Discriminatory Lies and Discriminatory Laws in The New York Times

In the racist state of California, there are over 50 laws on the books that discriminate against Latino citizens.

Actually, that’s a lie. But it is a lie that The New York Times, according to editors, would have no problem publishing.

We know this because the newspaper recently published an Op-Ed containing the outlandish claim that Israel has “over 35 laws” that “discriminate against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens.” This falsehood, the latest version of a shopworn anti-Israel canard, was cleared for publication by fact checkers despite journalism’s ethical guidelines calling for opinion pieces to be held to the same standards of accuracy as news stories.

CAMERA has asked editors to provide substantiation for the allegation, which appeared in a May 23 Op-Ed by Yousef Munayyer entitled “Not All Israeli Citizens Are Equal.”

They have yet to provide a credible source. And it seems clear that this is because no such source exists.

Even the hyperlink from the passage about “35 laws” in the online version of the column leads to a web page that fails to substantiate, and in fact contradicts, Munayyer’s claim. That reference discusses “bills” and “legislation submitted to the Knesset” as well as laws, which are said to discriminate against minorities including “refugees and migrant workers.” In other words, it includes proposed laws that if passed would supposedly discriminate against non-citizens (as laws sometimes do — see the right to vote).

But even the website Munayyer and The Times link to fails to name the supposed 35 laws and bills. Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately is the better word), we already know what such a list would look like. Cyberspace is littered with anti-Israel web pages that wildly twist and contort to present evenhanded and innocuous laws as discriminating against Arab citizens.

Flag Law

For example, the advocacy group Adalah cites the 1949 Flag and Emblem Law as an exemplar of what it calls “20 laws that discriminate against the Palestinian minority in Israel.”

This claim is transparently absurd. Israel’s flag law asserts that the

“State flag” means the flag which the Provisional Council of State, on the 25th Tishri 5709 (28th October 1948), proclaimed as the flag of the State of Israel, or a flag, of any size whatsoever, similar in design to the said flag and includes any object bearing the design of the State flag.

To say that the law discriminates, presumably because the flag includes a Star of David, is akin to saying that the U.S. flag, with its 13 stripes, discriminates against the 37 states that were not among the 13 original colonies — never mind the crosses depicted on the flags of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Australia, Iceland, New Zealand and others. It is simply not a serious allegation.

Law of Return and Citizenship Law

The same goes for other supposedly discriminatory laws named by Adalah. The group names The Law of Return (1950) and The Citizenship Law (1952) because “they allow Jews to freely immigrate to Israel and gain citizenship, but excludes [sic] Arabs.”

Again, the assertion is specious. This law does not apply to, and thus does not affect the rights of, Israeli citizens of any ethnicity. As noted in a study by scholar and former Meretz Education Minister under Yitzhak Rabin Amnon Rubinstein and Meretz activist Alexander Yakobson,

the Law of Return does not discriminate between citizens within the country. It does not make the citizenship of non-Jews in any way inferior. Rather it is directed entirely outward, to the Jews of the world.

The authors further point out that

privileged access to rights of residence and immigration for ethnic-cultural kin groups exists in varying ways and through various legal mechanisms, in many long-standing Western European democracies—[Germany,] Ireland, Finland, and Greece—as well as in a number of new European democracies, such as Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, and Croatia.

Other Non-Discriminatory Laws

Other laws named by anti-Israel websites likewise highlight clearly non-discriminatory laws as supposed examples of discriminatory laws. The site itisapartheid.org, for example, offers the following example of a supposedly discriminatory law:

Identity Certificate [Possession and Presentation] Law {1982}1 –Residents must carry identity cards at all times and present them to “senior police officers,” to the heads of local authorities, or to police officers or soldiers on duty when requested to do so.

Anyone scouring the law for a hint of discrimination would find that it requires Israeli nationals over the age of 16, whether Jewish or Arab, to carry “an identity certificate.” On the other hand, it requires non-residents over the age of 16 to carry “an official certificate attesting to his identity.” The law, in other words, does not discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel, or against anyone else. (Contrast that with Ireland, which requires non-nationals to carry and present identification but does not require the same of Irish citizens.)

The anti-Israel website Middle East Monitor insists that Israeli law discriminates against Arabs because “The Knesset passed a law which cuts Social Security benefits for families with large numbers of children.”

The child allowance regulations are applied in a nondiscriminatory manner, without regard to ethnicity or religion. But if anything, it is the ultra-Orthodox Jewish population that loses the most from cuts in child allowance. Israeli Arab Christians have fewer children on average than Israeli Jews. And while Israeli Jews tend to have slightly smaller families than Israeli Muslims, ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israe l generally have many more children than Israeli Muslims.

Middle East Monitor likewise claim the so-called “intifada law” is discriminatory. That law says the state is not liable for damage caused to “a subject of an enemy state, an operative or member of a terrorist organization, or anyone who suffered damage while acting on behalf of a subject of an enemy state or a member or operative of a terrorist organization.”

The false and deplorable insinuation by Middle East Monitor is that Israeli Arabs inherently are operatives of terrorist organizations. Of course, this is not true; and by extension, the law obviously does not discriminate between law abiding Israeli Arabs and Jews, or between law breaking Israeli Arabs or Jews.

The site further protests that

An old draft bill proposing an amendment to the security service laws has been put before the Knesset once again. It proposes a law requiring those “running away” from military or civil service to pay an annual tax worth 1% of their income until the age of 41. According to the proposal, the new tax revenue will be used for military and civil service costs.

Ironically, this law, if anything, protects Israeli Arabs, who are not conscripted for military or national service, though they may enlist.

Flags, identification cards, immigration policies, laws about “terrorists,” proposed laws that discriminate against Jews — are these what New York Times fact-checkers believe discriminate against Arab citizens of Israel?

After CAMERA raised these issues with the newspaper, editors replied that they do indeed fact-check every Op-Ed submission, and a senior editor insisted they stand by Munayyer’s claim because it is a reflection of the author’s personal opinion.

By extension, then, it would not matter how many laws Munayyer or any anti-Israel author might falsely claim discriminate against Palestinian citizens. The New York Times would choose to publish whatever number, because whether one claims 35, 50 or 70 laws are discriminatory, the assertion would, in the newspaper’s view, fall into the realm of reasonable, accurate opinion. And if that is the case, the same could be said about any other country.

In actuality, though, this ridiculously lax, meaningless standard would not apply to any other country. The New York Times would almost certainly refrain from publishing the false claim, relayed at the start of this article, that 50 California laws discriminate against Latinos — even if an author insisted this were his or her “opinion.”

And so if we do learn of discrimination from the May 23 Op-Ed, it is not Israeli legal discrimination against Arabs. It is rather the newspaper’s discrimination against Israel that becomes apparent.

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