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February 28, 2018 10:37 am

Article by Israeli Prompted ‘Big Argument’ Inside New York Times, Editor Says

avatar by Ira Stoll

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

A New York Times op-ed piece by a spokesman for the Jewish community of Hebron was published over the objections of some Times staffers who thought it qualified as “hate speech” for “denying personhood to the Palestinians.”

That’s according to a leaked transcript of a meeting the editor of the Times editorial page, James Bennet, had with Times employees.

In the transcript, published by the Huffington Post, Bennet was asked about matters “that shouldn’t even be debated.” The question came from a Times employee whose name wasn’t disclosed in the transcript, and who cited “climate change” as an example.

Bennet somehow pivoted from climate change to Israelis living in Hebron.

He said:

we had a big argument over a piece by a settler. And you know, pick your issue. For some people it’s climate change, for some people it’s trans rights, for others it’s a two-state solution and the fate of the Palestinians. In this case, it was the settler saying, look, the two-state solution is dead and [it’s] time to face reality, and here’s some alternative paths for what the future would look like. And we had a real debate about whether this piece was crossing a line, because was it denying personhood to the Palestinians? Was it an act of, kind of, hate speech in a sense?

I felt strongly that we should publish the piece and we did, as did others. Because this particular viewpoint is hugely consequential. It actually is creating reality on the ground. To pretend that somehow we would be — either to think that we were legitimating that point of view by having it in our pages or to tell ourselves that we were somehow changing the reality by not allowing it into our pages seems to me to be deluded a little bit. And our readers need to hear it, like, unmediated, I think. They need to confront these arguments. And we published that piece, and we faced that.

The article, by Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesman of the Jewish Community of Hebron, appeared in the February 15, 2017 Times under the headline “A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future.”

It was greeted with derision by the Times’ army of anti-Israel readers and commenters. The Times awarded a gold ribbon and “NYT Pick” distinction to one reader comment, from “Michael” in Colorado, that asserted, “The only just one state solution is the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza become citizens of Israel. They should have full voting rights. Anything else is apartheid. … The Jewish Supremacist of Israel are no different than the White Supremacist of South Africa or the White Supremacist who voted for Trump.” That comment won “thumbs up” recommendations from 57 Times readers.

Another “NYT Pick” gold ribbon went to a comment by Michael Seymour of Berlin, who wrote, “the Zionists want to hang on to their privileged position at the expense of the Palestinians. So long as they continue do this they can never be considered democratic and the state of Israel must be considered what it truly is: an apartheid state.” That comment won “thumbs up” recommendations from 46 Times readers.

Two Zionist journalists hired in 2017 by Bennet from The Wall Street Journal, columnist Bret Stephens and editor and writer Bari Weiss, have been the targets of a hostile campaign by their Times colleagues and by outside pressure groups. The Bennet meeting, the leak of the transcript, and its publication by the Huffington Post all can best be understood in the context of that campaign.

It’s kind of funny that while the Times has published eight — eight! — op-ed pieces by Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of the terror-sponsoring, Holocaust denying, political-prisoner executing, Jew-killing, woman-oppressing government of Iran, the piece that really prompts a “big argument” inside the Times about whether it is beyond the pale is the one from some Israeli living in Hebron.

I mean, it’s not really that funny, but as professors Ruth Wisse or Jeremy Dauber can explain, one way Jews have coped with oppressive discrimination over the years is by finding a way to laugh about it. You’d maybe hope that the same techniques for self-preservation that Eastern European Jews used to face down the Cossacks might not be needed again to deal with the “woke” editorial staffers of The New York Times who are commuting to work from Brooklyn or Montclair, N.J., or Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Alas, no such progress.

At least, to Bennet’s credit, and to look at the bright side, the settler spokesman’s piece was published. He only has seven more articles yet to go before he reaches parity with Zarif.

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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