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April 20, 2018 10:29 am

Not Fit To Print? New York Times Ignores Adelsons’ $70 Million Birthright Gift

avatar by Ira Stoll

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

Behold, a selection of recent philanthropic news from The New York Times, which covered, with articles by its own staff or freelancers, the following gifts:

  • Just under $10 million” to a Seattle public radio station, KEXP, “from an anonymous donor known as Suzanne.”
  • $50 million for the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, including $20 million to the UCLA-based art museum from the television producer Marcy Carsey and $30 million from Lynda and Stewart Resnick.
  • 10 million Canadian dollars, or about $7.8 million,” to The Stratford Festival, a theater festival in Ontario, Canada. New York Times headline: “Stratford Festival Gets Record Donation.”
  • $500,000 each from George Clooney, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, and Jeffrey Katzenberg toward a national protest against gun violence.

What donation is missing from the list?

You wouldn’t know about it by reading The New York Times, but Sheldon and Miriam Adelson this week announced a $70 million gift to Birthright Israel in honor of Israel’s 70th birthday. The money will fund trips to Israel for young Jews who haven’t been there previously on organized trips.

The Algemeiner had the story.

Amanda Gordon of Bloomberg News also had the story, noting that the gift brings the total the Adelsons have given to Birthright to $410 million.

And the Times, for its part, had nothing about it. No news story. Not even a brief or an online-only wire-service squib about the gift, at least so far as I can tell.

The New York Times news columns are constantly, and falsely, predicting that American Jewish donors are going to cut off Israel out of their supposed anger at the policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Philanthropists in the diaspora threatened to cut off their aid to Israel,” New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger reported breathlessly back in October 2017. “Netanyahu Tactics Anger Many U.S. Jews, Deepening a Divide,” was a headline that ran over a Times news article in March 2015 but one that the Times seems to keep on file and trot out periodically in a way that seems to relate more to the fantasies of the newspaper’s editors than to any underlying objective reality.

Yet when the prediction or threat of division turns out to be false, as evidenced by the tremendous success of and support for Birthright, the Times suppresses the news, imposing a kind of censorship when it comes to positive stories about relations between American Jews and Israel. Even though the Adelsons’ gift to Birthright is seven or ten or 40 or nearly 100 times larger, in financial terms, than other donations that the Times has judged to be newsworthy, the Times apparently doesn’t consider this particular gift to be news that is fit to print.

I should disclose here that from mid-2016 to mid-2017 I wrote a weekly column for the Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper, which is owned by the Adelson family. That paper still occasionally (more rarely than I’d ideally prefer, but more often than never) picks up a column of mine and publishes it.

It may be for the best that the Times has ignored this gift, since when it does write about the Adelsons or Israel it usually does so with a negative spin. But for a newspaper that purports to cover philanthropy and the US-Israel relationship to ignore this news nonetheless seems like a substantial lapse.

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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