A BDS Defeat The New York Times Found Not Fit to Print
Some of the most telling stories are the ones The New York Times doesn’t print.
In that category falls the recent decision of a section of the American Political Science Association to reject a resolution calling for a boycott of Israel.
Miriam Elman, a political scientist on leave from Syracuse University who is the executive director of the Academic Engagement Network, which opposes boycotts of Israel, wrote a Facebook post reporting, “The proponents of a discriminatory anti-Israel academic boycott resolution (and its accompanying obnoxious FAQ) experienced a colossal defeat.”
She wrote, “This spectacular fail needs to be advertised WIDELY, as we all know that BDS zealots will either try to bury it or spin this as some kind of remarkable victory”
“Bury it” was precisely the approach The New York Times took to the news.
A lengthy Times examination in July of the movement to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel reported, “The idea has significant support, and may be gaining ground” and noted “votes by two faculty groups last year — the Association for Asian American Studies and the larger American Studies Association — for limited boycotts of Israeli academia.”
While Times readers were informed of the votes for boycotting Israel by two faculty groups, the subsequent decision by the political scientists not to boycott Israel was not reported by the Times.
There’s a structural bias to journalism encapsulated in the old newsroom saying, “write about the hotel that’s burning down, not the hotel that didn’t burn down.” So to some degree the decision by Times editors to emphasize the boycott votes that pass rather than the ones that fail may be driven by a general desire to focus on news that does happen rather than news that doesn’t happen.
But that’s the most generous possible face to put on what operates functionally as an anti-Israel bias. It’s hard to imagine the Times would have skipped the American Political Science Association story entirely if the BDS resolution had succeeded. It ends up being a double standard. It leaves Times readers a false impression that BDS “may be gaining ground,” when a more accurate impression is that it may be losing ground.
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.