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August 29, 2016 10:20 am

New York Times’ New Israel Bureau Chief Debuts With Peek at Bikini-Clad Jewess

avatar by Ira Stoll

Email a copy of "New York Times’ New Israel Bureau Chief Debuts With Peek at Bikini-Clad Jewess" to a friend
The Tel Aviv Promenade/beach. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Tel Aviv Promenade/beach. Photo: Wikipedia.

Peter Baker finally makes his long-awaited debut as the New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief with a news article in today’s paper, and it’s not exactly an encouraging start.

His article, headlined “Israel Joins Bikini Fray, Ordering Concert Singer to Cover Up,” is the latest example of the Timesbizarre obsession with bathing Jewesses, or with Jewish women who aren’t even swimming but who are portrayed by the Times as lounging about without any pants on.

The Times reports that a singer, Hannah Goor, was asked to cover up after performing at a government-sponsored concert wearing a bikini top. The newspaper explains, “With the influence of conservative Judaism on the rise in Israel, a country long dominated by secular elites is struggling with its identity and values.”

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This explanation is flawed in several respects. First off, what’s “on the rise” in Israel isn’t “conservative Judaism,” but Orthodox Judaism. Secondly, the idea that Israel is “dominated by secular elites” has been inaccurate at least since the 1977 election of Menachem Begin as prime minister was won with the support of voters opposed to those secular elites. If Israel is as dominated by secular elites as the Times article claims it is, why don’t the Jerusalem buses or the national airline run on the Sabbath, and why can’t a person get married without the approval of the strictly Orthodox chief rabbinate?

The most jarring thing about the Times article, though, is the hypocrisy of its presentation. The Times more or less assails Israel, on the basis of this single incident, for being run by the Jewish equivalent of the Taliban. Otherwise, why is it even worth a story?

But in illustrating the article, the New York Times itself can’t summon up the courage, or stoop to the standard, of sharing the picture of the bikini-top-clad Ms. Goor with its own readers. Even a photo of the Tel Aviv beach that appears with the Times news story includes not a single visible person in a bikini.

It’s not as if the picture of Ms. Goor in her concert outfit isn’t widely available. The Times of Israel ran it, along with a quote from the singer: “Perhaps if my chest were smaller this wouldn’t have happened.” The Forward ran the photo, as did the British newspaper The Independent.

But the Times itself doesn’t carry the photo of Ms. Goor’s skin swelling out of the white bikini top, which closely resembles a brassiere. If it had, Times readers might be able to judge for themselves whether it’s an outfit that deserves an Israeli taxpayer subsidy, or whether the suggestion that she cover up is evidence of some kind of identity crisis.

If Ms. Goor’s bikini-clad bosom is too fleshy for even New York Times editors to share with New York Times readers, where in the world does the newspaper get off complaining about Israeli government officials who think it’s a bit much for Israeli taxpayers to subsidize? Is the decision not to publish the photograph proof that the New York Times photo desk is “struggling with its identity and values” amid rising conservatism after years of dominance by “secular elites”?

Perhaps the well-deserved backlash against the newspaper for illustrating an article about movie director Natalie Portman’s emails by publishing photographs of her on her back in a bed in a bathing-suit bottom means that this time around, the newspaper hesitated and held back. The Times editors in this case were themselves displaying the same caution they were implicitly condemning when exercised by Israeli government officials.

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

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