For those who think anti-Israel bias in the media is merely a figment of Jewish imagination, a careful and detailed study undertaken by a leading academic and an author and journalist suggests we’re not being paranoid and that the New York Times is certainly culpable in misreporting the Middle East conflict in ways which influence readers negatively about Israel.
In 2022, as part of a year-long study with International Communication expert, Professor Eytan Gilboa of Bar-Ilan University, Israeli author and Ma’ariv journalist Lilac Sigan monitored the daily coverage of Israel in The New York Times alongside the actual events taking place in Israel.
The aim of the research was to focus on how this “influential international media outlet” portrayed Israel, explains Sigan. She points out that it was “a year in which a diverse, liberal government was in place” that, “for the first time, included an Israeli-Arab party.”
It was also a year in which, according to Israel’s Security Agency (Shin Bet), there were more than 2,600 attacks in Israel, of which 204 were defined as “significant attacks.” In an article published at the end of 2022 the New York Times claimed there had been just five – yes, FIVE – “significant” attacks in Israel. That figure was repeated in a piece published in January 2023.
According to Sigan, 2022 was a year of “particularly heavy coverage of Israel” in the NYT. By analysing the patterns of coverage, the study reveals the “consistent omission of information regarding threats that Israel faced.” Because the “terror and threats” that Israel faced were minimised or ignored, the coverage helped to skew opinion against Israel, she concludes.
The study also reveals that the NYT’s opinion pieces were equally culpable in damaging Israel and in helping to embed a negative view of the Jewish state. From January 2022, it published some 20 op-eds critical of Israel. During a similar period, it ran just 13 articles critical of Iran, where the regime is not only devoutly anti-American, but is a key sponsor of terrorist groups and responsible for well-documented human rights abuses, rather than the kind knowingly fabricated by Israel’s enemies.
It would be hugely damaging to Jews and Israel if biased reporting and anti-Israel opinion was seen just by New Yorkers. But like BBC News – which also omits key facts, ignores context and minimises threats in ways that alter perceptions – the NYT has global reach including 8.6 million paid subscribers to its digital edition platform.
In some ways, this report is parallel to the BBC’s Balen Report as it presumably analysed the BBC’s Middle East coverage in similar detail. Apart from this being independent, the significant difference, of course is that this has been published while Balen still has not.
Sigan says she selected The New York Times because it is “the most important news outlet in the world” adding that it has “a long-standing reputation for professionalism.”
Having read her report, my response is “professionalism” in what these days? In providing world-class PR for Hamas, Hizbollah and Iran? In whitewashing the murderous intentions of Israel’s neighbours by relentlessly minimising the threats to Israel’s existence…
Perhaps it’s time that the NYT – like its British counterpart, BBC news – recognises its culpability in Israel-hate and in rising antisemitism around the world. And acted on it before it is too late.