Latest New York Times Assault on Israel’s Nation-State Law Revives ‘Zionism Is Racism’ Smear
Having already published two front-page stories (one, two) and an op-ed criticizing Israel for having passed a law defining itself as the national home of the Jewish people, The New York Times is now piling on with yet another critical opinion piece.
Never mind the lopsidedness; what grates here as much as anything else is the inaccuracy.
The latest Times article is by Sayed Kashua. He is identified by the Times as “a writer and a Palestinian citizen of Israel.” Kashua quotes himself explaining to his son, “According to Israeli law, in order to be Jewish you have to have a Jewish mother.”
That’s not accurate. People without Jewish mothers are free to take the same route as Abraham and Ruth, and to become Jewish by conversion. This is somewhat analogous, if not precisely the same, to how people without American parents may become American citizens through the process of naturalization.
The Times op-ed accuses Zionism of equaling “racism.” It says:
When Israel was founded on the ruins of the Palestinian people in 1948, it was defined as a Jewish state. The Israeli flag was always a Jewish one, bearing a Star of David; the national anthem invokes the “Jewish soul,” excluding anyone who is not Jewish from these national symbols. The Palestinians who became Israeli citizens when the state was founded — like my family — have always been viewed as an undesirable demographic burden and subjected to discrimination.
So what does the issuance of the Nationality Law change? In essence, perhaps not that much. It has turned de facto racism into de jure racism.
Actually, “racism” has nothing to do with this at all. Back in 1991, when the United Nations repealed its “Zionism Is Racism” resolution, The New York Times issued an editorial saying:
The United Nations hardly deserves applause for waiting 16 years to rescind a disgraceful declaration that should never have been adopted. …
Full credit goes to President Bush for mobilizing the effort to repudiate a resolution he rightly condemns as twisting history by equating Zionism “with the intolerable sin of racism.” The hurtful subtext of Resolution 3379 is that Jews are racists because they are Zionists — part of a political movement that has sought the same national rights claimed by other stateless peoples. It reeks of anti-Semitism to suggest that survivors of the Holocaust are to be condemned for establishing a haven in the only state in which Jews form the majority.
Now the Times op-ed page is propagating the same “Zionism Is Racism” line that the Times editorialists back in 1991 accurately described as a “smear.” If, as even the Times itself conceded, it reeked of antisemitism in a Soviet-hatched UN resolution, does it smell any less foul when published on the Times op-ed page?
The Kashua op-ed claims, “The Nationality Law prevents the possibility of multiculturalism in Israel.” That’s nonsense. Israelis come from Ethiopia, Yemen, Iraq, the former Soviet Union, France, Morocco, Eastern Europe, North America, and elsewhere. They bring food and music from places they once lived.
So far, at least, the Times has refrained from weighing in with a staff editorial institutionally condemning the Israeli nation-state law. If and when the newspaper does publish such an editorial, it will be interesting to see how, or whether, it attempts to reconcile it with the language from the 1991 editorial.
Ira Stoll is the author of JFK, Conservative. He was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.