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August 8, 2017 3:30 pm

‘Parasitic Thug’ Is New York Times’ New Name for Netanyahu

avatar by Ira Stoll

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The comment in question. Photo: Screenshot.

The New York Times has published a reader comment claiming that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “likes to control the US Congress,” describing American supporters of Israel as a disloyal “fifth column” and calling the Israeli leader a “parasitic thug.”

The Times didn’t just publish the comment, which traffics in classic antisemitic tropes — it awarded it a gold ribbon as a “NYT Pick,” one of just two of the 113 reader comments on the article to earn that distinction from the paper’s editors.

The reader comment, signed Richard Marcley of Albany, N.Y., came on a dispatch from Jerusalem about investigations of Mr. Netanyahu. The comment reads, in full:

That, along with the 4 billion every year from US taxpayers!
netanyahu likes to influence our elections and he likes to control the US Congress through AIPAC. And he always, ALWAYS has his hand out for another 40 billion or so from his fifth column of followers in the US!
He’s a parasitic thug!

US foreign aid to Israel is actually closer to $3 billion than $4 billion annually, and comes with a new requirement that most of the money be spent on American-supplied equipment and technology. The idea that the American government is subject to “control” by Israel is reminiscent of the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion; in any event, it is proven false by the fact that Congress was not able to prevent former President Barack Obama from providing Iran with $700 billion in sanctions relief, despite the best efforts of Netanyahu and his American supporters.

As for the “fifth column” charge, the Times’ own William Safire memorably disposed of it in 1986, commenting on the charge’s use by Gore Vidal against Midge Decter and Norman Podhoretz:

the novelist does not merely charge ”pro-Israel lobbyists” with dual loyalty, which is bad enough; he accuses the entire ilk of being fifth columnists, a locution coined by Spanish General Emilio Mola in 1936 to mean ”subversives acting in support of an invader.” That active disloyalty is its meaning today…

But consider: To the Decter fair comment that he does not like his country, the U.S., Mr. Vidal says that the Podhoretzes’ country is really Israel – and not the United States. That clearly brands all of us who unabashedly like Israel, and who strongly advocate military aid to that democratic ally, as not merely unpatriotic, but as outright traitors.

The Vidal fifth-column charge, more specific than Joe McCarthy’s ”twenty years of treason,” is directed against all ”pro-Israel lobbyists” as a class. …we have the lie that for Jewish Americans, Zionism is treason.

“Parasitic” is another whole story. As the website of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum helpfully explains in an article headlined “Nazi Racial Ideology”: “Driven by a racist ideology that regarded Jews as ‘parasitic vermin’ worthy only of eradication, the Nazis implemented genocide on an unprecedented scale.”

If that isn’t sufficient, the Times itself published a column back in 2011 calling out neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites for making “the very old accusation that Jews are parasitic blood suckers who infest and infect a society.”

Notwithstanding all of this, or perhaps because of it, Marcley’s comment won 76 “thumbs up” upvotes from other Times readers.

The other comment chosen as a “NYT pick” was from another commenter, Mark Jeffery Koch of Mount Laurel, N.J., who wrote:

I am an American Jew who is a supporter of Israel and who loathes Netanyahu. The way he treated former President Obama was disgraceful, and Netanyahu is very much like Trump…a pathological liar and con artist…Israel deserves criticism for its treatment of the Palestinians but this tiny country, the size of New Jersey, has given the world more inventions in medicine, science, and technology than any other country except America and Israel has 8 million people and America has 335 million people.

That comment garnered a mere 28 upvotes from Times readers. But that is enough to give you a flavor of the range of opinion among Times commenters, or among the editors awarding the gold ribbons to “NYT Picks.” One “NYT Pick” describes Netanyahu as a “parasitic thug.” The other one, from the self-described “supporter of Israel,” describes Netanyahu as “a pathological liar and con artist.” How’s that for both sides of the story, New York Times-style?

Readers having trouble understanding how offensive Marcley’s comment is, and how troubling is the Times decision to give it a gold ribbon and “NYT Pick” label, might consider if such a comment were directed at some other American minority group, using similarly hoary stereotypes. Or if the same language labeling supporters of Israel as fifth columnists and its prime minster as parasitic had come from a member of the Trump administration or a Trump campaign official. Would the Times put a gold ribbon on that? Or condemn it for what it is, and perhaps not even choose to publish it at all?

On the other hand, though “fifth column” and “parasitic” veers into language the Times is usually too polite to use in public, the substance of the comment is basically identical with the official Times staff editorial position calling for the reduction of aid to Israel.

Policing reader comment sections can be challenging and labor intensive for any publication. But if the Times is going to allow comments on news articles and then devote staff time to moderating the comments, the least it can do is delete the line-crossing ones rather than bestowing gold ribbons on them.

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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  • crinedel

    Elemental pr to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes.
    The NYTimes honored this letter precisely because they knew it would generate controversy and links and thus clicks to their website
    thus generating income.

  • Joseph Feld

    Whenever I hear of the NYT I think about how it minimised coverage of the Holocaust in line with FDR’s fear that Germany would offer to give America millions of Jewish refugees. Hitler’s concern was to make the Reich judenrein, and sending the Jews to America would have been acceptable to Germany. It was FDR’s USA that locked the gates to Jews fleeing Nazism.

  • Cpt_Justice

    Now it’s only down to one, where it still excoriates Bibi unfairly, but calls out everyone else on their antisemitism.

  • Aliquantillus

    It is better to read the New York Post than the New York Times. Similarly, it is better to read the Washington Times than the Washington Post.

  • rimmshot


  • tiki

    Together with Al Jazeera, the NYT should be thrown out of Israel.

  • Peter Like

    If The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a
    forgery then there must have been an original.

    • SaciPerere

      Pity the writer used the word forgery and did not describe it for what it is. A lie cooked up by the Russian Czar’s thugs. Fake news/facts.
      Forgery, by the way doesn’t mean it has to be a copy, but something that is fraudulent.

    • bigrobtheactor

      Feeding you medieval Jew-hating obsession again? It don’t hurt us so much anymore , post 1948 but it causes tumors in the carriers.

  • Gedalia Ilana Shepes


  • watsa46

    Here goes again the US Pravda Times!

  • Thought is Free

    Anti-semitic scum published in anti-semitic rag. Miserable collection of losers.

  • SteveC1

    I am SO glad that I cancelled my subscription to that so-called “newspaper” so long ago and ignore their constant begging of me to resubscribe..,

    • Nessie

      Good to run into you – from JPost days.

  • Laura P. Schulman

    And this is why I cancelled my subscription to the NYT several years ago.

  • zvi gross

    When it comes to Israel. the NYT’s hostility knows no bounds, but they will always find some kind words for Iran!!! I wonder whose interests does the NYT serves? Is it a planted fifth column against America and the majority of it’s people?

  • Frumious Falafel

    Yet another adroit analysis of the continuing slide towards anything and everything anti-Israel by the NYT. Ira Stoll is tireless and exceedingly fair in his dogged shining of a light onto this newspaper. Stoll provides an invaluable service in holding the Times up to those standards according to which it thinks it operates. I especially appreciate his obvious background and understanding of the industry. In that vein his criticisms are always enlightening as to one or more aspects of the journalism business.

  • Edward Brandwein

    I’ve called out the Times for their support of soft core anti-semitism for many years now. And, indeed, rarely a week goes by lately without some other outrage from its writers. They deserve to be chastised for that.

    A reader’s comment is another story though. While it speaks volumes as to the character of the Times’ readership, these comments should not be censored. They are not the work product of the paper. And, while it is awful stuff, it is what it is. That’s how free speech works. Better to have the Jew haters exposed to the world then hidden from view. At least we know what we are dealing with.

    • Nessie

      The objection here isn’t that it simply got published, it is that it was the NYT gold ribbon pick for a reader award.

    • KristenJ

      I agree. Free speech is in danger and we can debate and argue with people. There is already too much self-censorship happening, and the Washington Post too is propaganda central that is coddling people bent on our destructions of freedoms.

  • SAWolf

    In just Massachusetts, Israeli Companies directly and indirectly inject over 18 Billion dollars a year into Our Economy. The NYTIMES is fake news.