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July 22, 2018 11:51 am

New York Times Loses It Over Israel’s ‘Incendiary’ Nation-State Law

avatar by Ira Stoll

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Shoppers in Osher Ad Supermarket branch in Talpiot, Jerusalem, on Nov. 12, 2017. Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.

Of the many virtues of the Israeli parliament passing a law declaring Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, not least is the entertainment value of observing the New York Times in what I call full-fledged frothing freakout frenzy mode.

Actually, the front-page, above-the-fold, two-bylines plus a photograph treatment that the Times gave the story has not only entertainment value, but educational value. It’s an opportunity to observe the Times putting all of its worst biased techniques on display to attack Israel. Among those techniques:

  1. Adjectives and adverbs. The law’s passage itself is described by the Times as “incendiary,” as if it is the equivalent of the arson kites Hamas is sending over the Gaza border fence. A clause in a draft version in the law is described by the Times not merely as “divisive” but as “highly divisive.” The Times instinct for the superlative is almost Trump-like; the law’s passage is said by the Times to demonstrate “the ascendancy of ultranationalists in Israel’s government.” What is the difference between an “ultranationalist” and a mere nationalist, the Times doesn’t explain.
  2. Selective sourcing. The Times article quotes nine responses to the law: Benjamin Netanyahu, Ahmad Tibi, Yael German, Dan Yakir, Adalah, Amor Fuchs, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, Avi Shilon, and Shakeeb Shnaan. Of these, Netanyahu is the only one in favor of the law. Since the law passed the Israeli parliament by a 62-55 vote with two abstentions, the Times doesn’t come close to reflecting accurately the Israeli polity’s views of the matter.
  3. Lack of links. The Times online can’t be bothered to include a hyperlink to the actual text of the Nation-State law, or even a sidebar with the brief full text of it, perhaps because if it did readers who think independently might be able to read it for themselves and conclude it is basically a statement of the obvious, not worth getting worked up about. Here is such a link.
  4. Sweeping claims unsupported by facts. The Times claims:

    “Many North American Jews have grown increasingly alienated from Israel over the Netanyahu government’s hawkishness and coercion by the strictly Orthodox state religious authorities. They remain angry nearly a year after Mr. Netanyahu reneged on an agreement to improve pluralistic prayer arrangements at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, once a hallowed symbol of Jewish unity, and promoted a bill enshrining the Orthodox Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversions to Judaism in Israel.”

    The Times provides no evidence for these “many…increasingly alienated…remain angry” claims. In fact a 2017 American Jewish Committee poll found 72% of American Jews agreed that “caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew.” A 2018 poll found 70% agreed with that statement. If there are materially significant declines in American Jewish tourism to Israel or Israel-related philanthropy related to this supposed anger or alienation, they’ve gone largely unreported. Netanyahu’s critics sometimes claim these things, but such claims deserve to be subjected to the same sort of critical, evidence-based analysis that the Times purports to apply to the claims of “ultranationalist” politicians.

  1. Extreme comments. As usual in stories having to do with Israel, the reader comments section is a swamp, demonstrating the extreme anti-Israel audience that pays the Times reporters’ salaries. One “reader pick,” with “recommend” upvotes from 416 Times readers, describes Netanyahu’s leadership as “perverse.” Another, with 542 upvotes, advocates cutting all American aid to Israel: “It’s time Israel has to go it alone. I am disgusted that a people who were once the subject of persecution worldwide could so easily turn around to become the persecutor.” A comment describing the Israeli law as “racist” was awarded a “NYT Pick” gold medal by Times moderators.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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