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November 21, 2016 3:16 pm

The New York Times’ Double Standards on Display — Yet Again

avatar by Ira Stoll

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US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, July 2015. Photo: US State Department via Wikimedia Commons.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Vienna, Austria, July 2015. Photo: US State Department via Wikimedia Commons.

One of the best ways to detect the biases of the New York Times in relation to Jews and Israel is by making comparisons.

We’ve written about this in the past here and here, citing examples such as the Times’ approval of separate swimming hours for Muslim women, but objection to them for Jewish women, or enthusiastic coverage of an exhibit on Islamic art versus vaguely hostile coverage of an exhibit about Judaism.

But the examples just keep coming and coming.

The first concerns foreign policy. A report by some “experts” — corralled by a group favoring increased American trade and diplomatic relations with Iran — has been the subject of extensive coverage in the Times. “76 Experts Urge Donald Trump To Keep Iran Deal,” was the headline over a freestanding Times news article about the report.

In case readers missed the story the first time around, the Times took care to repeat the news over and over again. “On Monday, 76 national security experts, including former officials of Republican and Democratic administrations, exhorted Mr. Trump not only to accept the nuclear agreement but to use it as a way to ease tensions with Iran on other longstanding problems,” the Times reported, again, as context in another article, headlined: “House Votes To Extend Iran Sanctions For 10 Years.”

In yet a third news article, headlined, “Trump’s Policies Might Not Be the Worst Deal Ever for Iran,” the Times repeated the news a third time: “Last week, 76 national security experts signed a report urging Mr. Trump to keep the deal.”

Compare that favorable and extensive treatment of the Iran deal — a deal that was vehemently opposed by the Israeli government — with the Times coverage of a new special report from the Council on Foreign Relations calling on the new administration to take steps to “revive the U.S.-Israel strategic partnership,” including expanding defense cooperation with Israel.

“What Times coverage of this Council on Foreign Relations special report?” you might ask. And that would be an excellent question, because there hasn’t been any coverage of that report in the New York Times. Not a word. It’s been subjected to a kind of news blackout, censored, deemed not “fit to print.”

Got that? The report by “experts” urging warmer ties with Iran got a full news article in the Times and mentions in two other stories; the report by experts urging warmer ties with Israel got totally ignored by the Times.

The Council on Foreign Relations report on Israel was co-authored by Robert Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon. The Times is perfectly capable of paying attention to Mr. Blackwill when he is advancing an agenda with which the newspaper’s editors agree. Back in March, the Times described Mr. Blackwill as “a former ambassador to India, who also held a key post in George W. Bush’s National Security Council.” It was reporting on a letter by “prominent figures” who “denounced Mr. Trump’s worldview, declaring that ‘his vision of American influence and power in the world is wildly inconsistent and unmoored in principle.’” Another Times article in August, about another anti-Trump letter signed by Mr. Blackwill, described him as one of “two key strategists in Mr. Bush’s National Security Council.” When Mr. Blackwill denounces Trump, the Times hangs breathlessly amplifying his every utterance. When he calls for improved relations with Israel, the Times ignores him.

The Times’ double standard is also on display in coverage of new Israel and Jewish-related books. One of the best things an author can hope for is an interview with the Times in connection with a book release. It’s valuable and helpful publicity that the Times bestows rarely and on only the most lucky and carefully selected few. What Jewish or Israeli author rates that treatment?

For the Times, the answer is Amos Oz, who gets the benefit, for a single book, of not one but two separate sit-down interviews. Times columnist Roger Cohen, who interviewed him last year, described Oz as “the conscience of a certain liberal and secular Israel still committed to a two-state outcome,” and allowed Oz to call Prime Minister Netanyahu “a coward.” The Cohen column plugged Oz’s “novel called ‘Judas’ published in Hebrew last year (but not yet out in English).” Reported Mr. Cohen, quoting Mr. Oz: “The day people in this country start calling Netanyahu a traitor I will know that something may change.”

Then this year, the Times arts section’s front page featured a second interview with Mr. Oz, reporting:

Mr. Oz wanted to talk about his enchantment with the New Testament, which began when he was a 16-year-old, living on a kibbutz and spending his evenings in the library, reading the gospels. He fell “in love” with Jesus, he said: “I disagreed with him on many things, but I liked him, his poetry, his warmth, his wonderful sense of humor.”…

Although Mr. Oz seems resistant to prognosticating, he did say his book had given him a new measure for gauging progress toward the elusive peace he’s been promoting all these decades: “The day Israelis start calling Benjamin Netanyahu a traitor, I will know something is moving at last.”

Sound familiar? The spectacle of a Jesus-loving Israeli author pining for Netanyahu to be called a traitor is so irresistible to the Times that the newspaper recycled basically the same story, about the same book, with the same quote, from the same person, twice — just as it has written three times about the “76 national security experts” who want the Trump administration to honor the Iran deal.

Meanwhile, compare how the Times treats Mr. Oz to how it treats another Israeli author, Daniel Gordis, whose book Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn, was published on October 18. Was Mr. Gordis interviewed at full-column length by a columnist for the Times op-ed page? No. Was Mr. Gordis interviewed by a reporter for the Times’ arts section front-page? No. The Times hasn’t even yet bothered to review the book, so far as I can tell. Maybe if Mr. Gordis started throwing around the words traitor and Netanyahu together, or started professing his love for Jesus, or even advocating for the Iran nuclear deal, the Times would lavish some attention on him.

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

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