Two years ago in Jerusalem, a gang of teenage Israeli thugs beat up an Arab teen named Jamal Julani. The attack was brutal. The unconscious victim was rushed to the hospital, where he recovered and was released several days later.
Understandably enough, this story of violent Jews, entranced by whatever lures young people to stupidity and hate, made waves in Israel, enough so that officials from across the Israeli political spectrum spoke loudly and clearly to condemn the attack.
Slightly less understandable was the emphasis The New York Times placed on the incident. A story on the beating appeared above the fold – that valuable space at the top of the front page where editors place stories they want readers to notice most – and raised questions about “the moral compass of youths” growing up within the conflict. A week later, in an article that again appeared on the front page of the newspaper’s New England edition, the newspaper informed readers that the incident revealed “festering wounds regarding race, violence and extremism” in Israel.
Do the punches and kicks of racist kids in far-away lands, however damaging and disturbing, generally make the front page of the Times, not once but twice? Hardly. In fact, even when the newspaper reported on the lynching of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming and the victim of one of the most well-known American hate crimes of recent years, the Times initially report on the incident on page nine. And although the newspaper’s follow-up story on Jamal Julani, entitled “After Attacks, Israeli Schools Confront Hate,” was deemed to be front-page material, its similarly headlined counterpart about Matthew Shepard, “After Beating of Gay Man, Town Looks at Its Attitudes,” was buried on page 12. (Only when Shepard died from his wounds several days after the attack did the newspaper put the story on its front page.) Why the striking discrepancy? Could it be that Israeli violence made the front page because the newspaper believes the Middle East, and its racist teens, to be more important than Wyoming? Alas, this fails to explain it. After all, there was no front page Times story a year and a half earlier, when two Palestinian teenagers out for blood broke into a Jewish home and slaughtered five members of the Fogel family.
The brutality of the killing and the ages of three of the victims – an 11-year-old, a 4-year-old, and a three-month-old infant – sent shockwaves through the country. But Times editors relegated details of the massacre to page 16 of the newspaper, and this time reporters weren’t so compelled by questions about the “moral compass” and “extremism” of Palestinian youth indoctrinated to hate Jews.
On the contrary, when Israeli leaders linked the attack to hate education in Palestinian society, reporters, as if automatically, again pointed the accusatory finger toward Israel, asking readers to consider whether the country’s “focus on incitement” evinced a lack of readiness to deal with the Palestinian leadership. There is a double standard at the New York Times, one that flows from its practice of advocacy journalism that strains to downplay the Palestinian Authority’s share of responsibility for the conflict while slurring the Jewish state.
“Slur” might be a strong word. But it is an apt one. In the paper’s news pages, Israeli leaders are said to be “shrill,” “stubborn,” “strident,” “abrasive” and “cynical.” And that was just over the course of one recent month. The staccato of insults contrasts strikingly with descriptions of PA leaders as “moderate” and “conciliatory,” and diverges even more sharply from the newspaper’s promise to “cover the news as impartially as possible.”
One reporter, Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren, went so far as to tell readers that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is “best known for, and perhaps best at,” speaking out “in strident tones.” Later, again on the news pages, Rudoren asked readers whether Israel is guilty of “hopeless hypocrisy,” an insult the newspaper has never used to describe Palestinians (nor any other government or individual since the phrase last appeared in a 1906 letter to the editor).
Israel “distorted” the financial benefits to Iran of a nuclear deal that was nearing completion, Rudoren told readers, never mind that the Israeli estimates were in line with, or even less than, those put forth by other respected experts.
Advocacy journalism being what it is, such “fact checking” is reserved for the Israeli side alone. When PA President Mahmoud Abbas, citing “a 1948 letter signed by President Harry Truman in which ‘Jewish state’ was crossed out and replaced by ‘State of Israel,’” plainly distorted the facts by suggesting that President Truman didn’t recognize Israel as the Jewish state, Jodi Rudoren dutifully and unquestioningly relayed the Palestinian leader’s claim, leaving readers unaware that Truman certainly did support and recognize a Jewish state, that one instance of “Jewish state” was crossed out in the letter only because the letter was drafted before the formal name of the new Jewish state was known, and that a second mention of “Jewish state” remained untouched.
These anecdotes fit a documented pattern of bias. CAMERA recently published a six-month study of the newspaper’s coverage that found the New York Times consistently downplays Israeli views while promoting Palestinian perspectives. And coverage has only gotten worse since then. That’s why CAMERA put up a billboard, facing directly into the windows of The New York Times Building in Manhattan, calling out the newspaper out for its reporting that is clearly and shamefully “unfair to Israel.” And it is why readers in the US and beyond who want solid news about the Arab-Israeli conflict should look elsewhere.
The writer is a senior research analyst at CAMERA and co-author with Ricki Hollander of the six-month study, “Indicting Israel: New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian- Israeli Conflict,” which can be found at www.camera.org/NYTimes. Hollander will be speaking about the newspaper’s bias at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem at 8pm on Thursday, June 5.