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May 8, 2023 1:59 pm

Israel ‘Apartheid’ Headline in New York Times Business Section Shows How Paper Has Lost Reader Trust

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avatar by Ira Stoll


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

When the New York Times runs out of room for Israel-bashing in the international news section and the editorial page, it makes space in the business section.

Sure enough, the front of a recent Times business section featured the headline “Israel Tech Automates Apartheid, Critics Say.”

The piece is a case study in terrible Times coverage of Israel, exhibiting nearly the full range of egregious faults. Let us take them one at a time, starting with a Times reporter’s tweet absurdly likening Israel’s security efforts to defend itself against terrorists to Communist China’s genocide against a Muslim minority.

Social media hype: One of the Times reporters who wrote the article, Paul Mozur, tweeted, “In Israel, AI surveillance is being used in ways comparable to what China did in Xinjiang.” The word Xinjiang doesn’t appear in the actual Times article. Neither does the “comparable” claim. The U.S. government has said China is perpetrating an ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, so the claim that Israeli action is in any sense “comparable” is both false and defamatory. It also appears to violate Times social media policies encouraging reporters to stick to factual tweets.

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Megaphone for advocacy groups with axes to grind: Gerald Steinberg of NGO Monitor characterized the Times article as a “cut/paste” of a “bogus” report by Amnesty International, which he said has “zero credibility.” NGO Monitor has thoroughly debunked previous Amnesty reports that make the apartheid slander against Israel. Indeed, the “critics say” part of the Times headline is a signal that the Times is amplifying the critics’ claim without doing the hard work of checking it out skeptically or independently verifying its accuracy. If people want to subscribe to email updates from Amnesty or from other anti-Israel advocacy groups, they can, but the Times bills itself as an independent, unbiased, fact-based journalistic outlet. Instead of living up to that standard, the Times functions here as a publicist for the advocacy group.

Double standards: The United States uses biometrics at its own border. NGO Monitor notes also that “a June 2021 report by the US Government Accounting Office (GAO) found that 20 Federal agencies ‘reported owning systems with facial recognition technology or using systems owned by other entities, such as other federal, state, local, and non-government entities.’ Likewise, facial recognition technology is used for security reasons throughout Europe. Airports in the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany, and the UK, as well as bus and metro systems in Berlin, Paris, and Madrid use it for security screenings, including border control and identification, and it was installed at some Spanish border crossings. Police in Italy, the Netherlands, and the UK use this technology, with the UK scanning crowds for individuals wanted for serious crimes. In fact, the Irish Department of Social Protection deploys a facial recognition system to prevent social welfare fraud.” When the New York Times singles out Israel, and Israel alone, for section-front negative headline treatment, the newspaper is effectively holding the Jewish state to a different standard than every other government that is using security cameras to fight crime and increase national security.

The New York Times itself reported in March 2023 that Manhattan businesses, including Madison Square Garden, Macy’s, and Fairway, are using facial recognition to improve security and fight shoplifting. It didn’t accuse them of “apartheid.”

“Zionism is racism”: Slapping the “apartheid” label on Israel is just the latest instance of the Zionism is racism myth — what Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once described as the “Big Red Lie” — “the last great horror of the Hitler-Stalin era.” Back in 1991, even the New York Times editorial writers denounced it, as it had been expressed in a now-repealed United Nations resolution, as “disgraceful.” The claim is just as disgraceful and false now as it was then, but the Times, sadly, has gone from denouncing it to spreading it.

Long-distance journalism. The Times identifies the two reporters on the article as “Adam Satariano, based in London, and Paul Mozur, based in Seoul.” The article carries no dateline indicating that either reporter set foot in Israel. As a result, the article is reliant on the advocacy group: “In one walk through the area, Amnesty researchers reported finding one to two cameras every 15 feet.”

I emailed Mozur to ask him whether he’d even been to Israel, whether he is accusing Israel of genocide, and whether he felt his tweet was consistent with Times social media policies. He hasn’t yet responded.

If Israel were not using this technology and were instead making all entrants line up for individual questioning and searches, no doubt the Times would denounce Israel for making visitors miserable and delaying them at checkpoints. The Times manages to find a way to bash Israel no matter what methods it uses for securing its population.

A new YouGov report on trust in media finds the New York Times lagging far behind other more trusted outlets. The polling data show the Times reading more like a partisan outlet: “There is a 91-point difference between how Democrats (+54) and Republicans (-37) view MSNBC and an 82-point difference in how they view the New York Times (+53 vs. -30).” It’s slanted headlines, articles, and social media posts like this, falsely accusing and singling out Israel, that have contributed to the erosion of the New York Times’s reputation as a nonpartisan, trustworthy news source.

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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