Double Standards on Soccer Racism

The New York Times‘ double standards and focus on indicting Israel was thoroughly demonstrated in CAMERA’s monograph, Indicting Israel: New York Times Coverage of the Palestinian-Israeli ConflictUnfortunately, the newspaper continues to provide examples of similar misreporting.

When The New York Times reported on soccer racism in Europe on Jan. 5, 2013, the story was about the negative response to racism by European soccer fans. The article, headlined “Soccer Racism Prompts Walkout, and Outrage,” noted that this was an acute problem in Russia, Ukraine, the Balkans, Britain, France and most recently Italy, and “hardly a new phenomenon.” There was no suggestion that any of these fans represent their respective nation’s values.

Contrast this with the newspaper’s treatment of racism by Israeli soccer fans. A Jan. 31, 2013 article about recent protests by Beitar soccer fans against the recruitment of Muslim players, entitled “Some Fear a Soccer Team’s Racist Fans Hold a Mirror Up to Israel,” used the incident as an excuse to present a sweeping indictment of Israeli society.

How was a story about the deplorable message of some Israeli soccer fans, which provoked widespread condemnation within Israel, turned into an indictment of Israeli society as whole?

The article by Jerusalem bureau chief Jodi Rudoren relied partly on biased sources to convey this message. The reporter quoted Moshe Zimmerman, introduced as a historian who specializes in sports, to assert that the soccer fans represent an Israeli society that “on the whole is getting more racist.” But she did not inform readers that Zimmermann is known less for his expertise in sports than his penchant for signing anti-Israel petitions, and making derogatory statements about Israelis, including comparisons to Nazis and Hitlerjugend (Hitler youth).

She described another source, Adalah, as “a legal center for Arabs in Israel” that “counted 20 discriminatory laws passed by the current government.” What the reporter failed to mention, however, was the sort of laws deemed discriminatory by Adalah include, for example, revoking the citizenship of those convicted of treason or terrorism; withdrawal of salary from a Knesset member who is guilty of a serious crime; and not providing government funding for rallies and activities opposing Israel as a Jewish state. (Also see “Discriminatory Lies and Discriminatory Laws in The New York Times.”

Another source quoted to indict Israeli society as racist was a representative from the Mossawa Center, described by Rudoren simply as advocates “for civil and human rights.” What the reporter concealed from readers was that NGO-Monitor characterizes Mossawa as a “highly political” organization that tries to delegitimize Israel with allegations of racism, and which opposes the existence of the State of Israel, actively campaigning against Israel’s citizenship law.

The correspondent disingenuously implied a racist motive to newly elected Yair Lapid for his refusal to join a coalition with a certain Arab member of Knesset. What she avoided mentioning, however, was that Lapid’s opposition was not based on race but on the fact that the MK had joined other anti-Israel activists on a flotilla designed to provoke Israel and illegally break its embargo of Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Rudoren’s sources have engaged in highly politicized, radical activity against Israel. For a journalist to cite them as objective sources is tantamount to pushing a biased agenda.

And if that was not sufficient, The New York Times chose to re-emphasize its message of a racist Israeli society as exemplified by soccer fans in yet another story, published nine days later, on Feb. 9, 2013. The only additional information to add to the topic was contained in the headline, “Fire Destroys Offices of Israeli Soccer Team,” hardly enough to warrant another entire article.  But the newspaper’s correspondent and editors decided to use this yet another opportunity to reiterate the same indictment of Israel.  Newsworthiness is all in the eye of the beholder.

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