Tuesday, December 5th | 22 Kislev 5784

July 6, 2021 3:23 pm

Stabbing of Chabad Rabbi in Boston Is Not ‘Fit To Print’ in New York Times

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avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was stabbed repeatedly on July 1 outside a Jewish school building in Boston. A rally the next day organized by Boston Jewish community groups drew Boston’s acting mayor, the district attorney, and a member of Congress. An individual, Khaled Awad, was arrested in connection with the attack and pleaded not guilty to assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon and assault and battery on a police officer. People who knew Awad in Florida described him as violent and “antisemitic.”

A national, even international news story? Plenty of news organization thought so. The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, has published three articles about the attack. Fox News covered it. The Washington Post website carries an Associated Press article about the attack and an article from the Religion News Service. CNN covered it.

But for the New York Times, the news wasn’t fit to print. A search of the Times website for “Noginski” turns up no results. “Noginsky,” an alternative spelling that turns up in some news articles, turns up no relevant results either. “Khaled Awad”? No relevant results on the Times search engine. I’m a careful daily reader of the print Times and saw nothing about the stabbing, the rally, or the arrest.

The New York Times New England bureau chief, Ellen Barry, didn’t immediately reply to an email from the Algemeiner asking her to explain why the Times had failed to cover the story. It can’t have been that the Times had no staff available to cover events in Massachusetts over the holiday weekend; the newspaper scrambled two reporters to cover a roadside standoff in the Bay State that, unlike the attack on Noginsky, featured no injuries. And the New York Times certainly has plenty of resources to muster on stories it decides it does care about—  a recent 15-minute Times video headlined “How Israeli Airstrikes Killed 44 People,” carries the bylines of a staggering ten Times journalists and noted, “The Times spent more than a month investigating these attacks.”

It’s at least the second time recently that the Times has skipped covering news of an attack on a Jewish target. In May, rock-throwing attacks against four synagogues in the Bronx attracted coverage from CNN, the Daily Mail, the Washington Post, the Arizona Republic, and the Wall Street Journal. Then, too, the Times apparently found the news not fit to print, and the metro editor failed to respond to an Algemeiner inquiry about why the Times thought the attacks weren’t newsworthy.

In the absence of an explanation from Barry on this one, one is left to speculate. I’m betting that if the stabbing victim had been, heaven forfend, a rabbi of Times editors, or a school or camp attended by children of Times editors or reporters — say, a Reform synagogue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, or Montclair, N.J. — the Times would have been all over the story. But a Chabad rabbi at a Chabad school in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood that long served many Russian-Jewish families? Less interesting to the Times.

There’s a story here, though, that goes beyond the predictable anti-Orthodox bias.

Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi said at the solidarity rally, “the rhetoric and the vicious attacks on Israel fuel this antisemitism.” He has a point. Antisemitism is irrational, and surely — unless and until an investigation shows a broader plot — the main culpability lies with the attacker. Even so, though, it is worth mentioning that the New York Times keeps up a steady stream of hate-filled invective against the Jewish state and Jewish people. Seasoned, longtime observers of antisemitism such as Abraham Foxman and Rabbi Abraham Cooper recently canceled their subscriptions over front-page “blood libel,” and even one of the Times’ own columnists has denounced “the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper.”

Perhaps at least part of the reason the Times can’t bear to share the news of violent attacks on synagogues in New York or a rabbi in Boston is because a fair-minded, thorough investigation into such attacks might eventually force the newspaper to examine unflinchingly the role that the Times’ own coverage has played in inciting the violence. For anyone who makes the mistake of actually believing what the Times writes about the Jews — killing innocent children in Gaza in a possible war crime, spreading the coronavirus via skullcaps — attacking Jews might actually be a logical step. That’s not a legal or moral excuse for the perpetrators of violent antisemitic acts. But it is a call for the Times to reckon honestly with its own role in stoking hatred of Jews. Or, if that’s asking too much, at least to stop suppressing the news of such violent attacks from the newspaper’s readers.

One final point bears mentioning. There was a brief period, after all, not that long ago, when the Times was on hair-trigger alert for antisemitic incidents. Back in February 2017, vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, Pa., and near St. Louis, Mo. generated saturation New York Times coverage: multiple news articles, op-ed pieces, a video report. One news article quoted critics who said the attacks “were an outgrowth of the vitriol of last year’s presidential campaign and Mr. Trump’s tone during it.” As I wrote back then (“Trump’s Big Achievement: Making the New York Times Care About Antisemitism“):

Of all the possible consequences of a Trump presidency that have been warned about or hoped for, a heightened attention by New York Times editors to antisemitism probably falls in the category of unexpectedly positive developments (though here, too, to the extent that it inaccurately depicts Jews primarily as victims, we may want to be careful what we wish for). It’ll be interesting to see whether the newspaper’s newfound interest in this story endures beyond the Trump presidency. Assessing that would be one way to measure whether the paper is genuinely concerned about antisemitism, or is just using the issue as a convenient political tool to attack Mr. Trump.

Between the Bronx synagogue attacks non-coverage and the Boston rabbi stabbing non-coverage, it sure looks as though — now that antisemitism is not so readily blamed on Donald Trump — the Times has abandoned interest just as rapidly as it had acquired it.

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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