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November 28, 2017 5:12 pm

Ultra-Liberal New York Times Obsesses About Israel’s ‘Ultra-Orthodox’

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Satmar Hasidim in Brooklyn. Photo: wiki commons.

One of the clearest warning signs of bias in the press is a double standard — a similar story that’s treated one way if it involves Jews or Israel, and a different way if it involves a different religion or a different country.

One such case is on display in the New York Times this week.

The November 27 Times features a news article of about 700 words by a Times journalist, Isabel Kirshner, under the headline “Railway Work in Israel on the Sabbath Threatens to Unravel Netanyahu’s Coalition.” The online version features two photographs. The article is about the politics of conducting repair work on Israel’s state-owned railway on the Sabbath. It reports the prime minister agreed to introduce “legislation to limit the opening of convenience stores on the Sabbath.”

Meanwhile, in another country, Poland, lawmakers, at the behest of Catholic bishops, voted to eliminate Sunday shopping in the country entirely by the year 2020. The Times didn’t cover that article in the print newspaper at all; it handled the matter instead with a brief online item by the Associated Press of about 200 words, with no photographs.

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Got that? The New York Times paid a lot of attention to the political news about the Sabbath and Israeli Jews, while downplaying to the point of almost ignoring the news about the Sabbath and Polish Catholics.

Is it because Israel is a larger country than Poland? No. Poland has four or five times Israel’s population. Is it because there are more American Jews than there are Polish-Americans or American Catholics? No — if the Times is trying to cater to American readers, there are actually more Polish-Americans and Catholics than there are American Jews, leaving aside any possible overlap, such as American Jews whose families are from Poland.

Now, the Times might reply that the Israel news got covered because, as the headline put it, the controversy “threatens to unravel Netanyahu’s coalition.” But that’s a bait-and-switch: the Times article itself concedes “the government did not appear to be in imminent danger of collapse.” The Times further quotes Abraham Diskin, professor emeritus in the department of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, as saying, “‘All the indications are that nobody is interested’ in breaking up the coalition.” So the “coalition in jeopardy” excuse is not much of an excuse, either.

Maybe it’s because the ultra-liberal, ultra-secular Times has an obsessive interest in portraying the Israeli government as being at the mercy of the whims of those that the Times, three times in the article, describes as “ultra-Orthodox.” If that is indeed the reason, it’s ultra-bad journalism.

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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