judgment and her journalism — it’s worth exploring whether there is a pattern here. Indeed there seems to be. Before joining AP and then the Times, she was an advocate for Palestinians who expressed some very harsh views about Israelis.
Hadid’s march against U.S. support for Israel
In the early 2000s, Ms. Hadid was a contributor to Electronic Intifada, one of the most virulently anti-Israel media websites in the world. She also worked as a public relations officer for two groups: ‘LAW: The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment’ and a second NGO named ‘Ittija.’ The latter organization played a big role at the time at the UN’s infamous “Durban 1” conference against racism — held in South Africa in 2001 — during which two delegations (the U.S. and Israel) withdrew due to a hostile anti-Israel agenda and environment.
In April 2002, Ms. Hadid marched from Israel to the West Bank with thousands of people – in the hopes of breaking a military enclosure around the city during the Second Intifada. The enclosure was part of the IDF’s “Operation Defensive Shield,” the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. “We began to push against the [concrete] blocks,” wrote Ms. Hadid. “I was in the front lines. The soldiers and police reacted by letting off sound bombs over our heads, which caused people to panic. Tear gas bombs were thrown at us….. We kept regrouping, chanting, waving Palestinian flags, standing in groups with our hands linked, refusing to be beaten into submission, refusing to use force. Police would stand behind us, beating us with their batons, abusing us, especially the Druze police, who kept abusing us in Arabic. If we reacted, they would beat us. If we ran, they would chase after us, throwing tear gas and beating us.” In other words, Diaa Hadid was there as a rioter, not as a real journalist.
Ms. Hadid wrote that the two other purposes of the march, beyond breaking the military barricade, was to deliver food and medicine to Palestinians and “to protest America’s open support for the clearly illegal occupation.” Illegal? In fact, just last October, the Times itself ran a correction on a story penned by then-bureau chief Jodi Rudoren that stated inaccurately that most of the world officially considers the West Bank illegally occupied. It now reads, “Most of the world officially considers the territory occupied.” (The word “illegal” has been jettisoned.)
In 2003, Ms. Hadid recounted that she and a friend confronted an Israeli border policeman who prevented them from entering what he asserted was a closed military zone. “Show me the military directive making this a closed military zone,” she insisted. “Otherwise you have no authority to stop us… You can’t pull a decision like that out of your ass. Let me speak to your superior, or let us through.” He declined her directive.
During the same period, Ms. Hadid wrote the following in an Australian publication: “I can’t look at Israelis anymore. I can’t separate your average Israeli citizen from the occupation, I don’t want to be friends with them, I don’t want to talk to them….Did my objectivity get thrown out the window? Yes.”
To be fair, Ms. Hadid has done some solid and important work for the New York Times. In recent months, she covered the case of a top Hamas commander, accused of theft and gay sex, who was executed under the orders of his superiors. She also authored a piece about some courageous women who are riding bicycles in Gaza, where women are restricted by Hamas from practicing sports. But her sloppiness as a journalist is starting to get the better of her, and more often than not the slop lands on Israel.
The shit that went down
“I would prefer not to be quoted on the record, for two reasons… Just because it’s pretty fluid, and I don’t want to be pinned down on ‘Diaa said’ — and I sort of want to focus on reporting. I didn’t get a vacation because of all the shit that went down. And I would just like to start this year with less horribleness than last year.”
This was Diaa Hadid’s response to me last month when I reached out to ask her about one of her stories that had caused a major stir. To find out more about ‘the shit’ she is referring to, please tune in for Part 2 on Wednesday, April 13th.
— by Richard Behar
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