What They Also Got Wrong: Examining the New York Times’ Coverage of Israel
The New York Times’ Opinion section recently published a collection of eight pieces from different columnists entitled, “I Was Wrong.” The publication’s description of this group of articles, published on July 21, explained that Times contributors “hold on to the idea that good-faith intellectual debate is possible, that we should all be able to rethink our positions on issues, from the most serious to the most trivial.”
The newspaper further stated that the writers of these articles “can be models of how valuable it can be to admit when you get things wrong.”
This seemed like a perfect opportunity for the Times to admit its perpetual bias against Israel, and correct factually inaccurate reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict, which has led to its ten million subscribers often being misinformed about the Jewish state.
Unfortunately — and surprisingly for a newspaper that covers the Jewish state like it’s local news — the “I Was Wrong” series did not mention Israel at all, not even in passing. HonestReporting zoomed in on five key instances in which The New York Times and its journalists have faltered in accurately covering Israel.
1. Michelle Goldberg Downplays BDS’ Anti-Jewish Hatred
Michelle Goldberg used her “I Was Wrong” article to reevaluate her 2017 coverage of Al Franken. However, she seemingly stands by her favorable portrayal of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in her 2019 op-ed, “Anti-Zionists Deserve Free Speech.”
After detailing some of the pushback the controversial movement had received in certain states and on certain campuses, Goldberg naively wrote: “What are pro-Israel forces afraid of? The BDS movement doesn’t engage in or promote violence. Its leaders make an effort to separate anti-Zionism from antisemitism.”
No, Goldberg was not being sarcastic. Perhaps she just chose to omit the fact that the movement’s West Bank-based National Committee includes leaders from the Council of National and Islamist Forces in Palestine, which is composed of member groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine — all of which are widely classified as terrorist organizations.
She also left out that BDS leader Omar Barghouti has stated that “we [BDS] oppose a Jewish state in any part of [British Mandate] Palestine.”
Certainly, that does not sound like a movement solely intent on putting economic pressure on the Israeli government to change its policies. Rather, it is clearly a call to dismantle the world’s only Jewish state.
So much for “an effort to separate anti-Zionism from antisemitism.”
Ironically, during last year’s Hamas-initiated war between the IDF and Gaza-based terror groups, Goldberg wrote another op-ed entitled “The Crisis of Anti-SemiticViolence,” which documented the heightened violence experienced by Jews worldwide during that time frame.
Perhaps, if she is really concerned about anti-Jewish hatred, Goldberg should rethink her fawning writing on the BDS movement.
2. The Times Disregards Core Tenets of Objective Journalism During 2021 Gaza Conflict
Last year’s 11-day conflict with terror groups in the Gaza Strip was a serious and complex escalation, which called for responsible reporting and journalistic integrity.
The Times, however, decided to move in the opposite direction when it published “They Were Only Children,” a photo slideshow of Palestinian and Israeli children killed during the fighting.
Indeed, no crucial context surrounding the cause of the conflict and the forces at play was provided — including the pertinent fact that Israeli strikes were in response to rocket attacks from Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization that uses innocent Palestinian children as human shields and whose charter calls for the annihilation of the Jewish people.
Additionally, the Times failed to acknowledge that at least nine of the Palestinian victims in the slideshow were killed by failed rocket launches from Gaza, while it published a commonly used stock photo of a Palestinian girl and framed her as another victim of the conflict, even though the image of the same girl had been used in the past to accuse Israel of killing children.
The photo of the fake victim circulated countless times to the publication’s massive readership before being taken down.
Overall, the Times engaged in overtly biased reporting riddled with inaccuracy during a pivotal and sensitive time.
3. Guest Essayist Refaat Alareer Given Platform to Spread Antisemitic Views
Although opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the views of a newspaper, who a publication decides to bring on as a guest essayist could in fact reflect the sentiments and values that the outlet is choosing to support.
With the 2021 Gaza conflict at its peak, the Times published an essay by Refaat Alareer titled, “My Child Asks, ‘Can Israel Destroy Our Building if the Power is Out?’” which falsely accused the IDF of hitting targets with “no strategic value” and “drawing straws” to decide “which block to annihilate.”
Notably, the piece was included in high school lesson plans for the Times’ Learning Network.
The Times apparently did not mind that Alareer has a history of blatant and virulent antisemitism. In October 2021, an HonestReporting expose revealed that his Twitter profile contained over 115 tweets in which he compared the Jewish state to Nazi Germany, a clear example of antisemitism and Jew hatred under the IHRA’s widely-adopted working definition of antisemitism.
4. The Times Constantly Questions Israel’s Status as a Democracy
One narrative the Times has repeatedly pushed in recent years is the idea that Israel is turning away from democracy.
Countless misleading headlines, such as “Did Israel Just Stop Trying to be a Democracy?”and “Israel is Falling Apart, Because the Conflict Controls Us,” have made it seem to the uneducated reader that democracy is on the decline in Israel.
In reality, according to the data, the opposite is true.
Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2022 report gave Israel a favorable 13/16 rating for “Political Pluralism and Participation” and described the country as a “parliamentary democracy with a multiparty system and independent institutions that guarantee political rights and civil liberties for most of the population.”
Top Times columnists have even affirmed Israel’s standing as a model democracy. Veteran columnist Thomas Friedman, who has been critical of Israeli policies for decades, highlighted in January what Israel’s historically diverse government coalition could teach the United States. He wrote that the coalition’s “main mission was to make the basic functions of government work again and safeguard the integrity of Israel’s democracy.”
5. Report Illustrates the Times’ Clear Anti-Israel Bias
When a newspaper continually pushes one side of a story, trends start to emerge. That is what Ma’ariv journalist Lilac Sigan demonstrated in her July 9th expose of the Times’ biased coverage of Israel.
Sigan examined the opinion and world sections of the Times and found that of the 118 articles published on Israel up to that point, 53 percent actively portrayed Israel negatively. According to the Ma’ariv report, 34 percent of the pieces were neutral, and only 13 percent painted Israel in a positive light.
Moreover, Sigan found that Israel received 832 mentions — significantly more than any other country in the Middle East. Terrorist organizations Hamas and Hezbollah were only mentioned 37 and 22 times respectively. Sigan also noted that the Times failed to report on 124 relevant stories regarding Palestinian terrorism, incitement, and violence against Israelis.
If the paper decides to publish another collection of “I Was Wrong” columns, it seems like they will have plenty of material to choose from that is related to its coverage of Israel.