‘Unfreedom of the Press’ and The New York Times Holocaust Cover-up

The new book, Unfreedom of the Press, has rapidly achieved tremendous success and is currently #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It was written by constitutional scholar, Mark Levin, former chief of staff to Attorney General Edwin Meese during the Reagan administration, and syndicated talk radio host. This is Levin’s sixth #1 New York Times bestseller, an ironic feat in that a full chapter of his scholarly undertaking lambastes the Times for its chronic antisemitism and its deplorable neglect to report the atrocities committed against millions of the Jews of Europe during the holocaust of World War II,  despite the “paper of record” having full knowledge of the crimes against humanity being committed by the Nazis at that time. Levin produces documentation which states that “only six times in nearly six years did the Time’s front page mention Jews as Hitler’s unique target for total annihilation. Only once was their fate the subject of a lead editorial. Only twice did their rescue inspire passionate cries in the Sunday magazine” marking ‘what was surely the century’s biggest journalistic failure.’”

Similarly, Levin directs the reader’s attention to a lesser known unreported genocide, the Holodomor – or Great Famine of 1932-33 – in which Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin intentionally  starved the people of Ukraine, resulting in the death of millions of Ukrainians, when he put into effect a policy of grain confiscation. Levin explains that the Times’ Moscow correspondent, Walter Duranty, was an apologist and propagandist for Stalin who covered up the dictator’s atrocities. Nevertheless, the Times awarded Duranty a Pulitzer Prize for a series of articles in which he intentionally concealed this catastrophe. While defending his Times articles, Duranty privately confirmed that as many as ten million people had died as a result of the famine.

Levin asks, “How is it possible that such colossal media failures of integrity, morality and professional canons in the face of the mass extermination of Jews and Ukrainians do not permanently cripple the reputation and standing of the New York Times and the other press organizations, or at least force serious circumspection within and reformation of the media  industry? And what of the weak excuses and feeble explanations offered decades later, as if they are atonement enough for the abhorrent consequences of the media’s role in the cover-up of the genocidal murder of millions? Is there another industry of any sort that can so blithely if not arrogantly and self-righteously carry on as if none of this happened? Surely, if the dead could speak, they would declare the Times and the other press outlets “the enemy of the people” for their wanton inhumanity in the face of genocide.”

Unfreedom of the Press is an unabashed condemnation of the current status of the majority of media outlets in America. Instead of being a source of unbiased information, the media has evolved into a propaganda monstrosity which, in effect, has become the worst enemy of true freedom of the press. The author states that the book is about “how those entrusted with news reporting in the modern media are destroying freedom of the press from within” and, unlike early American patriots, have become “hostile to America’s founding principles, traditions and institutions. They do not promote free speech and free press, despite their self serving and self righteous claims. Indeed, they serve as social filters attempting to enforce uniformity of thought and social and political activism centered on the progressive ideology and agenda.” Levin contrasts this reality with his view of the true purpose of the press which, “like the purpose of free speech, is to nurture the mind, communicate ideas, challenge ideologies, share notions, inspire creativity, and advocate and reinforce America’s founding principles – that is, to contribute to a vigorous, productive, healthy, and happy individual and to a well-functioning civil society and republic.”

Aside from the Times, Levin places responsibility for media neglect of the Holocaust squarely upon the shoulders of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The President not only stifled media coverage in the press but halted the establishment of an offshore radio station which was prepared to inform Europeans and the world about the heretofore unknown horrors of Hitler’s “Final Solution” – the extermination of the Jewish population of Europe.

Levine does not go into to this event in his book, however, in 1937, Dr. Alex Raphaeli, Israeli economist, publisher, arms purchaser and political activist, volunteered for a full time position with the Irgun, doing underground work in Europe purchasing arms and carrying on political negotiations. He was in charge of the Irgun’s office in Paris at that time and was sent to the United States by the Irgun High Command, departing on the last ship out of Italy, the Rex, before that country declared war on the Allied Powers. He conducted numerous radio and print interviews, participating in a vigorous ad campaign which birthed the Zionist lobby in America. By 1942, it was evident that Jews were being slaughtered in Europe. As Raphaeli told this writer, “And here started the big fight -especially with American authority… with FDR, the President…trying to get at least some psychological and political, if not actual, help to save or to help the Jews who were trapped in Nazi hands. And this was a very difficult proposition…We did not get any help from the government. FDR, in all his weekly press conferences did not mention the word “Jew” even once… and his policy was that if he mentions protection of Jews or saving Jews, it will accept the Nazi formula that this is a Jewish War.”

Raphaeli attempted to establish an offshore radio station to publish the news about the Holocaust. Though fully funded, and fully supported by the head of the Office of War Information, Elmer Davis, Raphaeli’s plan was thwarted by President Roosevelt. Raphaeli explained: “I had to provide the budget for it… which was a very big budget… and I got the money and obligation from a very famous man. This was Samuel Zemmuray, the King of the White Fleet. This was a poor Georgia boy who came to New Orleans at the age of eight, started dealing with bananas and after forty to fifty years controlled all the banana fields of Central America. And controlled the White Fleet – all the boats bringing bananas from Central America to America, to Europe, all over the world. We became very friendly… for us he undertook the obligation for three million dollars to finance this radio station.”

Raphaeli continued, “We were interested that the Jews of Europe should know and be informed… that we are fighting and trying to do the best to convince America to bomb the roads, to help to announce that the criminals will be punished after the war.”

Having procured the necessary backing for the radio station, it came as a tremendous blow when Dr. Raphaeli was told that his efforts had been blocked by none other than President Roosevelt himself. Said Raphaeli, “When the plans were brought to the President they were outright vetoed. The same grounds were adduced: we should refrain from turning this into a “Jewish war” and encouraging “our” anti-Semites. Jabotinsky once remarked that, in so-called good society, anti-Semitism is like pornography: one knows all about it, one might even be interested, but in proper society one does not speak about it.”

There was, perhaps, more to this rejection of Raphaeli’s radio station than first meets the eye. It appears that Roosevelt’s connection to the Saudi king, Ibn Saud, overshadowed his concern for the Jews. Members of the Irgun Delegation to the United States and the New Zionist Organization of America, under the leadership of Hillel Kook and Benzion Netanyahu attempted to influence the administration but had little success. At the time, most Jews in America were Democrats who did not want to criticize the President during the war. The Zionists therefore turned to Republicans for assistance.

Despite pressure being applied at the highest levels, Roosevelt took a different course of action which can be justified only in part by national security concerns, particularly, the need for Saudi oil concessions and for control of an air base at Dharan, both essential factors in fueling the war in the Pacific.

In Unfreedom of the Press, Mark Levin relates comments of Dr. David Wyman, author of “Abandonment of the Jews,” who wrote that “one reason ordinary Americans were not more responsive to the plight of European Jews [during the Holocaust] was that many (probably a majority) were unaware of Hitler’s extermination program until well into 1944 or later. The  information was not readily available to the public, because the mass media treated the systematic murder of millions of Jews as though it were minor news.” Levin points out that by November 24, 1942 there was solid evidence of the ongoing extermination publicly available but ignored by the media.

David Wyman believed that the President was duplicitous in his actions in that he found himself in the awkward position of needing Saudi support while being pressured to assist the Jews. In 1993, Wyman told this writer that “there’s no doubt about it, he was playing both sides against the middle. It was a very devious policy…. He didn’t know what to do. I think he was concerned about the Jews; I think he favored a Jewish state – but not to the extent of alienating the Arabs – which is the only way you’re going to have a Jewish state.”

While reassuring mainstream Jewish leaders like Rabbi Stephen Wise and Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Roosevelt was simultaneously telling Arab leaders that he would not do anything for the Jews without their consent. When, in 1941, King Ibn Saud requested financial aid from the United States his request was turned down. His second appeal was for road engineers, and agricultural and irrigation experts. This request was seen as an opportunity by the War Department to advance their efforts to acquire air rights from the Saudis which would shorten the ferrying distance from Khartoum to Karachi and be a more secure route than the one they had been using via Cairo.

Oil also was a motivating factor. The US ambassador to Saudi Arabia at the time, Parker T. Hart, stated that “we had a very strong proprietary feeling about getting that oil flowing. We also had a very strong feeling that the king absolutely had to have some income. He was absolutely flat when I got there in 1944… Franklin Roosevelt was, I think, concerned that the Arabs would be totally neglected in the sweep of sympathy for the Jews.”

If any leeway is to be given in the judgement of Roosevelt’s actions it would be the issue of national security which precipitated the need for strong ties to Saudi Arabia. In August of 1943 the United States proposed the establishment of a consulate in Dharan. Saudi reluctance was met with promises by the President that he would take no action to advance the plan for a Jewish state in Palestine. This was followed by the proposal by the US for the construction of an airstrip near Dharan, which was presented by the American Resident in Saudi Arabia on July 29th:

“As has been already explained to Your Excellency, the United States military air forces are responsible for heavy air traffic between points in North Africa and India, and the responsible authorities believe that a direct route between Cairo and a point near Dharan would materially facilitate the movement of this traffic, and aid in the prosecution of the war.”

With the war in full swing, the 220 miles of travel saved through the adoption of this plan was considered imperative by American military authorities.  Dr. Alex Raphaeli explained that, “Japan was getting its oil from Saudi Arabia. The idea, from the American point of view, not the Jewish, was to protect America against enemies and to make it difficult for them to get supplies of oil from which the whole war machine moved.”

The Dharan plan materialized in early 1945. State Department records document Roosevelt’s communication with Ibn Saud during the interim period. In a “Memorandum of Conversation” the King is said to have expressed his desire that the Jews be returned to the lands from which they were driven, stating that the Arabs and the Jews could never cooperate, neither in Palestine nor in any other country, and that Arabs would choose to die rather than yield their land to the Jews.

State Department documents detail Roosevelt’s reaction: “The President replied that he wished to assure His Majesty that he would do nothing to assist the Jews against the Arabs and would make no move hostile to the Arab people.” Furthermore, Roosevelt had developed an affinity for Ibn Saud and even a psychological connection. Similarly, the King spoke of being the “twin” brother of the President – in years, in responsibility as chief of state, and in physical disability. The Foreign Relations of the United States documents highlight this parallel portrayal: “The President said, ‘but you are fortunate to still have the use of your legs to take you wherever you go.’ The King replied, ‘It is you, Mr. President, who are fortunate. My legs grow feebler every year; with your more reliable wheel-chair you are assured that you will arrive.’ The President then said, ‘I have two of these chairs, which are also twins. Would you accept one as a personal gift from me?’ The King said, ‘Gratefully. I shall use it daily and always recall affectionately the giver, my great and good friend.’”

This friendship diplomacy was the start of the dual foreign policy which continued for decades, even to this day. While pacifying the Jews at home with the hope of a Jewish state, Roosevelt simultaneously negotiated oil concessions and a base at Dharan with Ibn Saud.

Meanwhile, the media blackout of news about the death camps which had reached Washington continued to be challenged by the vigorous advertising of the New Zionist Organization and the Irgun Delegation of America. The groups, almost single handedly, applied enough continuous pressure on the Roosevelt administration through their public awareness campaign so that it was impossible for the administration to abandon the idea of a Jewish state.

Without such organizations, the New York Times and other publications would have succeeded in an intentional cover-up of the atrocities of the 1940s. As Mark Levin wrote in Unfreedom of the Press, “In addition to the routine use of propaganda and the dissemination of pseudo-events, the media also engaged in another form of manipulation: self-censorship and outright suppression of information or events to advance a narrative or kill actual news … As hard as it may be to believe, most of the American press, led by the New York Times, consciously downplayed or ignored the Holocaust and the Holodomor. Therefore, for some time most Americans were oblivious to what was taking place.”

There is no doubt that not only did the New York Times betray their ethical and moral responsibility but its neglect certainly led to the loss of life. Levin states, “Surely the New York Times with its wide reach, resources, access to foreign sources of information, reputation as the foremost newspaper in the country, large Jewish readership, and its Jewish ownership, would do everything possible to investigate and disclose the horrors of Jewish genocide. But the opposite was true.”

Had its readership been informed, public pressure would have mounted and forced military action with regard to the destruction of Nazi concentration camps, the bombing of railways leading to the camps, etc. The New York Times was not only negligent but has blood on its hands – a great deal of blood. The New York Times is not the famous “newspaper of record” it once was. It is the paper of infamy. Its sins have caught up with it and all the world can now see the tragedy it attempted to hide.

As Levin put it in his summation, “The abandonment of objective truth and, worse, the rejection of the principles and values of America’s early press and revolutionaries, is not new for the Times… it has led the Times and other media outlets into a very bleak and dark place, destructive of the press as a crucial institution for a free people. If newsrooms and journalists do not act forthwith and with urgency to “fundamentally transform” their approach to journalism, which sadly is highly unlikely, their credibility will continue to erode and may well reach a point soon where it is irreparably damaged with a large portion of the citizenry – and rightly so. The media will not only marginalize themselves, but they will continue to be the greatest threat to freedom of the press today.”

About the Author
Joanna M. Saidel, Ph.D was the personal research assistant for the late Professor Benzion Netanyahu, father of the current prime minister, from 2000 to 2010. She authored the Doctoral dissertation, Revisionist Zionism in America: The Campaign to Win American Public Support, 1939-1948, and the Master’s thesis, Jewish Life in Latin America. She was awarded "First Place" in the International Art Competition, "My Jerusalem," by Mayor Teddy Kollek and Baron Edmond de Rothschild.
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