The Shame of The New York Times
Criticizing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s “vile words” in his address to the Palestinian National Council, The New York Times‘ editorial brigade seemed (finally) to have grasped Palestinian reality. Citing Abbas’ “reprehensible anti-Semitic myths and conspiracy theories,” it concluded what Israelis long ago learned: Abbas has “shed all credibility as a trustworthy partner” in peace negotiations.
For a newspaper long opposed to the very idea of a Jewish state, buried the Holocaust in its inside pages, and has incessantly blamed Israel for failed peace negotiations with Palestinians, it was a welcome change. It finally recognized that Abbas’s antisemitic “tendencies are not new,” even citing his doctoral dissertation that “seemed to question” (i.e. denied) the Nazi extermination of six million Jews.
That said, however, the editorial glided into conventional Times mode. First there was a reference to “Israel’s hard-line government,” which has “expanded settlement building” — a familiar Times lament. Then it cited “pressures” on Abbas, “some of his own making and many others caused by Israel,” that presumably make governing difficult for the Palestinian president, now in the 13th year of his four-year term. But at least it reached the appropriate conclusion: “It is time for him to leave office.”
If the (belated) Times editorial criticism of Abbas surely is deserved, its coverage of the Hamas-inspired weekly violence on Israel’s border with Gaza has been woefully myopic. It has converted violent Palestinian protesters trying to breach the border fence, directing the stench and smoke of burning tires into Israel, and flying kites with flaming torches across the border into victims of Israeli military aggression.
Relying primarily on Gaza-based reporters to provide details of the toll exacted by Israeli soldiers fighting the violence ignited by Hamas, the Times has completely ignored the consequences of Hamas aggression for residents of kibbutz Nahal Oz, 800 meters to the east. Their fields have been burned by kites bearing flaming torches (and swastikas) and their air polluted by the smoke. None of this has been considered news fit to print.
A frightening glimpse of the consequences of Hamas violence was provided by Avner Yona, a Nahal Oz farmer, writing in Israel Hayom. “We, the farmers in the Gaza periphery, are helpless,” he writes. “It pains my heart to see a field on fire after we worked day and night to sow it. … I see crops burning before they can be harvested, and my heart burns along with them.” He adds, “I can’t keep a tractor on standby every day and wait until we see kites in the air so we can start putting out the fires when they land. I’m not a firefighter. I’m a farmer.”
Yona describes his helplessness, saying, “It’s truly a terrible feeling. … My plot was burned up and the army is standing there, not doing anything. What can it do? By the time they called in a fire truck, the field burned.” He laments, “The fire spread to the jojoba we planted five years ago and have been waiting to bear fruit. Now a lot of my plants are gone and I don’t have the words to describe what I feel. Everything is burned.”
Nor, Yona writes, is Hamas-induced hardship new to Nahal Oz residents. “It’s always something else: tunnels, bombs, snipers, and now the terrorists are using kites. We have to tell the truth. The Palestinians don’t want us in this country [Israel] and don’t recognize our existence. They don’t care that they are sacrificing people.”
To date The New York Times has not devoted even miniscule coverage to the impact of Hamas cross-border aggression on Israeli civilians nearby. So it was four years ago, when four-year-old Daniel Tragerman, who knew to race to the protected room in his Nahal Oz home when he heard air raid sirens, failed to get there in time and was killed by a mortar shell fired by Hamas from Gaza. “His pure small life,” wrote David Horovitz in The Times of Israel, was “extinguished by pure evil.” The New York Times barely noticed.
“All the News That’s Fit to Print,” the Times motto ever since Adolph Ochs purchased the newspaper in 1896, once again seems to mean all the news that fits its criticism of Israel and indifference to the suffering of its people inflicted by those who seek to destroy it.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016, to be published this summer by Academic Studies Press.