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February 17, 2017 3:12 am

New York Times Uses Antisemitic Imagery to Describe Israeli Academy

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avatar by Ira Stoll

Octopus tentacles. Photo: Wikipedia.

Octopus tentacles. Photo: Wikipedia.

The New York Times has an article about Beit El, a West Bank settlement that has been supported by David Friedman, who is President Trump’s nominee to be ambassador to Israel.

“The yeshiva complex is a multitentacled enterprise,” the Times reports.

Tentacles? When the National Rifle Association’s magazine depicted Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York on its cover as an octopus, the Times described it in a headline as “an Anti-Semitic Symbol,” noting, accurately, that “the image has been used in anti-Semitic propaganda, from the Nazis to the modern Arab world.” Now it is the Times portraying religious Jews in Israel using the same negative imagery.

It’s a double standard. When American conservatives like the NRA use an octopus image in connection with a socially liberal Jew like Michael Bloomberg, the Times calls them out for it. But when it’s the Times itself using the octopus imagery against religious Jews in Israel, the paper’s journalists and editors can’t even detect that it’s a problem. It would have been simple to choose some more neutral and less fraught term — say, “multipronged” — but the Times doesn’t even bother.

The newspaper’s bias is on full display throughout the dispatch from Beit El. The Times reports that “the yeshiva is headed by Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, a hard-liner who has denounced homosexuality as a ‘perversion’ and ‘a severe mental illness.’” We’re not told whether any of Beit El’s thousands of residents might disagree with him. A few pages later in the newspaper, a Times editorial approvingly quotes “an associate professor at the Islamic University in Gaza City.” We’re not told that professor’s view of homosexuality nor given any context about how welcoming, or not, the Islamic University in Gaza City is to gay students or faculty members. Again, it’s a double standard; the Orthodox Jews are scrutinized and portrayed as extremists, while the Palestinian Islamists get a free pass from the Times on the same issue.

The Times reports that the Arutz Sheva news site, a Beit El institution, “caters to Israel’s nationalist camp.” Two paragraphs later, there’s a mention of “the newspaper Haaretz,” without any description of what camp that newspaper caters to. Again, it’s a double standard. The right-of-center news organization is described as such, while the left-of-center news organization doesn’t get any label, much less one that identifies it as catering to Israel’s dwindling secular dovish camp.

The Times article reports that Friedman “has rejected the internationally accepted two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” Alas, there is no such “internationally accepted two-state solution,” mainly because the Palestinians won’t accept the existence of a Jewish state but also because, as a consequence, the Israelis won’t accept a Palestinian Arab one, seeing it as a security threat. If the “solution” were in fact “internationally accepted,” it would have already been implemented, and Friedman’s objections would be irrelevant. The formulation “the internationally accepted two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” is itself inaccurate, because no such solution presently exists.

There are probably some other problems with the Times Beit El article that I’m not mentioning here, but I (and you, if you’re still with me), have already spent enough time on this particular tentacle of the octopus that is the New York Times coverage of Israel and the Jews.

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

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