New York Times Demonstrates Why Yair Netanyahu Is Justifiably Angry
Adjectives and adverbs as a vehicle used by The New York Times to slip bias into news articles have been a long running theme here. So have double standards by which the Times holds Israel, or Jews, to a different standard than it applies to other countries, religions, or peoples.
Today’s column is two-for-the-price of one — a combination deal, featuring both adjectives and a double standard.
The offense comes in a news article by the Times Jerusalem bureau chief, David Halbfinger, about a report that the Times article says was published “by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group.” Leave aside why the Times describes B’Tselem as a “human rights group” rather than as an advocacy group, a description that would be equally accurate. What gets me is the description of B’Tselem as “Israeli,” when actually, as NGO Monitor has meticulously documented, the group is largely funded by foreign donors, including governments of European governments that can’t even keep the Jewish populations safe in their own countries.
I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed this, except that the article about the B’Tselem report appears alongside a Times news article about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son Yair. That article reports: “The latest controversy seems to have begun on Dec. 10, when Yair Netanyahu appeared in court to testify in a libel case he filed against a social activist who he says wrote false information about him on Facebook, and was heckled by protesters. Later that day, he wrote another provocative post on Facebook, calling all left-wing nonprofits ‘funded by foreign and hostile governments,’ politicians on the left and the liberal media ‘traitors.’”
Instead of citing this news as an example of how “provocative” and “toxic” and “angry” — there the Times goes again with the adjectives — Yair Netanyahu supposedly is, the Times might have done better to check it out. At least in the case of B’Tselem, it actually is funded by foreign governments, some of which are certainly hostile to Israeli interests as those interests are defined by its elected government.
Which brings us to the double standard. Foreign interference in Israeli politics and policy via funding B’Tselem is deemed by the Times as unworthy of mention in a Times news article except as evidence of how “provocative,” “toxic” and “angry” anyone who mentions it must certainly be. Yet the very same issue of The New York Times that takes this approach to Israeli politics also features, atop page one, the headline “Russian Election Effort Focused on Influencing African-American Vote,” and, at the bottom of page one, a news article reporting, “Two former business associates of Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, have been indicted as part of a federal investigation into Turkey’s secret 2016 lobbying campaign to pressure the United States to expel a rival of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.”
Got that? When Russia or Turkey try to influence American politics, The New York Times considers it a front-page scandal. But when the European Union, France, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands try to influence Israeli politics by funding advocacy groups, The New York Times studiously ignores it in reporting on the activity of the advocacy groups, while depicting anyone who does talk about it as “provocative,” “toxic,” and “angry.”
Anger, in this case, may actually be a rational reaction of any reader who is following the Times coverage and our criticism of it.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.