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January 21, 2021 6:30 am

New York Times Bashes Pompeo for Pro-Israel Moves

avatar by Ira Stoll


The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times whined about President Trump’s pro-Israel foreign policy right up to just about the final moments of the administration.

An article in the January 19 Times took aim at Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. “As he leaves office, Mr. Pompeo, 57, has been tagged by a number of officials and analysts with the dubious distinction of the worst secretary of state in American history,” the article said, without specifying which officials or analysts are making the absurd claim.

Even the superlatives have lost a certain power. In 2017, the Times quoted Eliot Cohen describing Rex Tillerson, Pompeo’s predecessor, as “the worst secretary of state in our history.” A 2016 Times article quoted an Israeli settler official, Oded Revivi, describing John Kerry as “the worst secretary of state in history.” These appellations say more about our lack of historical perspective and tendency toward hyperbole than about Pompeo, Tillerson, or Kerry.

What makes Pompeo so terrible to the Times? The news article says, “Mr. Pompeo has steadfastly supported Israel by defying internationally recognized norms, such as by moving the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and declaring Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights and the legitimacy of West Bank settlements. As an evangelical Christian — a group that makes up a key conservative political constituency — Mr. Pompeo has sometimes framed actions against Iran in religious terms linked to Israel and biblical prophecy.”

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What happened to the internationally recognized norms that a country has the ability to choose its own capital or that Jews may choose to live on land that the Bible says God promised them? If other countries apply antisemitic double standards to Israel, the Times calls them “internationally recognized norms.” And my goodness, a public official using religious terms! Where were the Times’ complaints when Vice President Al Gore, in Jerusalem in 1998, said, “I remember the prophecy of Ezekiel — that God would raise you up; that bone would join to bone, sinew to sinew, and that He would breathe life into your flesh and restore you to your land”? Where are the Times complaints about President Biden’s inaugural address, which quoted the Psalms: “as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning”?

The same Times news article reports, “The Abraham Accords were part of a pressure campaign to isolate Iran with sanctions and military threats that began after Mr. Trump withdrew from a landmark 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran in May 2018, just weeks after Mr. Pompeo moved to the State Department after serving as the CIA director.” What an Iran’s-eye view of the world — to see the Abraham Accords as an element of an anti-Iran pressure campaign rather than of a campaign to treat Israel with respect and not allow the Palestinian Arabs to stall progress toward peace.

Purely by coincidence, for sure, the news columns’ view of Pompeo align precisely with the view of Pompeo expressed in a Times staff editorial. That editorial said, “On Tuesday Mr. Pompeo declared that Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization behind the Sept. 11 attacks, had found a new home base in Iran. ‘They are partners in terrorism, partners in hate,’ he declared without offering any evidence. Current and former officials were quick to temper and even contradict the claim, which provided Mr. Pompeo with a pretext for further demonizing Iran, a leitmotif of the administration, and made any effort by Mr. Biden to resuscitate the Iran nuclear deal more difficult.”

Looking for “evidence”? The Times could examine its own front page, which reported in November 2020 that “Al Qaeda’s second-highest leader, accused of being one of the masterminds of the deadly 1998 attacks on American embassies in Africa, was killed in Iran. … American intelligence officials say that Mr. al-Masri had been in Iran’s ‘custody’ since 2003, but that he had been living freely in the Pasdaran district of Tehran, an upscale suburb, since at least 2015. … American counterterrorism officials believe Iran may have allowed them to stay to run operations against the United States, a common adversary.” When the Times reports this stuff, it’s a scoop, but when Pompeo does, the Times complains it is “demonizing” Iran “without offering any evidence.” How much more evidence do you need?

This is the treatment that the New York Times gives pro-Israel American foreign policy officials. They did the same thing to Nikki Haley, with an attack that even the Times itself eventually had to back down from as “unfair” and another attack that was also unfair even though the Times never conceded it. Politicians like Haley and Pompeo should treat these attacks like badges of honor. The Times would prefer they just went along and did what the permanent bureaucracy told them to do, failing to challenge anti-Israel policies — sorry, “international norms” — that have failed for decades to produce lasting peace.

The Times seems determined to cut the career of any Republican pro-Israel politician with any promise short with misguided smears. What about internationally recognized norms of journalistic quality, so long as we are on the topic of international norms? When it comes to pro-Israel politicians, the Times itself defies those norms.

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.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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