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December 5, 2022 8:39 am

In Article About Antisemitism, New York Times Skates Close Itself

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avatar by Ira Stoll


The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

This could be a new low: the New York Times actually itself flirts with antisemitic tropes in the course of reporting a front-page news article about Jewish concern about antisemitism.

The Times article includes this passage:

Mr. Trump tried during his presidency to keep the racists and antisemites who supported him at an arm’s distance without banishing them altogether. Many Jews accepted the sleight of hand because his policies delivered gift after gift to the right-wing Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu: moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, relentlessly pressuring the Palestinians, recognizing the annexation of the Golan Heights, scuttling the nuclear accord with Iran, pursuing peace accords between Israel and the Gulf States, and above all, dropping any pressure to dismantle Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In one breath the Times has been busy claiming to its readers that American Jews can’t stand Netanyahu and his right wing policies. “With Mr. Netanyahu’s return, a sense of unease toward Israel’s government has grown among many American Jews,” the Times reported November 20. Now the Times is also claiming, simultaneously, that the only reason American Jews put up with Trump is that what the Jews primarily care about is what is good for Netanyahu and his “right-wing” policies? It’s quite a contradiction.

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The Times might possibly reconcile the two competing claims by explaining, with some accuracy, that there are many American Jews who support Netanyahu and also many who are more critical of him. Such a level of nuance , however, is entirely missing from the front-page article depicting American Jews as backing Trump out of loyalty to Netanyahu.

In addition, many of the policies listed by the Times as “gifts” to Netanyahu — exiting the Iran deal, moving the embassy, accepting Israel’s claim to the Golan, expanding the circle of Arab nations at peace with Israel — have broad consensus support across both American and Israeli Jewry and the American public, not just the “right wing.”

The amazing thing is that in a New York Times story faulting Donald Trump for antisemitism, the Times manages to amplify an antisemitic theme all by itself by accusing American Jews of caring more about Israel than America—the old “dual loyalty” canard. Also, for the Times, trafficking in another antisemitic theme, it’s all about the Jewish money: “Calls and emails to Jewish figures of Mr. Trump’s administration, such as former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and to prominent Jewish Republican donors including Miriam Adelson, Lewis Eisenberg and Paul Singer, all went unanswered. Gary Cohn, a senior economic adviser who nearly quit after Charlottesville, declined to comment. Ronald Lauder, a prominent fund-raiser, issued a statement reading, ‘Nick Fuentes is a virulent antisemite and Holocaust denier plain and simple. It is inconceivable that anyone would associate with him.’”

Lauder is a former Reagan administration ambassador and Pentagon official and the president of the World Jewish Congress. To describe him as a “fund-raiser” is weird. If people aren’t returning the Times reporter’s calls, it may be for a sensible reason: Jonathan Weisman, the Times’ go-to reporter on the Jewish beat and the person whose byline appears over this latest one, has a track record that would make any prospective source pause. As I noted back in July, when Weisman was injecting his strange opinions into another supposed Times news article:

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.”

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.”

This latest offense attracted some shade on social media. One reader, Ezra Zuckerman Sivan, posted on Twitter a screenshot of the Weisman paragraph, with the language highlighted about “Many Jews accepted the sleight of hand because his policies delivered gift after gift to the right-wing…” Sivan commented, “I don’t recognize a @nytimes where these kinds of sentences are in straight reporting rather than ‘news analysis’ or op/ed.”

Alas, for close readers of the paper’s recent coverage of Jews and Israel, the Times bias is all too readily recognizable.

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.

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