Shahar Azani
Storyteller, Strategic Consultant & Former Israeli Diplomat . A Jew.

The NY Times Questionable Obsession

Media’s Obsession with Israel: Real Time with Bill Maher

Obsession (n). An idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind (OXFORD English Dictionary). 

The 2020 elections are right around the corner and all sides are warming their engines in preparation. Contesting President Trump is an array of democratic candidates, and in an attempt to get to know their positions, the NY Times posed them a few days ago with an identical set of 18 questions. These included some of the important issues such as guns, healthcare, climate change, immigration and the death penalty as well as more a few questions of a more personal nature.

Among those 18 supposed well-thought of questions, only ONE dealt directly with a foreign state. Which one was it, you ask? Well, you may think it was Russia for meddling in the US elections and the fear of future meddling. You may consider Iran, due to the flaring up of tensions in the Gulf. Possibly Saudi Arabia? How about Mexico?

To no one’s surprise and to many others’ disappointment, the Times chose ISRAEL as Question No. 4(!) on the list, and this is how they framed (indeed) the question: “Do you think Israel meets international standards of human rights?” In their explanation of the context, the Times stated clearly and unabashedly: “we thought this question would gauge Democrats’ willingness to criticize Israel, and found few candidates who would do so” … Indeed, the stated goal of the question was to fracture Democratic support for Israel and encourage its condemnation.

First, let’s engage in a mind exercise and take another look at the question, this time with a blank for the state: “Do you think _______ meets international standards of human rights?”. Now feel free to insert any country you have in mind – and there you have it! The pursuit of the ideal of human rights is a continuous one, almost unattainable yet highly desired and on-going. Can any one nation on Earth truly claim to have met it completely?!

The last couple of years have witnessed a significant rise in antisemitism globally;  from the heinous murders at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, to shattered tombstones in South Africa, to an elderly woman attacked in front of a synagogue in Paris and Jews getting beaten in Berlin. It was but only a couple of months ago that an antisemitic caricature appeared in the NY Times, after which editorial misjudgment was claimed and apologized for. And now, the very same newspaper chooses to take a path of singling out the Jewish State for the purpose of condemnation. More than the Times’ editors framed the questions, they were clearly framing Israel.

Israeli hero and former head of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky, indicated that exercising double standards against the Jewish State is a clear mark of antisemitism, comprising one of the 3Ds to identify it, along with delegitimization of Israel and its dehumanization. Indeed, treating Jews differently has been a hallmark of antisemitism for a millennia. The Times follows the same path and treats Israel as the Jew among nations – singling it out for vilification when other states and regimes, in the Middle East and beyond, are much more deserving of such “trophy”. Should an identical standard of human rights be applied to all, in spite of Israel’s challenging geopolitical situation, it will undoubtedly come out on top – as a world leader in standing up for justice and protecting human rights, in the toughest of circumstances. It’s enough to observe Israel’s IDF soldiers and their conduct to understand Israel’s high aspirations for decency and morality.

Moreover, I will be the first one to admit Israel’s strategic importance on the US and global agenda, first and foremost due to its being a foothold of democracy and a beacon of human rights and freedoms in a region which knows none. However, the Times continuous obsession with Israel is somewhat unsettling, especially as it takes away attention from other very disturbing world affairs which require – no, I mean to say demand – the world’s attention. The crisis in the Sudan, for example, or the collapse of Venezuela, both described as humanitarian catastrophes. Why are these crises less important than Israel?!

Echoing the media’s obsession on Israel was American singer, John Legend, only a few months ago, on Real Time with Bill Maher (above), as the he brought up the Palestinian issue. When asked why he doesn’t show the same passion for Venezuela, he simply stated: “I don’t know about Venezuela … Israel/Palestine gets talked about much more in American Media …” 

The NY Times’ and the general media’s obsession with Israel is wrong and ill-advised. Beyond its immorality, this obsession obscures many issues from the cleansing sunlight of the world, thus denying them the attention they deserve.

About the Author
Speaker, Author, Strategic Consulatant. Past Northeast Executive Director of StandWithUs. A Former Diplomat for Israel's Foreign Ministry in London, Jerusalem, Nairobi, Los Angeles and New York. A Storyteller, who's passionate about people, culture and politics.
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