By Larry Gordon
Last weekend there were so many Jewish-oriented stories in the New York Times, it was difficult not to believe that the newspaper had finally succumbed to its overwhelming desire to publish an anglo-Jewish weekly.
I will always feel attached to the Times, and though countless friends and associates have told me they have canceled subscriptions, I cannot. And that is not because of any traditional form of allegiance. Believe me when I say that I know well what motivates the Times—and rest assured it is not journalistic objectivity. There is a clear agenda to denigrate, ridicule, and consistently criticize, in both direct and circuitous ways, whatever it is that emanates from Israel.
Times writers and editors do not hold any other ethnic or religious group or nation to the same standard as Israel and the Jews in general. If Jodi Rudoren, a Times reporter in Israel, posts a story sympathetic to Israel or Israelis, before the piece is published it is filled with “balance” by editors here in New York.
When we met with Rachel Frenkel, the mother of one of the students murdered by Hamas terrorists in June, she had just earlier that day met with Ms. Rudoren. Ms. Rudoren later called her to say that her editors in New York had revised the piece. The editors provided equal space in the paper to one of the Palestinian young men affiliated with Hamas who was killed trying to elude Israeli troops during the search for the boys. Obviously, there is no moral equivalency between the two situations. But you would not know that by reading the article in the Times.
Perhaps Times reporters fear what we have learned so many others in the media feared during the Gaza operation. Reporters were warned that if they exposed the identity of Hamas fighters or the location of rocket launchers, they would unhesitatingly be dispatched with in short order—in other words, killed by Hamas terrorists.
With all the hundreds of reporters, cameras, and video crews in Gaza during the war, there was no footage of Hamas terrorists doing their thing. This way, Hamas was able to claim that 2,000 Palestinian civilians lost their lives as a result of Israel’s aerial bombardment and ground offensive. The reality, however, is that more than half were terrorist fighters and hundreds more were killed by errant Hamas rockets that landed in Gaza. So far, the Times has not bothered with the details of these statistics. They apparently still want access to Gaza for their journalists and photographers.
So much for the Times coverage of Israel and Gaza; now to the matter of the seemingly insatiable abundance of Jewish content in last weekend’s Saturday and Sunday papers. Over just these two days, there was coverage of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s solidarity visit to the Jewish state, with a good measure of critique on the motivation behind the visit. There was a story about a Reform rabbi leaving his pulpit in Brooklyn Heights, and a front-page story about an elderly Dutch Nazi resister, now in his nineties, who decided to return his Righteous Gentile award to Israel to protest its actions in Gaza. And then there was an extensive exposé on organ trafficking—especially for kidneys—and how Jewish reluctance toward organ donations has Israel at the center of the business.
There was a story by Steve Erlander about how internal political debate in Israel is preventing the government from reaching a cease-fire agreement. By now, one might have been reached, though it looks like hostilities have been revived. Erlander neglects making the observation that this is the fashion in which an actual democracy functions. Erlander quotes an Israeli political scientist who says that the problem specifically in the Middle East is the incompatible mixture of religion and warfare. He writes that it is a blind religious zeal that moves groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and ISIS, as well as what they consider the Israeli right. Then for good measure he throws in the story of Samson, who brought down a Philistine temple, as recorded in the Book of Judges, killing himself along with his captors. The Times reporter ends his piece by suggesting that Samson may have been one of the first suicide bombers in history—like so many other things, suicide bombing was probably invented by Jews like Samson.
And then there is the matter of the extensive coverage of whatever makes the Jewish community—whether here or in Israel—something less than attractive. If there is a Jewish double-standard—which is usually an aberration—on display, the Times makes sure to depict it as the Jewish norm. They may not say so directly, but that is frequently suggested. For example, with the matter of sexual molestation in the Orthodox community in some camps or schools, the Times presents it as if it is pervasive.
The underlying suggestion in all this is that the people who are supposed to answer to a higher authority, or who are supposed to be a light unto the nations, are really predisposed toward hypocrisy, and the religion thing or the love-of-Israel thing is just an agent that is used to cover up the reality.
When it comes to our religious practices, the newspaper is a bit more circumspect. When it comes to Israel policy, however, and in particular the current conflagration with Hamas, the criticism of Israel and her leaders is blistering and unrelenting. The Times has devolved into the mouthpiece for the Obama administration these last few years. I would like to leave Mr. Obama out of this for now, except for an incisive interview he did two weeks ago with Times columnist Thomas Friedman.
Friedman managed to evoke from the president an important revelation that provides more than just a hint as to why Obama’s foreign policy is such an extraordinary disaster. The president’s philosophy was essentially enunciated this way—in the conflicts around the world, there should be “no victor and none vanquished.” In the conflict currently being fought between good and evil, the new objective of the United States is that no one wins and neither does anyone lose. This means that each struggle out there ideally has to be fought to a draw.
It’s an inane premise that does not work, but at the same time it is one that the editorialists at the Times wholly support. Even more senseless is the way in which Prime Minister Netanyahu is so conscious of what the Times and like-thinking elements will say or do about whatever his decisions are vis-à-vis Gaza and Hamas. At this moment, it seems that Hamas is, to an extent, having its way with Israel. They determine when the fighting begins and when it ends. There is no doubt that Israel can be a victor and vanquish this devious enemy over the short term.
But how does the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC report the abrupt end on Tuesday to the recent five-day cease-fire? They do so by reporting that the Israeli Air Force continued its aerial bombardment of Gaza, killing this many civilians and that many children (and it doesn’t have to be accurate or true). Only then does the story continue to report that the IAF sorties were in “response” to the shattering of the cessation of violence when Hamas fired rockets into southern Israel.
You cannot allow a newspaper editorial board to manage a war for a sovereign country—or, for that matter, any country. And when it comes to Israel and whatever is in her best interest, even a paper that believes it is a purveyor of Jewish conscience like the Times should be the last resource for direction or advice. ϖ
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.