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May 19, 2016 4:51 pm

From New York Times on Israeli Politics, Some Ultra-Bad Journalism

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman.

Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman. Photo: Israeli government.

A headline and a news article in the New York Times describe Israeli politician Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu party as “ultranationalist.”

“Benjamin Netanyahu Seeks Ultranationalists for Coalition in Israel,” the headline says.

What’s the difference between “ultranationalist” and just plain “nationalist,” or, for that matter, patriotic, or Zionist? The Times doesn’t explain, instead letting the “ultra” stand as a signifier of extremism or of Times editorial disapproval.

Actually, the Times does make some effort to explain, describing Mr. Lieberman as “polarizing.” What evidence does the Times marshal for its description?

“He demands the death penalty for Palestinians convicted of acts of terrorism” and he “has called in the past for the toppling of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza.”

So believing in the death penalty for terrorists makes a person a polarizing ultranationalist? By that measure, the Times should describe as a polarizing ultranationalist Bill Clinton, who signed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 into law after the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building. When Mr. Clinton signed it, he complained, “For too long, and in too many cases, endless death row appeals have stood in the way of justice being served.” The Times found a way to report recently on Hillary Clinton’s support for the death penalty without resorting to denouncing her as either polarizing or ultranationalist.

Likewise, Mrs. Clinton has said that she “would not put Hamas in the category of people we could work with. I don’t think that is realistic because its whole reason for being is resistance against Israel, destruction of Israel, and it is married to very nasty tactics and ideologies, including virulent antisemitism. I do not think they should be in any way treated as a legitimate interlocutor.” Mrs. Clinton said in her January 2009 Senate confirmation hearing for her position as Secretary of State, “on Israel, you cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements. That is just, for me, a — you know, an absolute. You know, that is the United States government’s position. That is the president-elect’s position.”

Again, Mrs. Clinton’s position on Hamas doesn’t get called polarizing or ultranationalist. The State Department — under Secretary Kerry and President Obama — lists Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization, not, as the Times euphemistically describes it, as a “militant group.” Yet the Times doesn’t call the State Department or Secretary Kerry polarizing or ultranationalist.

Is this polarizing, bad journalism by the New York Times? No, it’s even worse than that: it’s polarizing ultrabad journalism.

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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  • stevenl

    What journalism!!! Anti-Semitism from losers. One should not be surprised to discover some form of “Nazism” support for the NYT.

  • Ralph Adamo

    The NYT is just another ultraleftist rag. It doesn’t even qualify as journalism. It’s just leftist propaganda. Nothing more. So naturally, the NYT is always going to take an anti-Israel stance. The fact that the owners and managers of the NYT have some Jewish heritage does not alter the fact that they are leftists-first. America and Israel come second and third, if they rate at all.

  • Yale

    If they were honest, the NYT would just say they don’t like him because he doesn’t agree with the policies of the NYT editorial board.

  • Barry

    Polarizing because Lieberman doesn’t brown-nose the Blob and the Administration.They should not have tried to get a govt., of national unity using Herzog, according to Haaretz, to overcome Netanyahu’s tough stand. So they got Lieberman instead.

  • Jeffrey Justin

    I dont know who Paul is (read his opinion above) But he is right on the Lieberman statements . He has always been a derisive individual who seems to take pleasure in intimidating the Arab Population in Israel and the PA . Loyalty oaths, Expulsion and Insults are his bread and Butter and I am not hungry for more strife.

  • Meron Medzini

    Before Mr. Stoll criticises the New York Times foe their headline and contents on the story on Lieberman, I suggest he read most of the Israeli daily newspapers yesterday and today to see how the Israeli media (with the exception of Israel Today, Netanyahu’s supporting newspaper owned by Sheldon Adelson, describe the new defense minister of Israel and what he said in the past and more importantly what Netnyahu had to say about Lieberman until several days ago.

    • A Zionist

      The media itself, not just in the US, UK but Israel have decided to invest in propaganda, not journalism. In the Middle Ages, the largely illiterate population relied on the local priest for news. The priest was told the news from the bishop, via the Archbishop and ultimately, the Vatican.

      Today, the media has replaced the Pope! The media no longer reports: it makes the news. We see this clearly from the media. In the UK, the BBC, the Guardian and Independent “make” the news. They provide the viwer or listener or reader with what they want to convey.

      In the field, Khalid Abu Toameh writes that the average age is 27 years. They do not know the geography or history and are instructed what to report and how.

      Israel is not much different. The left-leaning press, especially HaAretz, are anti-Israel and anti-anything-they-do-not-like.

      Netanyahu is presented as if he is an ultra-right-wing. However, read one of the last speeches made by Rabin and you will see that Rabin, z”l, was on the RIGHT of Bibi! Rabin NEVER agreed to a Palestinian State. In his words, “less than a state” to be demilitarised and that Israel would never leave the Jordan valley, the Golan etc.

      Judge on what the man does – and not what the media thinks they know!

  • nat cheiman

    Yes the new Minister of defence is ULTRA strong as well.

  • Kudos for the commentary, but what do you expect from the NYT or any ultra nationalist bad news media or should I say ultra biased news media organisation, they all come from the same mould, no integrity,truth, and only seek eye catching headlines and distorted tabloid crap.

  • Russell Mollot

    Thank you, Mr. Stoll, for hitting back. The failing New York Times continues its relentless, decades-long history of anti-Israel propaganda, even with its last gasps. Some of their vitriol is reminiscent of the Volkischer Beobachter in the Nazi era. May G-d strengthen Ira Stoll and inspire his continued work to lay bare the malicious slander that the Times sees “fit to print”.

  • Richard E Sherwin

    arent the New York Times and Ha-arets synonyms by now for bad left-behind ultraleftist fantasies of ‘liberal universalism’ that love every multiculture except israel and judaism? so what’s news here? theyre liars twisters and cheats about us and have been so for so long no one remembers otherwise. like BBC theyll ignore Hamas until Israelis die from arab freedom fights, and then will blame the Israeli corpses for decomposing the long dead peace talks and the never born palestinian states.

  • Paul

    This time, the Times seems to be accurate in calling Lieberman an ultra-nationalist.
    It would be more honest on your part if you presented Lieberman’s actual very extreme statements and stated views, in full, and let them be judged, rather than presenting a reasonable view, totally toned down version, desired even by moderates.
    The wish to topple Hamas is NOT why he is regarded as extreme – almost everyone in Israel thinks Hamas should be toppled. More reasonable people think this is not something that could be achieved without terrible, unacceptable cost. (Ignoring for the moment the fact that the Israeli Government right now prefers Hamas in power in Gaza, since toppling them would bring in more extreme leaders).
    Lieberman has stated publicly: He would bomb the Aswan Dam in Egypt, he has threatened to kill the Hamas leader “within 48 hours” if he did not comply to various legitimate Israeli demands, he ran for the last elections demanding a “Loyalty test” for which Israelis must pass to retain their citizenship (this is aimed at Israeli Arabs, of course, and would enable Israeli Arabs born in Israel to be thrown out of the country if not deemed loyal by Lieberman. This goes further than apartheid, which deprives people of equal rights but does not deny them citizenship). He demands the death penalty for terrorists: The death penalty EXISTS in Israel, but is not implemented here because of the results it will bring in the ongoing conflict. (When terrorists come to kill Israelis and die doing so, to become martyrs, then killing them plays EXACTLY into their hands. It is like threatening an alcoholic that you will supply him with Liquor).

    Your slanted presentation is misleading. Is the truth of his extreme views not good enough for you to defend ? Do you have to defend this man by DENYING what he himself says openly and proudly ? Your defense is actually a slap in the face for Lieberman: you try defend him by DENYING what he actually says – and you thus are actually condemning him for his views.

  • Perhaps it was his call to execute Arab members of the Knesset who met with Hamas?

    In any case, a comparison with the Clintons’ statements about terrorism is unfair: they were just saying whatever they thought they needed to say at the moment, as usual. I’m sure Mr Lieberman is quite sincere.

  • Lia

    I refuse to read the NYT (and I thought and think that) others should also avoid its sloppy journalism. But many thanks to the watchers on the walls, who keep reading and correcting, so saving the rest of us from this ordurous task.


    We all know about the New York Times by now, don’t we?