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September 28, 2014 3:30 pm

The New York Times’ Obsessive, Unsubstantiated Criticism of Israel Reaches New Depths

avatar by Tamar Sternthal

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CAMERA billboard compares The New York Times to terror group Hamas.

“Struggles for freedom continued across the Middle East and North Africa in 2013, but several countries faced worsening violence as antidemocratic forces asserted themselves,” according to a 2014 Freedom House report on the Middle East and North Africa.

If the Op-Ed in yesterday’s The New York Times is correct (“How Israel Silences Dissent“), Israel is not the one “free state” in the Middle East, a designation it received from Freedom House.

Rather, it is descending into the surrounding undemocratic Middle Eastern abyss. The Jewish state, one would conclude from The Times opinion piece, joins the likes of Egypt, where over 1,000 demonstrators were killed this year, and Libya, which saw the killing of 43 demonstrators last November in Tripoli.

“The aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies or expresses empathy with Palestinians is the latest manifestation of an us-versus-them mentality that has been simmering for decades,” laments Mairav Zonszein in her Times Op-Ed.

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Zonszein’s hysterical polemic about new heights of “radical nationalism” and “erosion of Enlightenment values” (language which she attributes to Israeli political scientist Zeev Sternhell) suggest the mass killing of demonstrators like in Egypt or Libya, the widespread arrest of journalists like in Turkey, and the total crushing of dissent as in Syria.

Surely, then, in light of “the aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies,” the influential liberal Haaretz, whose publisher has defined the paper’s mission as “actively supporting the two-state solution and the right to Palestinian self-determination,” and whose editorials not infrequently accuse Israel of deeply entrenched, widespread racism, apartheid and war crimes, has been shuttered.

But, no, a visit to the lively Haaretz Web site reveals that it has miraculously evaded the otherwise unrelenting forces clamping down on any poor soul who dares to challenge “the narrative that Palestinians are enemies who threaten Jewish sovereignty and are solely to blame for the failure to achieve peace,” as Zonszein puts it.

Moreover, The International New York Times, where Zonszein’s Op-Ed appeared today in print, has a partnership with Haaretz and the two newspapers are distributed together in Israel. Today, like every other day, Haaretz appeared in print bundled together with The Times.

Zonszein should know. She is, after all, an editor at Haaretz, though The Times identifies her only as “an Israeli-American writer, translator and editor” who blogs at +972 Magazine.

So, then, has Haaretz caved to the all-powerful Israeli regime which tolerates no dissent? Hardly. Today’s editorial takes the Israeli government to task for its harsh criticism of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ UN General Assembly speech in which he accused Israel of genocide, among other things. “[L]eaning on Abbas’ speech reflects nothing but fear and weak leadership,” ventures the Haaretz editorial writer. As of press time, there have been no reports of police raids on Haaretz headquarters.

What about +972 Magazine, Zonszein’s other affiliation? Surely the oppressive regime could not be so incompetent so as to also turn a blind eye to the blog-based Web magazine dedicated to the freedom of information and whose mission is “to oppose the occupation.” In fact, it too is alive and well, with subversive headlines like “Letter to the EU: Everybody hear has lost their minds,” “Watch out war criminals, Abbas is coming for you,” and “Another act of Israeli military madness in Syria.” (No, this is not satire.)

If the “aggressive silencing of anyone who voices disapproval of Israeli policies” does not actually affect the media, surely it must be silencing the cacophony of NGOs operating in Israel? In fact, the High Court last week ruled in a favor of a petition submitted by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (where Zonszein once worked), the Hotline for Refugees and Migrants – Assaf, and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, among other NGOs, to shut down an “open” detention facility for asylum seekers. If the regime seeks to “silence” these NGOs, it sure has a funny way of showing it.

Maybe the “silencing” translates into widespread dismissals and arrests in the university? What of the embattled Zeev Sternhell, professor emeritus of Hebrew University, who in the height of this summer’s fighting gave a lengthy interview to Haaretz (over 3,000 words) about Israel’s eroding democracy? The silencers haven’t yet removed his interview, and Hebrew University hasn’t touched his Web page.

Zonszein, in her zeal to depict an Israel which “silences dissent,” notes in her Op-Ed that “Mr. Sternhell has experienced Jewish extremist violence firsthand; in 2008, a settler planted a bomb in his home that wounded him.” She omits, though, that the settler, Yaakov Teitel, was sentenced to two life terms for his crimes, including the killing of two Palestinians.

Zonszein also pointedly ignores the fact that Teitel planted the bomb outside Sternhell’s home months after the State of Israel granted him the coveted Israel Prize in 2008.

Herein lies the crux of Zonszein’s grotesquely distorted depiction of the state of democracy in Israel. She focuses on the extremist’s attack on Sternhell, ignoring the fact that the state itself honored the professor with a prestigious award.

She focuses on the violence and extremism of a few, conflating it with “Israel” silencing dissent.

As freedom and democracy continue to decline in much of the Middle East with the notable exception of Israel, The New York Times’ disproportionate, obsessive criticism of Israel drives the paper’s coverage into a journalistic tailspin.

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  • Arthur Toporovsky

    The largest problem with Ms. Zonszein’s op-ed is its blatant dishonesty. Even without her inflating the actions of a few individuals to accuse Israel as a whole, and even without her leaving out the consequences that the Israeli government has indeed handed down to those who have used violence to try and silence others, there is also the issue of her lying about events. One example is her claim that Orna Banai was fired from her job as a spokesperson for a cruise line for having showed sympathy for the Palestinian Arabs. The truth is that Ms. Banai made other statements in addition to her expression of concern for the Palestinian Arab women and children who were killed, such as saying that Israel was “an embarrassment.” That is clearly a divisive statement, and just as Gilbert Gottfried was fired from his role as spokes-voice for Aflac after making an offensive tweets about the tsunami in Japan, so too the owner of the Israeli cruise line had a right to question whether or not Ms. Banai’s statements would make her desirable as a spokesperson. Considering that most of Israel had been victimized by rocket fire from Gaza, I would have fired her as well if I were in that position. No one has claimed that Aflac was “silencing” Gilbert Gottfried, and it is dishonest to claim that Ms. Banai is being silenced as well. This same critique can be applied throughout the op-ed.

  • Mary

    How tragic that the uber-Zionists seem to dominate politics in Israel.

    Would you also assassinate Nobel Peace Prize winner, Yitzhak Rabin? I fear that you just might or perhaps you still justify this murder by another uber-Zionist.

    • Andrew

      Must be nice to be naive.

    • Andrew

      Must be nice to be naive!

    • Jon R.

      “How tragic that the uber-Zionists seem to dominate politics in Israel.”

      It’s much more tragic that they dominate so much of our public discourse. That’s where the real problem is because it is this group of disloyal (to the US) pro-Israel fanatics in this country who corrupt and distort our policy in the Middle East and in much else besides.

    • Susan

      How tragic that anyone could condemn a tiny nation’s wanting to survive to the point of conflating them all with one fanatic.

      Would you justify any lies told about Israel to bolster your position? I fear you just might, or perhaps you justify those lies for another reason..>?

      • I consider myself to be a Zionist. At 83, I still have not made a visit to Israel, and probably never will. However, I am still a supporter of Israel! Having said that, I find it offensive that you should think that people like myself are, in anyway, disloyal to this country. My mother, who came to this country as a poor child of eight from Lithuania, a very religious and strong supporter of Israel was once asked (by me) if the family decided to move to Israel, would she go. She said, without hesitation, no, becaus she owed this country too much.

        Jon, perhaps because of some kind of bias, you paint with too broad a brush!””

    • Allow me to say what others have been too polite to say…youre an idiot. That is all.

    • RON

      What’s tragic is giving a soapbox to the most criminallyt insane people on Earth. The New York Times is America’s answer to Nazi Germany’s “Der Sturmer.” They are uber Jew Haters, as are the certifiably insane conspiracists who th: immensely powerful, immensely rich, and in control of every media outlet in the world as they are bent on world domination.

      These criminally crazy brain-dead morons are exhibiting pathological Jeudophobia. UBER JEW HATRED.

      Meanwhile, they have given a free pass to ISIS, Boku Haram, and the IslamoNazis in Northern Sudan who perpetrated the genocide of millions of Sudanese Christians in Darfur, Chad, Southern Sudan, and Rwanda and the displacement of millions more. ISLAMISTS – NOT “ZIONIST” BOOGEYMEN – ARE THE REAL DANGER TO HUMANITY.

    • Gary Katz

      Every country has a few violent kooks. That doesn’t mean that the country’s policy coincides with the act of the isolated kook. You, Mary, are guilty of using inductive reasoning, while ignoring the mainstream citizens of Israel and government leaders, who outnumber the extremists by thousands to one. Based on your logic, the U.S. is a terrorist country, because Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murtaugh Building in Oklahoma City.
      The article addresses the openness of Israeli society. Why don’t you try an experiment: First, walk down the streets of Tel Aviv, dressed in conservative Muslim garb. Second, walk down the streets of Gaza, wearing a nice, shiny Jewish star. See what happens to you in both locales. It is important to do the steps in the order prescribed, because if you do the Gaza part first, you won’t be alive to do the Tel Aviv part.

  • Yale

    The real problem with the NYT and its confreres is that the course of Israeli history has disproved the ideological foundation on which it has operated. Given the choice between admitting that they have been fundamentally wrong about their understanding of the world — even if they are the “newspaper of record” — and escalating the lies, which would you expect them to choose? Their continued viablity depends on maintaining the pretense that they know what they’re writing about.

  • Dov

    I have dropped out as a subscriber from the Times two years ago and now get the WSJ daily. What a change and furthermore, my day starts with a positive outlook and not any longer in the doom and gloom the Times conveys against Israel.

  • Avril

    Anyone interested in starting at the beginning, No, not to Abraham – pick a date let’s say before 1948 and we, all, know by now, that Israel was legally created by United Nations vote – Partition Plan blah, blah, which Arabs (not Palestinians) refused to accept.
    This conflict did not start this summer with the kidnapping and murder of our three children – it started before 1848 and continued by Arabs waging war on Israel and needless to tell our readers, the Arabs lost every war they started and after realizing that war would not gain them any kudus, lies and fabrication would do very nicely, thank you very much.
    Our very biased and unfriendly editors and reporters of Ha’Aretz start slamming Israel at any point in time, they feel will sell more media.
    What is worse than being talked about, is not being talked about and these people will dig as deep as they can, to get talked about, even if it means the destruction of their own people and country.
    Israel can take constructive criticism but these people are downright mean and spiteful.

    • Avril

      typo correction – not 1848 should read 1948

      • Ron Blower

        Well…

        1848 works, too.

      • Susan

        It could also read “1938” because that was also a time when Arabs were intransigent in the face of Jewish acquiescence.

  • Shepard Barbash

    The Times op-ed says that protestors were beaten and injured but that none of the attackers was arrested by police. Could someone point me to any media coverage or official statements explaining why no arrests were made? I do not mean this query as a challenge. I liked Sternthal’s piece. But I am trying to fathom why police stood by and watched extremists beat demonstrators, if that is in fact what happened. And I understand that even if it did happen and shouldn’t have happened, that does NOT mean Israel is becoming the grim anti-Enlightenment place the op-ed claims it is becoming.

    • Vittore

      Because what happened was that during the protest there were rockets from Gaza and the siren sounded. What Israelis have to do is to run for cover during a siren. While more than 600 people were running for cover, several right-wingers attacked a few protestors. Have you tried arresting anyone when 600 people are running for bomb shelters? Not exactly, an easy thing to do. Especially, that nowadays in Israel, as in Europe, police often does not enter into confrontation (just like police just a few days ago allowed for the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives to be desecrated by some Arab youths preferring not to confront them).

  • Martin Bookspan

    Every Jew worldwide should en masse cancel a subscription to the abominable rag that refers to itself as covering “all the news that’s fit to print”. For nearly a century now that rag has defiled honest coverage of Zionism and the Jewish State it blessedly revived.

  • Lynn K. Circle

    Some day the United States will wake up to the fact it has only one real friend and loyal ally in the Middle East: Israel. But it may only come after ISIS or some other terrorist group commits a crime on our soil which makes 9/11 look like a picnic.

  • estie ash

    MAYBE IF NEW YORKERS STOPPED BUYING THE NEW YORK TIMES IN PROTEST THEY WOULD HAVE TO RECONSIDER WHAT LIES THEY PRINT AGAINST ISRAEL.

    • Its not easy getting anti-semites to stop buying the times

  • Ilbert Phillips

    I have come to believe that many leftists are simply mentally ill. They are so convinced that Israel is evil, they cannot stand to tell the truth if the truth contradicts their story about Israel. It would cause a mental breakdown.

  • Shalom Freedman

    1) The editor and owner of ‘Haaretz’ Amos Schocken who employs such people, and who has promoted the most vicious and false criticism of the Jewish state for years now is a major enemy of the state and the Jewish people. The whole crew of Israel bashers who he has long employed as editorial writers provides endless ammunition to Israel’s worst enemies.
    2) The NYTimes is also a vicious and mendacious critic of Israel. Its whole slant on the Middle East is a mistaken and distorted one.
    Shame on both of these papers who in their attitude toward Israel undermine the central value of Journalism-the providing honest reporting.

  • Julian Clovelley

    1 year after the unconditional surrender of German Forces Churchill made a famous speech – often called the Iron Curtain speech. In it he said “We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression…”. He added “…above all, we welcome, or should welcome, constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people”

    But he then added “…It is my duty to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe. From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent..”

    What’s the relevance? It is that only twelve months after allied Victory Churchill recognised that the Soviety military defence strategy had turned into a de facto invasion, in which “…all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in some cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow.”

    Twelve months! – with the Occupation of the West Bank and the settlement of an enormous population into the Occupied area, we are speaking of a situation that has existed, and has been ideologically exploited by religious extremists in Israel, for over two generations.

    Israel as a “democracy” is not unreasonably judged on the basis of ALL the territory it militarily dominates, and not just part of it. It is a “democracy” that is certain to be judged not only on how it treats people in what it reasonably seeks to regard as its inviolable pre-Occupation borders, but on the way in which it treats all of the people it militarily dominates.

    That is the core of much criticism. Just as in 1946 when the West demanded to know when the Soviets intended to remove their armies and restore genuine statehoods, so Israel is being asked when its withdrawal is proposed to happen, when the housing projects will be handed over. When the troops will hand authority over to a Palestinian nation. Israel is being asked when its iron curtain is to come down, under what circumstances, and with what desired security replacement and international and local guaranteee

    It is not the fault of the Press that these questions remain unanswered – Nor is it surprising that, after fifty years, conclusions are drawn that religious extremists and a Conservative Government in Israel do not like. The full Soviet withdrawal began in 1989. Soviet Communism ceded power in 1991 – 45 years after Churchill’s iron curtain speech

    Israel has already had longer than that to reach a better situation in its region or at least offer a firmly dated one. With the Soviet Union the scale was that of an entire continent that stretched from Vladivostok to Berlin, and beyond to the East German border, a linear distance of around five thousand miles. It is hardly surprising Israel receives so much “criticism” and has lost so much credibility – much of which could be deflected just by naming the a date that could easily be worked towards

    How about Yon Kippur 2017? Just a suggestion. It would be an enormous boost to Israel’s Housing industry, building the new homes for those returning.

    • Charlie in NY

      Julian: That was a very thoughtful response but I think your analogy is a false one. If you look at the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in 1922, it acknowledged the right of the Jewish people to closely settle on territory that was acknowledged as its historical homeland. Even after the UK as Mandatory power took 78% of that territory to create what is today Jordan, the international law rights of settlement remained. That said, the principal reason for lack of peace is the steadfast refusal by the Palestinian Arabs to recognize the Jewish presence and right to self-determination in the region. Some 99% of the former Ottoman territories were turned into Arab countries, but they want it all. Recall that after the Six Day War in 1967, Israel’s offer to return the territories it seized, was met with the famous “three nos” of the Arab League at their conference in Khartoum. Given the serial refusals by Arafat and Abbas to offer so much as a compromise counter-offer to Israeli proposals, starting in 2000, suggest strongly that their interest is not establishing a State of Palestine as eradicating the State of Israel.
      So, while a settlement is always possible given good faith, your equating Israel with Soviet domination in Eastern Europe is misguided. It fails to hold the Palestinian Arab leadership to account for the decisions it has made. Properly understood, though, this conflict remains an Arab-Israeli issue with the Palestinian Arabs now used to create a false David v. Goliath optic. Israel, through treaties with Egypt and Jordan, has shown itself willing to risk peace. The same cannot be said of the current PA leadership (let alone Hamas), as Abbas’ speech to the UN should confirm to even the most casual observer.

    • Vittore

      Julian Clovelley,

      Last time I checked the news about Russia, it seems as if the Soviet Union has not gone away.

  • Sarah Williams

    Thanks for this response to yesterday’s vomit-inducing piece of agit-prop trash published by the NYTs–it sickened me, and I was heartened to see this clear and devastating response to that garbage.

  • “Ha’araetz?” Rather say, “Ha-arafat.” That Israel persists
    in letting this viper to its breast continue its grossly distorted opinions masquerading as factual articles is a
    tribute to Israel being too open to an organ seeking its
    destruction. Surely, I’ve considered it to be The New York
    Times of Israel, a bitter enemy, edited and published by
    its Fifth Column. When it and NYT close their doors permanently, it will be a new double Jewish holiday.

  • vivarto

    This is a false issue.
    A red herring.
    They will hate israel whether it is democratic or dictatorship.
    The form of government and the freedom has nothing to do with their hatred.
    They hate it because they are cowardly Jews who try to assimilate in the US, try to hide their Jewishness.
    Israel is a challenge to them because Israel stands up for being Jewish. Not just as some insignificant religious sect, but as a NATION!
    If they were to support Israel, they’d have to leave their comfortable lives and join the IDF.
    They’d have to face 1.5 billion genocidal Muhammadans.
    They don’t have the courage to do that.
    And Israeli democracy v. lack of thereof is a red herring.

  • Isaac brajtman

    Pity the ink on the NY Times comes off if it gets wet, otherwise I could think of a very good use for it

  • steven L

    ANTISEMITISM is an OBSESSION! The NYT, like the Guardian, BBC and many others, qualifies with high marks for being antisemitic.
    Zonszein: one among many idiots.

  • steven L

    ANTISEMITISM is an OBSESSION! The NYT, like the Guardian, BBC and many others, qualifies with high marks for being antisemitic.

  • Herb Grossman

    To the NY Times, diverse opinion means having ethnically Irish, Ukrainian and Jewish anti-Semites all writing anti-Israel polemics on the same op. ed. page.

  • zvi

    It reminds me the CBC -Canadian broadcasting Corporation- Who any time wants an Israeli comment on anything, will find the most unrepresentative leftist Jewish-Israeli voice available, this way no Canadian ever hears anything positive or logical on Israel’s defense from the Israeli side, but quite to the contrary, only extreme criticism.!!!

  • Bro. Nick

    The word of the Lord G-d Almighty ALWAYS says it plainly and clearly with NO ‘Politically Correct’ words about all of those that lie – be it the NYT, Haaretz, the ‘palestinean’ press, Pres. Obama, etc…:

    {20} ¶ Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
    {21} Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!
    (Isaiah 5:20-21 [KJV])
    .

  • SHmuel HaLevi

    The NYT’s has a robust history of intentionally harming, even causing the deaths by default of thousands of Jewish refugees escaping the Holocaust. It is high time for a harsh action plan to make the NYT’s top echelons face judicial jeopardy, denunciation and tar-feathering.
    It is not enough to complaint among the convinced. The NYT must pay for its crimes.

  • Yaakov Yosef

    To be fair,it is problematic to contrast us to Egypt and Libya (Libya which saw only 43 protesters killed) while only eight weeks ago we killed over 2,000 people in Gaza, over half of which were civilians even by IDF count.

    Further, while we in Israel have the privilege of criticizing our government, nonviolent Palestinian protest is severely limited by Israel and frequently results in arrest. This has been the case for decades. I wish it weren’t true.

    And maybe Zonszein brings these things up for the same reason I do– as constructive criticism. I’m an ardent Zionist and have served my time in the IDF just like everyone else.

    This is the time to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the nations around us, especially if we want to bill ourselves as morally superior, and rather than point fingers back at those criticizing us maybe we should try to actually differentiate ourselves from those countries we don’t want to be associated with.

  • Elisheva Lahav

    Apparently this Mairav Zonszein and I (also an American Israeli) not only live in different countries called “Israel,” we live on different planets. So much of what she writes is – I’m both happy and sorry to state, after having lived with and among the Israelis (in Israel) for almost half a century now – just not so. If, for example, Orna Banai was “fired” – by a cruise company, for G-d’s sake – for saying that she felt bad that Palestinian women and children were killed, so what? I still see her regularly on one of the most popular, funny, and brilliant TV programs on Israeli TV. How come she wasn’t fired from that? I also read, and hear on the radio and see on TV, countless Israelis who do NOT agree with the government’s policies, are extreme left-wingers or extreme right-wingers, or even middle-of-the-roaders, and are not fired, and are asked back time and time again.
    I really suggest that Ms. Zonszein take a look around her, talk to the man in the street, watch TV, listen to the radio, read the newspapers (ALL of them), see Israel for what it is (a non-perfect society, but truly the best in the neighborhood), and retract the drivel that the NYT unsurprisingly was all too happy to include among “all the news that’s fit to print.”

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