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October 20, 2019 2:04 am

New York Times Readers Offer Vicious Responses to Articles by Israelis

avatar by Ira Stoll


The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

In at least two recent cases, articles in The New York Times by Israeli authors were greeted by responses from Times readers who insisted that a Jewish state should not exist.

The Times published a page of letters to the editor in response to my former Forward colleague Hillel Halkin’s review of Bari Weiss’s book about antisemitism. One of the letters comes from Wayne Price of the Bronx, who insists, “There should be no Jewish state, no Christian state, no Muslim state, no Hindu state, and not even an officially atheist state. If such a view leads to a rejection of Zionism, then so be it. Democratic anti-Zionism is not antisemitic.”

Why the Times considers this view worthy of print publication is a mystery to me, particularly because while no one is working to wipe Vatican City or Saudi Arabia off the map, the Jews of Israel are regularly the target of eliminationist rhetoric from a nation with a nuclear weapons program. Because Jews are not only members of a religion but also of a people, the letter-writer’s sentence is like saying there should be no French state, no Greek state, no Italian state. Mr. Price doesn’t explain how he’d assure the physical safety of Jews in the absence of a Jewish state. The historical record on that front isn’t exactly encouraging.

The Times also published 262 online comments in response to an op-ed by Micah Goodman, the Israeli author, teacher, and institution-builder.

One of the comments, which Times comment moderators awarded with a gold medal “Times Pick,” says:

Here is an solution for an honest and just peace: 1. Israel should return to its LEGAL 1948 borders and forbid any non-Palestinian immigration with immediate effect. 2. Pay all expenses necessary to resettle Palestinians in their historic homeland, Palestine, now occupied by Zionists and branded as Israel. 3. Use the epic fundraising apparatus which has fed the malignant growth of Judeo-fascistic Zionism to pay Palestinians compensation and punitive damages for all Zionist activity in Palestine. Existing housing and infrastructure, in as new condition, in all occupied lands and within the 1948 borders would be a partial payment. 4. Upon return of displaced Palestinians, a constitutional convention must be convened to write a constitution allowing Palestinians the right of self-determination. 5. Ratify the constitution with a plebiscite where Palestinians worldwide and Israelis living within the 1948 borders will determine the future of the currently named State of Israel. Straightforward. The United States is adept at regime change. Maybe that skill and capability could once be used for good.

Two other gold-medal “Times Pick” comments on the same article are also nasty. One says, “You have a state that recognizes the rights of just one of the communities and suppresses the rights of the others. Call it racism, call it apartheid, call it naughty-naughty, call it ‘necessary’, call it Zionism, call it ‘Jewish liberation,’ call it whatever. Until the discrimination ends, until democracy (where EVERY adult between the river and the sea has an equal vote), there will be no peace.” Another insists, “If they do nothing, Israel will soon turn into South Africa.”

It’s great to see the Times publishing articles by brilliant Israeli writers such as Halkin and Goodman. I suppose the fact that the articles provoke a furious reaction is one sign that they have touched a nerve. The challenge for the Times is how to run a newspaper that accurately reflects the range of debate without turning itself into an amplifier of fringe or hateful viewpoints or of totally baseless slurs. Should the price of publishing in The New York Times, as an Israeli, be that the newspaper is going to also publish responses that call for destroying your home country and that libel its existence is racist, malignant, or fascist? No. Yet that, unfortunately, seems to be the current Times approach.

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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