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October 4, 2017 2:25 pm

Subtly Misleading New York Times Writes of ‘the Israeli Conflict’

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avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A New York Times interview with an art collector veers onto sensitive ground with a reference to “the Israeli conflict.”

The full passage is from an interview by Robin Pogrebin with an art collector, Ellen Stern, who says she is selling some of her art to pay taxes after her husband Jerome’s death.

You have a long history of collecting Marlene Dumas, and 15 of your works by her will be sold at Sotheby’s, led by “Magdalena,” estimated at $3 million to $4 million. What drew you to her?

We saw her work in the first South Africa biennial. We chased her down through galleries in Europe. When she did a series of artworks “Against the Wall,” [17 paintings centered on the Israeli conflict], Jerry would correspond with her about the politics of them.

“The Israeli conflict” is a strange formulation. If the Times were to talk about “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” or the “Israeli-Arab conflict,” at least it would accurately place some of the blame for the conflict on the Palestinians or the Arabs, rather than making it sound, falsely, like the conflict is entirely Israel’s fault.

The description of the “Against the Wall” exhibit catalog, for example, says, “The large-scale works included in Against the Wall are primarily based on media imagery documenting Israel and Palestine.” I’d have written “the Palestinian Authority” or “territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority” or “the West Bank” or “Judea and Samaria” instead of “Palestine.” Some of the artworks appear to depict a separation wall built by Israel to protect against infiltration by Palestinian Arab terrorists. Describing the paintings as “centered on the Israeli conflict” seems therefore, subtly but nonetheless unmistakably, to miss the point.

If the Times doesn’t want to mention Arabs or Palestinians, it could have just said the paintings were centered on Israel, without having to inject “conflict” into it. One of the big ways that the Times misrepresents the reality of Israel is by depicting what is at many moments and in many ways a peaceful and prosperous country as being overwhelmingly conflict-wracked. Sometimes that has to do with news reports from the region that appear in the front section of the paper. But other times it is done in the arts section, with a bracketed insertion that, by adding one word — “conflict” — or omitting another — “Arab,” or “Palestinian”– conveys a misleading impression.

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




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