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March 17, 2016 7:03 am

New York Times Arts Section Likens Israel Air Force to ‘ISIS Thugs,’ Omits Jewish Identity of Major Fashion Designer

avatar by Ira Stoll

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New York Times headquarters.  Photo: Wiki Commons, via Haxorjoe.

New York Times headquarters. Photo: Wiki Commons, via Haxorjoe.

Some of the most egregious treatment of Israel and Jews in the New York Times comes not in the foreign news section or even on the editorial page, but in more traditionally innocuous “soft” sections, such as arts.

Such was the case earlier this week, when the front page of the Times “Arts” section carried not one but two separate stories displaying the newspaper’s classic clumsiness when it comes to the Jewish story.

One of the two pieces was a review by Times critic Michiko Kakutani. The review effusively praises a new book by NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, “And Then All Hell Broke Loose.”

The review includes this passage:

[O]ften, there is a surreal horror to his descriptions: the sight of 11 bodies of small boys, perhaps ages 8 to 10, killed in Qana, Lebanon, during an Israeli air raid in 2006; the memory of “a stray dog carrying a severed human head between its teeth” in Iraq; a heartbreaking interview with a 14-year-old boy who had a hand and a foot chopped off by ISIS thugs because he had refused to cooperate.

It takes quite a journalistic and logical leap to equate the Israel Air Force (IAF) with “ISIS thugs,” but in the construction of this review, the two are parallel items in a series, along with the man-eating dog. Missing entirely from this depiction of an IAF massacre of 11 “small boys” is any explanation whatsoever of what Israel was doing in Lebanon in 2006. It’s not as if that is a secret, after all.

Back at the time, the newspaper did eventually explain that the conflict started when Hezbollah — an Iranian-backed terrorist organization whose leaders have publicly announced their intention to kill all the Jews, everywhere — crossed over the border from Lebanon into Israel, killing three Israeli soldiers and capturing two others. Hezbollah then launched about 4,000 rockets from Lebanon into Israel. Those rockets were launched from amid residential buildings in Lebanon, including in Qana, as the Times reported at the time.

If the Times is going to rhetorically exhume these Lebanese children 10 years later for the purpose of blaming Israel, rather than Hezbollah, for their deaths, the journalistically appropriate thing to do would be to include at least some context. Without it, Times readers are left with the false impression that IAF pilots are wanton killers akin to ISIS thugs.

The second piece on the front of the Times arts page goes off in a different, but no less pernicious, direction. It’s an interview with Isaac Mizrahi, the fashion designer whose work is the subject of a 30-year retrospective at the Jewish Museum. Given that the show is at the Jewish Museum, you might expect that there might be some mention of Mr. Mizrahi’s Jewish identity. If you are a Times reader interested in that topic, you are out of luck. The Times interviewer demonstrates a remarkable lack of curiosity on the topic; of the 13 interview questions and answers printed, not a single one even glancingly concerns Mr. Mizrahi’s Jewishness or why the show is at the Jewish Museum.

It’s not as if this is a subject unfit for journalistic inquiry; a New York Observer piece recently explained, for anyone wondering:

Isaac Mizrahi was born in Brooklyn in 1961 and grew up in the tight-knit Syrian Jewish community. His religious background pushed Mr. Mizrahi into design: not because of it, but in spite of it. “I went to a yeshiva that was Orthodox and it was a kind of persecution for me,” explains Mr. Mizrahi. “The fashion, and puppets and theater and all of that was [a form of] escapism.”

Other New York Times interviews with artists — this is one of a recurring series that runs under the “A Word With” rubric — don’t hesitate to delve into matters of identity. A recent interview with filmmaker Spike Lee, who is black, waded into the racial politics of the Oscars. Another artist interview, with a painter, dealt with “queer politics,” “class” and “race.” It’s only when the artist is Jewish that the Times’ interest in identity politics wanes.

Maybe if the editors had a stronger interest in Jewish identity, they would have been stirred into preventative action when a writer tried to lump the IAF in with ISIS.

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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  • rbockman

    We “American” Jews remain guests in this most wonderful country. Just keep your passport valid, a bag packed and keep a close eye on Jewish politicians.

  • Bernard

    Look at the first three letters of Michiko’s surname !! That says it all. Applies to the “venerable ” newspaper as well.

    Shabat Shalom

  • Claude Salem

    It has been evident for some time now –leading many to cancel their subscription to that newspaper – that much of what it publishes regarding Israel is premeditated surreptitious lies. It is for this reason that the T in the NYT really stands for TRASH . Thus the NYT is really the NYTrash . AS the late Nacy Reagan used to say ” Say NO” . Cancel your subscription if you have one.

  • Helen Aqua

    I would like to point out that only the Jewish news media is reporting that Obama’s choice of Chief Justice is Jewish. I have not seen or heard that “fact” mentioned on CNN, ABC or, here in Canada, the CBC. Of course, due to politics, it remains to be seen if Merrick Garland will ever be sworn in.

  • “Jewish identity” per se is meaningless. Judaism is a faith and way of life. People who follow it are called Jews. If Mr. Mizrachi follows a Jewish way of life, then delving into the way it has influenced his career as a designer would be very important. If he does not, then there is not much to say.

  • Al Talena

    Jewish leftys are working overtime to demonize the Jewish state. That’s why Reform rabbis will attack Trump but will remain silent when it comes to the lefty/arab assault on Jews and pro-Israel events on campus.

  • Ephraim

    Why doesn’t the Times simply rename itself Der Stumer? At least it would be honest for a change.

  • Mickey Oberman

    Since at least WW 1 the Times has been anti Semitic without pause or apology.

    You may expect nothing better from that fish wrapper.
    Even the fish are embarrassed by their unwilling contact with it.

    Truth has never interested the Times.
    Honesty is foreign to the Times.
    A conscience is not an attribute of the Times.

  • stevenl

    NYT: leading mass media antisemitism.

  • Esther Kaplan

    A solid assessment of a tacky, second-rate paper, a paper with about as much credibility as politicians have in Washington, D.C. The Times has been shabby with respect to Israel for as long as Israel has existed.

  • José.Carp

    Why should ISAAC Mizrahi’s Jewish religion be mentioned? One does not say ‘Catholic Christian Amanpour’, or Protestant Toni Blair…
    However, if one mentioned ‘Jewish Amos Oz’, one would be criticized for mentioning Amos Oz’s Jewish identity!
    Why simplify if one can complicate.

  • Gregg Solomon

    What a joke.
    Although I used to read the Times, it was de-riguer, now even its typeface and page-layout reeks of pseudo-intellectual folly to me now.

  • Even with this most recent anti-Jewish outrage, many thousands of Jews will still continue to: buy the NYT, read the NYT, believe the NYT, quote the NYT, and advertise in the NYT.

    Isn’t there some way to give NYT the pariah-status that it so richly deserves?

    Could the Algemeiner create a web site designed to expose the wickedness of the NYT?

    PS: Please check out these pro-Israel web sites: * * * * *

  • June

    Where do you display the comments?