The New York Times’ Second Assassination of Razan al-Najjar

By Norman G. Finkelstein

On 1 June 2018, an Israeli assassin poised along “the largest concentration camp ever to exist”[*]killed 20-year-old paramedic Razan al-Najjar.

On 7 June 2018, the New York Times assassinated her a second time.

It surely does not surprise that the Times provides yeoman’s service for Israeli hasbara.  Indeed, one reads Times coverage not to be better informed but from quaint curiosity: How will it filter the damning facts to make them more palatable to its target audience on the Upper East Side?

What happened is not in doubt.  As the young woman, dressed in her white medical uniform and with her hands raised in the air, approached an injured protester, she was shot dead by an Israeli sniper.

A few days later, Israeli hasbara released a video purporting to show that al-Najjar was a Hamas dupe and Hamas human shield.  The video contained a clip from a past interview in which she is quoted as saying: “I am here on the front line and I act as a human shield.”  In fact, the Israeli video falsified al-Najjar’s words. Her actual statement was: “I’m acting as a human rescue shield to protect the injured inside the armistice line.”

If there was a news story here, it should have been headlined, “Israel Releases Doctored Video to Justify Murder of Gaza Paramedic.”

But Times reporter Herbert Buchsbaum instead deployed the Israeli video to sow doubt on the incontrovertible facts (“Israeli Video Portrays Medic Killed in Gaza as Hamas Tool,” 7 June). Even as it shocks and disgusts, still, this second assassination of Razan al-Najjar fits the standard Times template:

1)  Recast uncontroversial facts as dueling “narratives.” Buchsbaum depicts the Israeli video not as a crude falsification of al-Najjar’s interview, but as the “tightly edited” Israeli entry in “the battle over her story’s narrative,” which is then counterposed to the “version” of “Hamas officials.”

2)  Bury the critical facts deep inside the article.  Whereas Buchsbaum quotes the doctored Israeli video in the third paragraph, he strategically buries al-Najjar’s original words in the twentieth paragraph at the tail end of the article.

3)  Drag in Hamas to discredit the victim.  Buchsbaum repeatedly invokes Hamas’s wholly irrelevant name, reporting, for example, that “Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, has portrayed her as a hero and an innocent victim of Israeli aggression.” Only Hamas sees her as a hero and an innocent victim?

After release of the doctored video, an Israeli military spokesman tweeted, “Razan al-Najjar is not the angel of mercy Hamas propaganda is making her out to be.” Faithfully echoing him, Buchsbaum broods that, although Razan al-Najjar presents “the image of fresh-faced innocence,” the reality is “more complex.” This deep thinker discerns that “While she said she saw her role as a health care worker, she also saw herself as part of the protest.”

Buchsbaum quotes this supposedly damning avowal by her: “With all my strength, will and persistence, no matter what you do to me, what dangers I’m subjected to, bullets, explosives or tear gas, I will continue on my course and journey. I will save all the injured so that they can go back and defend their land, and take back our land.”

Only in the perverted universe of the Times is it problematic to selflessly oppose one’s dispossession and incarceration.

9 June 2018


[*]Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War against the Palestinians(New York: 2003, p. 169).  Kimmerling was a distinguished sociologist at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.