Wednesday, May 29th | 22 Iyyar 5784

April 24, 2017 4:24 pm

New York Times Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day by Defending Iran and Smearing Israel

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avatar by Ira Stoll


Israeli drivers come to a halt on a Tel Aviv highway during a Holocaust Remembrance Day siren. Photo: Screenshot via StandWithUs.

The New York Times marked Holocaust Remembrance Day with an editorial condemning what it called the American government’s “ominous tendency to demonize Iran” and a news article accusing “Zionist forces” of eradicating a Palestinian village.

The Times has been editorially plumping for Iran for years. But it takes a certain exquisite level of tone-deaf obtuseness to choose — on a day devoted to commemorating the victims of the Holocaust — to publish an editorial essentially carrying water for the Holocaust-denying, Jew-killing terror-supporting regime in Tehran.

On any day, such an editorial would be cringe-inducing and objectionable. But on this particular day, it’s enough to make a person want to toss the newspaper aside in disgust.

The Times editorial complains that the Trump administration has a tendency to “misrepresent the threat” that Iran presents. Yet it also concedes that the administration’s concerns about “Iran’s meddling in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, its support for extremists and its capacity to fan regional tensions” are “legitimate.”

Well, if the concerns are indeed “legitimate,” how does reporting them, accurately, to Congress constitute a misrepresentation?

The Times seems to worry that they might lead to military action against Iran:

Where exactly is Mr. Trump going with this? His comments echo statements used by past presidents when they tried to build a case for military action, as, for instance, against Iraq. This is not the time for such action.

When, one wonders, would be the time for such action? After Iran nukes an Israeli city? Or after it bombs another Jewish community center? Or after it funds more missiles and rockets aimed at Israeli Jews from Gaza and Lebanon? Or after it jails more Americans on phony charges?

The Times insistence that now “is not the time” for military action against Iran might be more credible if the editorial set out guidelines for when it would be time for such action. In the absence of such guidelines, one suspects that the Times would never support it, no matter how many Jews are killed. Or that there is some acceptable level of Jew-killing that the Times doesn’t think warrants a military response. What a strange message for Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The news article isn’t any better. “Oldest Holocaust Museum Recasts Lessons as ‘a Warning Sign’” is the headline over a dispatch from the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum in Israel. It includes this passage:

The museum does not shy away from dealing with Israel’s own inner conflicts. Its Center for Humanistic Education, founded in 1995 by Raya Kalisman after she spent a year at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, runs a six-month program for Jewish, Arab and Druze high school students, mostly from northern Israel. The program encourages the students to confront the complexity of their identities as citizens of the country.

Reflecting that complexity, Kibbutz Lohamei Hagetaot was established in the vicinity of Al-Sumeiriya, a Palestinian village that Zionist forces occupied and destroyed in the 1948 war over Israel’s independence, turning its inhabitants into refugees.

While paying rhetorical homage to “complexity,” the Times one-sentence account of what happened in Al-Sumeiriya is a disturbing example of the perils of oversimplification. The Times has a lead editorial complaining about “the ominous tendency to demonize Iran,” but this passage in the news article is an example of what might be called the “ominous tendency to demonize Israel.”

Don’t just take my own word for it. Here is how the Times itself reported the situation, in its May 15, 1948 edition. The newspaper carried the text of Israel’s Declaration of Independence: “In the midst of wanton aggression we call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to return to the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the state, with full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions, provisional or permanent.”

The newspaper reported that Arab troops were massing for an invasion, and that “the Arab League’s General Secretariat proclaimed last night that a state of war exists between the Arab countries and Palestine Jewry.”

And under the headline “Haganah Reports Capture of Acre,” the Times reported, “a United Press dispatch from Haifa and Arab sources in Beirut, Lebanon, reported the Jewish capture of Ez Zib and El Bassa, two small towns between Acre and the Lebanese border. [Sumaria, in the same region, was also reported captured.]”

As Ephraim Karsh detailed in his 2000 Commentary article “Were the Palestinians Expelled?” some of the Palestinian Arab flight during 1948 was engendered by Arabs. Jews were urging the Arabs to stay. It was a wartime situation in which not only “Zionist forces,” but also surrounding Arab armies, were on the move.

As for the particular case of Al-Sumeiriya, details are scant, but those there are, even from sources highly sympathetic to the Arab side of the story, suggest a narrative that conflicts with the Times fantasy of a Zionist occupation and destruction.

In an article titled “The Zionist Occupation of Western Galilee, 1948,” published in the Spring, 1974 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Nafez Abdullah Nazal reports on interviews he conducted in Lebanon with families who came from Al-Sumeiriya.

Nazal reports: “During the day of May 13, Yusuf Nafa’a, believed to be an officer in the Arab Liberation Army stationed at Acre, visited the village and assured the villagers of military aid in case of a Jewish attack.” The Arab Liberation Army, the article further explains, “was an army of volunteers from the various Arab countries, formed by the Arab League on January 1, 1948 under control of the Arab League Military Committee in Damascus.”

Nazal goes on: “At dawn the next day, a Jewish force approached the village from the north-west. The few families remaining in the village began to flee to the neighboring villages…only about thirty-five armed men remained in the village to repel the Jewish attack.”

Even by May 13, Nazal reports, “many of the villagers had already moved their families out of the village. A few armed men remained in the village to protect it.”

Nazal quotes “Ahmad Ibrahim Yusuf, a farmer and a member of the village militia”:

It was impossible to withstand the Jewish attack on two fronts. We were very few in number and very poorly armed. We attempted to repel the attack from the north-west, but we never expected this armoured unit to approach our village on the main road from Acre, since we assumed that Acre was still in Arab hands… We retreated, leaving behind many killed and injured.

Nazal reports further:

I was told that among those who remained in the village were Zaynab al-Zayneh, her husband, and their three children. Her oldest son left the village with the rest of the villagers. The family is still separated. (Ibrahim Taher Sa’iyah, interviewed at ‘Ain al-Hilweh, Lebanon, March 1, 1973.)

In other words, at least five Arabs who chose to remain in the village were allowed to do so. That conflicts with the Times narrative that “Zionist forces occupied and destroyed” the village, “turning its inhabitants into refugees.” So does the fact that most of the villagers left before the “Zionist forces” even got there, and that most of those who remained weren’t unarmed “inhabitants” but rather a garrison of armed combatants.

I mention all this not so much to re-litigate the story of Israel’s War of Independence, but to underscore how grotesque it is that the Times has managed to turn a news article about Holocaust remembrance into an opportunity to launch false accusations against the founders of the Jewish state. The Times perfervid fantasy of marauding Zionist occupiers liquidating Arab villages goes well beyond the facts recounted by even the fleeing villagers themselves in the Journal of Palestine Studies. It seems unmoored to reality. The Times cites no evidence or historical sources to support its claims.

Happy Holocaust Remembrance Day to you.

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


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