Tuesday, July 5th | 6 Tammuz 5782

September 14, 2021 2:24 pm

New York Times ‘Mangles’ Jewish History as Gordis Sees ‘Incurable’ Pathology at the Newspaper

avatar by Ira Stoll


The New York Times logo. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times is being criticized for an article inaccurately suggesting that previous periods of Jewish sovereignty over the land of Israel lasted only briefly.

“Israeli leaders have increasingly drawn on the lessons from Jewish history, noting that the Jews enjoyed two previous periods of sovereignty in the land in ancient times, but both lasted only about 70 or 80 years — a poignant reminder for the modern state that, founded in 1948, has passed the 70-year mark,” the Times reported from Jerusalem in an article about an animated movie.

The director of the Israel office of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), Tamar Sternthal, said the Times “mangles the historical record, minimizing the Jewish people’s presence in ancient Israel.”

“Four Jewish kingdoms pre-dated the modern Jewish state during antiquity, and the longest one lasted more than three centuries, not 80 years,” Sternthal wrote. “By falsely reporting that the longest Jewish rule in Israel fell in less than 100 years, The Times minimizes the historic Jewish connection to ancient Israel, eroding the legitimacy of the present Jewish state.”

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The Times refused a request from CAMERA to correct the mistake, Sternthal wrote.

Another pro-Israel press watchdog group, Honest Reporting, also called out the Times error in a Twitter thread. It described the Times assertion as “false.”

Israeli author Daniel Gordis noted in his Substack newsletter that the Times chose to highlight the movie on its home page under the headline “Film Offers Fractured Israel Ominous Lessons From the Ancient Past.” A subheadline described how “an animated epic depicting a Jewish civil war and the destruction of the Second Temple 2,000 years ago is being seen as a warning in a deeply divided country.”

Gordis noted that the article appeared just as Israel had captured prison escapees. “I was curious what the New York Times might have to say about that. After all, this was a fascinating story. First, Israel had found them. Second, Israel could easily have found a way to kill them in the process, but thankfully didn’t. They are all alive and well (though likely to have far less pleasant prison stays for the next few decades). Third, it’s become clear that both of the nabbed pairs were found because the Israeli Arab towns to which they went did not offer assistance, and because of tips phoned in by Israeli Arabs, admirable acts of loyalty to Israel. That’s a significant development in and of itself.” Gordis asks, “Had we found them and killed them in a hail of bullets in a shootout, which would actually have been much less surprising than what did happen, does anyone have any doubt that it would have gotten coverage?”

Yet instead of the news of the capture, the Times homepage featured the story about the animated epic. “So, while Israeli Jews and Arabs came together to catch murderers without a shot being fired, all the NYT online front page had to say about Israel was something about the destruction of the Second Temple being a ‘warning in a deeply divided country,’” Gordis wrote in the Substack newsletter. “Some pathologies, obviously, are incurable.” (An article the Times did publish about the capture of four of the six fugitives portrayed the episode as a “humiliation” and “alarming embarrassment” for Israel.)

Thanks to watchdogs like CAMERA, Honest Reporting, and Gordis, there is a cure for having to rely on the Times for news: readers can easily access, instead, more accurate accounts of history and contemporary reality.

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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