New York Times Bares Its Bias in Peace Plan Coverage
President Trump’s new peace plan and meetings this week with Israeli politicians are turning into a fresh opportunity for The New York Times to display its bias.
The latest wave of Times problems began with a preview article by Mark Landler that carried a London dateline.
The Times article declares that Trump’s decision to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem “drove away the Palestinians, who cut off contact with the White House, and doomed the White House’s efforts to build Arab support for its plan.”
The logical flaw there is that the three previous presidential administrations — Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama — all failed to consummate a final Arab-Israeli peace agreement, notwithstanding the noncompliance by these administrations with the 1995 US law recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and requiring the embassy move. Maybe the effort was doomed anyway, regardless of what happened or did not happen with the embassy. The Times doesn’t consider that possibility, instead blaming Trump’s embassy move for Trump’s failure to achieve so far a goal that eluded the three preceding presidents.
The Times preview article is also inaccurately dismissive of Trump administration efforts to advance Palestinian prosperity. The Times writes that White House aide and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner “followed up with a two-day workshop in Bahrain, which was boycotted by the Palestinians.” Actually, the Times reported last year that “about a dozen Palestinians” defied the so-called boycott.
After Trump met with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss the plan, the Times published another news article quoting exactly one American advocacy organization — J Street. The Times news article concludes with three paragraphs of spin from what the Times describes as “Jeremy Ben-Ami, the president of the liberal advocacy group J Street.”
No other advocacy organizations are quoted — not the much larger American Israel Public Affairs Committee, no Christian Zionist organizations, not a representative of an umbrella group such as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Those larger organizations are ignored by the Times. For the purpose of New York Times news coverage, in this article at least, the American Jewish community speaks with a single voice, and that voice is Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street. The effect is to give Times readers a misleading view of reaction to the plan. (The article did also quote Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, but the Washington Institute is an analysis think tank, not an advocacy organization.)
One hopes that as the Times continues to cover this topic it will increase the diversity of sources it draws on. The newspaper’s previous track record doesn’t give much encouragement on that front, but on the other hand, the Times does have a habit of subtly responding to criticism. I don’t expect the Times to stop quoting Ben-Ami, who is certainly quotable. But maybe the next article that quotes Ben-Ami will also include, to provide at least the illusion of balance, a quote from a less left-leaning Jewish leader. Even Trump invited both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz to the White House. The least the Times editors could do would be to find another Jewish organizational advocacy voice to pair with that of Ben-Ami.
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.