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Defrocking the New York Times

Why “defrocking,” a term usually used in the ecclesiastical sense? Well, The New York Times (NYT) has a quasi-religious following among American liberals, especially Jewish ones. It is “the” authority on most things, and one of those things is the paper’s peculiar relationship with the Jewish State of Israel. It says it supports Israel, while we know that it disparages Israel more than anything else.

While many NYT readers might take offense at the term “Jewish State,” that precisely describes this nation, which won its independence in 1948 as the one and only Jewish State. Yes, it’s democratic. Name another country that could have five elections within such a short period without a violent reaction.

But let’s get to the meat of the matter. On December 17, 2022 the NYT editorial (https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/17/opinion/israel-netanyahu.html) was entitled, “The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy.” Says who? Says the NYT! Many books, documentaries, and numerous articles have been written about the veracity of this paper’s reporting and commentary on Israel, before and after its independence, including its coverage of the Nazi atrocities against the Jews. The conclusion is inevitable that this “newspaper of record” has always cast Israel in a bad light. (See Note at bottom.)

From the recent editorial:

While Mr. Netanyahu clearly has the support of the Israeli electorate, his coalition’s victory was narrow and cannot be seen as a broad mandate to make concessions to ultrareligious [sic] and ultranationalist parties that are putting the ideal of a democratic Jewish state in jeopardy.

Israel’s recent election was a strong vote for a more vigorous approach against Palestinian Arab violence and land appropriation. One of the two left wing parties, ultra-left Meretz, failed to gain enough votes to join the government. The Labour Party, which ruled Israel for a generation just barely made it. On the other hand, Prime Minister designate Bibi Netanyahu heads a 64-member coalition, leaving 56 seats in the Knesset for the opposition. In Israeli terms, this is a broad mandate, not a narrow one. While Americans vote their pocketbooks and/or their ideology, Israelis primarily vote for their security.

This board has been a strong supporter of Israel and a two-state solution for many years, and we remain committed to that support. … Mr. Netanyahu’s government, however, is a significant threat to the future of Israel — its direction, its security and even the idea of a Jewish homeland. 

Yes, the NYT has been a consistent supporter of the two-state solution, which envisages a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state in the Land of Israel, which is roughly the size of NJ or Massachusetts. This opinion is shared by the Biden administration, the United Nations, the EU, plus many Muslim nations. But it isn’t shared by the majority of Israelis nor by the majority of Palestinian Arabs. This is made clear by the broad mandate given to the new government of Israel. 

It is also made clear by the rejection of a State of Israel by the people and the government of the Palestinian Authority as well as Hamas-ruled Gaza. If you doubt this fact, please remember that the Palestinian Arabs have never compromised on their demands for all of what they call “Palestine.” This includes the (misguided) 2008 offer by then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to give the Palestinian Authority  96% of the land beyond the 1949 Armistice Line and a capital in divided Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat’s response to this overgenerous offer was to provoke the Second Intifada against Israel, with many deaths among both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs.

The new cabinet he [Netanyahu] is forming includes radical far-right parties that have called for, among other things, expanding and legalizing settlements in a way that would effectively render a Palestinian state in the West Bank impossible…. 

Expanding and legalizing settlements in Judea and Samaria (which Jordan renamed “West Bank” in 1950) is Israel’s right. How’s that? God promised this land to the Jews; Judea and Samaria are the Jews’ homeland, making Jews the indigenous people of Israel; Jews have always lived there; the League of Nations acknowledged Jewish rights in the land and the United Nations accepted those rights in its founding document; and not least, Israel’s control of the land.

While Palestinian-Israeli negotiations have long been moribund, the principle of someday achieving two states remains the bedrock of American and Israeli cooperation. 

Not so. According to the US government, “Americans and Israelis are united by our shared commitment to democracy, economic prosperity, and regional security.’ (3/26/22 https://www.state.gov/the-united-states-israel-relationship/) And what about shared Judeo-Christian values?

Perhaps a Palestinian-ruled entity of some sort could be worked out if the intransigent Palestinian leadership gave up its dream of usurping Israel. Is there a role model for a democratic, peaceful Arab state? No. These states are often monarchies, which are usually stable or autocratic, or dictatorships. Look to Israel’s neighbors for examples: Lebanon and Syria which are both wrecks; Jordan, whose people are dissatisfied and whose monarch is on thin ice; Iraq, which is controlled by Iran; and Egypt, which is for now, a successful autocracy. Even more convincing are the Palestinian Authority, a wretched dictatorship, and the terror enclave of Gaza. 

[The new cabinet Netanyahu is forming also includes] changing the status quo on the Temple Mount, an action that risks provoking a new round of Arab-Israeli violence….

It’s the Palestinian Authority and the Waqf (Muslim religious council) that have dramatically changed the status quo on the Temple Mount. Examples: closing the area to non-Muslims to just one gate and limited times, indiscriminately digging up irreplaceable architectural sites, desecrating the area in various ways such as allowing soccer games there, storing rocks and other projectiles in the Al Aqsa mosque, etc. All these unilateral actions by the Palestinian Arabs have already changed the status quo. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas (and Hezbollah) need only say, “Al Aksa is in danger!” to agitate the “street” and start another period of terror acts. (Al Aksa mosque is used by the Arabs as a synonym for the Temple Mount.)

Ministers in the new government are set to include figures such as Itamar Ben-Gvir….

None of the party leaders included in the expected new government are criminals disallowed from holding office. While one might not agree with all their politics, that’s not a reason to delegitimize them. It’s better to wait and see how a government performs before making judgements. Besides, as former general and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said, “What you see from here you don’t see from there.” 

Right-wing parties have an absolute majority in the Knesset…. Among the targets of the new leaders is the Israeli Supreme Court, which, in the absence of a national constitution, has served to weigh government actions against international law and the Israeli state’s own traditions and values. The nationalists would diminish this authority by voting to give themselves the power to override Supreme Court decisions. Not incidentally, they have also proposed eliminating the law under which Mr. Netanyahu faces a possible prison term.  

Israel’s Supreme Court is touted as one of the world’s most admired courts. Making changes to the Court has happened many times. In 1995, the Court interpreted two of the Basic Laws (which were enacted three years previously) as authorizing the Supreme Court to set aside Knesset legislation inconsistent with those two laws, establishing for the first time the power of judicial review by the Court. This was a very significant change that many legislators believe should be amended. The changes that are currently envisioned would make the Court more like the US Supreme Court. For example, new justices would be chosen more democratically than presently, by means of a parliamentary vote. In the absence of a written Constitution, more safeguards are necessary to prevent the unelected Supreme Court justices from running roughshod over the elected Members of Knesset, which they have been known to do.

Israel has been moving steadily rightward in recent years. 

Correct. Is that a problem? No American administration can structure a foreign government to its liking without running into problems. The current government in Iran is partly a result of American tampering decades ago in Iran’s government. Italy and Sweden have recently elected rightist governments, pushing back against leftist laws. The Biden administration isn’t lecturing those countries; nor has the NYT editorial board. Israel does’t need chastisement from anyone.

Demographic change in Israel has also shifted the country’s politics. Religious families in Israel tend to have large families and to vote with the right. … In the Nov. 1 election, the old Labor Party, once the liberal face of Israel’s founders, won only four seats, and the left-wing Meretz won none.

Granted. America’s changing too. There, people are less religious than in Israel, which has a mix of secular and religious. Families in the US have fewer children than in Israel, which has significant demographic consequences. Many families have only one parent, usually the mother. So is America’s demography something the Israeli government or media should lecture the Americans about?

“These [political and demographic] moves are troubling, and America’s leaders should say so.” While the self-proclaimed “racist” United States of America has many problems, the editorial board and its reporters and op-ed writers routinely denigrate their greatest ally in the region, Israel. The New York Times should get over the Jewish State of Israel. Israelis take affront when foreign entities lecture or meddle with us. In September 1982, objecting to the Reagan Plan which called for an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria, Prime Minister Begin declared to the US Ambassador: “Israel is not a Banana Republic.”

I read the following on 12/21/22: “According to a Politico report published on Tuesday (12/20/22) citing two US officials, the Biden administration plans to hold Netanyahu personally responsible for the actions of cabinet members. This is in part due to Netanyahu’s reassurance that he will lead and navigate the government following concerns from the New York Times over far-right lawmakers.” Begin’s declaration is still relevant! (https://www.i24news.tv/en/news/israel/diplomacy/1671612215-u-s-to-hold-netanyahu-responsible-for-gov-t-actions-report) Israel is not a banana republic!

NOTE: Here’s a sample of reportage on the “objectivity” of the NYT: Emily Harrold’s documentary, “Reporting on the Times: The New York Times and the Holocaust;” Laurel Leff’s “Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America’s Most Important Newspaper;”  Jerold S. Auerbach’s “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016;”  (article) “How the New York Times has published lies to serve a biased narrative” by Mary Kay Linge; (article) David Lazarus’ “The Jewish Roots of the New York Times’ Anti-Israel Bias;” “Indicting Israel: New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict” by Gilead Ini / Ricki Hollander; Ashley Rindberg’s “The Gray Lady Winked: How the New York Times’s Misreporting, Distortions and Fabrications Radically Alter History;” James Sinkinson’s “Why does ‘The New York Times’ incessantly attack Israel?” and so many more.

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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