November 17, 2005
The New York Times and the JewsBy Ed Lasky
The New York Times narcissistically regards itself as the patron saint of minorities. The paper shifts into attack mode whenever it sees the slightest and most ephemeral whiff of prejudice against blacks, women, or immigrants — especially Muslims. Private golf clubs, college sports teams, corporations, the Patriot Act, all have been tarred by the Times in their quest to abolish prejudice.
Yet the New York Times seems to take the opposite approach when dealing with one particular minority: Jews. The Times' method of dealing with anti—Semitism ranges across a very narrow and disheartening spectrum: indifference, whitewashing, defense and promotion of its practitioners, and finally, and most repugnantly, the paper itself seems to occasionally engage in anti—Semitism.
This charge is not, and never should be, lightly made. Indeed, it would come as a shock to many of its readers. American Jews have always had a soft spot for the Grey Lady, and many rely on the Times as their sole news source, adopting the Times' opinions with an inexplicable obeisance.
Jews are concentrated in major urban areas and many have some connection to New York City; clearly Jews tend to live Times Country. A Jewish family rejuvenated the paper over a century ago and any minority group takes pride when glass ceilings are broken and feel a loyalty towards those among them who have struggled and succeeded against great odds.
However, Jews' loyalty to the Times is misplaced. It certainly has never been reciprocated. Laurel Leff, in her superb and revelatory new book, Buried by the Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper, has damning evidence that the Times not only ignored the plight of European Jews and the events of the Holocaust, but actively sought to downplay or deep—six any news items regarding the horrors being perpetrated against the Jews.
Many fine groups (CAMERA, Honest Reporting, Mediacrity) have noticed the frequent bias the Times shows against Israel. However, I think the issues surrounding the Times' attitude toward Jews go beyond disputes between Israel and the Palestinians. The Times has consistently ignored the rank genocidal anti—Semitism that is the governing 'philosophy' of Hamas, which it usually describes as an activist group concerned with the social welfare of Palestinians: a philanthropy, in other words.
Similarly, the paper skips over the anti—Semitism taught in schools and during sermons in Palestinian—controlled areas. There are precious few examples of the Times reporting on Arab anti—Semitism, and when it does, it usually involves putative American allies, such as Egypt. However, this can also be seen as a rod to beat the Bush Administration for its inability to influence a nation that received billions in aid from us every year.
As CAMERA points out, 'The New Yorker Bests (the New York) Times on Anti—Semitism Coverage'. The experts at CAMERA point out that the New Yorker takes notice of the extreme anti—Semitism of Hizbollah, which they depict as being Nazi—like in intensity and geared toward the destruction of Israel. The Times, on the other hand, portrays Hizbollah as a social service agency, complete with social, educational and agricultural branches. Yep, a regular 4H club. A Nexis search by CAMERA at the end of 2002 showed no mentions in the Times of anti—Semitism in connection with the group. That is correct: no mention.
The whitewashing of anti—Semitism is particularly inexplicable since, given the demographics of its readership, that would seem to be a subject that might be of particular interest. However, the Times seems to systematically avoid reporting instances of anti—Semitism, even when other media outlets or a cursory visit to google might illuminate the background of some of the events and people it covers.
For example, Democratic Congressman John Conyers staged a mock anti—Bush hearing some months ago. The hearing was simulcast at the Democratic National Headquarters, since a number of democratic Congressmen were in attendance at the 'hearing' itself. The 'hearings' featured anti—Semitic conspiracy theorists, and during the event anti—Semitic literature was handed out at the DNC. How do we know this? The Washington Post was at the event and reported on the anti—Semitism; the New York Times was there as well, yet had not one iota of news about this aspect of the conference when it reported on it.
Cindy Sheehan was given a lot of space by the Times to attack George Bush — but the Times found no space to touch upon her kooky anti—Semitism. Mere reportorial discretion or maybe a lack of space? Hardly. The Times has also had many stories on the Reverend Al Sharpton, with nary a mention of the fact that he has a long history of anti—Semitism and led a small pogrom against a record store in Harlem that resulted in multiple deaths and destruction. When the Times covered the funeral of Rosa Parks it had the audacity to characterize Sharpton and fellow anti—Semite Louis Farrakhan as 'dignitaries.' The Anti—Defamation League might take exception to that praise, since they have reams of research on Farrakhan's hatred of the Jewish people.
Among Farrakhan's notable utterances:
And of course, the statement that helped to make him what he is: Judaism is 'a gutter religion'. In Timesworld, that makes him a 'dignitary.'
Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss—based 'academic' with a long history of statements that could certainly be construed as being anti—Semitic. He had a visa to visit this country but the Department of Homeland Security revoked his visa on security grounds. The Times, of course, went to bat for him. The Times seems to have a soft spot for Muslim anti—Semitic professors because they had a glowing profile of Columbia University assistant professor, Joseph Massad, who was charged by students as engaging in anti—Semitism . In a April 8th New York Times report, he was called 'a fan of free speech' yet he has been charged with shouting down those who disagree with his inflammatory views. He has argued that intellectuals ought to see the status of the European Jews as a colonizer and that American Jews are often racists. Yet the Times gushed about him, portraying him as a sensitive aesthete and a perfect host.
The Times was so eager to support the academics charged with anti—Semitism that it violated its own journalistic code when it refused to interview students for their opinions when Columbia University released its report regarding the controversy.
Of course, the New York Times' obsession with praising and supporting the most anti—Israel organization in the world (besides the Arab League and terror groups) — the United Nations — is well known. The Times routinely ignores the anti—Semitism behind much of what transpires at the United Nations. This was made very clear in a story provided by Anne Bayefsky, a well—respected member of a think—tank and a woman whose articles have appeared in some of the finest publications in the world. In an article in Capitalism Magazine, she tells an Orwellian tale of working with the Times to get an op—ed about the UN into its pages. To summarize, she was forced to omit critical passages about many of the dictatorial states represented in the UN Human Rights Commission. However, the censorship was even more repugnant than just this. In her original op—ed she referred to the grotesque anti—Semitism on display at the UN's Durban Conference against Racism. The Times omitted this reference.
One of the most notorious anti—Semitic stories from the Nixon years concerned an official, Fred Malek, who compiled a list of Jews in the Bureau of Labor Standards because Nixon believed that Jews in that department were frustrating his policies. Some of these people were fired or demoted. Malek is now part of a group that is angling to buy the Washington Nationals baseball team. The Times coverage of the proposed transaction omitted this story from his past. As Timothy Noah at Slate wrote,
The Times approach toward Jews go beyond merely ignoring anti—Semitism. The paper seems to have a penchant for praising certain anti—Semites. Yasser Arafat has been responsible for the death of more innocent Jews than anyone since Hitler and Stalin. Yet the Times wrote that he has a 'heroic history'.
When Mayor Giuliani spotted Arafat and his entourage strolling through Lincoln Center on their way to a private box, he was disgusted and he ordered them off the premises. The Times was appalled, and criticized him for failing to play a gracious host.
Mahathir Mohammed is the former Malaysian Prime Minister who said,
He had a long history of such anti—Semitic utterances, blaming the Jews for the Asian financial crisis during the Clinton years, for example. This did not prevent Times columnist Paul Krugman from going to work for him or for later, in a Times column, trying to understand and explain the reasoning behind his comments. In an earlier 1998 article, Krugman seemed to not only justify Mahathir's anti—Semitism but he seemed, as Donald Luskin put it, to agree with it. In the article for the New York Times Magazine, Krugman wrote:
As Luskin writes, Krugman gives one example of the 'evil speculator' in the next sentence, George Soros, an ethnic Jew, if not a practicing one. Luskin's article is a superlative work of investigative journalism and shows Krugman to be not only tolerant of anti—Semitism but to engage in a bit of it himself.
The Times gave front—page treatment to the story of an illegal immigrant teenage Muslim girl who was deported after investigations revealed she was frequently visiting Islamic anti—Semitic websites. Clearly the Times objected ($link) to this deportation. Boo—hoo.
The Times' cultural coverage has also been marked by an insensitivity to the murders of Jews. The Palestinian film, Paradise Now, about two homicide bombers, was praised as a superior thriller which sustains a mood of breathless suspense, whose shrewdly inserted plot twists and emotional wrinkles are calculated to put your heart in your throat. The reviewer calls these terrorists 'all—too—human.'
Some might argue that the Times attacks on Mel Gibson and his Passion of the Christ film were attacks on the putative anti—Semitism of the film. Many have argued that the film was not anti—Semitic and the overheated warnings of perilous aftermath after its release were shown to be foolish in the extreme. Not one single reported anti—Semitic incident ever accompanied a screening of the film in the United States, where it was seen by tens of millions. The Times more likely attacked the movie because it was too Catholic for them, not because of its purported anti—Semitism.
Perhaps, the most egregious example of the Times' attitude toward Jewish people is when they adopt the anti—Semitic formulation of Jews as racists or Nazis. They constantly criticize the security barrier that was built to defend innocent Israelis from terror attacks. They have started using a new formulation which seems to support the anti—Semitic charge that Israel is the new apartheid state: they are calling the security barrier a 'separation barrier.'
This terminology conjures up an image of Israel attempting to create South African—type Bantustans, a charge of racism that is insulting to all Jewish people. Tom Friedman, the best known of Times columnists, has often propagated the charge that Israeli Jews exercise undue influence in the White House, a charge with ominous anti—Semitic antecedents. Friedman has also talked about 'fascist' forces in Israel, another circumlocution for Jewish Nazis.
The Times carried one of the most anti—Semitic ads in recent memory, one that characterized pro—Israel supporters in an anti—Semitic fashion. The full—page ad space could easily have been filled by one of the high—end retailers or liberal environmental groups that regularly use the Times to spread their messages. Instead, the Times chose to run an ad replete with anti—Semitic stereotypes about mysterious Jews working behind the scenes, with a hirsute gorilla holding an Israeli flag on top of the dome of the US Capitol. The ad was sponsored by a well—known anti—Semitic group,a fact that if not known could have been easily discovered, if by no other means than simply by looking at the advertisement.
The Times has also has attacked Jewish claims to Jerusalem by trying to disparage an archeological discovery in Jerusalem that may be part of King David's palace, Steve Erlanger of the Times casts doubt on the veracity of this claim by characterizing the dig as being funded by a conservative businessman who wants to prove a Jewish connection to Jerusalem. Barry Rubin points out in his article, 'The New York Times Bashes the Jews' that this type of theory is the same sort of anti—Semitic conspiracy theory that is popular in the Arab world. Erlanger gives implicit support to the abhorrent view of Arafat and other extremists that denies any Jewish historical rights to Jerusalem.
While the Times exerts its immense resources to protest what they see as ill—treatment of every minority group under the sun, it seems to have little will to use its prestige to help one of the smallest minorities, Jews. Why American Jews continue their allegiance to a paper that ignores them at best and maligns them at worst is unfathomable. However, maybe some Jews are beginning to wake up and smell the coffee when they unfold the paper in the morning. Readership and circulation figures are plunging in its home market, and it is no longer the most—read paper in New York City. As the internet continues its ascent to become the number one news source for Americans, the Times will now have to face stiff competition. The news will no longer be what they choose to print as the news, and they will face the toughest competition they have yet to face: the truth.
Jews have historically been at the forefront of combating discrimination in America and around the world and have long considered the Times an ally in that noble struggle. Perhaps, the power of cognitive dissonance have created a blind spot regarding the Times' shameful treatment of Jews. The 'say it ain't so, Joe' impulse can be overpowering. The need to believe that the Times is the gold standard of reporting dies very hard.
However the temptation to rely on the Times as the sole source of truth should be resisted. The internet is a marketplace of views and news. Why can't the Times have a columnist that is at least fair to Israel and the Jews (think the Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer)? Why can't the paper have op—ed contributors and columnists who confront anti—Semitism head on as the Wall Street Journal does (Anna Bayefsky, Claudia Rossett are only two examples)? Even the liberal Los Angeles Times manages to publish columns by Dennis Praeger.
The Times preens as a protector of minorities around the world. Some of those minority groups are quite large indeed: blacks, Muslims, women. There is one very small minority (less than 0.2% of the world's population) that is regularly attacked and for whom calls for genocide are routinely made. Yet The Times not only ignores attacks against Jews, its negligence and occasional outright support aids and abets them.
Ed Lasky is news editor of The American Thinker.