The notion of partisan news reporting harks back to America’s party press era of two centuries ago when newspapers were tied to political parties. The newspaper would endorse the party’s candidates and promote the party’s perspectives that were shared by the editor/writer/printer in exchange for financial support, without any pretense of presenting the news objectively.
In today’s polarized political climate, some have reverted back to party-press-type partisan coverage, perhaps none more so than the New York Times. That newspaper seems to be supporting the most extreme voices within the Democratic party as it defends members of congress who push the boundaries of anti-Semitic expression and attempt to redefine anti-Semitism.
Congress representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are proponents of the BDS campaign to wipe the Jewish state off the map and peddle anti-Semitic tropes — accusations of dual loyalties and of Jewish power and money controlling US policy — while cloaking themselves in identity politics to lash out at anyone who calls them out. The BDS campaign that denies Jews the right to self-determination in their ancestral land is itself a form of anti-Semitism, and the congresswomen, together with fellow BDS supporters, use Israel as a wedge issue to normalize age-old anti-Semitism. Their words, they claim, represent criticism of Israel. And those labelling their actions ‘anti-Semitic’ are simply Islamophobes attempting to repress the right of Muslims to criticize Israel.
But the congresswomen’s accusations are not only hypocritical — Tlaib draped herself in a Palestinian flag during a victory celebration after her election to Congress and both she and Omar receive donations from PACS that promote Arab and Palestinian causes — they evoke age-old blood libels and the notorious forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Ziyon, that was a mainstay of Goebbel’s anti-Jewish propaganda.
Faced with covering condemnation of the freshman Democratic congresswomen’s anti-Jewish positions and slurs, the New York Times waged a campaign that presented them heroically as “fierce critics of Israel” who are “unhappy with Israel and its policies” while criticism of them was characterized as part of a Republican ploy to “demonize Democrats.”
Bolstering the congresswomen’s controversial position, the newspaper whitewashes BDS as a social justice movement “supporting Palestinian rights,” or “critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank” although BDS leaders readily acknowledge their aim is to eliminate the Jewish state. Anti-BDS legislation introduced by Republican lawmakers was presented as a scheme “to divide Democrats and Jews” and “to provoke Ilhan Omar and Rashid Tlaib.” And a New York Times podcast promoted the false notion that criticism of Israeli policy is being misrepresented, especially by political partisans, as anti-Semitism.
As for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), the pro-Israel lobby group targeted by Omar, the New York Times took up that cudgel, as well, in a 2000+-word article questioning whether the lobby group has grown “too powerful” and “warped the policy debate over Israel so drastically that dissenting voices are not even allowed to be heard.” It suggested that AIPAC has “harnessed its members’ pocketbooks,” noting that the while the organization doesn’t raise money for candidates, “its members do.” The implication throughout the article was that AIPAC somehow operates in nefarious ways.
Lobbying is part of America’s democracy and choosing to contribute to those who share your positions is a constitutional right. If most representatives of Congress are pro-Israel or oppose BDS, it is simply a reflection of their constitutents’ views. Indeed, Tlaib and Omar receive many contributions from those who presumably share their ideology, including members of J-Street (Tlaib) and CAIR(Omar).
That the New York Times echoes Omar’s own anti-Semitic attack on AIPAC and Jewish supporters of Israel, implying that these Jews alone deserve to be disenfranchised, is testimony to just how radical its partisan reporting has become.
(Note: A slightly different version of this Op-Ed appeared in The Times of Israel on March 8, 2019)