‘All the News That’s Fit to Print in Gaza’
A former Israeli ambassador to the United States is faulting the New York Times for its coverage of the recent Arab assault on Israeli civilians.
“For the total Hamas narrative see The NY Times which writes that the ‘militants’ fired dozens of rockets at Israel in retaliation for an unprovoked Israeli raid on the Al-Aksa mosque. All the news that’s fit to print in Gaza,” remarked Michael Oren, who served as Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013.
The subsequent ambassador of Israel to the United States, Ron Dermer, is already on record describing the New York Times as “a cesspool of hostility towards Israel.”
Oren’s tweet drew strong agreement from some leading pro-Israel intellectuals. “The Western media’s complicity is not naïve—it’s diabolical,” commented Gil Troy, a history professor at McGill University. Troy is author of “The Zionist Ideas” and co-author, with Natan Sharansky, of “Never Alone.”
Eytan Sosnovich, a former State Department official, tweeted, “People talk about the cycle of violence. Maybe instead they should talk about the cycle of media enabling.”
There are so many flaws in the Times coverage that it’s difficult to know precisely where to begin. But even before the latest round of rockets began landing on Israeli cities, the Times was siding with the Arabs. A Times news article reported, “The unrest was long predicted to come to the boil on Monday, when far-right Israelis were scheduled to make a provocative march through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The march is an annual event to mark the capture of East Jerusalem during the Arab-Israeli war in 1967.”
Watch the provocative, far-left Times hurling pejorative descriptions—”provocative,” “far-right.” Did the Times survey the Jerusalem Day crowds about their political beliefs? The Times chooses to call it the “Arab-Israeli war,” not the Six Day War. And the Times conveniently omits that the march “through the Muslim Quarter” ends up at the Western Wall plaza, a place in the Jewish Quarter that is normally frequented by Jews. The Jerusalem Day holiday might be better described as marking the reunification of Jerusalem, not, as the Times tendentiously puts it, “the capture of East Jerusalem.”
I was in Jerusalem on Jerusalem Day a few years ago and it reminded me of the Israel Day Parade in New York City—a lot of flag-waving students, hardly the far-right provocation described by the Times.
The Times coverage lacks both regional and historic context.
As regional context, the newspaper ignores that both Iran and Turkey are pushing the violence as a way to drive a wedge between Israel and the United States, and to distract the Iranian and Turkish populations — a point made by David Wurmser in a perceptive analysis published by the Center for Security Policy.
And as historical context, a Times sidebar headlined “Why Jerusalem’s Aqsa Mosque Is an Arab-Israeli Fuse” offers three cherry-picked examples of previous violence related to the Temple Mount:
In 1990, for example, deadly riots exploded after a group of Jewish extremists sought to lay a cornerstone for a temple to replace the two destroyed in ancient times. The violence led to widespread condemnation of Israel, including by the United States.
In 2000, a visit to the site to assert Jewish claims there, led by the right-wing Israeli politician Ariel Sharon — then Israel’s opposition leader — was the catalyst for an explosive bout of Israeli-Palestinian violence that led to the Palestinian uprising known as the second Intifada.
In 2017, a crisis erupted after three Arab-Israeli citizens at the compound shot and killed two Israeli Druze police officers. That led the Israeli authorities to restrict access to the site and install metal detectors and cameras.
The idea that Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount caused the second Intifada is laughably false. As documented at Myths & Facts Online, the Palestinians had planned the second Intifada before Sharon’s visit.
Left out of the Times’ three carefully selected examples are the numerous instances of Arabs throwing rocks from the Temple Mount at Jewish worshipers in the Western Wall plaza below. A 2016 Ha’aretz account was headlined “Palestinians Stone Western Wall Worshippers.” The article began, “Palestinians threw rocks at Jewish worshippers at the Western Wall on Tuesday, striking a woman of 73 in the head.” A New York Times news article from 2010 began, “The Israeli police and Palestinian youths clashed at a Jerusalem holy site on Friday after the youths threw stones at Jewish worshipers, according to the police.” A 2001 Times news article began, “Jerusalem and its sacred places returned to the center of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today when Palestinians on an elevated Muslim compound hurled stones at Jews praying below, provoking a battle with the Israeli police. Hundreds of Israeli officers in riot gear rushed into the Aksa compound after a barrage of rocks, some quite large, sent Jewish worshipers fleeing from the Western Wall.” The report went on, “a shower of stones on worshiping Jews, thrown by young Muslims above. Women cried out in fear and ran, covering their heads with chairs or prayer books. In a separate section of the wall, men held prayer shawls above their heads to ward off the stones.”
As usual, the comments sections on the Times news articles are taken over by hordes of anti-Israel Times readers whose subscription money pays the salary of the Times journalists. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle—the anti-Israel coverage attracts the anti-Israel paying customers, who the Times journalists then feel compelled to serve with anti-Israel coverage.
One comment, with more than 1,000 “recommend” upvotes, said, “Israeli soldiers attack UNARMED worshipers, men and women, at one of the holiest sites in the world during worship? Israeli soldiers forcibly evict families from their homes? Every time I hear news from Israel it gets unbelievably worse. This is unfathomable. The U.S. must stop funding these atrocities.” Never mind that the “UNARMED” worshipers were actually stockpiling rocks to rain down on the Western Wall plaza, or that they were allied with rocket-launching Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who aren’t exactly Park Slope progressives on matters such as women’s rights or gay rights, or that the evictions, for nonpayment of rent, were halted by an Israeli court.
The Times commenters are following the lead of the Times news articles, and vice versa. Perhaps attracting paying readers in Gaza is part of the Times’ international revenue growth strategy. I guess it’s marginally better if the European or Iranian foreign aid money is funneled to New York Times subscriptions than spent on rockets aimed toward Israel, though the effects of both are similarly damaging toward the security of Israeli civilians.
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.