Explicit in The Times

Now that the “narrowest, most right-wing, mostly religious and most nationalistic government ever assembled in Israel” has been installed, Israel’s alleged norms of racism, parochialism and anti-democracy can for the very first time be subject to “conversation that has been sorely lacking in the United States,” Anat Biletzki absurdly argues on The New York Times Opinionator blog (“Making it Explicit in Israel,” May 11, 2015). Absurd, because as CAMERA has repeatedly documented, the theme of a deeply racist Israeli society has become a popular one both on the news and editorial pages of The Times.

Moreover, the Times blog that included Biletzki’s recent Op-Ed has often featured thematically similar columns, in which the author, generally an Israeli or Jewish anti-Israel radical, condemns the Jewish state’s alleged sins and bemoans that this is not sufficiently discussed in polite company. (See, for example, “On Questioning the Jewish State,” “The Politics of the Binding of Isaac,” “The German Silence on Israel, and Its Cost.”) In this latest iteration of the theme, Biletzky, a philosophy professor and former chairperson of B’Tselem, sanctimoniously suggests that her mission to expose the supposed dark underbelly of Israeli society is crucial:

The story of Israel is a sad story; and that story has now become sadly explicit. Still, we might look to [philosopher Robert] Brandom for a sliver of hope: he suggests that “having made [it] explicit, now you’re in a position to be critical about it.” Making the norms that rule in Israel explicit might, beyond shocking the conscience of mankind, open up a conversation that has been sorely lacking in the United States.

While she laments the silence regarding anti-Israel allegations, the author’s charges — some patently false— are not new to The Times. Take, for example, her specious accusation against Prime Minister Netanyahu after the kidnapping of three Jewish Israeli teens. She writes:

During those three weeks, Israeli leaders openly called for retribution, with Prime Minister Netanyahu openly quoting the national poet Haim Nacham Bialik’s “Vengenance like this, for the blood of a child, / Satan has yet to devise.”

While Mr. Netanyahu threatened a military response against Hamas authorities whom he blamed for the kidnappings, he did not call for general retaliation by his people. Nor is his recitation of Bialik’s line indicative of “calling for retribution.” Quite the contrary. Bialik’s lines, and Netanyahu’s quotation of them, are a call for heavenly justice and a rejection of human vengeance for a heinous crime. The relevant stanzas (in translation) of the poem in question, penned by Bialik in response to the Kishinev pogrom) are.

And if there is justice — let it show

itself at once! But if justice show itself

after I have been blotted out from

beneath the skies — let its throne be

hurled down forever! Let heaven rot

with eternal evil! And you, the arrogant,

go in this violence of yours, live by

your bloodshed and be cleansed by it.

And cursed is the man who says:

Avenge! No such revenge — revenge for

the blood of a little child — has yet been

devised by Satan. Let the blood pierce

through the abyss! Let the blood seep

down in the depths of darkness, and

eat away there, in the dark, and breach

all the rotting foundations of the earth.

(Emphasis added.)

This poem is widely interpreted as a call for divine retribution in place of personal revenge So by including Biletzki’s false implied charge against Netanyahu — that he had called for vengeance — under its imprimatur, The New York Times is willfully deceiving its readers.

Wilfully, because this is not the first time the newspaper has distorted the meaning of Bialik’s lines. A July 7, 2014 editorial (“Four Horrific Killings“) also provided a truncated rendition of Bialik’s poem to imply that he meant the opposite of what he wrote. According to the editorial.

After the attack on the Israeli teenagers, some Israelis gave in to their worst prejudices. During funerals for the boys, hundreds of extreme right-wing protesters blocked roads in Jerusalem chanting “Death to Arabs.” A Facebook page named “People of Israel Demand Revenge” gathered 35,000 “likes” before being taken down; a blogger gave prominence to a photo, also on Facebook that featured a sign saying: “Hating Arabs is not racism, it’s values.” Even Mr. Netanyahu referenced an Israeli poem that reads: “Vengeance for the blood of a small child, Satan has not yet created.” (Emphases added.)

Although CAMERA contacted The Times to correct the editorial’s false interpretation of the poem, the newspaper’s editors did not clarify. Now, in addition to allowing this incorrect interpretation of the poem to stand, they allowed it to be repeated on the Opinionator blog.

Indeed, anything seems to go when it comes to twisting the facts to support accusations of Israeli racism. Racism and heinous actions by some Israelis are amplified to reflect Israeli society as a whole. For example, when protests were voiced by some Israeli soccer fans against the recruitment of Muslim players, the New York Times published a news article entitled “Some Fear a Soccer Team’s Racist Fans Hold a Mirror Up to Israel,” and used the incident to present a sweeping indictment of Israeli society. Contrast this with the newspaper’s coverage of soccer racism in Europe at about the same time. That coverage did not include any suggestion that racism among soccer fans in Russia, Ukraine, the Balkans, Britain, France and Italy, represented racism or the values of their respective nations. (See CAMERA’s analysis: “Double Standards on Soccer Racism.”) And when it comes to anti-Jewish racism and incitement against Israelis and Jews by Palestinians and their leadership, The New York Times rigorously avoids drawing attention to the phenomenon, on the opinion and on the news pages alike.

This clear double standard, which gives disproportionate scrutiny to Israelis. was acknowledged by an editor of the New York Times Op-Ed page, Matt Seaton, who openly acknowledged on Twitter that his department holds Palestinians to a lower standard than Israelis.

Biletzky’s conceit is that she is revealing untold dirty secrets about the Jewish state. But her distortions and ungrounded accusations are just more of the same dishonest Israel-bashing that readers have come to expect from The New York Times and its blogs.

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