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TEL AVIV – The New York Times was roundly condemned for publishing an op-ed by Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti while originally failing to mention that that author is a terror mastermind who was convicted of planning multiple attacks against Israelis.
Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for the murder of Israelis and a Christian monk, was initially described by the NYT only as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” Barghouti is also an architect of the deadly Second Palestinian Intifada, or terrorist war responsible for the deaths of scores of Israeli civilians.
Following public outrage, the newspaper added the following editor’s note to the oped:
This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.
Ostensibly, Barghouti penned the article to explain why he launched a hunger strike among Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, claiming abuse by prison guards, including his own claim of being kicked in the genitals.
Barghouti served as chief of the Tanzim armed wing of Fatah and the founder of terror group the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. In 2004, he was found guilty of ordering terror attacks in three different locations and was implicated in a further four.
At the time, the Washington Post reported, “the three-judge panel said there was insufficient evidence to prove Barghouti’s guilt in another 21 deaths that were originally part of the indictment. [Then-]Israeli Justice Minister Yosef Lapid said, however, that the verdict ‘demonstrates the independence of the Israeli courts. The fact that in most of the accusations he was found not guilty is clear evidence that his case was given a fair trial.’”
Lapid’s son, Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, wrote an oped in the Times of Israel claiming that the New York Times was guilty of “intentional deception” by failing to provide a full biography of Barghouti.
“Anyone who reads the column without prior knowledge of the facts will come to the conclusion that Barghouti is a freedom fighter imprisoned for his views. Nothing is further from the truth. The missing part of the column is that Marwan Barghouti is a murderer,” he wrote.
“The attempt by the New York Times ‘to be balanced’ amuses Barghouti. He understands that this sacred attempt at balance creates equal standing between murderer and murdered, terrorist and victim, lie and truth,” added Lapid.
Former Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren slammed the NYT for publishing “a journalistic terror attack” that “was full of lies.”
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro tweeted: “It’s debatable if Marwan Barghouti has a political future. Pals & Israelis debate it. But NYT was wrong not cite his terrorism conviction.”
The Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), responsible for civilian issues in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, also slammed the paper for failing to point out that “Barghouti is a murderer of Israeli civilians.”
“By referring to him only as a political figure, the Times failed to point out that after a fair trial in 2004, Barghouti was convicted of murder and carrying out terrorist acts and was therefore sentenced to five life sentences and an additional 40 years in prison,” a post on COGAT’s Facebook page read.
The American Jewish Committee tweeted that the NYT “must have forgotten to mention that Marwan Barghouti is a convicted terrorist, responsible for the murder of innocent civilians.”
Former presidential adviser Elliot Abrams wrote that the NYT’s omission of Barghouti’s history was “a shameful abdication of responsibility to readers.”
On Tuesday, New York Times’s public editor Liz Spayd criticized the newspaper for failing to note Barghouti’s crimes.
“I see no reason to skimp on this, while failing to do so risks the credibility of the author and the Op-Ed pages,” Spayd wrote. The piece was titled, “An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and The Times Does Too.”
Barghouti launched a mass hunger strike on Monday to coincide with Palestinian “Prisoners Day,” a day of solidarity with more than 6,000 Palestinian terrorists incarcerated in Israeli jails.
The goal of the hunger strike is supposedly to improve prison conditions. Demands include resuming a second monthly visit by family members (originally cancelled by the International Committee of the Red Cross over budgetary concerns), restoring academic studies for prisoners, and allowing additional TV channels and cell phones in security wings.