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December 23, 2020 1:54 pm

Latest New York Times Rant About ‘Israeli Settler Colonialism’ Is Seen as Sign of ‘Mental Breakdown’

avatar by Ira Stoll


A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

A professor at the University of Southern California and Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist is out with a 2,000-word essay in The New York Times exhorting his fellow writers to “denounce Israeli settler colonialism and speak out for the Palestinian people.”

The seemingly innocuous headline, “The Post-Trump Future of Literature,” is paired with a subheadline that asks “What will writers do when the outrage is over? Will they go back to writing about flowers and moons?”

The author, Viet Thanh Nguyen, a Times “contributing opinion writer,” expresses hope that poets and novelists will tackle the topic of the Palestinians, rather than “flowers and moons.”

“What will 2021 bring forth from the literary world? Nguyen asks. He answers: “Hopefully more poems like Noor Hindi’s 2020 clarion call ‘Fuck Your Lecture on Craft, My People Are Dying,’ which simultaneously attacks M.F.A. culture and crosses the brightest red line in American politics: Palestine.”

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Nguyen falsely writes, “The only Americans — many of Palestinian descent — getting canceled by being fired, denied tenure or threatened with lawsuits are the ones who denounce Israeli settler colonialism and speak out for the Palestinian people.” Actually, at The New York Times opinion page, it’s the Zionists who are getting canceled, and the anti-Zionists who are getting promoted.

A list of canceled people with stories that do not include denouncing Israel is easily available.

Writer Jesse Singal asked about the “only Americans…getting canceled” claim, “How does a sentence like this that is just completely, obviously false, and which is debunkable with about two seconds of Googling, get published in the Times?”

Good question. Maybe because the opinion section editors who would have red-flagged it in the past have all been forced out as part of the Stalin-style ideological purges underway during the A.G. Sulzberger regime at the paper?

The Nguyen article claims, “The United States, as a settler colonial society that disavows its settler colonial origins and present, sees a like-minded ally in Israel.” That’s also false. The “colonial” powers in the land that is now Israel included the Ottoman Empire and the British; Jews have lived there for thousands of years, as recorded in the Bible.

Even one of Nguyen’s own New York Times colleagues issued a Tweet with a link to the Nguyen piece and a comment that suggested the Times article was crazy. “A good rule for individuals or societies is: if you start imagining that your mythic antagonists are Jews, you’re having a mental breakdown,” tweeted Matti Friedman, who, like Nguyen, is a Times contributing opinion writer, though who knows for how much longer given the way things are headed at that paper.

The Nguyen article fits a recent pattern of Times opinion coverage falsely suggesting that pro-Palestinian or anti-Israel speech is taboo and that contemporary Israel resembles apartheid-era South Africa. The repetitiveness of the theme at The New York Times undercuts the veracity of the claim. If these claims are so unspeakable, how is it that they appear in the Times so frequently? Their shock value diminishes like the profanity in the title of Noor’s poem.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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