How Many Jewish Children Are Too Many for the New York Times, Obama?
In a lead, front-page news article headlined “Defying U.N., Israel Prepares to Build More Settlements,” the New York Times conveys an explanation for the United States failure to veto an anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations Security Council.
“The addition of more than 100,000 settlers during Mr. Obama’s tenure convinced him that it was time to change the approach at the United Nations, aides said,” the Times reports. The Times doesn’t identify who these “aides” were or otherwise explain why limiting Jewish population growth in the West Bank is a project worthy of presidential attention
A deeper look at some of the math in the Times article makes Obama’s action seem even more peculiar. The Times reports:
In 2009, the year Mr. Obama took office, 297,000 people lived in West Bank settlements and 193,737 in East Jerusalem. That increased to 386,000 in the West Bank by the end of last year and 208,000 in East Jerusalem by the end of 2014, according to Peace Now, a group that opposes settlements.
The math doesn’t work. The number 386,000 minus 297,000 is not “more than 100,000,” as the Times or the unnamed “aides” say. It is 89,000, or “less than 90,000.”
As for the East Jerusalem residents, their 7.3% population growth rate over the 2009 to 2014 period was lower than Israel’s overall population growth rate of 10.5% during the same period. The Times omits that context.
Also omitted by the Times is the growth of the Palestinian Authority’s population. The Times quotes the Obama “aides” complaining about “[t]he addition of more than 100,000 settlers” — but it doesn’t mention at all that in the same period, the Palestinian Authority’s Arab population in the West Bank and Gaza grew by a reported 747,218 people, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
What other numbers might put the “100,000 settlers” in context? Well, there are the 3,743 persons killed in anti-Israel terrorism, or the tens of thousands of Israelis killed in wars waged by the Arabs who refused to accept Israel’s existence. Or the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, a demographic disaster from which world Jewry has yet to recover, and one made possible, in part, precisely because of the British 1939 White Paper policy of limiting Jewish immigration to Israel so as not to throw off the demographic status quo balance with the Arabs. Sound familiar?
Nor does the Times attempt to explain how much of the growth in the number of settlers results from migration — Israelis moving from one side of the Green Line to another — and how much results from childbirth, or Israelis who already live in settlements having more children. If the issue that so disturbs President Obama is that the Jewish mothers and fathers of East Jerusalem are having too many children, maybe he wants to propose a solution rather than simply allow the United Nations Security Council to condemn the newborns? What’s his answer? An old-fashioned Chinese Communist-style one-child policy, with state-enforced abortions? Making like the Egyptian Pharaoh and drowning the newborn Jewish children? And if “100,000” additional Jews is too many, what is an acceptable number of Jewish children to Mr. Obama? Are Jews in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, in Ariel, in Efrat, in Gilo, in Maale Adumim, in Modiin Illit supposed to check with President Obama, or Secretary of State Kerry, for a permission slip before getting pregnant?
The Times doesn’t probe any of these questions. The editors and reporters there may not even know anyone who might pose them, or, if they do, they don’t deem them worth including in the story. This isn’t to say that Israel must retain every inch of the West Bank forever, or that there isn’t some possible American policy interest in making a future Palestinian state geographically viable. It’s simply to say that the Times is committing bad journalism here by failing to question the Obama administration’s assumptions or put them in context. When reporters and editors convey to readers the opinions of anonymous “aides” without subjecting their ideas to even a modicum of skepticism, the reporters and editors are engaging in stenography, or propaganda, not journalism. Definitions aside, the Times reporters and editors aren’t providing readers much useful help in putting the news in perspective or context. For that you need some other newspaper — like the one you are reading right now.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.