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May 25, 2021 2:04 pm
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Israel Is to Blame

avatar by Jerold Auerbach

Opinion

Torah scrolls, Jewish holy scriptures, are removed from a synagogue which was torched during violent confrontations in the city of Lod, Israel, between Israeli Arab demonstrators and police, amid high tensions over hostilities between Israel and Gaza militants and tensions in Jerusalem May 12, 2021. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Laceration of Israel is nothing new for The New York Times. Decades before Jewish statehood, criticism of Zionism was embedded in the newspaper purchased by Adolph Ochs in 1896, and embraced by his Sulzberger successors since the 1930s. In its most appalling dereliction of journalistic responsibility the Times virtually ignored the Nazi murder of six million Jews lest it be identified as a Jewish newspaper. 

Its enduring discomfort with the idea, no less the reality, of a Jewish state in the Biblical homeland of the Jewish people is by now too deeply embedded to expect change. Given its bias, criticism of Israel is hardly surprising. The Times is so dependent upon clichés of Israeli malfeasance as to justify reframing its motto to “Only News, Columns and Editorials critical of Israel are Fit to Print.” 

The recent Times barrage began with Michelle Goldberg’s column entitled “Kushner’s Absurd Peace Plan Has Failed”(May 17). Generously conceding that “one can condemn Hamas and its rockets,” she quickly segued to the absurdity that “this conflagration began with Israeli overreach born of a sense of impunity.” 

How so? Because “Jewish settlers” (the repetitive target of Times criticism) led a “campaign” to “evict Palestinian families from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah.” The only problem is that the property, owned by Yemenite Jews since the 19th century, was seized by Arabs during their war to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state in 1948. It was returned to Israel two decades later during the Six Day War but Arab occupants refuse to vacate property that they do not own.

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Then Goldberg segued to the crime of “an Israeli police raid” on the Al Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City, once the site of the First and Second Temples. Why the “raid”? To “cut off its loudspeakers lest prayers muffle a speech by Israeli’s president” on the plaza below. Not so. Jewish worship at the Western Wall below had been silenced by stones stored in the Mosque and thrown from the Mount.

The other villain for Goldberg was the American government “enabling Israel’s occupation and settlement project for decades.” She ignores the reality that Jewish “settlement,” in translation, marks the return of Jews to their Biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria, seized by Jordan during Israel’s Independence War. “Jewish ethnonationalism,” she preposterously concludes, is to blame. Moslem violence is ignored.

One week later (May 24), a front-page article by Times Jerusalem reporter Isabel Kershner was headlined “Movement in Israel Aims to Bolster Jewish Presence in Mixed Cities. For decades, she wrote, “Israeli nationalists have sought to shift the demographics of the occupied West Bank by building Jewish settlements, undermining the prospect of a two-state solution.”

She adds the repetitive Times refrain: “Most of the world considers Jewish settlements in the occupied territories a violation of international law.”

Settlements and occupied territories aside, Kershner’s primary focus is on recent violence in the mixed (Muslim and Jewish) Israeli city of Lod (Lydda), a few miles east of Tel Aviv – and hardly a “settlement.” It was a center of Jewish scholarship and commerce from the fifth century BCE until the Roman conquest in 70 CE. (Arabs, no less “Palestinians,” did not yet exist.) As she acknowledges, “hundreds of the city’s Arab citizens took to the streets, throwing stones, burning cars and setting fire to properties.” 

Why? They were merely “venting their rage” against young Orthodox families who had arrived in recent years to make the city “more Jewish.” Palestinian violence against wicked Israelis is always justifiable and unworthy of condemnation — certainly not in the Sulzberger newspaper where Israelis are routinely depicted as violent trouble-makers undeserving of a peaceful homeland. Such is The New York Times.

Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of twelve books, including Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016, selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a Best Book for 2019

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