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Media Analyses





The New York Times' Embattled Integrity


On July 21, The New York Times ran an editorial entitled, "Israel's Embattled Democracy," about the Kadima party leaving Israel's coalition government. From this, editors extrapolate that:

  • "secular Israelis are increasingly resentful"
  • Israeli Arabs "feel like second class citizens"
  • "many Israelis have a cultural mistrust of the democratic values on which the state was founded"
While editorial boards are free to express their opinions, no matter how foolish they may be, this particular piece is yet more evidence of The Times' obsession with criticizing Israel.
 
From July 1 thru July 24, the grey lady ran 83 editorials. Of those 83, only 10 dealt with non-domestic issues and two of those -- that's 20% -- were critical of Israel.
 
Editors believe that Israel's commitment to "liberal values and human rights" is "in danger of being lost." Indeed the title states that Israel's very democracy is "embattled."
 
Consider. At this very moment, the Syrian regime is murdering its own citizens. Lebanon is run by a terrorist group, Hezbollah. Jordan is an absolute monarchy that recently revoked the citizenship of thousands of residents of Palestinian descent. Egypt's military rulers annulled the parliament and the alternative to this junta is the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. Gaza is run by Hamas, a terrorist group that hasn't had elections in years and probably never will again and the West Bank is run by a corrupt kleptocracy that is also way overdue for elections. These governments are truly embattled and their citizens suffer.
 
Yet Israel's internal political machinations merit the lion's share of The New York Times' editorial page attention? To be fair, Syria -- where nearly 20,000 people have been slaughtered, two dozen or more torture centers reportedly dot the country and weapons of mass destruction may be used -- was the subject of an editorial during this time period, one.
 
One event that did not merit mention by the editors at all, however, was the massacre of Israeli tourists by a suicide bomber in Burgas, Bulgaria.
 
Israeli diplomats, tourists and expats have been targeted by terrorists around the world, yet instead of editorializing about a resilient little country that faces unmatched challenges, The Times heaps scorn on Israel.
 
Iran, believed to be behind most if not all this terrorist activity, is developing a nuclear program which has earned American and international sanction and the concern of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Yet, not one editorial in this time period addressed Iran.
 
This obsessive hectoring and criticism of Israel contradicts any rational view about what should warrant public concern and attention.
 
Restriction of Rights
 
In their July 21 editorial, New York Times editors write of Israel, "In the past two years, activists say, more than 25 bills have been proposed or passed by the Parliament to limit freedom of speech and of the press; penalize, defund or investigate nongovernmental groups; restrict judicial independence; and trample minority rights."
 
Perhaps Times editors don't realize that nearly anything can be proposed in a parliamentary democracy, a system quite different from ours. Their litany of vague accusations that lumps bills "proposed or passed" together includes no specifics. It echoes in part the assertions in a May 23 Op-Ed that included an unsubstantiated and counter-factual claim that Israel has "over 35 laws" that "discriminate against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens." 
 
After CAMERA challenged the paper to substantiate the sweeping statement, a senior editor insisted The Times stands by the allegation because it is a reflection of the author's personal opinion.
 
One law which was passed, and to which The Times presumably refers, is the 2011 law requiring all NGOs -- across the political spectrum -- to disclose their foreign funding sources. This law is not, in fact,much of a constraint on NGOs and is based on an American law. According to a diplomatic cable regarding an earlier, stricter version of the law from the American embassy in Israel to the Secretary of State's office, as leaked by Wikileaks:

4. (C) NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg, a conservative professor of political science at Bar Ilan University who initiated the push for this legislation during a December Knesset conference that was boycotted by most NGOs, told PolOff on February 24 that the legislation aimed to replicate the U.S. Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA)

[...]

6. (C) B'Tselem Director Jessica Montell, who estimated her 9 million NIS ($2.4 million) budget is 95 percent funded from abroad, mostly from European countries, told PolOff on February 10 that she did not believe the legislation would pass in its current form. ACRI's International Communication and Development Coordinator, Melanie Takefman, also told PolOff on February 10 that she believed the troublesome legislation would be amended and that the NGOs would likely be able to influence the draft legislation so that it would achieve its goal of greater transparency without restricting the NGOs' ability to operate. Both denied any need for greater transparency, but said they would welcome it if it applied equally to all NGOs, including NGO-Monitor and especially Jewish settler organizations.

However, when it comes to governments that "limit freedom of speech and of the press; penalize, defund or investigate nongovernmental groups; restrict judicial independence; and trample minority rights", it is incontrovertibly true that Israel cannot compare to its neighbors.
 
Limit freedom of speech and the press? Turkey has more journalists in prison than Iran and China. Saudi Arabia sentenced a journalist to 50 lashes for reporting protests over electricity shortages.
 
Penalize nongovernmental organizations? Egypt has arrested and put employees of NGOs on trial.
 
Trample minority rights? Egypt's Coptic Christians continue to suffer oppression. In Gaza, under the authority of Hamas, political freedom, religious freedom and freedom of association are severely curtailed, women's rights are limited , human rights activists are targeted, and homosexuality is a criminal offense.
 
Why then The Times' hyperfocus on criticizing Israel?
 
Israelis are Happy and Healthy
 
If Israel is such a miserable place, it's indeed surprising that in April, Israel ranked fourteenth in the first ever World Happiness Report commissioned for the United Nations. As reported by Israel 21c:

The rankings in the report were based on a number called the "life evaluation score," a measurement which takes into account factors like people's health, family and job security and social aspects like political freedom and government corruption.

According to the rankings, Israelis are happier than Belgians, Britons, Spaniards, Italians, the French, Brazilians, Germans and residents of hundreds of other countries.
 
And, it's a good thing Israelis are happy because, according to the World Health Organization, they have among the highest life expectancy of residents anywhere in the world. There are numerous studies confirming Israel's high life expectancy. According to the United Nations, Israel is eighth in the world, ranking above Canada, the United Kingdom and way above the United States. This despite the fact that Israel is the frequent target of military and terrorist attacks.
 
Ignoring Terrorism
 
The devastating terrorist attack in Burgas July 18 killed five Israeli tourists -- including a pregnant mother -- and the Bulgarian bus driver. Yet, three days later, Times editors decided that, rather than comment on this atrocity, they would rather criticize internal Israeli politics.
 
Had they wished to write about Israel's constant battle against terrorism, they could have noted that the Burgas massacre was unique only in the fact that the terrorists achieved their aim. In 2012 alone, Iran has been connected to a number of planned or attempted attacks:
  • January: a thwarted attempt to kill two Jewish teachers in Azerbaijan
  • January: an earlier terrorist attack on Israeli tourists was foiled in Bulgaria
  • February: the car bombing of an Israeli diplomat's wife's in New Delhi
  • February: the botched attack on Israeli diplomats in Thailand
  • February: another foiled plan to attack Israelis in Azerbaijan
  • March: 22 people were arrested for planning yet another attack on Israelis in Azerbaijan
  • April: India arrested and deported a man for spying on Israeli nationals
  • May: the Mossad shared information on an Iranian effort to attack Israelis which was then thwarted by Turkey
  • June: a foiled plot to attack Israelis in Kenya
  • July: a preempted attack on Israeli tourists in Cyprus
Naturally, these don't include any of the terrorist attacks aimed at Israelis and launched from Gaza, Sinai, the West Bank, or inside Israel proper. Israel's successes -- and sometimes, sadly, failures -- to protect its citizens around the globe might have been worthy of an editorial, but it wouldn't fit into The Times' entrenched view that Israel's thriving energetic democracy is on the verge of collapse. In fact, what The Times is engaged in is not reporting and it's not even editorializing. It's malicious wishful thinking.
 
Despite the unbalanced editorials, many people continue to subscribe to The New York Times -- sometimes because of the popular crossword puzzles! For anyone in this category, there are New York Times crossword puzzle books. Buy one of those.

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