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February 9, 2022 4:11 pm

A Jewish Teacher Who Opposed Israel’s Existence Was Fired. A New York Times Headline Inaccurately Described It

avatar by Ira Stoll


A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

A New York Times headline claiming a synagogue fired a teacher who “criticized Israel” is being faulted for inaccurately describing the issue in the case.

The two-sentence New York Times headline said: “A Jewish Teacher Criticized Israel. She Was Fired.”

The former president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, Barry Shrage, who is a professor at Brandeis University, pointed out on Twitter, “There is a huge difference between ‘critique’ of Israeli policies and antiZionism (the destruction of the State of Israel inevitably including massive loss of Jewish lives.) This is a distinction beyond the understanding of the NYT.”

The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis noted that the Times article “fails to substantiate the headline’s suggestion that teacher Jessie Sander was fired for criticizing Israel, as if she objected to a particular Israeli policy or policies.” The watchdog group called the Times headline “misleading.” On Twitter, CAMERA asked, “Why is this a story? Why is the @nytimes so obsessed with providing a megaphone to those who would see the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state?” Another CAMERA tweet noted that the Times “has an extensive, nasty history of whitewashing opposition to Israel’s existence as mere ‘criticism.’”

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Writing at the website IsraellyCool, David Lange characterized the Times coverage as “disgraceful and dishonest.”

The problems with the Times article go far beyond the headline.

The Times article mentions what the Times describes as “a 2021 survey of 800 Jewish voters from the Jewish Electorate Institute that found 25 percent of respondents believed Israel was an ‘apartheid state’ and 22 percent said it was ‘committing genocide against the Palestinians.’” But those two questions were “split” questions, meaning they were asked of only 400 people in the survey, a sample too small to generate results not plagued by a huge margin of sampling error. And when the survey asked all 800 respondents “what is your present religion, if any?” only 85 percent of them said they were Jewish. The respondents who said Israel is a genocidal apartheid state could well have been largely “atheist,” “agnostic,” or “nothing in particular,” who together amounted to 15% of the Jewish voters.

The Times article includes four paragraphs about Peter Beinart, who has renounced Zionism and was eventually let go from the paper last year after a brief stint as a Times “contributing opinion writer.” While the Times slavishly seeks and reports Beinart’s opinion on the matter, there’s no comment from any Israeli government official or even from any Israeli. That is odd, since it is Israel whose existence the terminated teacher proposes to eliminate.

Odd, but sadly typical, given the Times’ bizarre obsession with amplifying the voices of the small fringe of American Jews who want to wipe Israel off the map.

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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