Four Ways The New York Times Botches Coverage of Jerusalem
The run-up to President Trump’s speech about Jerusalem provided the New York Times with an opportunity to put some of its worst journalism on display.
Here are some of the problems:
Confusion about annexation: A Times news article about the history of Jerusalem reported that “Israel stopped short of annexing East Jerusalem, a move that would most likely have drawn international outrage.” That flatly contradicts what the Times itself reported as recently as earlier this year, when it said, in a “Memo from Jerusalem” written by then Jerusalem bureau chief Ian Fisher: “Israel later annexed East Jerusalem and Golan in moves that were not internationally recognized.” It’s symptomatic of the Times’ hazy grasp of the details of this story that it can’t even get straight for its readers whether Israel has annexed eastern Jerusalem. The newspaper instead lets these two articles coexist on the Times website, both uncorrected, each with alternative versions of the facts.
Fixation with France: A warning by the president of France, Emmanuel Macron, against recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was the subject of an entire news story in the print New York Times.
France’s position was also deemed worthy of three paragraphs in a separate Times news article:
word of the plan has worried even some of the United States’ closest allies, who are eager for clarification from the White House.
An adviser to President Emmanuel Macron of France, speaking on condition of anonymity, said French officials had heard a version of some of the Saudi proposals, which sounded very similar to Israel’s opening bid and not acceptable to Palestinians.
He said that France had told the Americans that if they wanted to start discussions, they should proceed, but should remember that France and many other countries also have interests and concerns in the region.
France can barely provide security to its own Jews. It was the French discrimination against Alfred Dreyfus that partly inspired Theodor Herzl to pursue the restoration of a Jewish state in the Promised Land. Of the 350,000 Jews in France in 1940, 77,000 were killed in the Holocaust, according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Nor is this ancient history; in the past decade, thousands of French Jews fled to Israel each year, in part because the French government could not or would not protect them against murderous attacks such as the one in 2015 on a kosher market in Paris. Meanwhile, the French oil and gas company Total signed a $5 billion deal with Iran, which funds terrorist attacks against Jews in Israel and abroad. The Times reporting that Macron wants to divide the Israeli capital, without even a note of skepticism or any of this context, is just strange.
Mixing up intentions with results: A Times editorial was headlined, “Does Mr. Trump Want Mideast Peace?” This is a classic error of paying attention to intentions rather than outcomes. President Clinton, President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of State Albright, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, both Presidents Bush — they all “wanted” Mideast peace. Yet a final status deal between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs eluded them all, notwithstanding all of them taking more or less French-style positions on the Jerusalem issue. Rather than questioning the sincerity of Mr. Trump’s intentions, the Times might try the more challenging task of explaining why a policy that has repeatedly failed to produce results should nevertheless be continued.
Missing the point: Scour the endless column inches of Times coverage — even Shmuel Rosner’s passably decent, if online only, op-ed piece — and you’ll have a tough time finding anyone making the central point that needs making. That is: one of the many great things about Zionism is that it is Israel’s elected government — not the Pope, or the president of France, or Congress or the president of the United States or even the editors of the New York Times — that gets to decide what is the capital city of Israel.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.