To understand how the New York Times distorts the Middle East, one need only look at this week’s coverage of the region.
The newspaper was quick to the story after Israel’s education minister, Rafi Peretz, made regressive comments about the malleability of sexual orientation. “Israeli Official Backs ‘Conversion Therapy,'” announced a headline in the July 15 print edition of the Times, followed by a 825-word article about the politician’s comments.
Peretz is not progressive. Nor are his views on gay “conversion.” As the New York Times noted, “Conversion therapy has been widely rejected by medical professionals as potentially dangerous to minors. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have warned against it. The psychological group criticized it because it is based on the idea that homosexuality is a mental disorder.” Indeed, recent polls show that even among American conservatives, few believe in the efficacy of conversion therapy.
One day before Peretz’s comments were broadcast, a Palestinian television station aired a senior Hamas official’s call for violence against Jews throughout the world. During his speech, Fathi Hammad, who recently served as Gaza’s interior minister, addressed the Palestinian diaspora, telling them, “We must attack every Jew on planet Earth – we must slaughter and kill them, with Allah’s help.” It would be putting it mildly to note that slaughtering Jews is also “potentially dangerous to minors.” But the New York Times reacted to Hammad’s comments with deafening silence.
So it is in the newspaper’s fun-house mirror. A politician’s outdated view on homosexuality — Peretz said he believes a hug and some kind words can change someone’s sexual orientation — was considered one of the more important items of international news that day, to be magnified and broadcast to the Times audience as yet another example of Israeli ugliness. And yet antisemitic incitement to “slaughter” every Jew wasn’t deemed newsworthy by Times journalists who struggle to portray Palestinians as, in the words of a New York Times public editor, “more than just victims.”
Consider, too, what the newspaper’s carnival mirror reflected last month, after Iran’s foreign minister defended the country’s practice of executing homosexuals. As recounted by Deutsche Welle,
A reporter from German tabloid Bild asked: “Why are homosexuals executed in Iran because of their sexual orientation?”
He responded: “Our society has moral principles. And we live according to these principles. These are moral principles concerning the behavior of people in general. And that means that the law is respected and the law is obeyed”…
My @washingtonpost colleague @rick_n on German reporter Paul @ronzheimer going to Tehran and courageously questioning @JZarif on why Iran executes gay people… and Zarif’s ridiculous and unacceptable answer. https://t.co/IEk3QuYJlG
— Jason Rezaian (@jrezaian) June 12, 2019
Zarif’s defense of the “morality” of executing homosexuals was later slammed by Germany’s foreign minister and by the U.S. ambassador to Germany, who is gay. But the next New York Times article about the Iranian official appeared only several weeks later, when the paper mused, “He Enjoys American Coffee and Restaurants. Is He a Credible Negotiator for Iran?”
The New York Times, which seemed so concerned about a politician’s personal views about gay conversion therapy (Israel’s prime minister quickly asserted that the comments are “unacceptable” and do not represent his government’s position), had nothing to say about the scandal of Iran’s foreign minister defending as “moral” the hanging of Iran’s gay citizens.
So the New York Times’ problem isn’t merely how it reports on Israel relative to the Palestinians. Nor is the warped news judgement described above about how credible or concerning the paper views threats to Jews and homosexuals, respectively. The issue is that, relative to the wider world, Israel is singled out with a harsh light meant to magnify its warts and turn public opinion against the Jewish state. As both the Jewish and LGBT communities know all too well, there are names for such discriminatory standards.