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April 29, 2019 3:26 pm

New York Times Is ‘Cesspool,’ Israeli Ambassador to US Says

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Opinion

The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, has called The New York Times “a cesspool of hostility towards Israel.”

In remarks posted to his official Facebook page and prepared for delivery at a Holocaust memorial event at the US Capitol, Dermer spoke of what he called “the Jew-hatred of growing parts of the intellectual class.”

“The same New York Times that a century ago mostly hid from their readers the Holocaust of the Jewish people has today made its pages a safe-space for those who hate the Jewish state,” Dermer said. “Through biased coverage, slanderous columns and antisemitic cartoons, its editors shamefully choose week after week to cast the Jewish state as a force for evil.”

In describing the Times as a “cesspool,” Dermer said that the newspaper’s treatment of Israel “goes well beyond any legitimate criticism of a fellow, imperfect democracy.”

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The Israeli diplomat was taking a side in a rift that is splitting The New York Times: Was the publication last week of a cartoon that even the Times eventually apologized for and conceded was antisemitic an aberration, the “error” of “a single editor,” as the Times claimed? Or was it rather, as I have argued and as the Times’ own Pulitzer-prize winning op-ed columnist, Bret Stephens, subsequently wrote, part of an ongoing pattern? Stephens called it “the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry.”

Dermer’s remarks made heroically clear how the government of Israel viewed the matter. The New York Times, however, is having a hard time coming to grips with this criticism. One Times columnist, Michael Powell, took to Twitter to describe the Stephens column as false. “the NYT, news pages & opinion, has absolutely not mainstreamed anti-Zionism or published anti-Semitic arguments & claim is absurd,” Powell wrote in a Tweet that was “liked” by Times reporters Clifford Kraus, Steve Lohr, Jim Dwyer, John Schwartz, and Mathew Goldstein, and also by a former New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, Clyde Haberman.

In a separate tweet, Powell described the gist of Stephens’ column as “simply untrue.” Powell wrote, “No one is mainstreaming anti-Zionism or anti-Semitic argument. It’s hardly as if our pages resemble those of Der Sturmer …”

When the Times is in the position of publicly insisting that its pages do not resemble those of Der Sturmer, maybe it’s a signal that the paper’s leaders should stop digging, denying and defending and instead begin the long overdue process of sincere self-examination and improvement?

Even Powell conceded the cartoon “was terrible.”

A spokeswoman for the Times didn’t immediately reply to an inquiry from The Algemeiner seeking a response to Dermer’s comments.

In other developments in the fast-moving, escalating scandal over the cartoon:

  • The curator of Harvard University’s Neiman Foundation for Journalism, Ann Marie Lipinski, seized on the situation to call on the Times to restore its “public editor,” a position the newspaper abruptly eliminated in May 2017. “I wish they’d reconsider,” Lipinski wrote, linking to the Stephens column about the cartoon controversy.
  • Critics of the Times scheduled an in-person protest for Monday outside the newspaper’s 620 Eighth Avenue headquarters. Those scheduled to attend included a former New York state assemblyman, Dov Hikind. An advisory press release for the event said those gathered would call for the firing of those responsible for the cartoon’s publication. They also said they would hold signs saying “Shame On The New York Times,” “NYT Has Jewish Blood On Their Hands,” and “Fire the Anti-Semites.”
  • An author and former US government official, Dan Senor, noted that the Times international edition also published a second cartoon featuring a “blind” Netanyahu. “Is the Times obsessed with Israel’s prime minister?” Senor asked. A former Times editor, Mark Horowitz, tweeted, “Please tell me the Times didn’t run a SECOND Netanyahu cartoon in the International Friday- Saturday edition, one day later! It can’t be, right?”

Among the developments that argue in favor of seeing the cartoon as part of a pattern rather than as a single mistake were a 2015 Times graphic that used a yellow color to identify Jewish members of Congress opposed to the Iran nuclear deal. A subsequent Times editor’s note said, “Many readers and commenters on social media found that aspect of the chart insensitive. Times editors agreed and decided to revise it to remove the column specifying which opponents were Jewish.”

The Times has used octopus imagery to describe Jewish settlers in the West Bank that the newspaper itself called “an Anti-Semitic symbol” when it was used by the National Rifle Association to depict Michael Bloomberg.

The Times has blamed measles in New York on “powerful” Jews spreading a “highly contagious” disease. That echoed what the Holocaust Encyclopedia of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum said was a “recurrent theme in Nazi antisemitic propaganda … that Jews spread diseases.” Meanwhile, the newspaper has ignored recent mumps outbreaks with no apparent connection to Jews.

Ira Stoll was 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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