New York Times Bias Shows as Paper Smears Brooklyn Jews as Racist Profiteers
The New York Times bias in news articles shows itself in editorial decisions about what to attribute, and how to attribute it — and about what to leave unattributed.
It’s a subtle and perhaps abstract point, but a few recent examples may help to show what I mean.
One Times article, a “West Bank Dispatch” by Raja Abdulrahim, mentions Israeli settlements and says, “Most of the world considers those settlements a violation of international law, though Israel insists that there has been a Jewish presence in the West Bank for thousands of years.”
The phrase “Israel insists” was flagged by Gilead Ini, a senior research analyst at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis. Why is it needed? Does the New York Times doubt the veracity of it? The Times could have simply written, “though there has been a Jewish presence in the West Bank for thousands of years.” Or: “though extensive archeological and textual evidence attests to the fact that there has been a Jewish presence in the West Bank for thousands of years.”
Instead, you get the strange formulation of an entire country — Israel — insisting on something, as if it’s a cranky restaurant customer or a petulant child. It’s almost like the Times is afraid of investigating the underlying facts for fear that they might disturb the newspaper’s far-left readers, or hamper the reporter’s ability to operate freely in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank.
Another odd attribution comes at the end of a routine news article from Washington about the State Department’s annual release of reports on human rights. The Times article concludes:
Mr. Blinken also urged the Senate to confirm Sarah Margon, Mr. Biden’s nominee to be the State Department’s top official for human rights. Ms. Margon, a former official at Human Rights Watch, was nominated nearly a year ago to be the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor.
Although she appeared for a confirmation hearing in September, her nomination remains stalled. The top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jim Risch of Idaho, has criticized Ms. Margon for past tweets he depicted as unduly critical of Israel.
“He depicted” is almost like “Israel insisted.” What were the tweets? What did they say about Israel? The Times, again, seems afraid to delve into the facts of the matter. Human Rights Watch is notorious on the topic. While the Times has recently been running breathless front-page investigations into Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin’s fundraising in Saudi Arabia, the paper is scandalously incurious about Human Rights Watch’s Saudi fundraising. It’s a classic double standard. Anyway, if Margon’s tweets were representative of the organization, they do probably raise doubts about her fitness for the State Department job. Rather than investigating the issue, the Times does the attribution-to-a-Republican dodge: “he depicted.”
Consider the contrast with when the Times uses its own voice to provide context, without any attribution. The newspaper did that with an article about Brooklyn’s East Flatbush neighborhood, reporting, “East Flatbush became predominantly Black in the 1960s as real-estate agents used the fear of integration to drive out Italian and Jewish residents and replaced them with Afro-Caribbeans and African Americans who, with few desirable options, snapped up its one- and two-family homes at inflated prices.”
To accuse Jewish residents of fearing integration and of charging “inflated prices” for selling to black buyers, no attribution is deemed to be needed by the Times. The newspaper just flat out makes the claim, states it as fact. The online version includes a hyperlink to a single article in the Times archives, but the linked article doesn’t entirely support the claim. After all, there were Jews volunteering in the 1960s — and risking their lives and in some cases being murdered — for the cause of Civil Rights and integration. Those Jews weren’t “fearing” integration, they were embracing it. The events and policies and trends of the 1960s — crime, roads and suburban building that made Long Island and New Jersey and Rockland County suburbs viable destinations, liberal philanthropy and politicians pushing decentralization and local control of schools, antisemitism, race riots — were contributing factors to the changing neighborhood. It wasn’t all just greedy real estate agents and profiteering Jews afraid of integration.
So there you have it. Smear the Jews as racist or pro-segregation in the New York Times, and no attribution is needed. But hint at the reality of anti-Israel bias in a human rights organization, or mention the Jewish people’s historical ties to the land of Israel, and it’s all “depicted” and “insisted.” The Times and its apologists may insist that this is honorable journalism or depict it as just reporters doing their job. But, sadly, biased journalists are driving integrity out of the newsroom today faster than any Times-imagined, integration-fearing Jew in the 1960s fled Brooklyn for the suburbs.
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.