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July 18, 2022 1:35 pm
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‘This Bias Against Israel Is the Reason People Have Stopped Subscribing to the Times’

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

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

Given Jonathan Weisman’s history, you’d think that his editors at the New York Times would have him on a short leash.

In 2019, Times management publicly rebuked him, saying, “Jonathan has repeatedly displayed poor judgment on social media and in responding to criticism.”

In 2018, this column reported that several Jewish leaders and other journalists described a Weisman op-ed in the Times as “weird,” “odd,” “partisan,” or “inane.” The op-ed criticized Jewish organizations for supposedly having failed to speak out against antisemitism.

In 2015, Weisman claimed responsibility for a New York Times chart that labeled Jewish senators and congresspeople opposed to the Iran deal in the color yellow. He advised Jews upset about it to “chill out.”

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The Times later published an “editor’s note” undercutting Weisman. It conceded, “Many readers and commenters on social media found that aspect of the chart insensitive. Times editors agreed and decided to revise it to remove the column specifying which opponents were Jewish.”

Weisman also claimed responsibility for having edited a front-page Times article in September 2018 about how the federal Education Department was handling an antisemitism case at Rutgers University. That article had significant flaws, but Weisman defended it “100%.”

He’s hardly a neutral observer, having published a 2018 book arguing that, as one article described it, “American Jews need to focus less on Israel and more on social justice.”

Yet, in what can only be described as a failure of responsible supervision by Times editors, Weisman is back on the Times‘ American Jewish beat, putting his “poor judgment” on display yet again. The problems begin in a sub-headline that reads, “A primary on Tuesday in suburban Maryland is the latest where pro-Israel groups have stepped in to try to defeat a candidate who doesn’t conform to their views.”

The framing “conform to their views” is unnecessarily pejorative. It’s loaded: advocacy groups take sides in primaries all the time. Would the Times frame a pro-gun control, or anti-climate-change, or pro-ballot-access advocacy group getting involved in a primary as about enforcing conformity, rather than about merely supporting a worthy cause?

The sub-headline flows from the text of the article, which refers to “groups determined to stamp out dissent on Israel-Palestine orthodoxy.” That’s incoherent nonsense. To start with, there is no “Israel-Palestine orthodoxy” — anyone who would be trying to enforce that kind of orthodoxy would know that “Palestine” doesn’t exist as a state. And again, the framing is tendentious: what the Times is depicting as “stamp[ing] out dissent” is just advocating and supporting a faithful American ally, and defending it from enemies who want to wipe it off the map, along with the Jews who live there.

Then there’s a reference to “the Democratic Party’s ascending left wing.” That is wishful thinking, given that the more centrist President Biden defeated the left wing Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in the 2020 primary. It’s also not especially relevant, given that there are plenty of supporters of Israel, such as Congressional Reps. Jerrold Nadler and Richie Torres, who are progressive Democrats.

The Times falsely portrays partisan divisions over Israel as being primarily President Donald Trump’s fault, largely ignoring President Barack Obama’s responsibility for driving a wedge between Israel and America by pursuing a sanctions-relief-for-nuclear-promises deal with Iran, over the fierce objections of Israelis across the political spectrum.

The Times further injects its own biased voice instead of letting AIPAC spokesman Marshall Wittmann have his say: “Unmentioned in Mr. Wittmann’s lengthy statement was the rising volume on the Democratic left of voices calling for a fundamental re-evaluation of the United States’ reflexive backing of successive Israeli governments, as the occupation of the West Bank stretches into its second half-century and the prospects for a two-state solution grow more remote.”

Unmentioned is that the “rising volume” is the result of gullible journalists like Weisman himself, who cheerlead for this very point of view. Such writers fail to recognize that this story isn’t really about “the occupation of the West Bank,” but rather about rejectionism and longstanding refusal by Israel’s enemies to accept the existence of a Jewish state in any part of Israel. Also unmentioned by Weisman is that those “progressive” Americans taking such a position are adopting stances more extreme than even joined by Israel’s Arab neighbors, who are increasingly forming trade and security alliances with Israel rather than vilifying it.

The Times left reader comments open on the Weisman screed. One came from Jennifer Dublino of Boca Raton, FL., who wrote, “This kind of bias against Israel is the reason why a lot of people have stopped subscribing to the Times.”

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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