Monday, May 27th | 19 Iyyar 5784

February 7, 2019 9:36 am

New York Times Food Section Joins the Boycott-Israel Movement

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avatar by Ira Stoll


The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times, which favors trade with Iran and Cuba, has recently been throwing its institutional weight behind the movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.

The newspaper published an official Times staff editorial critical of steps to counter the BDS movement. The Times news columns issued a command that readers “celebrate” the election of a BDS-supporting congresswoman. On the op-ed page, one regular columnist, Michelle Alexander, praised a church pension fund’s boycott of five Israeli banks as act of “moral clarity” in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. Another regular Times columnist, Michelle Goldberg, insisted, “Anti-Zionism Isn’t the Same as Anti-Semitism.” Goldberg defended the BDS movement — “a movement of nonviolent resistance,” she called it, ignoring that it operates in parallel and alongside violent terrorism — in a Times podcast.

Now even the Times food section is getting into the BDS act.

It started small, almost imperceptibly. The print Times began identifying its contributor Yotam Ottolenghi as a “British chef,” suppressing his Israeli heritage.

Then, on January 23, 2019, the Times published an article with a recipe for what the newspaper called “pearl couscous with creamy feta and chickpeas.”

Times readers in the comments noted that they were confused by the terminology; previous Times articles calling for that ingredient, like one in 2014 for “spicy couscous salad with tomatoes, green beans, and peppers,” hadn’t been afraid to refer to “Pearl couscous, also called Israeli couscous.” As recently as October 2018, the Times had written, “Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli or giant couscous.”

I thought of writing about that change, but I held back, figuring I might be viewed as overly sensitive to minor slights of the Jewish state. I asked the recipe author, Melissa Clark, what to make of the shift in terminology, but she didn’t respond to the query I sent via her website.

This week, though, the Times food section crossed the line, dispelling any remaining doubt about where its heart lies. It published an adoring feature, beginning on the section front and continuing to a full page inside the section, about Yasmin Khan. The article is headlined, “A Writer Describes Palestinian Cuisine, and the World Around It.”

The Times article reports, “Ms. Khan fell in love with Palestinian food when she first found herself in the West Bank 10 years ago, in her past life working in human rights with War on Want, a British charity committed to anti-poverty initiatives. (Ms. Khan left the group in 2011. In 2018, it was one of 20 organizations Israel blacklisted because of its support of an economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.)”

That’s an unhelpful and tendentious Times passage. War on Want’s “anti-poverty initiative” was to boycott the Jewish state, which it conspiratorially and inaccurately held entirely at fault for the poverty of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza. The Times doesn’t ask or say whether Khan still favors a boycott of Israel, though it does allow that she “made a point not to quote Israeli sources in the book.” The Times misleadingly makes it sound as if War on Want’s BDS activities only became an issue long after Khan left the organization. In fact, though, Khan’s role at the organization while she worked there involved advocating for a boycott of Israel. In a 2009 video, Khan is seen speaking at a public event about “the crimes of Israel against the Palestinian people” and telling an audience, “I want you all to get involved in the BDS movement.” Describing War on Want as a “human rights group” is naïve, since it appears to have no regard for the rights of the Israelis it is boycotting. It might be more accurate to describe the organization as an anti-Israel hate group.

If one is wondering what Khan has been up to since leaving War on Want, one answer may be seen in this video in which she provides propaganda on behalf of the terror-sponsoring, dissident-jailing government of Iran. “There ain’t no chance of going hungry walking around Tehran, and on every street corner, I spot tasty delights, like saffron pastries, stuffed vine leaves, and my personal favorite, succulent lamb kebabs,” Khan reports, before moving from the street to a kitchen. There, bare-armed in a sleeveless dress, she asks a guest such laughably non-hard-hitting questions as “What do you love about Tehran?” Her guest replies, apparently without irony in the capital of a country rated “not free” by Freedom House, “We have the freedom.”

She’s also been active on Twitter, retweeting some of the nastiest anti-Israel libels.

This apologist for Iran and advocate of boycotting Israel is rewarded by the Times not only with an admiring long article in this week’s food section, but even, and also, with another item in last week’s Times food section promoting her book.

It’s just the latest in a series of recent developments at the Times that has the paper moving in an extreme anti-Israel direction — a troubling trend that now appears to have spread even to the food section.

Ira Stoll 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.

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