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February 26, 2017 7:44 am

New York Times Decries Catholic-Jewish ‘Mutual Suspicion,’ Prompting Outcry

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Vatican City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Vatican City. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Often the bias of the New York Times creeps in not in the main part of a news article, but in the context the newspaper provides its readers to try to help make sense of the news.

That’s what happened with a dispatch from Rome previewing an upcoming exhibit, “Menorah: Worship, History, Legend,” which is a collaboration between the Vatican Museums and Rome’s Jewish Museum.

As context, the Times offers that “Jews and Catholics have a long history of mutual suspicion and conflict, but relations between the two religions have been increasingly positive.”

The sentence caught the eye of a writer for Tablet, Liel Leibovitz, who sarcastically assailed what the Tablet headline called “moral equivalence”:

Remember the Jewish Inquisition? Or the Catholic ghettos those meany rabbis set up all across Europe? Or the time when armed Jewish crusaders stomped across England and France and Germany and left many of the Church’s innocent adherents dead? No wonder we’ve so much mutual suspicion!

Leibovitz connected the Times approach to Catholic-Jewish relations to its coverage of the conflict between Israel and the Arabs: “If there’s one thing the Times teaches us it’s that violence is always a cycle, that there are always two sides, and that both sides are always and forever to blame.”

Leibovitz is correct that the Times sentence was a clunker. If Catholic-Jewish relations were characterized by “mutual suspicion,” it’s because the Jews correctly suspected the Catholics of violently oppressing them. The Catholic “suspicion,” such as it was, was more rooted in theological issues or in outright bigotry or conspiracy theories. This distinction may be subtle enough that the Times doesn’t consider it worth maintaining, but a more careful and accurate newspaper would.

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

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