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December 26, 2018 11:58 am

New York Times Celebrates Christmas With Hezbollah

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A New York Times article about how the blood-drenched terrorists of Hezbollah celebrate Christmas is drawing intense criticism from readers for whitewashing or normalizing the Iranian-backed violent extremist group.

The executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Robert Satloff, tweeted, “This is really obscene – as if #Hezbollah’s Xmas cheer means anything to the thousands of innocents – #Americans, #Lebanese, #Israelis, #Syrian #Sunni #Muslims, and others – murdered by this bloodthirsty gang over the years.”

A Twitter account belonging to the Times promoted the article by saying, “Even Hezbollah, the Shiite political movement and militia that the United States has branded a terrorist organization, has helped ring in the season in previous years, importing a Santa to Beirut’s southern suburbs to distribute gifts.”

A writer for Tablet, Yair Rosenberg, tweeted, “I guess we now know how many Jews you can murder in cold blood and still get a soft focus profile of your Christmas celebrations in the paper of record. News you can use!”

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Another tweet from Rosenberg said, “Hezbollah blew up the Jewish Community Center in Buenos Aires in 1994, murdering 80 and injuring over 300. But hey, they hired a Santa so maybe they’re not necessarily terrorists after all! Merry Christmas to you too, NYT.”

The executive editor of the Washington Examiner’s magazine, Seth Mandel, tweeted, “The NY Times’ yay-Hezbollah tweet was a strong contender for worst NYT tweet ever…”

Benjamin Weingarten accused the Times of “normalizing genocidal jihadists.”

As someone with journalism experience, I can see how this happened.

Every year, editors send around memos requesting Christmas-themed story ideas to fill the newspaper during that slow news period when lots of reporters and editors are away on vacation. The Hezbollah-Santa pitch probably struck someone as colorful, maybe even funny. The reporters who worked on it have to continue to operate in Lebanon, where they are based, so they have certain tangible incentives be more subtle in describing Hezbollah than I do, unless they want to end up as hostages or worse. The whole journalistic culture of objectivity pushes toward “he says, she says” language such as “the United States has branded a terrorist organization,” rather than straightforward, call-it-like-it-is language like “is a terrorist organization.”

If you read the actual Times story and not just the tweet, there are signs that the Times is making a bit of fun of the whole thing. The Times photographs show lots of empty seats at a Christmas concert held by Hezbollah. There is something slightly humiliating, maybe even desperate, about all these supposedly devout Muslims celebrating a Christian holiday. The article shows how completely the government of Iran controls Hezbollah, reporting on the role played in the event by the Iranian cultural attache. It could even be read as showing how President Trump’s sanctions have weakened Iran and Hezbollah — the Times reports, “the organization skipped Santa this year because of financial constraints.”

Ira Stoll is the former managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his 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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