The New York Times is up to its old tricks — and even some new ones — in a no-holds-barred campaign against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s West Bank annexation plans.
The bias and tendentiousness of the Times‘ news coverage is clear right from the subheadline of a recent news article. The subheadline warns, “Unilaterally taking territory the Palestinians have counted on for a state could cement Benjamin Netanyahu’s legacy. It could also destabilize the region.”
The Times‘ obsession with stability, rather than freedom or justice, is one of its many double standards imposed on Israel. It’s actually a quadruple standard, or a double double standard.
One way is that the Times isn’t worried about stability when it comes to causes the Times supports, such as the Black Lives Matter protests or even demonstrations in favor of the rule of law in Hong Kong. It’s only Israel and the surrounding Arab dictatorships where the Times makes a fetish of stability.
A second way is that the Times often bemoans the status quo in the Middle East, for which it often blames Israel. Yet when Israel considers a policy choice the Times opposes, such as annexation, all of a sudden anything that might disturb that status quo is a threat to the treasured stability.
The Times article uses adjectives to signal sneakily which side Times readers should support. The article reports that “a growing chorus of respected former Israeli military, intelligence and diplomatic officials is denouncing any unilateral annexation as a grave risk to Israel’s security.” It also refers to “a prominent group of opponents, Commanders for Israel’s Security.”
Opponents of annexation get “respected” and “prominent,” while proponents get showered with no such admiring treatment. This is a classic Times trick: we’ve noted in the past that the Times describes the foreign minister of Iran, Mohammad Javad Zarif, as “the urbane, American-educated diplomat,” while usually neglecting to mention Netanyahu’s American education. Instead Netanyahu is described as “brash,” as well as “loquacious” and “usually taciturn,” two diametrically opposed terms.
The Times article about the possibility of annexation goes on to report that “the German foreign minister flew to Jerusalem last week to urge Israel to stand down.” The Times does not stop for a second to take note of the irony that Germany has Poland as a buffer to stop Russian tanks from rolling in from its east, plus a NATO garrison that consists largely of U.S. troops. Not to mention the gall of Germans, who exterminated 6 million Jews in the Holocaust, second-guessing Israel on national security.
The Times goes on to say that, “relegating the Palestinians to self-government in confined areas — places Israeli critics have likened to ‘bantustans’ — could close the door to a viable state, forcing Israel to choose between granting Palestinians citizenship and leaving them in an apartheidlike second-class status indefinitely.”
It’s unusual to see the “apartheidlike” accusation in the Times’ own voice in a news article. This one ran on page one in some editions. It shows how far the Times has traveled on the issue: Back in 2007, when former President Jimmy Carter published his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, a Times review justifiably faulted Carter for “the word ‘apartheid’ in the title, with its false echo of the racist policies of the old South Africa.”
And the Times’ own op-ed columnist, Bret Stephens, has written, “the comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa is unfair to the former and an insult to the victims of the latter.” It’s a revival of the Soviet-era “Zionism is racism” lie, and a lie that is particularly pernicious in the current era of heightened consciousness against racism in America.
Reasonable people may have different views of whether Netanyahu should go ahead with annexation. But it shouldn’t be controversial that paying New York Times readers should be able to obtain news coverage of the issue that doesn’t abandon journalistic neutrality and veer instead into outright cheerleading for the opponents of annexation.
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.