NY Times shafts Israel -- A Tale of Two Articles

In its Aug. 12 edition, the New York Times runs two articles that tell worlds about the paper's highly selective and frequently biased reporting about Israel. 

Let's begin with a piece about Israeli government approval of construction of a 1,600-apartment complex in Ramat Shlomo, a Jewish Orthodox neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.  ("East Jerusalem Is Approved For Building Of New Homes" by Rick Gladstone, page A4).

Predictably, Gladstone starts out by declaring that this "could undercut American efforts to salvage long-stalled Middle East peace talks."

Gladstone then moves on to denunciations of the project by political opposition groups, by Peace Now and by Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' minister of propaganda who can always be relied on to supply a snappy anti-Israel comment.

Piling it on, Gladstone then devotes a couple of additional paragraphs to objections from the Obama administration, quoting a comment by a State Department pokeswoman that "unilateral action of this kind works against our efforts to get folks back to the table."

And for good measure, Gladstone also recalls that when the project was first announced in March during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden, it led to a rift between Israel and the Obama administration.

All well and good.  But in view of all this hammering of Israel, where is Israel's actual response?  Don't fundamental journalistic standards of fairness and even-handedness require that readers also be informed about the Israeli government's views for proceeding with additional housing units in a Jewish neighborhood of Jerusalem?

Gladstone, apparently aware that his extensive Israel-bashing piece might raise a few eyebrows, proceeds to use a familiar journalistic CYA ploy that presumes to present the other side and makes his piece kosher..

"Israel," he writes "has argued that any two-state solution with the Palestinians will involve holding on to areas like Ramat Shlomo, so that in its view, building there for its citizens should not affect talks."

And where does this appear in his article?  It's Paragraph 12 in a 12-paragraph article.  Not exactly a sterling example of balanced reporting.  While Erekat is given center stage for his fulminations that the Israeli government is "committed to investing in occupation rather than peace," there are no corresponding quotes from Israel's interior minister, who gave the green light for the project, or from Jerusalem's mayor for that matter.  One would think their views would be at least as relevant as Erekat's -- and should get the same play.

Gladstone's article also is marred by an interesting omission about the position of the Obama administration.  There is no mention of White House press secretary Jay Carney's remark that the administration is seeking to discourage unilateral actions by BOTH sides -- giving equal weight to its opposition to Jewish housing construction in eastern Jerusalem and to Mahmoud Abbas's move to seek unilateral endorsement of Palestinian statehood by the UN.  Gladstone conveniently selects a State Department comment that only bashes Israel.  With him, the Palestinian Authority gets off scot free.

Moving on  to another part of the Aug. 12 Times that's just as toxic in its unbalanced reporting, we find a front-page piece by Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner that uses current social protests to highlight what he describes as an "unsettling" study by the Bank of Israel about concentration of wealth  ("Protests Force Israel to Confront Wealth Gap."

Bronner targets wealthy families that control some 30 percent of the economy -- the Ofers, the Dankners, the Tshuvas, the Fishmans and other tycoons.

Well and good.  But how bleak is the actual record of concentrated wealth in Israel?

As it turns out, Bronner has to acknowledge that the Bank of Israel's study actually shows that wealth concentration in Israel is on a par with Switzerland, France and Belgium, "and its wealth is far less concentrated than is the case in Sweden."  Of course, Bronner waits to reports this until Paragraph 12, on the jump page, which can't compete for reader attention with the front page.

But, in any case, don't expect anytime soon a front-page expose in the Times about wealth concentration in Switzerland, France, Belgium and Sweden.  In their case, there is no corresponding fixation like the Times' obsession to go after anything that's less than perfect in Israel.

And, lo and behold, much farther down in his article, Bronner finally discovers that Prime Minister Netanyahu actually is leading a campaign against excessive concentrations of wealth and pushing for anti-trust legislation that would keep family-owned cartels in check. 

It would have made perhaps more sense to lead with Bibi's offensive against monopolies and trusts -- a la Teddy Roosevelt, to use an American parallel.  But that's not Bronner's agenda.

Tellingly, Bronner also zeroes in on Israeli media barons, but identifies only one of them by name -- Sheldon Adelson, a Jewish Las Vegas mogul, who publishes a free newspaper, Israel Hayom, "widely seen as promoting the prime minister's agenda."  Media tycoons who own other mass-circulation papers with content more to Bronner's liking like Yedioth Ahronot are not identified by Bronner.  As for their Bronner-pleasing agendas, it is not until Paragraph 22 that he admits that many of Israel's  media moguls are not exactly Bibi supporters and "can be merciless on him."

Since Bronner and the Times seem so worried about Israeli media tycoons, perhaps they now will also spotlight American media tycoons, including the proprietors of the Times, the Sulzberger family which, with its leftist agenda, also has an "unsettling" influence on American politics.  But don't hold your breath.