Netanyahu to ‘New York Times’: Take a hike

Prime minister "respectfully declines" to pen an op-ed piece for 'NYT' citing newspapers negative spin on Netanyahu government.

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December 16, 2011 06:46
4 minute read.
Netanyahu

Netanyahu 311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is refusing to pen an op-ed piece for The New York Times, signaling the degree to which he is fed up with the influential newspaper’s editorial policy on Israel.

In a letter to the Times obtained by The Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Netanyahu’s senior adviser Ron Dermer – in response to the paper’s request that Netanyahu write an op-ed – wrote that the prime minister would “respectfully decline.”

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Dermer made clear that this had much to do with the fact that 19 of the paper’s 20 op-ed pieces on Israel since September were negative.

Ironically, the one positive piece was written by Richard Goldstone – chairman of the UN’s Goldstone Commission Report – defending Israel against charges of apartheid.

“We wouldn’t want to be seen as ‘Bibiwashing’ the op-ed page of The New York Times,” Dermer said, in reference to a piece called “Israel and Pinkwashing” from November. In that piece, a City University of New York humanities professor lambasted Israel for, as Dermer wrote, “having the temerity to champion its record on gay rights.”

That piece, he wrote, “set a new bar that will be hard for you to lower in the future.”



Dermer’s letter came a day after NYT columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that the resounding ovation Netanyahu received in Congress when he spoke there in May had been “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

With Friedman clearly – but not solely – among those in mind, Dermer wrote that “the opinions of some of your regular columnists regarding Israel are well known. They constantly distort the positions of our government and ignore the steps it has taken to advance peace. They cavalierly defame our country by suggesting that marginal phenomena condemned by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and virtually every Israeli official, somehow reflect government policy or Israeli society as a whole.”

Dermer also took the paper to task for running an op-ed piece by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in May that asserted that shortly after the UN voted for the partition of Palestine in November 1947, “Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.”

Those lines, Dermer wrote, “effectively turn on its head an event within living memory in which the Palestinians rejected the UN partition plan accepted by the Jews, and then joined five Arab states in launching a war to annihilate the embryonic Jewish state. It should not have made it past the most rudimentary fact-checking.”

That it did find its way into the op-ed pages of the “paper of record,” he wrote, showed the degree to which the paper had not internalized former senator Daniel Moynihan’s admonition that “everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but... no one is entitled to their own facts.”

Furthermore, Dermer wrote, the paper’s sole positive piece about Israel since September – the Goldstone piece rejecting the apartheid charges – “came a few months after your paper reportedly rejected Goldstone’s previous submission. In that earlier piece, which was ultimately published in The Washington Post, the man who was quoted the world over for alleging that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza fundamentally changed his position. According to The New York Times op-ed page, that was apparently news unfit to print.”

Dermer wrote that the paper’s refusal to run positive pieces about Israel was not because they were in short supply. In fact, he said he understood that in September the paper had turned down a piece cowritten by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland), expressing bipartisan support for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and opposition to the PA’s statehood gambit at the UN.

“In an age of intense partisanship, one would have thought that strong bipartisan support for Israel on such a timely issue would have made your cut,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey) called on Friedman to apologize for saying the congressional ovation Netanyahu received in May was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

Rothman said he gave Netanyahu a standing ovation not because of “any nefarious lobby,” but because it is in the US’s vital strategic interest to support Israel.

“Thomas Friedman’s defamation against the vast majority of Americans who support the Jewish state of Israel is scurrilous, destructive and harmful to Israel and her advocates in the US,” Rothman said. “Friedman is not only wrong, but he’s aiding and abetting a dangerous narrative about the US-Israel relationship and its American supporters.”

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