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February 21, 2017 1:56 pm

New York Times Hypes Australia Opposition to Netanyahu Visit

avatar by Ira Stoll

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2016. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in September 2016. Photo: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.

Before Prime Minister Netanyahu even begins his visit to Australia, the New York Times is out with an article amplifying the voices of his critics in that country while minimizing his supporters.

I can understand the impulse to preview the trip, though it’s hard to think of a world leader other than President Trump or Pope Francis whose international travels are subject to such extensive scrutiny by the Times.

What’s strange is the way the Times goes out of its way to more or less declare the trip a failure before it even happens. What was “intended to be a warm meeting,” the Times claims, “is generating a bit of pushback. Sixty notable Australians, including political, religious, cultural and business figures, have signed a letter opposing Mr. Netanyahu’s visit because of his government’s policies toward the Palestinians. And small groups of protesters have demonstrated in Melbourne and Canberra against the visit.”

The phrase “sixty notable Australians” made me chuckle. Beyond, say, Rupert Murdoch and Elle Macpherson, neither of whom now live in Australia full time, are there even 60 notable Australians? The Times doesn’t name any of the signatories to the letter, but a click through makes clear that they are mostly a motley assortment of junior professors and longtime Palestinian activists.

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Even the Times itself seems to concede, in a kind of backhanded way, that the backlash isn’t particularly newsworthy. “A bit” of pushback, the Times says. “Small” groups of protesters. Why is this even worth a story in the Times?

The Times relegates the lone pro-Israel voice in the story to the final paragraph:

Colin Rubenstein, executive director of the Australia/Israel and Jewish Affairs Council, an advocacy group, called the statements in the letter “misplaced, illogical and counterproductive,” but he said he did not think they would affect Mr. Netanyahu’s visit.

The headline of the Times article is “Netanyahu’s Planned Visit to Australia Is Met With Opposition.” This, too, is mildly comical, because it could be a standing headline for just about anywhere Netanyahu goes or thinks about going, from a West Bank settlement, to Tel Aviv, to Columbia University, to Europe.

One could get 60 genuinely notable Americans to write a letter criticizing the New York Times’ coverage of Israel, and it almost certainly wouldn’t generate a full New York Times article with two photographs under a headline asserting “Times Coverage of Israel Is Met With Opposition.” It’s only certain sorts of opposition where even “small” groups of protesters are met with favorable and extensive Times coverage — a clue, as if any more where needed, to where the newspaper stands when it comes to Israel’s prime minister and the country he was elected to lead.

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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