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Media Analyses





At the NYT, Seeing Israel Through a Jaundiced Eye


Israeli “Racism”– A Recurring Theme

The indictment of Israeli leaders and Israeli society as bigoted is a recurring theme both on the news and editorial pages of The Times. The newspaper's journalists employ a singular set of criteria to assess racism in Israeli society versus any other. Individual incidents of the type that the newspaper describes in other societies as teen gang violence, boorish and xenophobic behavior by soccer fans, or citizens simply voicing their concern about radical violence, are interpreted in Israel as an indication that Israeli society as a whole is racist.

In pointed contrast, when it comes to displays of overt anti-Jewish racism by Palestinian individuals, leaders and institutions, (see, for example, here) the New York Times goes out of its way to ensure these facts are hidden, whitewashed, rejected, twisted or rationalized.

In keeping with this pattern, Isabel Kershner recently suggested that a campaign by a group of mostly dovish ex-IDF generals and Mossad leaders against Israeli annexation was racist in nature ("One-State Solution Has Many in Israel Stumped," Feb. 17, 2017). The campaign by 250 former security officials endeavored to convince Israelis to promote an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank by playing to fears that a rapidly increasing Palestinian population in land held by Israel would erase any hope of preserving a Jewish state. The demographic/separation argument is used by the Israeli Left to press for prompt Israeli withdrawal from disputed territories and counter calls by the Israeli Right to annex Jewish majority areas in the West Bank.

Regarding the campaign by the former security officials, Isabel Kershner wrote:

The provocative — many said racist — campaign was kicked off last month by retired Israeli generals and senior officers to shake Israelis out of apathy. [emphasis added]

The use of the vague term “many” is often used as a journalistic ploy to avoid naming specific sources or as a means of injecting editorial comment into what is meant to be a news report. If readers were to learn exactly who leveled the charge of “racism” and what the motivation behind it was, they might not give the accusation quite as much credence. And it is so much easier to smear a group or society with the allegation of “racism” if details are kept to a minimum.

The few who have branded the campaign as “racist” belong to the radical left. They include Mairav Zonzsein, a BDS supporter who talks of leaving Israel and Emanuel Shahaf, who founded an organization to promote the idea of one federated state of Palestinians and Israelis in place of a two state solution. These are hard-line political ideologues whose charge of racism is a reflection of their own caustic positions regarding Israel and its leaders.

But this is what the New York Times often does – accentuate a self-serving, minority viewpoint to amplify the demonization of Israel and her leaders.

Double Standard in Describing Measures Against Anti-State Agitators

On March 6, 2017, Israel passed a law that would allow the Minister of the Interior to refuse a visa to someone “who knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel that, given the content of the call and the circumstances in which it was issued, has a reasonable possibility of leading to the imposition of a boycott – if the issuer was aware of this possibility.”

Spokesman Mark Toner voiced the position of the U.S. State Department regarding the law, stating that “This is a sovereign decision for Israel to make regarding its borders.”

The New York Times was far more strident about the Israeli law, starting with an erroneous headline that falsely proclaimed that a “New Israel Law Bars Foreign Critics From Entering the Country.” Of course, the law did not pertain to those who simply criticize Israeli policy, but to those who publicly and actively promote harmful actions against the Jewish state.

The article itself, while noting that the law pertains to those who “publicly support” the movement, amplified the views of the law's critics and supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, with 9 paragraphs devoted to critics of the law vs. 3 to the law's proponents. And regarding BDS, reporter Laurie Goodstein softened and justified it in her own words:

With hopes for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians vastly diminished, Palestinians and their supporters have been advocating a strategy called B.D.S.: boycott, divestment and sanctions.

While noting in passing that “the Israeli government and other critics say the boycott movement is anti-Semitic and aims to undermine Israel's right to exist strategically,” the reporter strategically omitted any specifics that would support this belief, making no mention of such easily verifiable facts as:

a) Proponents of the BDS campaign have themselves made it clear that they oppose Jewish self-determination and that their ultimate goal is the elimination of a Jewish state in the region.

b) BDS activists frequently single out Jews for bullying, using their presumed support for Israel as an excuse.

c) The BDS campaign against the Jewish state has been condemned as an anti-Semitic one by such critics as German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union(CDU) party, France's Supreme Court, and the UK's Minister of Justice, among others. (For details on the anti-Semitic nature of BDS and the incriminating words of its leaders, see here.)

The New York Times article, however, portrayed the BDS campaign as a straightforward, if controversial, protest strategy while Israel was portrayed as an increasingly authoritarian state that tries to repress the free speech of its critics.

The article was followed by an editorial that further mischaracterized Israel's new law and expressed moral outrage over it. Titled “Israel Says Dissenters Are Unwelcome,” the editorial wrongly alleged that the law would “bar entry to any foreigner who supports the B.D.S. movement against Israel for its occupation of the West Bank” and falsely characterized and justified BDS as being simply a protest over “the occupation of the West Bank”.

But the New York Times deceives its readers: BDS is not simply opposition over Israeli military occupation of disputed territories. Nor does the Israeli law restrict entry to “any foreigner” who simply “supports” such opposition. What's at stake is the continued existence of a Jewish state, which BDS leaders oppose. The new law is meant to bar admission to those seeking to harm the Jewish state through boycott. (The editorial also abandoned the truth by claiming that the US "has consistently held that settlement building in the occupied territories is illegal," but CAMERA prompted a correction of that false claim). Indeed, if the editorial were to present the boycott movement and the Israel law accurately and honestly, there would be no justification for the moral outrage it heaps upon Israel, railing:

...the law projects an image of Israel as hostile to anyone who disagrees with the occupation and settlements, encouraging louder calls for boycotts everytime a visitor is turned back at the airport.

In fact, most democratic countries, including the U.S., have laws that protect themselves from foreign anti-state agitators, barring entry to those who seek to foment unrest within the said country's borders or otherwise promote activities deemed non-conducive to the public's good. Below are examples of democratic countries whose laws permit the barring of individuals deemed to be a threat to that state.

The United States

Section 212(a) of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (last updated in 2013) declares would-be visitors inadmissable to the U.S. on various grounds, including:

Security and Related Grounds, whereby:

(A) Any alien who a consular officer or the Attorney General knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, seeks to enter the United States to engage solely, principally, or incidentally in-

(i) any activity to violate any law of the United States relating to espionage or sabotage...

(ii) any other unlawful activity, or

(iii) any activity a purpose of which is the opposition to, or the control or overthrow of, the Government of the United States by force, violence, or other unlawful means, is inadmissible.

Foreign Policy Grounds, whereby:

i. An alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable ground to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States is inadmissible...

when those foreigners' beliefs, statements, or associations are not lawful within the U.S. or when the Secretary of State believes that the foreigner's entry into the US would “compromise a compelling US foreign policy interest.”

Immigrant Membership in Totalitarian party, whereby:

Any immigrant who is or has been a member of or affiliated with the Communist or any other totalitarian party (or subdivision or affiliate thereof), domestic or foreign, is inadmissible.

The UK

According to the Immigration rules for visitors to the UK:

V 1.1 A person who wishes to enter the UK as a visitor must have permission to do so. That permission may be granted as a visit visa or as leave to enter.

V 3.2 An application will be refused if:

(a) the Secretary of State has personally directed that the applicant's exclusion from the UK is conducive to the public good...

...V 3.3 An application will be refused if the decision maker believes that exclusion of the applicant from the UK is conducive to the public good because, for example, the applicant's conduct (including convictions which do not fall within paragraph V 3.4), character, associations, or other reasons, make it undesirable to grant their application.

Under these broad laws, the UK has barred foreigners deemed undesirable from entry into the UK because they are said to hold “extremist views”, citing their presence to be “not conducive to the public good.” Those barred at one point or another include Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Dutch politician Geert Wilders, and the conservative American radio talk show host Michael Savage.

The EU Schengen Visa

According to the requirements for short-stay visas to the Schengen area, which comprises 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and other border controls at their mutual borders, the applicant “must not be considered to be a threat to public policy, internal security, public health or the international relations of any of the Schengen area countries.”

The Netherlands

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte barred Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut from entering the Netherlands to address political rally of Turkish ex-pats in Rotterdam, and later had Turkish Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya escorted out of the country, citing "public order and security concerns." This sparked a diplomatic incident, with Turkey likening the Dutch to “Nazis” and threatening sanctions and retaliation.

But none of the above examples have merited such dishonest characterization by the New York Times as Israel's law. And none have elicited an editorial, filled with righteous indignation and moral affront, like Israel's new law has. The New York Times' jaundiced eye is reserved for the Jewish state.


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