The New York Times' Jewish Problem

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April 29, 2019

It is tempting to dismiss the anti-Semitic cartoon that the international edition of the New York Times published Thursday as an isolated—albeit egregious—mistake. There would be no deeper problem for the Times to confront, no further reason for the public to acknowledge that anti-Semitism has become acceptable in the supposedly liberal and enlightened West. But such a dismissal would ignore a harsh truth: the Times is fostering anti-Semitism masquerading as social justice.

For those who did not see it, the cartoon, which appeared in the opinion section, shows a guide dog with a big nose and the face of Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu leading a blind Donald Trump wearing a yarmulke. Just to make sure readers do not miss the identity of the dog, it has a Star of David hanging from its collar.

The image would not have looked out of place in Nazi Germany. Jews are not only caricatured, but also degraded as dogs. And they are portrayed as wily schemers, looking to gain advantage. Moreover, the cartoon's obvious message is that Israel controls American policy, if not America itself, with the United States blindly following the Jewish state wherever it wants to go. Joseph Goebbels would be impressed. Indeed, users on social media noted the similarities to an image from Nazi Germany showing another caricature of a Jew—only this time he is leading Winston Churchill as they walk atop the earth.

Over the weekend, after receiving significant backlash for publishing the cartoon, the Times released an editor's note calling the image, which was then deleted, "offensive," adding that it was "an error of judgment to publish it." When the criticism did not stop, the paper's opinion section issued an apology, and acknowledged that the cartoon is anti-Semitic. The Times explained that a "single editor working without adequate oversight" downloaded the cartoon and decided to run it. But do not worry; the Times says that the matter remains under review, and that it anticipates "significant changes."

In other words, publishing the cartoon was, according to the Times, a major blunder due to a poor internal process. Beyond that, nothing to see here: once the problem is fixed, everyone can go on living his or her lives. But this incident was much more than a one-time mistake; it is part of a deeply entrenched culture at the paper that goes back decades.

In his latest column, Bret Stephens writes in the Times that, for some readers, the paper "has a longstanding Jewish problem, dating back to World War II, when it mostly buried news about the Holocaust, and continuing into the present day in the form of intensely adversarial coverage of Israel." This description is correct but does not quite show the extent of the Times' "Jewish problem."

In 2015, for example, the Times famously created a Jew tracker. No, that is not a typo. For those who may not remember, the Times published a list tracking which Jewish American lawmakers voted against the nuclear deal with Iran. The list included columns that read "Jewish?" and "State and estimated Jewish population." Even worse, Jewish lawmakers and those who represent a district with a larger Jewish population than the U.S. average were singled out with a yellow highlight. For those who do not get the significance, during the Holocaust Jews were forced to wear yellow Stars of David, also to single them out from the crowd. The list was just plain creepy, and chilling. Consider the clear implication: that Jews were more likely to oppose the nuclear deal out of loyalty to Israel. How is that not anti-Semitic? The Times quietly removed the list after the backlash became too much.

Another example: just last week, the Times had to issue a correction to an opinion piece to clarify that Jesus was "a Jew born in Bethlehem." An original version of the article said that Jesus "was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin." It took a full week for the paper to acknowledge the error. Apparently the Times did not see a problem with rewriting history to make Jews look bad—at least until it got hammered for doing so.

And then there is the Times' coverage of Israel, both in its straight-news and opinion sections, which consistently demonizes the Jewish state and supports those who seek to delegitimize it. The paper constantly publishes articles that back the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is a form of economic warfare against Israel meant to destroy the Jewish state. Moreover, a study from 2014 by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America found that the Times is nearly seven times more likely to publish pieces "primarily critical of Israel than those primarily critical of the Palestinians," and that the paper is "twice as likely to publish opinion pieces that predominantly support the Palestinian narrative about which side deserves more sympathy or criticism than pieces that predominantly support the Israeli narrative." The numbers do not always capture the egregiousness of some of these stories, such as a 4,700-word article from December that portrayed Israeli soldiers as bloodthirsty savages in the death of a young Gazan medic when, in reality, the killing was unintentional, the result of an "improbable" incident involving a ricocheting bullet.

Despite this history, the most recent cartoon may be a new low for the Times. But what is remarkable is that, despite its apology and the wave of criticism that it received, the paper still proceeded to publish another cartoon of Netanyahu over the weekend—and while this one was not so Naziesque, it still portrayed the Israeli premier negatively and showed a Star of David.

This is the behavior of people who are illogically obsessed. They just cannot help themselves and must demonize Israel, no matter what. This illogical obsession eerily resembles the crazed fixations that anti-Semites have on Jews being the cosmic evil behind so much of what is wrong in the world. But today, one just needs to explain that they are only talking about Israel and they are absolved of all charges of anti-Semitism.

At a certain point, one cannot plead ignorance and write off incidents that flirt—to use a kind term—with anti-Semitism as mistakes. There is clearly a dark culture at the Times that fosters this kind of behavior. Those who lament the resurgence in anti-Semitism in the Western world cannot overlook the role of the Times, which is normalizing civilization’s oldest virus under the guise of defending social justice for the Palestinians against Israel.