NYT Bolsters Ilhan Omar’s Anti-Semitic Rhetoric in AIPAC Article

March 13 UPDATE:

New York Times Corrects

After CAMERA informed the journalist of the error detailed in the article, the New York Times corrected the piece so that it no longer states that Israel demolished Palestinian communities. See below for a detailed update.

The partisan and misleading reporting of the New York Times has continued to play a role in the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism by progressive Democrats. 

Congressional reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg, in particular, has bolstered Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar's anti-Semitic rhetoric — about dual loyalties and Jewish power and money controlling US policy —  by:

a) characterizing Tlaib and Omar as critics of Israel who are being condemned by political partisans because of their  views on Israel 

b) bolstering Omar's anti-Semitic allegations of  Jewish money and power, in the form of the lobbying organization AIPAC, running U.S. foreign policy

c) underscoring Omar's line of defense that she is being targeted because she is Muslim by emphasizing her claim of victimhood  

We've already addressed the first method, and will focus on the second one here.

In her article, Concerns Raised Over Power Wielded by a Pro-Israel Lobbying Giant, Stolberg buttresses Omar's anti-Semitic allegations by devoting  a 2000+-word article to questioning whether AIPAC has grown “too powerful” and “warped the policy debate over Israel so drastically that dissenting voices are not even allowed to be heard.”

The reporter features Stephen Fiske as the face of AIPAC, highlighting his campaign against Omar while implying that he represents the organization. A photo of Fiske wearing phylacteries and prayer shawl accompanies the article, as if to highlight his Jewish identity, and the article is book-ended with him.

The article begins:

When Representative Ilhan Omar landed a coveted seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Stephen Fiske began working the phones to Capitol Hill. 

Alarmed by messaging that he saw as anti-Semitic and by Ms. Omar's support for the boycott-Israel movement, Mr.Fiske, a longtime activist with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, began texting and calling his friends in Congress to complain. He is hoping Aipac activists will punish Ms. Omar, a freshman Democrat from Minnesota, with a primary challenge in 2020. 

The article concludes with a quote by Mr. Fiske:

In Florida, Mr. Fiske said it was time for ''pro-Jewish voices to speak up'' about Ms. Omar and two other Democratic freshmen who have been critical of Israel: Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

And he offered a prediction: ''They are three people who, in my opinion, will not be around in several years.''

But, as Ron Kampeas of JTA discovered, Fiske has not been associated with the pro-Israel lobbying group for several years.  Moreover,  "the hardball he counsels in dealing with those who depart from centrist pro-Israel orthodoxies is not the style of the lobby, which discourages alienating safe incumbents."

Indeed, buried in the 12th paragraph of the article, Stolberg herself acknowledges that Fiske runs his own PAC, the Florida Congressional Committee.  In other words, she is fully aware that Fiske is not acting on behalf of AIPAC, yet chooses to deceive readers by insinuating that Fiske nonetheless represents the organization:

Mr. Fiske's Florida Congressional Committee is one of a string of political action committees with anodyne names -- NorPac in New Jersey, To Protect Our Heritage PAC outside Chicago, the Maryland Association for Concerned Citizens outside Baltimore, among others — that operate independently of Aipac but whose missions and membership align with it.

Evidently, Stolberg's ploy worked because freshman congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, an ally of Omar's and Tlaib's, capitalized on the quote that concluded Stolberg's article. Based on the article,  Ocasio-Cortez  is now claiming in a fundraising appeal:   

It’s official—AIPAC is coming after Alexandria, Ilhan, and Rashida.

Stolberg's overarching insinuation is that AIPAC's actions are shadowy and perverse, rather than a legitimate aspect of American democracy, and that its power is attributable to cunning and manipulation, rather than to the numbers of voters who share a similar viewpoint.

While she is careful not to justify Omar's anti-Semitic allegation directly, she validates it by quoting anti-Israel activists who say Omar is right and by herself indirectly suggesting the same.  In her own words, Stolberg describes AIPAC as the “pro-Israel lobbying behemoth” – with its connotation of monstrous power – that has "harnessed its members' pocketbooks."   And while the reporter acknowledges that AIPAC does not actually endorse or contribute funds to political candidates or lobby for a foreign government, she liberally follows her acknowledgements with the term “but” to counter AIPAC's official positions.  Below is a sampling of the direct and indirect validation of Omar's slur:  

To critics, Ms. Omar had a point, even if it was expressed with unfortunate glibness. Aipac's money does have an outsize influence...

M.J. Rosenberg… described how Aipac's political operation is used precisely as Representative Omar suggested...

'If one dares to criticize Israel or dares to criticize Aipac, one gets branded anti-Semitic,'' Mr. Baird added, ''and that's a danger to a democratic republic.''

Aipac, which is bipartisan, does not endorse or raise money for candidates. But its members do...including megadonors like the billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a onetime Aipac backer... [emphasis added]

[Other pro Israel PACS ] operate independently of Aipac but [their] missions and membership align with it… [emphasis added]

Aipac does not lobby on behalf of Israel...But it almost always sides with the Israeli government, no matter who is in charge...[emphasis added]

But the increasing willingness of Democrats like Ms. Omar to accuse Israel of human rights abuses — coupled with the far-right policies of Mr. Netanyahu and his embrace of President Trump — is challenging Aipac's claim to bipartisanship. [emphasis added]

It is telling that while Ms. Stolberg presents the Israeli prime minister as an extremist, she does not characterize the radicals within the Democratic party, “like Ms. Omar,” as such. And  while she portrays those who condemn Omar and Tlaib for trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes as  partisans, she does not similarly note that the "willingness" to level  allegations against Israel of human rights abuses is itself motivated by partisanship, rendering such allegations suspect.   Her non-sequitur suggesting that rapport shared by the American and Israeli leaders somehow belies Aipac’s claim to bipartisanship seems nonsensical and gratuitous.  Is this meant to link Trump, Netanyahu, support for Israel and AIPAC together as one indivisible unit?

In her effort to convince readers that AIPAC's  influence is nefarious, Stolberg promotes an outright falsehood. She suggests that the organization was remiss in remaining silent when Israel “demolished Palestinian communities in the West Bank last year.”  

In fact, Palestinian communities were not demolished.  The reporter cites a letter by Illinois Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky which urges Israel's prime minister  not to demolish the Palestinian village of Susya and other similar Palestinian communities in the West Bank. The communities the letter references are illegally built Bedouin encampments, many of which were erected in recent years and lack the basic infrastructure for water, sewage, and electricity.  While Israel dismantled a fraction of the  illegally built structures in some encampments, none of the communities in question were, in fact, demolished.  Nor does Ms. Schakowsky's letter claim they were.  Moreover, Israel's plan to demolish illegal encampments, is not an issue of ethnically cleansing Palestinian communities, as is implied, but of relocating communities built illegally and harming land and resources to places that contain infrastructure for modern living.

Factual reporting, however,  is apparently  of no consequence  to a New York Times reporter who seems more intent on promoting a narrative of Jewish hypocrisy and cunning in support of a rogue state.

Update: New York Times Corrects

After CAMERA informed Ms. Stolberg of the erroneous statement about Israeli demolishing Palestinian communities in the West Bank,  the newspaper published the following correction:


An earlier version of this article referred imprecisely to Israel’s activities on the West Bank and a letter from Representative Jan Schakowsky. Israel had proposed demolishing Palestinian homes, not entire communities and had not conducted the demolition. Ms. Schakowsky was objecting to the demolition proposal.

We commend the journalist for correcting.


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