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Netanyahu Hits Back Against New York Times Editorial: ‘Shamefully…Undermining Israel’s Elected Incoming Government’

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avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

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

The apparent incoming prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, is hitting back against the New York Times.

A Times staff editorial, representing the newspaper’s institutional voice, preposterously reacted to the votes cast in Israel’s fifth parliamentary election in four years by claiming “The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy.”

“After burying the Holocaust for years on its back pages and demonizing Israel for decades on its front pages, the New York Times now shamefully calls for undermining Israel’s elected incoming government,” Netanyahu said on Twitter. “While the NYT continues to delegitimize the one true democracy in the Middle East and America’s best ally in the region, I will continue to ignore its ill-founded advice and instead focus on building a stronger and more prosperous country, strengthening ties with America, expanding peace with our neighbors, and securing the future of the one and only Jewish state.”

The Times editorial is unintentionally comical, not only with the irony of gloom and doom about the future of democracy in a country that has had national elections more frequently than just about anywhere else on the planet, but also with the Times’ claim that “This board has been a strong supporter of Israel and a two-state solution for many years.”

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That line made me laugh aloud, coming from a Times editorial board that in 2016 called for reducing U.S. aid to Israel from levels that were supported by President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, and Hillary Clinton, and that has been relentlessly cheerleading for an Iran nuclear deal that Israelis overwhelmingly oppose. The same Times editorial board, earlier this year, echoed classical antisemitic tropes in falsely accusing Jews of being morally callous to the killing of a Christian, lecturing, “Israelis should care more.” The same Times editorial board that, in interviewing Democratic presidential candidates for possible endorsement, relentlessly interrogated them about whether they’d promise to remove from Jerusalem the American embassy to Israel.

With “strong supporters” like that, who needs enemies?

This latest Times editorial urged the Biden administration to crack down on Israel. “The Biden administration should do everything it can to express its support for a society governed by equal rights and the rule of law in Israel, as it does in countries all over the world.” That’s a double standard; as recently as August of this year, the Times editorialists urged the U.S. government to abandon “trying to change China.” The Times editorial board wants all-out Biden administration pressure on the elected Israeli government, but hands off Communist China’s genocidal dictatorial regime. There’s no explanation by the Times for the differing approaches.

The Times claims that “A commitment to Israel, both in its security and in its treatment by the world, has been an unquestioned principle of American foreign and domestic policy for decades, even when Mr. Netanyahu openly defied Barack Obama…”

“Unquestioned” is not accurate; the Times itself has published piece after piece criticizing the commitment. And it wasn’t Netanyahu who “openly defied Barack Obama”; it was Obama who defied both Netanyahu and common sense in pursuing a nuclear deal that provided a $700 billion subsidy to a terror-sponsoring, woman-oppressing regime that even the New York Times is suddenly, belatedly describing, after recent visible protests, as a “tyrannical theocracy” and “virulently anti-American.”

The same Sunday first-night-of-Chanukah print section that carried the New York Times editorial attack on Israel also carried a dispatch by Thomas Friedman, who for the past 40 years has been proclaiming the death of the Israel he once loved.

Friedman’s latest complaint about Israel is that the tax structure is too tilted against the wealthy. This is pretty funny, too—the first time we can remember the New York Times complaining that the wealthy pay too great a share of the taxes. For Friedman, the tax inequality in Israel is somehow a troubling sign of income inequality or discrimination rather than proof of a progressive tax system.

Friedman frets:

Which is why, explains Dan Ben-David, a Tel Aviv University economist, who heads the Shoresh Institution for Socioeconomic Research, half of Israel’s population — mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews and Arabs — are too poor and unproductive to pay taxes.

“In 2020,” Ben-David notes on his website, “22 percent of the first graders were Arab Israelis. This group’s most recent international test scores in math, science and reading (PISA 2018) were not just low: Arab Israelis scored below nine of the 10 predominantly Muslim countries that participated in the exam.”

Meanwhile, 21 percent of Israel’s first graders are ultra-Orthodox Jews, a vast majority of whom grow up with limited education. And the share of the ultra-Orthodox in the country’s population “has roughly doubled from one generation to the next.”

Some 90 percent of all income taxes collected by the Israeli government in 2017 came from just 20 percent of the population — who are largely secular and have modern educations. This is also the community that carries much of the burden of military service.

The Times doesn’t provide any comparative context, but I looked it up.

It turns out that the Israeli income tax burden numbers are fairly similar to the US: Here, according to the Tax Foundation, the bottom 50 percent of taxpayers pay 3 percent of the total income taxes, while the top 25% pay 86.6 percent of taxes. The Times makes the situation in Israel sound like it is a problem uniquely having to do with Arabs and fervently Orthodox Jews, when in fact it could just be the nature of a prosperous free modern economy with income inequality and progressive income tax rates rather than a flat tax.

It’s typical of the double standards the Times brings to its Israel coverage, holding the Jewish state to standards that don’t apply elsewhere and criticizing it for things that would be praised anywhere else. Netanyahu’s vow to ignore the newspaper’s advice is probably one reason he keeps getting elected in Israel’s democracy. Israeli voters, at least, are able to distinguish between “strong supporters” and mere pretenders.

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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