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How the Israel-Hamas war divided and inflamed newsrooms in 2023
December 28 2023, 08:00

Hamas’ surprise terror attacks against Israel on Oct. 7 launched a war and completely upended the global news cycle for the remainder of the year, dividing newsrooms from both editorial and ideological viewpoints. 

The Hamas terror attacks, which targeted women, children and the elderly, along with Israel’s forceful response, have sparked rallies, protests and even bouts of antisemitism across America, from higher learning institutions to the streets of major cities. Prominent news organizations were no different, with cable news outlets and major newspapers seeing colleagues disagree. 

The New York Times has seen an assortment of issues related to the Israel-Hamas war, taking heat from both sides as many pro-Israel Americans have dismissed the Gray Lady as anti-Israel but pro-Palestinian protesters have targeted the paper’s Manhattan headquarters to demand a cease-fire in Gaza. 


New York Times Magazine poetry editor Anne Boyer resigned even last month in protest of what she called Israel's "U.S-backed war against the people of Gaza." Her decision came after now-former colleague, NYT Magazine writer Jazmine Hughes, stepped down after she was reportedly reprimanded for signing an open letter declaring Israel was guilty of "apartheid and genocide." 

The open letter actually called out The New York Times by name, blasting its editorial board for writing "what Israel is fighting to defend is a society that values human life and the rule of law."

Signing the letter was in violation of the paper's public protest policies. Fellow Times writer Jamie Lauren Keiles also resigned after signing the letter. But while a handful of staffers have ditched the Times in support of the Palestinian people, some observers feel the paper favors Palestinians. 

The Times, which has long been accused of an anti-Israel tilt by certain critics, was accused of "both-siding" pro-Palestinian protesters tearing down posters of civilian hostages. The New York Post editorial board even scolded crosstown paper Times, accusing the Gray Lady of downplaying antisemitism in the process. 

The Times also took heat for inaccurately reporting that Israeli airstrikes caused an explosion at a Gaza hospital that killed hundreds last month. Israel quickly denied the claims and presented evidence that the Palestinian Islamic Jihad was behind the blast and U.S. intelligence ultimately confirmed that Israel was not behind the explosion. 


The Times soon released a lengthy editor’s note apologizing for its reliance on unverified claims by Hamas. 

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that some Times staffers "chafed when the NewsGuild held a virtual meeting during which some members debated the merits of issuing a statement calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and an end to U.S. government aid to Israel, a move that they said would compromise their neutrality and put colleagues in war zones at risk." 

The Journal also noted that NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss "said the union hadn’t considered issuing such a statement," but admitted to having a meeting "to listen to its hundreds of members who wanted the union to issue a statement, as well as to people who opposed it," which essentially confirmed infighting by the paper’s staff. 

Over at the Washington Post, there was internal uproar over a political cartoon that mocked the terrorist group Hamas. 

The Post cartoon titled "Human shields" depicted a Hamas spokesperson saying, "How dare Israel attack civilians," while a frightened-looking woman and four small children remain bound with rope to his body. The cartoon was featured in the Nov. 8 print edition of the paper and online, which was later deleted upon viral backlash. The paper's executive editor Sally Buzbee addressed staffers after she noticed "deep concerns and conversations" in the newsroom. 

The Los Angeles Times saw some staffers sign an open letter criticizing "Israel’s atrocities against Palestinians," only to reportedly get told they wouldn’t be able to cover the war as a result. 

MSNBC was forced to deny a report that Mehdi Hasan was "quietly" removed from the anchor chair, insisting it was a coincidental move to focus on breaking coverage. But Hasan, who formerly worked for Al Jazeera, has been one of the strongest critics of Israel in the mainstream media during the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and saw his show get canceled by the network weeks later, although MSNBC insists it was simply a programming decision.


Hearst, a media company that owns Esquire, Cosmopolitan and other major brands, reportedly told employees to be careful about "controversial" statements after a senior fashion editor commented on the Israel-Hamas war. Lizz Schumer, a senior editor and union shop steward at Good Housekeeping, told the Washington Post, "It feels like a drastic overreach on the part of our parent company." 

Across the pond, the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) initially referred to the organization as "freedom fighters," "gunmen" or "militants" rather than terrorists. As the situation escalated into a war, viewers became increasingly frustrated with the news organization’s refusal to use the term "terrorists," particularly after reports of Hamas’ brutal actions against civilians.

Although the BBC originally defended its decision, claiming "terrorism is a loaded word," the network eventually did an about-face and started calling Hamas a "terrorist organization." 

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said he held private conversations with CNN and MSNBC about their coverage of Israel after scolding the networks on the air and urging news organizations around the world to do a better job covering the Hamas terror attacks of Oct. 7. 

"I've called out the coverage on CNN while I was being interviewed on CNN. I've called out the coverage on MSNBC while I was being interviewed on MSNBC," Greenblatt previously told Fox News Digital. 

"All of them need to do better. They need to do better because this isn't just about antisemitism, although it is. The carelessness with which they treat Jewish victims is crazy," he continued. "This isn't just about Israel, although it is. Demonizing and dehumanizing Israelis and Zionists is how you get this kind of barbarism and these atrocities. This is about humanity."

Greenblatt scolded MSNBC on "Morning Joe" the Monday following the Hamas terror attacks, bluntly asking, "Who's writing the scripts?" His remarks came after several MSNBC hosts and pundits referred to Hamas as fighters and militants. "I’m looking right at the camera, they are terrorists," he told MSNBC viewers. 

While on MSNBC, Greenblatt also begged the network and their liberal viewers to "get this story right" because of the magnitude of the conflict.

"Please stop calling this a retaliation. This is a defensive measure against an organization that is committed to one thing, killing Jews. Not a peaceful resolution of a conflict. But murdering Jews," he said. "And if you’re wondering if I’m exaggerating, please, I beg of you, everyone watching, and everyone at this network: Just watch the footage."

He appeared on CNN the day after the brutal terror attack and took exception to CNN International anchor Becky Anderson's choice of adjectives when describing Hamas. While the CNN interview was on the phone and didn't generate the headlines that his MSNBC comments received, the ADL leader didn't exactly hold back. 


"Hamas should be seen as the hate group that it is. A hate group that’s been promoting an ideology of hate for years. Dehumanizing Jewish people and dehumanizing the Jewish state. As we’ve seen in America and around the world, when you dehumanize people, you create the conditions, you brainwash the public into thinking acts of dehumanization is permissible," Greenblatt told CNN viewers.

"You need to tell Becky Anderson to stop using words like ‘spectacular’ to describe the terror organization of Hamas. Stop saying they made great gains, spectacular gains," he continued. "We should call these people the barbarians that they are, and we should recognize that the only words to use in the context of this are ‘criminal’ and ‘homicidal.’ Those are the only adjectives that apply." 

Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn, Jeffrey Clark and David Rutz contributed to this report.