New York Times Finally Shows Some Improvement in Anti-Israel Bias
The New York Times is gradually improving.
That’s the happiest face to put on the slight improvement in how the newspaper’s editorial and op-ed page greeted President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, compared with how it treated Trump’s decision on the Iran nuclear deal.
Back in October, the Times published seven editorial or opinion pieces in favor of Trump keeping the deal, and just two opposing it, a tally that I described at the time as “lopsided,” and an “unprecedented Times onslaught of cheerleading for the Iran nuclear deal.”
It sure looks like the Times took that criticism to heart and has made a real effort to provide more balanced coverage. This time around, on the Jerusalem decision, the Times also published two articles representing what might be called a pro-Israel perspective. And instead of seven articles on the other side, the Times has published (at least as of this writing), a mere six.
Got that? Instead of seven anti-Israel op-eds or editorials for each two pro-Israel pieces published, the Times has slightly ratcheted back its bias, so that there’s only a six to two ratio of disparity. Time for celebration in the pro-Israel media advocacy community!
It’s almost as if the argument for continuing to pretend, contrary to reality, that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital is so weak that the Times feels the need to repeat it over and over again, as if sheer volume of words will compensate for lack of logic.
In case you were fortunate enough to miss any of the articles, here is a roster:
The cascade of commentary aimed at denying Israel its capital began with a Times staff editorial dated December 5. The online version of that editorial now carries a correction. Uncorrected, however, is the Times contention that Trump’s decision “Almost certainly will make an agreement harder to reach by inflaming doubts about America’s honesty and fairness as a broker in negotiations, raising new tension in the region and perhaps inciting violence.”
On December 6, under the headline “Trump, Israel, and the Art of the Giveaway,” the Times published an op-ed by Thomas Friedman attacking Trump’s decision. “He feels the need to keep feeding his base by fulfilling crude, ill-conceived promises he threw out to them during the campaign,” Friedman wrote. “Today, again, he put another one of those promises ahead of United States’ national interest.”
On December 7, the Times published a piece by an executive committee member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Hanan Ashrawi, headlined, “Trump Is Making a Huge Mistake on Jerusalem.” It claimed, “Mr. Trump is giving Israel a free hand to accelerate its policies of creeping annexation of the occupied Palestinian territories and its deliberate attempts to erase the Palestinians’ historical, political, cultural and demographic presence in historic Palestine.”
Also on December 7, the Times published a piece by a former Obama administration official, Steven Simon. That article criticized what it called Trump’s “ill-timed plan to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Such recognition limited to West Jerusalem might make sense to clinch Israel’s buy-in at the endgame of a negotiation, but not at the very outset, when an ill-defined pledge will antagonize Palestinians and most likely inflame the Arab world.”
On December 8, Times columnist Roger Cohen announced what he described as a “more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger reaction to Trump’s announcement.”
On December 9, under the headline, “Our Dashed Hopes For Jerusalem,” the Times published a piece by Raja Shehadeh, the author of “Where the Line Is Drawn: A Tale of Crossings, Friendships and Fifty Years of Occupation in Israel-Palestine.” Shehadeh described “feeling dismayed that Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was made with no consideration of the discrimination and underdevelopment of the past 50 years designed to drive Palestinians out of the city. The United States not only has confirmed its bias in favor of Israel but also has given approval to the kind of relations between Israel and Palestine that cannot possibly be the basis for peace and coexistence.”
Against those six articles — more than one a day — the Times deemed fit to print only two on the other side of the issue. One was by Bret Stephens, and the other was by Shmuel Rosner. They were both fine, but pro-Israel Times readers have a right to wonder — where are the other four pieces in favor of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital that the newspaper would have to print to achieve even a 50-50 balance on the issue? Without them, the newspaper looks as if it’s trying to serve an audience that denies Israel’s capital, and as if it is using Stephens and Rosner to cloak its anti-Israel coverage with a veneer of respectability. I suppose six to two is modestly better than the seven to two tilt on the Iran deal, at least until or unless the Times chooses to publish one more anti-Israel piece on Jerusalem in addition to the six it already has published. Some improvement.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.