It is unfortunate that The New York Times, “the paper of record,” displays double standards when reporting about Israel. Israel is the only country whose leaders, policies, and society are routinely singled out for condemnation in the newspaper. Take, for example, last week’s report about racism among Israeli soccer fans. The article purported to cover recent protests by Beitar soccer fans against the recruitment of Muslim players for the team, but this was merely an opportunity to present a sweeping indictment of Israeli society.
Racism among soccer fans is not unique to Israel, nor does it reflect on society at large. In fact, The New York Times, only a few weeks earlier, published a story about racism among soccer fans and players in Europe, noting that it is “hardly a new phenomenon.” The article pointed out that it is an acute problem in Russia, Ukraine, and the Balkans, as well as in Britain and France. It also mentioned that 25 racist incidents occurred during the latest soccer season in Italy. But there was no suggestion that European soccer fans represent their nation’s values.
So how was a story about the deplorable message of some Israeli soccer fans, which provoked widespread condemnation within Israel, turned into an indictment of Israeli society?
The article relied partly on biased sources to convey this message. For example, it quoted Moshe Zimmerman, introduced as a historian who specializes in sports, to assert that the soccer fans represent an Israeli society that “on the whole is getting more racist.” But it did not inform readers that Zimmermann has a penchant for signing anti-Israel petitions, and making derogatory statements about Israelis, including comparisons to Nazis and Hitlerjugend.
Another source, Adalah, was described as “a legal center for Arabs in Israel” that “counted 20 discriminatory laws passed by the current government.” What the reporter failed to mention, however, was the sort of laws deemed discriminatory by Adalah include, for example, revoking the citizenship of those convicted of treason or terrorism; withdrawal of salary from a Knesset member who is guilty of a serious crime; and not providing government funding for rallies and activities opposing Israel as a Jewish state.
The article disingenuously implied a racist motive to newly elected Yair Lapid for his refusal to join a coalition with a certain Arab member of Knesset. What the correspondent avoided mentioning, however, was that Lapid’s opposition was not based on race but on the fact that the MK had joined other anti-Israel activists on a flotilla designed to provoke Israel and illegally break its embargo of Hamas-ruled Gaza.
While the article’s half-truths, omissions and use of biased sources represent a clear departure from journalistic standards, they exemplify the tactics used to implicate Israel in wrongdoing. This is not an isolated example of such reporting by The New York Times.
A newly published study by CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) reveals a similar, long-term pattern of distortions. Nearly 200 news articles and 20 opinion columns were methodically analyzed between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2011. The resulting, 98-page monograph, Indicting Israel: New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, summarizes the quantitative and qualitative disparities in the reporting of each side. Among the results:
*Israeli leaders, policies, and society were criticized more than twice as often as those of Palestinians.
*Nearly eighty percent of the articles referring to the use of force by Israeli soldiers aboard a Turkish ship carrying anti-Israel activists omitted mention of the violence by activists that precipitated Israel’s response.
*A dozen headlines highlighted Palestinian fatalities by Israeli fire, but none mentioned Israeli deaths by Palestinians, although 14 Israelis were killed during this period.
*Three quarters of all the commentary on the editorial and op-ed pages were focused on indicting Israel while none focused on indicting Palestinians.
*The dominant narrative over time was an indictment of Israel that was embedded throughout the news coverage and amplified on the editorial pages.
By contrast, a topic that received scant coverage was the racist and genocidal rhetoric against Israelis and Jews that is promoted by Palestinian leaders and a staple of Palestinian television. The rallying of a Gazan crowd to “harvest the skulls of Jews,” was ignored, as were repeated televised performances glorifying the use of firearms against Israel.
It is this steady, sanctioned indoctrination to hatred and violence – not the unendorsed shouts of soccer fans – that presents the real threat to peace in the region. By ignoring or downplaying the former while emphasizing the latter, The New York Times misleads its readers.
Indeed, when the Times did highlight Egyptian President Morsi’s anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist hate speech on the front page, the results were quick and apparent. The White House, U.S. senators and the German chancellor all took Morsi to task, forcing him to account for his racist rhetoric.
Just imagine the outcome were the influential New York Times to expose Palestinian genocidal racism. Regrettably, The New York Times does not live up to fundamental journalistic standards of fair and accurate news coverage when it comes to Israel – a fact clearly demonstrated by the CAMERA monograph.