NYT's' 'Oy Veh' Coverage of Israel Skips Reality

Israel bashing is a predictable part of New York Times coverage of the Jewish state. Jodi Rudoren, the Times’ bureau chief in Jerusalem, regularly pounces on the slightest Israeli flaws or missteps, and then turns them into outright disasters.

It’s what I would call "oy veh journalism" that, at times, goes even beyond hype and exaggeration to outright fiction.

As is exemplified in Rudoren’s latest contribution -- a huge spread in the Oct. 17 edition under a sky-is-falling headline that reads: “In Exodus From Israel to Germany, A Young Nation’s Fissures Show.”

The piece deals with Israeli expats who have moved to Germany -- settling mainly in Berlin. Or as Rudoren identifies them -- “a cadre of frustrated young Israelis clamoring to move to Berlin in what has become a contentious campaign revealing economic fissures and identity struggles in Israel’s still-adolescent society.”

This definitely rates a big "oy veh", judging from Rudoren’s hyped-up prose.

“Israelis have for years been drawn to Berlin’s cosmopolitan flair, vibrant arts scene and advanced public transportation,” Rudoren writes. This growing exodus, she adds, “highlights Israel’s insecurity, particularly after a summer of war and amid signs of growing international isolation and rising European anti-Semitism.”

If you’re engaged in breathless, overblown reportage, as Rudoren certainly is, you’re apt to jettison accuracy.

How extensive, for example, is this Israeli “exodus” to Berlin?  It turns out that counting expats is “complicated” because Israel and Germany use different estimates. But Rudoren puts the total at somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000.

Not exactly the enormous exodus that threatens the very fabric of Israeli society, as Rudoren would have us believe.

In fact, Rudoren demolishes her entire piece in Paragraph 12, where she writes: “Sergio DellaPergola, a leading demographer, said emigration was actually lower than at any time in Israel’s 66-year history, and also lower than in comparably developed countries. Far more people left Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, when inflation skyrocketed, adding that today, 70 percent of Israel’s Jews and nearly all of its Arab citizens are native-born and thus less likely to leave.”

Thus, far from hemorrhaging Berlin-bound Israelis, it turns out that Israel is demographically and ethnically more stable than “comparably developed countries.” To be sure, some Israelis emigrate to other countries, including Germany. But their small numbers hardly warrant an outcry of exodus proportions and a phony, massive spread in the Times.

Emigration from Israel doesn’t quite rise to Rudoren’s oy veh level. If there is real cause for "oy veh", it pertains to Rudoren’s and the Times’ kind of biased, overblown journalism.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers