Strictly Orthodox Jews ‘Reject the Principle of Equality in General,’ New York Times Claims
“Hebrew is by no means the only language that has been the target of calls for change,” the New York Times concedes somewhere in the middle of a long article about Hebrew. “Many world languages, like French, make every noun either masculine or feminine. And the United Nations has issued guidelines for nondiscriminatory communications in the six official languages of the organization: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.”
So if French and other languages are the same way, why does the Times bother devoting a whole long news article — illustrated online with seven photographs — to a kerfuffle over gender in Hebrew? Maybe because an article about French wouldn’t provide the opportunity to bash Orthodox Jews.
The Times helpfully explains, “Some ultraconservatives and strict Orthodox Jews oppose the new focus on linguistic equality, since they reject the principle of equality in general.” That is clumsily worded, unclear, and negative. My own view of it is that Orthodox Jews (and many others) would say they believe all humans are created with equal dignity in God’s image and should have equal civil rights to vote or to drive a car, but that does not mean all gender or other differences in language or in other regards are to be ignored or eradicated.
Note also the “they” pronoun. It’s used by the Times not in a friendly, inclusive way, as in, The strict Orthodox Jew prefers they/them pronouns. It’s used in a nasty, exclusive way, as in, those bigoted not-just-merely conservative but ultraconservative and not just merely Orthodox but strict Orthodox Jews are against “the principle of equality in general” (as opposed to the principle of equality in specific?), unlike we enlightened New York Times readers, who are more equal than they are, those benighted strictly Orthodox Jews over there.
The New York Times is all for “the principle of equality in general” — unless and until it applies to giving equal, fair treatment to Orthodox Jewish views. Then the Times throws the principle of equality overboard, letting readers know without a lot of guile who the paper thinks is inferior.
The Times news article, published in English under the headline “Israel’s Biblical Tongue Collides With Gender Politics,” itself uses gender-specific honorifics — “Mr. Levinson,” “Ms. Shomer.” Does that mean the paper’s editors, or its publisher, “reject the principle of equality in general”?
If the Times itself is so committed to equality, maybe it should try enforcing a new policy of giving strictly Orthodox Jews equal space every time it publishes an article disparaging strictly Orthodox Jews.
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.