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November 23, 2022 1:05 pm

Error-Prone New York Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief Takes on an “Ultranationalist” Israeli Politician

avatar by Ira Stoll


MK Bezalel Smotrich. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Timeserror-prone Jerusalem bureau chief, Patrick Kingsley, has decided to fill New York Times readers in on Israeli politician Bezalel Smotrich.

In doing so, Kingsley commits a number of errors.

Kingsley writes, “Mr. Smotrich wants Israel to annex the occupied West Bank, ending any hope of a Palestinian state.” It’s not accurate that annexing the West Bank would end “any hope of a Palestinian state.” The Palestinians could have a state in Gaza, which they now control, or in what is now Jordan, where plenty of Palestinians live. Nor is it clear that annexing the West Bank would even end Palestinian hopes of a state there. Israel annexed Jerusalem and the Palestinians are still hoping for it anyway. Israel annexed the Golan Heights and the Syrian dictator is still hoping for its return.

Kingsley writes, “Like the vast majority of Israelis, Mr. Smotrich served as a conscript in the Israeli Army.”

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“Vast majority” is no longer accurate. The Jerusalem Post reported in 2018, “compulsory military enlistment in Israel is but an old myth. In reality, 35% of the Israeli population carries the burden, while the remaining 65% find ways to avoid military service without having to suffer any consequences.”

Kingsley quotes Daniel Shapiro, who was ambassador to Israel during the Obama administration, as saying, “The administration is considering whether or not it would be consistent with President Biden’s emphasis on promoting democratic values to deal with Bezalel Smotrich and others in his party.” The New York Times just passes that along without noting that Biden just met with Xi Jinping of China and with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, neither of whom were democratically elected. If anything is inconsistent with  “democratic values,” it would be a refusal to meet with an Israeli who just got a lot of votes in a democratic election, unlike the Saudi or Chinese guys.

An editor and reporter at the Jerusalem Post, Lahav Harkov, screenshotted the part of Kingsley’s dispatch where he said Smotrich avoids shaking women’s hands and advocates “governing Israel according to the laws of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.”

“Way to tell on yourself that you don’t talk to any Orthodox Jews ever,” Harkov commented on Twitter.

Another online critic called out the hypocrisy of Kingsley’s reference to Smotrich as “the son of a right-wing rabbi of European descent” and his ally from “a family of Middle Eastern origin,” both of whom “make race so central to their thinking unlike the NYT reporter.” The critic also faulted the Times reporter for blaming Orthodox Jews for homophobia while giving Islamist Israeli politicians a free pass on the issue.

It’s hard to see the Times coverage as anything other than an effort to provide red meat for the newspaper’s paying online audience of Israel haters who want to use every Times article, and every development in Israel, as an excuse to punish Israel in a way that would leave the Jews there more vulnerable to being wiped off the map. “No more billions in US aid,” commented one Times reader, recommended by 49 others.

The Times has already taken a formal editorial position and published opinion columns for cutting aid to Israel. Now it’s basically cheering that view on in the news article, observing that Smotrich could be “a central point of contact between Israel and the United States, which provides the country with more than $3 billion in military aid each year.” Hint, hint.

The Times also flings the usual superlatives and adjectives — “far-right,” “ultranationalist.”

The more of all this it does, the less credible the Times is.

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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