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May 12, 2017 4:36 pm

New York Times Columnist Says Times’ Own Favorite Israeli Newspaper Is ‘Bitter…Preposterous’

avatar by Ira Stoll

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English and Hebrew editions of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A column in the online New York Times finally lets Times readers in on what had been a poorly kept secret: Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper that is a business partner of the International New York Times and a favorite source of quotes for New York Times journalists, is “bitter and antagonistic…preposterous…juvenile.”

Times columnist Shmuel Rosner, himself a former Haaretz employee, writes that Haaretz:

gets the larger arc of Israel’s story wrong. It tends to paint a bleak picture of Israel’s actions, and it goes overboard in predicting grave consequences for Israel that rarely materialize. It tends not to notice that Israel today is a country more powerful militarily, economically and culturally than it was when the newspaper and its circle of loyal readers began explaining how almost every choice that the country is making is wrong.

The same, of course, can be said of the New York Times itself. That similarity may be why the Times in Israel was distributed together with Haaretz, and why the Times journalists consistently quote, in their news articles, from the same Israeli newspaper that Mr. Rosner now confesses is lacking in credibility.

Here are a few recent examples of Times reliance on the perspective of Haaretz without tipping Times readers off to its flaws:

A New York Times news article reported:

After a Jewish reporter’s interrupted attempt to ask Mr. Trump a question, the Israeli daily Haaretz considered whether or not the president’s protestations that he was not anti-Semitic were to be believed.

The [Haaretz] columnist Bradley Burston wrote that there was no longer any doubt in his mind: “Donald Trump IS an anti-Semite.”

There was no disclosure by the Times in that article that Haaretz is “bitter and antagonistic…preposterous…juvenile….wrong.” The analysis was instead presented by the Times for Times readers to accept at face value.

Likewise, a Times news article about the Israeli settlement Beit El reported: “According to the newspaper Haaretz, many fraudulent land deals in Beit El were subsequently found to have been covered up by forged documents.”

That claim was passed along at face value, without any warning to Times readers that the Israeli newspaper being quoted is a purveyor of preposterous provocation.

Another Times news article, published January 3 and hyping the so-far-fake story that Prime Minister Netanyahu would be indicted, carried this passage:

“Mandelblit tried doing everything he could so as not to reach the point of having Netanyahu questioned as a suspect,” Amir Oren, a columnist, wrote in the Haaretz newspaper on Tuesday. “If, after all his contortions and twists, the A.G. was forced into ordering an investigation that he was hoping to shelve, the default option from here on is an indictment.”

Again, there’s no acknowledgement in the Times news article that Haaretz is “bitter and antagonistic…preposterous…juvenile.” Instead, the Israeli newspaper’s analysis is presented at face value.

Anyway, it’s nice that the Times has finally published an online opinion column explaining this. One wonders when, and if, it will append corrections to all its news articles that credulously quoted the same publication that its columnist now asserts is so “wrong.” Perhaps the Times will warn its readers with a similar disclosure going forward in print when and if it chooses to rely on Haaretz for its perspective on the Israeli scene.

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


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