This is the chilling phrase used by Laurel Leff in the title of her excellent
book on how The New York Times “buried” the Holocaust as it was happening. But
there are many ways in which Israel’s good name, (and the truth on this
particular subject), have been soundly, roundly, “buried” at the
Here is how propaganda works: It gives pride of place to certain
articles and omits or minimizes – buries – others; presents opinion pieces as if
they are objective news – and then supports such “news” with opinion pieces in
the very same issue; presents compelling but often misleading and wrongly
captioned photos to accompany the biased news; and it does so every single
Sometimes this is done blatantly, more often it is a steady stream
of low-level disinformation. Newspapers and websites will also inflate and
sensationalize something minor and deny, omit or bury something that is quite
I have been covering media bias against Israel since the Aqsa
intifada began. By now, I must have written about 800 articles on the
demonization of Israel. I argued, early on, that anti-Zionism today is part of
the “new” anti-Semitism. I no longer respond to each and every biased
It is too exhausting, enraging, agonizing, tedious – but also
because there are excellent organizations and brilliant bloggers who do just
However, every so often, I am pulled in yet again.
example, on December 16, 2013, The New York Times ran a 1,142-word story on the
front page – A1 – about a very small academic group (with only 5,000 members)
that voted to boycott Israeli academics and cultural institutions, because, as
their president said, “you have to start somewhere.”
As I immediately
pointed out, not all 5,000 members voted. Only 1, 252 members did – and among
these voters, only 826 (16% of the total membership) actually voted to boycott
Eight hundred and twenty six politically correct conformists and
yet, the “Paper of Record” found it worthy enough to anoint as front page
Perhaps it wished to encourage others to do likewise in the hope
that they, too, would make the news in a prominent way.
What the Paper of
Record subsequently failed to note was the overwhelming groundswell of
distinguished academic and cultural disapproval of this very vote which, I
believe, may have changed the nature of the BDS movement and its infiltration of
the academic world in America.
On December 23, The Washington Post noted
that: “Schools including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Princeton, and
Boston universities and the Universities of Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Texas
at Austin and others have slammed the boycott, issuing statements similar to one
by Harvard President Drew Faust that said that academic boycotts ‘subvert the
academic freedoms and values necessary to the free flow of ideas, which is the
lifeblood of the worldwide community of scholars.’” The Post also updated its
original article and noted that ranking Congressional member of the Foreign
Affairs Committee Eliot Engel wrote directly to the president of the American
Studies Association to denounce the ASA boycott, and reprinted Engel’s letter in
full. It also reprinted the letters written by Robert A. Brown, president of
Boston University, Susan Herbst, president of the University of Connecticut; and
Drew Faust, president of Harvard University.
On December 27, 2013, four
days later, the Paper of Record hid the evolving, much larger story about this
response to the boycott vote. They covered it on page A19, and at page
They titled this story: “Prominent Scholars, Citing Importance of
Academic Freedom, Denounce Israeli Boycott.”
It again quotes the
representative of the ASA at length, and points out that two other small
academic groups (The Association for Asian American Studies and the Native
American Indigenous Studies Association) have also voted to boycott Israeli
academics and cultural institutions.
While the article notes that “four
colleges and universities have withdrawn from the American Studies Association”
and that “prominent university presidents and scholars” have denounced the
boycott – it fails utterly to describe that this boycott has evoked a tidal-wave
response in which one major university president after the other has gone on
record against academic boycotts.
It only mentions Brandeis University,
Pennsylvania State University at Harrisburg, Indiana University and Kenyon
College as rejecting this boycott, and only quotes Michael S. Roth, the
president of Wesleyan University, Drew Gilpin Faust, the current president of
Harvard, and the former president of Harvard University, Larry Summers “in a
recent television interview.”
Apparently, the reporter did not interview
Larry Summers herself.
Guess what? The evolving story is not only on the
bottom of page A19 – it is also only 649 words, or about half the length of the
A1 article on this story.
The Washington Post article is 1543 words, more
than twice the length of the second Times piece by Tamar Lewin.
January, the much larger Modern Language Association is meeting to discuss a
possible boycott. I have been told that the panel discussion will only feature
pro-boycott and pro-BDS voices. This is typical. Perhaps they will double down
and try hard to come out with a pro-boycott resolution precisely to buck the
negative reactions to boycotting Israeli academics and institutions. Perhaps
they will table that resolution and wait for a more opportune time. This
globally orchestrated BDS movement will not go down to defeat this
But back to my hometown newspaper, The New York Times. I read the
Times’s magazine, book review, obituaries and wedding announcements. I read the
paper from the back to the front, with the understanding that the news I am
interested in is often found “buried” at the back.
I fail to understand
why, on Israel, it remains so blatantly biased. Is it secretly funded by Saudi
Arabia? Is it merely carrying on the owners’ tradition of distancing themselves
from being Jewish (through conversion), and thereafter, from the possible
appearance of being seen as too-pro Jewish or heaven forfend, pro-Zionist? I
simply cannot fathom it.
The writer is Emerita Professor of Psychology
and Women’s Studies, a Fellow of the Middle East Forum, the author of thousands
of articles and of 15 books. Her most recent book is An American Bride in Kabul.
She archives her work at and may be reached through her website: