New York Times Profile of Palestinian Diplomat Pushes Israel-Apartheid Theme
A New York Times “Saturday Profile” of the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations is the latest in a series of Times articles that links the Palestinian Arab cause to the struggle against racism, casting Israel in the role of the racist.
The ambassador, Riyad Mansour, marched “for civil rights” as a college student in Ohio and “once helped lead a demonstration at Kent State University against a speech by the Ku Klux Klan’s grand wizard, David Duke,” the Times reports in the third and fourth paragraphs of its profile.
The final two paragraphs of the Times article return to the anti-racism theme. “He called himself a ‘prisoner of hope,’ quoting a passage he had read recently by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the South African anti-apartheid leader,” the Times reports. The newspaper quoted Mansour as saying, “I like that line … and I’m using it more often now.”
The comparisons between the Palestinian Arab struggle against Israel and the struggle for black civil rights in the United States and in South Africa are inexact. They tend to obscure the realities of the situation rather than clarify it. They are shortcuts, appealing to those who would prefer to avoid the hard work of learning the history of the Middle East and who would prefer instead to jump to conclusions based on more familiar cases. If the comparisons do apply, the Israelis themselves have a reasonable claim that they are the blacks, victims of irrational bigoted discrimination and unjustified violent attacks.
The Mansour profile follows a series of seven other Times items this year sounding similar themes. Among them:
- A Michelle Alexander column timed to Martin Luther King Day that accused Israel of having “adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.”
- An April 2019 staff editorial that claimed, inaccurately, “Under Mr. Netanyahu, Israel is on a trajectory to become what critics say will be an apartheid state like the former South Africa — a country in which Palestinians will eventually be a majority, but without the rights of citizens.”
- A front-page Times news article in April 2019, which quoted a Palestinian: “Mr. Zakout has not given up. Perhaps the other side will awaken to what annexation would bring, he said: ‘Israel and the Israeli society should defend their future from the one-state solution — from apartheid.’”
- A letter to the editor the Times published, also in April 2019: “Israel will finally have to acknowledge to the world the apartheid state that has been creeping into existence for decades.”
- An op-ed piece the Times published in May by Saeb Erekat, who wrote, “If the Trump administration doesn’t want to talk about a two-state solution on the 1967 border or about one democratic state for everyone, what it is actually talking about is the consolidation of a ‘one-state reality’: one state, Israel, controlling everything while imposing two different systems, one for Israeli Jews and another for Palestinians. This is known as apartheid.” Erekat called for immediately recognizing a Palestinian state, contending, “The alternative would be to perpetuate Israel’s occupation and apartheid.”
- Matti Friedman, who had been a voice of sanity, wrote in June about Israel’s new interim justice minister, Amir Ohana, for the Times. Friedman said of Israel’s nation-state law, “The center-left opposition denounced it for undermining the status of minorities, downgrading the status of Arabic and displaying dangerous signs of ethnic chauvinism.” Friedman quoted one Israeli who said, “Ohana speaks in the name of liberal values but he actually promotes the politics of the most extreme religious right — annexing settlements, the nation-state law, breaking the power of the Supreme Court, aligning with open racists.”
- A front-page Times article about protests against Birthright Israel that concludes with an activist talking about how she and her friends “talk about racism, sexism and the occupation.”
Taken together, they represent an unmistakable effort to revive the Soviet-era lie that Zionism is racism.
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.