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October 30, 2016 6:33 am

The New York Times Doesn’t Know When Sukkot Was — in Keeping With the Rest of Its Indifference to Facts and Context

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avatar by Ira Stoll

A sukkah in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikipedia.

A sukkah in Jerusalem. Photo: Wikipedia.

The New York Times can’t figure out what week Sukkot was.

That’s right, the same newspaper that recently had to publish corrections about such basic matters of Jewish religious literacy as the mourning period for a spouse, whether beef tenderloin is kosher and how many pages are in the Talmud is out with a dispatch, published Friday, Oct. 28, referring to “last week’s Jewish holiday of Sukkot.”

As anyone who was marching around synagogue with a lulav and etrog, or eating or sleeping in a sukkah (as Times editors apparently were not) knows, Sukkot this year extended into what — for the purpose of the Times article –would not have been “last week” but this week, as it ended Sunday night, Oct. 23.

If a paper can’t get such basic details correct, why trust it on more complicated issues, such as the Arab-Israeli conflict?

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The indications there aren’t any better, with the Times seemingly determined to blame Israel for all the problems of the Palestinian Arabs.

The same Times article refers to a geographic location in Israel as “Shaar Hagai, originally Bab al-Wad in Arabic.” This suggests, incorrectly, that Arabs, rather than Jews, were somehow the “original” inhabitants of this land; Wikipedia, however, suggests that the site was developed by the Ottoman Empire — Turks, not Arabs — and then only a mere 150 or so years ago.

A dispatch from Jerusalem that appears on the same print newspaper page as the one that gets the timing of Sukkot wrong reports, “Hamas controls Gaza, which is partially cordoned off from the outside world by Israel.” Somehow the Times forgets that Gaza has a border with Egypt that is also “cordoned off.” Egypt, too, isn’t particularly interested in being overrun by violent, fanatic Hamas terrorists.

Then there is Roger Cohen’s Sunday column, claiming that Israeli policy since 1949 “has been pretty consistent: Create facts on the ground; break the Arabs’ will through force; push for as much of the biblical Land of Israel between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as possible.” It ignores that Israel gave away the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, withdrew from its security zone in Southern Lebanon, withdrew from Gaza unilaterally, and withdrew from many areas of the West Bank. It ignores the maximalist demands of the Arabs. There’s a fleeting reference in the following Cohen paragraph to “periodic stabs at a two-state peace,” but that doesn’t really do justice to Israeli concessions.

Mr. Cohen writes, “After the election but before he leaves office, President Obama may present America’s principles for a two-state outcome in a Security Council resolution that sets out how Israel and Palestine would look in their ‘final status.’ Israel is strongly opposed. That is the best reason for doing it.”

That’s childish. The mere fact that Israel opposes something — which, since Israel is a democracy, generally means that the majority of Israeli voters oppose something — is not a good reason to do it. That logic — Israel opposes it, so go ahead and do it — would also justify any number of other really horrible things, like, say, bombing Israel into oblivion, or evacuating all the Jews from the land and turning it over to the Arabs. Mr. Cohen makes no good argument — no argument at all, really — for why President Obama should substitute his own judgment on Israel’s security for that of Israel’s elected representatives. Is there any other situation or conflict in which America attempts to impose such concessions on its supposed allies?

It all amounts to pretty much the same thing as not knowing what week Sukkot is — a kind of breathtakingly ignorant, determinedly oblivious indifference to the relevant facts and context. Alas, it’s pretty much what is to be expected from the New York Times on anything having to do with Jews or Israel.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here. 

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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