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March 4, 2019 9:14 am

New York Times Op-Ed Writer Faults Paper’s Israel News Coverage

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

How bad is New York Times coverage of Israel?

So bad that not even one of the newspaper’s contributing opinion writers appears to believe it.

For the second time this year, New York Times “contributing opinion writer” Matti Friedman has used the Times‘ own op-ed pages to not-so-subtly throw shade on the Times news coverage of Israel. “Contributing opinion writer” is a lofty title the Times uses for people who aren’t quite weekly columnists but are nonetheless frequent and formally affiliated op-ed writers for the paper.

The last time Friedman made this move was back in January, when he wrote a column basically endorsing a criticism I had made of a big investigative project by the Times that accused Israel of “possibly a war crime.”

Friedman made essentially the same move in Sunday’s Times, with a column criticizing the idea that the West Bank settlers are to blame for all of Israel’s problems. That theory had been advanced by New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief David Halbfinger, whose byline was also atop the “possibly a war crime” investigation.

Halbfinger had concluded a Times article on relations between Israel and Poland by quoting someone bemoaning that Prime Minister Netanyahu is “beholden to the settlers.” The article concluded:

While Mr. Netanyahu’s challengers in the coming election were quick to seize on his latest troubles, other critics took a longer view, saying they regretted his inability to curtail what antagonizes the European Union most about Israel: its steady expansion of settlements on the West Bank.

“If he were less beholden to the settlers,” said Einat Wilf, a former Israeli lawmaker from the Labor Party, “maybe he could get a few countries on our side that are not looking to be paid for in glossing over their World War II records.”

I wrote an Algemeiner column critical of that take.

Now, again, Friedman has weighed in. He writes, “The dominance of the political right in recent years comes far less from the settler movement, as foreign observers tend to think, than from the collective memory of Israelis who remember how vulnerable they were as a minority among Muslims and grasp what this part of the world does to the weak.”

“Foreign observers” is a polite way of Friedman to describe the New York Times Jerusalem bureau and its editors.

Friedman’s 2014 Tablet essay on “how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters” is a classic of the genre. It’s great to see him taking on The New York Times in the newspaper’s own pages. At some point, though, someone may begin to wonder if it’d be more efficient for the Times to get this stuff correct in the first place, rather than taking the more convoluted approach of running misguided news articles and then hiring a “contributing opinion writer” to explain to readers why the news articles are wrong.

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.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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