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You may have to look hard to find any truth in its page but you can ALWAYS find anti-Israel propaganda on its soiled pages

By Adi Schwartz

Here is a recent yield from The New York TimesAn extensive magazine piece about American Jews who have stopped supporting Israel; an online documentary film produced by the newspaper, in which former IDF soldiers, including Dean Issacharoff from Breaking the Silence, say that Baruch Marzel offers them pizza vouchers if they shoot Palestinians in Hebron; an article about American laws that aimed at defending Israel from BDS; and an article accusing Israel of silencing Palestinian civil society because of the decision to designate a number of Palestinian NGOs as terrorist groups.

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All of this in one month, November 2021, which wasn’t even a particularly dramatic month in the history of the conflict. That same month, by the way, the newspaper didn’t publish even a single article supporting Israel or its policies.

And there was another article, profile the most disturbing of them all, a complimentary profile of Refaat Alareer, a literature teacher at the Islamic University of Gaza, written by the journalist Patrick Kingsley on Nov. 16. Alareer was praised because he teaches Israeli poetry, including that of Yehuda Amichai. There is only one small line in the article mentioning that the teacher has attacked Israel virulently on social media, where he depicts it as a source of evil.

In its article, the New York Times made do with one fairly tame example of Alareer’s attacks, but the media monitoring organization HonestReporting filled in the gaps. It became clear that, in only the last two years, Alareer has compared Israel and Israelis to the Nazis and to Adolf Hitler no less than 115 times. Ironically, in January 2021, he claimed that the New York Times itself supported “Nazi Israel.” In September 2020 he tweeted that “Hitler is as peaceful as any Israeli leader.”

Israel, of course, is carrying out a “Holocaust.” “Zionists are scum,” and “Zionism is a disease.” In August 2021 Alareer attacked Hamas because they were negotiating with “terrorists” and “Nazis” – i.e. with Israel. Finally, on Nov. 21, the day that Eliyahu David Kay was murdered in Jerusalem’s Old City, Alareer shared a picture of the murderer Fadi Abu Shkhaidem on his Twitter account. Among the comments were “May Allah bless his soul,” and underneath, “Amen.”

Kingsley has been New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief for around a year. His article attracted strong criticism, and in an especially unusual step, this week the newspaper published a clarification that appears at the beginning of the article on its website, and which actually confirms that the description of the Gazan teacher was erroneous.

“The article did not accurately reflect Mr. Alareer’s views on Israeli poetry,” the clarification reads. Had the newspaper done more extensive reporting, it added, the article would have presented a more complete picture.

The clarification essentially undermined the main idea of the article, namely that a Palestinian teacher uses poetry to promote understanding and empathy between the two peoples. However, the newspaper has still not dealt with Alareer’s harsh incitement to violence on social media, and the regular epithets he hurls at Israelis.

In this case, the boundaries had been overstepped, and the newspaper had no choice but to acknowledge its mistake. But the question still stands: what could have brought the leading daily in the United States and the world to present a glowing profile of someone who regularly and continuously shows support for violence and terror, honors murder and death, and regularly calls Jews and Israelis “Nazis”? What values did the New York Times, which considers itself to be a progressive and liberal newspaper, advance with this article? Is it possible to imagine a similar profile about an Israeli teacher, if there is one like that, who tweets in favor of harming Arabs, even if he teaches Mahmoud Darwish or Naguib Mahfouz?

The New York Times’s anti-Israeli obsession isn’t a one-time issue. During Operation Guardian of the Walls against Hamas the newspaper published pictures of Palestinian children who had been killed during the war on its front page. Concern for children’s lives is indeed heartwarming, but if this was the reason for the pictures, then when there were far larger numbers of children killed, especially when they were killed by the American army, the newspaper should certainly have done the same thing.

But they didn’t. According to estimates, tens of thousands of children have been killed during the war in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, and in Iraq, the estimate is that tens of thousands of children were killed by the American army. Children were also killed during American attacks on Syria, Pakistan and other places. However, the pictures and names of the dead children did not appear on the front page of any of the newspaper’s editions. This concern is only shown for children killed by Israel.

Until the last decade or two, it was possible to claim that the New York Times was only opposed to Israel’s policies in Judea and Samaria, but today the newspaper mostly presents a more radical position, which frequently strives to undermine the very existence of the State of Israel.

Between Herzl and Ochs

If there is one word that encapsulates the New York Times’s treatment of Israel, it’s abhorrence. Israel has never been depicted favorably on the pages of the newspaper. In order to understand the process of radicalization that has begun at one of the most important newspapers in the world, then, we need to go back to the beginning, because the New York Times and the Zionist project haven’t really gotten along with one another from the start.

They were born a few months apart: Theodor Herzl published The Jewish State in Vienna in February 1896, while across the ocean, in the city of New York, in August, Adolf Ochs purchased a failing newspaper that was on the verge of collapse, and transformed it into a global media empire. Ever since, the newspaper has been under the control of the Ochs-Sulzberger family, and this is the spirit that lives and beats within it.

Ochs and Herzl were both Jews who were steeped in German culture, but it’s hard to think of a wider gap between the two, at least in relation to everything that’s connected to the phenomenon that was then known as the “Jewish problem.”

Herzl thought that antisemitism was an incurable global disease and that it didn’t matter where the Jews tried to escape – it would always pursue them. He saw the Jews as a nation and not only a religion, and believed that Jews around the world were members of one nation. Because of this, Herzl believed that the only way to guarantee the lives and safety of the Jews was to establish a Jewish state, where they would enjoy all the rights and be masters of their own destiny. Ochs’s position, on the other hand, was the complete opposite.

Ochs was an outstanding example of the American success story and a person who built himself up from scratch. The son of Jewish immigrants from Bavaria, who already began to work in journalism from age 11, he started as a floor cleaner in the printing machine room in the city where he lived in Tennessee and afterward worked as a journalist with a small local newspaper in Kentucky. He gradually advanced in the American newspaper industry, until he was 38, when he identified a successful business opportunity and bought the New York Times for $75,000.

Author Ashley Rindsberg (Wikimedia Commons)

Within four years Ochs increased the distribution of the newspaper fourfold, and within 20 years, fifteenfold. During Ochs’s time the newspaper became a commercial success and a symbol of quality: what Harvard was to American universities, the New York Times was to global journalism.

Ochs was a typical representative of Reform Judaism in the United States, a Jewish stream whose roots were in 19th century Germany. The Reform movement believed in the ability of Jews to integrate into their surrounding society and saw Judaism as a solely religious matter. They were firmly opposed to the classification of the Jews as a separate nation and saw themselves solely as citizens of the countries where they lived. Therefore, the rise of Zionism was seen by the Reform as a tangible threat from everything they had tried to escape from, i.e., from being explicitly identified with Judaism – a Zionist claim that it was simply impossible to escape from.

The New York Times and its publisher Ochs struggled against Zionism from the beginning and saw it as an enemy in heart and soul.

The newspaper systematically minimized Herzl and the beginnings of the consolidation of the Zionist movement. The newspaper wrote that the establishment of a Jewish state was not possible at all, or that such a state would be small and weak, and wouldn’t be able to survive. “The establishment of a Jewish state will cause unpredictable damage,” the newspaper wrote following the First Zionist Congress in Basel. Isaac Mayer Weiss, one of the leaders of the Reform movement and Ochs’s father-in-law, dubbed Herzl and his supporters “fanatics.” “It’s impossible to skip thousands of years of history and to begin anew from the same place,” he wrote in the newspaper.

The stronger Zionism became in Europe, the more the New York Times’s attacks intensified. Zionism was described as a “poisoned fruit” that would only inflame the persecution of the Jews. The establishment of a Jewish state would be a “disaster for Jews in Western countries,” it was claimed. In 1902, the newspaper warned that the claim that the Jews could only flourish in their own country played into the hands of the enemies of the Jews. Therefore, Zionism causes “more damage than Christian antisemitism.”

In 1906, no less a figure than the author Lev Tolstoy was recruited to write a vitriolic anti-Zionist article for the newspaper. He saw Zionism as an expression of imperialism and lust for power. The real expression of Judaism is spiritual, not territorial, explained the Russian count who lived a significant portion on his life on a 16,000-dunam estate. According to him, the most significant moment in the history of Judaism was the establishment of the Jewish center in Yavne after the destruction of the Second Temple – a moment that, at least in the eyes of the Jews themselves, symbolizes the lesser of two evils, and the possibility of saving what they could. For Tolstoy, at Yavne “peace-loving Jews, who weren’t extremists for national independence, could study Torah.” For him, Zionism was no less than blasphemy.

Tolstoy wrote all of this while outside his estate millions of Jews groaned under the murderous antisemitism of the Tzarist Empire. Another 100 years would pass before the same Yavne model was raised again in the newspaper – this time by Peter Beinart, the new darling of the Jewish Left in America, and a New York Times columnist.

Undoubtedly, the lowest journalistic moment was the coverage of the Holocaust of the Jews of Europe during World War II. For six years, throughout the entire war, the newspaper related to the extermination of European Jewry like it was a story of secondary importance. The Holocaust did not receive ongoing coverage or a central place in the newspaper, as would have been appropriate for an unprecedented attempt to eradicate an entire people from the face of the earth.These examples, which appear in the book Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016) by Jerold Auerbach, document well the clear anti-Zionist ideological bias of Ochs and his successor as publisher, his son-in-law Arthur Hays Sulzberger.

Laurel Leff, author of the book Buried by the Times, found that news reports on the expulsion or murder of Jews only appeared on the front page of the newspaper 26 times during the entire war, and only in six of these stories were the Jews identified as the main victims – an average of once per year. There was never a main headline about the Holocaust, even when the concentration camps were liberated at the end of the war.

In reports that did appear on the front page, the Jewish identity of the victims was erased, and they were instead presented as refugees. On the op-ed pages, too, the Holocaust was only mentioned on rare occasions. The problem wasn’t a lack of information, which flowed in abundance to the allies, Jewish organizations, and other aid organizations. For example, the newspaper’s first report on the Nazi extermination, from June 1942, did indeed mention the “largest mass murder in history,” and mentioned reports about 700,000 Jews who were murdered, but these only appeared on page five, under a long list of other reports, including one about five Poles and 114 Czech people who were murdered by the Germans on death marches. The truth was known, but the newspaper knowingly buried it in the back pages.

Over the years, the Reform movement gradually softened its position towards Israel, and no longer saw it as an enemy. There were also changes in the Sulzberger family: due to intermarriage, today the publishers are no longer Jews. But the newspaper’s “Israel problem” has not abated.

The editors demanded radicalization

Someone who has followed the American media for decades is Professor Eytan Gilboa, an expert on America, and founder and director of the Center for International Communication at Bar-Ilan University. According to Gilboa, the current attitude towards Israel at the New York Times is more severe than ever before.

“The newspaper is extreme in its attitude towards Israel,” he says, “even in relation to other newspapers who are identified with the left in the United States, like the Washington Post or the Boston Globe. Their hostile treatment of Israel stands out on its own. Today, the New York Times sees itself as a flag-bearer of anti-Israeliness and anti-Zionism, and there are even antisemitic tendencies.”

The New York Times gives an extremely wide platform to anti-Zionist positions and to rejecting the right of the State of Israel to exist as a Jewish state – an approach that is considered to be antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). According to Gilboa, one of the explanations for this phenomenon is the process of domestic radicalization in American politics. “In terms of the American media, Israel was never a foreign policy issue. The level of coverage of Israel was always like the coverage of domestic issues,” he says.

Because of this, as American society becomes more and more divided on domestic issues, such as abortion or state medical insurance, Israel has also become a controversial issue, with the left and the right competing among themselves over who can adopt a more extreme position – whether positive or negative – towards Israel. “The Democratic Party has moved left in recent years. This finds expression in groups of Congress members, including figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who have made a lot of waves with their hostility to Israel. On the other hand, Donald Trump was extremely pro-Israel, while Binyamin Netanyahu was seen as someone who intervened in favor of the Republicans and distanced himself from the Democrats. Hostility to Israel has become one of the flags that the members of this camp fly, including the New York Times,” Gilboa says.

He thinks that anti-Israeli bias has always existed at the New York newspaper, but today it has become more significant. “The newspaper wrote more words about the Sabra & Shatila massacre than it did about the first man on the moon. So their bias has continued for a long time.” Another reason that Gilboa notes is the newspaper’s feeling that this is the approach that its readers are interested in. “It’s customary to think that the media sets the daily agenda,” he says, “but many times the media sets the agenda according to what it thinks that its readers want to hear.”

In addition, sometimes the journalists adjust their articles to the demands of the editors: Gilboa says that a New York Times journalist who was placed in Israel told him a few years ago that the editors forced him to adopt an anti-Israel position, even though his personal views were different.

One of the front pages stories by The New York Times during Operation Guardian of the Walls in May 2021 (Screenshot)

A clear example of the antisemitism described by Professor Gilboa is a cartoon that appeared in the newspaper in April 2019, in which Trump was depicted as a blind person being led by a guide dog whose face was that of Netanyahu. The dog was wearing a collar with a Star of David, while Trump had a kippah on his head. After a fierce backlash, including criticism from Vice President Mike Pence, the newspaper was compelled to apologize and explicitly announce that the caricature was antisemitic.

As a rule, Gilboa says, “the newspaper denies that there is antisemitism on the left-wing of the map. From their perspective, antisemitism can only come from the right.”

Another episode that caused tremors was the resignation of the Jewish journalist Bari Weiss from the newspaper in July 2020. Weiss had been plucked a few years earlier from the New York Times’s main enemy, the Wall Street Journal, which is seen as a conservative newspaper that is identified with the center-right in America. The declared goal was to balance the opinion pages in the newspaper with voices that weren’t identified with the radical left.

But something extremely strange happened along the way. Weiss became the target of severe aggression from her colleagues at the newspaper. In her public resignation letter to the publisher Sulzberger, Weiss described a hostile and violent work environment: in internal forums, her colleagues at the newspaper called her a “Nazi,” and criticized her for “writing about the Jews again.”

In internal correspondence, her name appeared alongside an emoji of an axe, and journalists and editors at the newspaper called her a liar on social media. Her treatment was something one would expect of Mao’s Cultural Revolution in China rather than the stronghold of free media in the most important democracy in the world.

This intolerance for anyone who doesn’t have radical left-wing views also finds expression with regard to everything connected to Israel. For example, while working at the newspaper Weiss wrote a seemingly innocent tourism article about Jaffa, after which the newspaper apologized for not mentioning the “history of Jaffa,” a hint at the city’s Arab past. But an interview with the writer Alice Walker, author of the novel The Color Purple, in which she expressed explicitly antisemitic positions, still appears on the newspaper’s website, without any apology. It’s clear that there are some things the newspaper has to apologize for, and some things it doesn’t.

Bari Weiss (Screenshot/Twitter)

Beyond the ideological sources of the newspaper’s anti-Zionism, and the changing political map in the United States, there is also an economic component that explains the hostility of the New York Times towards Israel – at least this is what Ashley Rindsberg, who last year published a book about the newspaper called The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’s Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History, thinks.

Rindsberg describes ten episodes from the past in which the newspaper’s coverage was false, mistaken or seriously ideologically tilted. One of them was the Second Intifada, which according to him “was a turning point in the history of the newspaper’s coverage of the conflict. Then the New York Times stopped talking in terms of a ‘cycle of violence’ between Israel and the Palestinians, and began to place all the blame on Israel.”

Rindsberg unravels how the newspaper blamed Ariel Sharon for the outbreak of the Intifada. “From their perspective, nothing changed their narrative, not even what the Palestinians said themselves. They returned to the realm of creating myths in the style of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion about Jews who intentionally kill children.”

The clearest visual expression of the narrative that the newspaper tried to advance during this period is a photo that was published at the start of the Second Intifada, on Sept. 30, 2000. In the picture we see an Israeli border policeman holding a baton in his hand, and shouting in the direction of a young man with blood running from his head.

The impression created by the photo was that the policeman was threatening to beat the young man. Written underneath the photo was: “An Israeli policeman and a Palestinian on the Temple Mount,” and the visual expression was of an Israeli Goliath and a Palestinian David.

The photo was indeed dramatic, but there were a number of problems with it: the man was Jewish and not Palestinian, the photo wasn’t taken on the Temple Mount but in one of Jerusalem’s Arab neighborhoods, and the policeman didn’t threaten the young man but saved his life, after the Palestinians pulled him out of a taxi and onto the street, beat him and stabbed him.

The actual chain of events was the complete opposite of that described in the newspaper, but it took the New York Times many days to print a correction that was at best hesitant and ambiguous. Rindsberg explains that, over the past decades, the New York Times has transitioned from an economic model based on income from both advertisements and subscribers to a model that is based solely on subscribers. The entrance of the Internet into the picture significantly reduced the advertising pie among traditional media, and the newspapers experienced a dramatic loss of income.

This means that now the newspaper has to convince more people to regularly pay subscription fees. “Once it was common that someone who lived in a certain city would read the city newspaper,” Rindsberg told Israel Hayom. “Simply because that’s what there was. In New York, you could choose between two or three newspapers. But the Internet completely changed the picture.”

The need to convince potential readers to regularly pay subscription fees to the newspaper led to a radicalization of positions, and the transformation of the newspaper from a platform for professional journalism to a performance of political activism. The goal of the newspaper is no longer to inform the public about what’s happening but to inflame them. “Nobody will pay a subscription for a newspaper that presents a complicated position, that doesn’t have black & white, or clear guilt on one side and clear victims on the other,” he says. “People will pay a subscription for a newspaper that explains to them in simple words that one side is wicked and evil, and that we, the newspaper that you are reading, is fighting for the other side, the good side.”

According to him: “Every journalist in the United States today thinks that he is a superhero in the style of Batman, and if you are Batman, then you need to fight against a supervillain like the Joker. And the Joker that the New York Times is currently fighting against is the State of Israel. Anti-Zionism, which was always part of the newspaper’s DNA, allows the newspaper to present the Jews as villains, who exploit and enslave the Palestinians. There’s no more nuance. It’s not that the separation fence was designed to stop terror, rather Israel installed it in order to oppress the Palestinians. The assumption that Israel is the villain in the story precedes any other logical explanation.”

The conclusion that arises from looking at the New York Times’s treatment of Israel is that, from the newspaper’s perspective, there are two types of Jews: “good” Jews who play the traditional role that Jews have played in Western society over the last few decades, mainly in the cultural and intellectual spheres, from Woody Allen to Philip Roth, to scientists and Nobel Prize winners. These Jews can be geniuses, but they lack strength or political power. They don’t threaten anyone, or, in the words of Rindsberg, “as long as we’re talking about a Yiddish play or a recipe for soup with kneidlach – the New York Times doesn’t have a problem.”

Against them are placed the “bad” Jews, a target for aggression and aggressive attacks, who are today embodied in the State of Israel. These Jews don’t only see Judaism as a religion but also a nationality. They decided to take their fate in their hands, and to do so they amassed strength and established a state for themselves. They use force to manage their lives, to defend themselves, and to build their country. The newspaper opposes these Jews implacably. It seems that Jews with power are not a phenomenon that the New York Times is capable of tolerating. And until this changes, if it ever does, the newspaper will continue to attack Israel without restraint and will continue to publish articles that praise Gazan teachers, even if they are undeserving of this.

{Reposted from the IsraelHayom site and written by Adi Schwartz)

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