The New York Times' Wretched Anti-Israel Bias Comes in All Too Clear

July 11th, 2014 8:48 AM

Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped on June 12 while hitchhiking home in the West Bank. They were found dead on June 30, murdered by Hamas militants. Palestinians attacked the ambulance carrying their bodies. Later Hamas launched rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, while Israel countered with air strikes on specific terrorist targets.

The paper's coverage of the ongoing situation has been marked by intense anti-Israel bias in tone and labeling, and a false moral equivalence between the behavior of "extremist" Israelis and merely "militant" Palestinian terrorists.

Friday's front-page story by Steven Erlanger, "Killing of Palestinian Youth Puts an Israeli Focus on Extremism," encapsulated this false moral equivalency. It was accompanied by a large front-page photo of Palestinians mourning the apparent death of eight in an Israeli airstrike. Erlanger used the term "extremist" to describe the Israeli right wing, though the paper has yet to call the actual terrorist group Hamas "extremist" during its coverage of the violence:

Even as the Israeli public offers strong support for airstrikes on Hamas fighters and their weapons stocks in Gaza, there is a good deal of reflection over the coldblooded killing of a Palestinian teenager that helped lead to the latest increase in violence.

Brutality against innocents is not new on either side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But, despite a court order that bans the disclosure of information in the case, Israelis have been discussing links between the suspects arrested in the killing of the teenager, Muhammad Abu Khdeir, and Israeli right-wing extremist groups that have at times operated with impunity.


The apparent link to the far right prompted some to bemoan the decay of society’s moral underpinning, with a small group of extremists becoming more brazen. The phenomenon has been traced to the yeshiva student who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, to Baruch Goldstein’s massacre of 29 Muslims at prayer in Hebron in 1994, and even to the 1980s, when a “Jewish underground” put explosives in Palestinian buses.


But the soccer hooligan angle was part of the larger focus on increasing right-wing extremism, including something called “price tag” attacks, and how that fed the undercurrent of hate and dehumanization of Arabs occurring in a segment of the society....

Erlanger put the paper's moral equivalency on display, making Palestinian "suicide bombs" in pizzerias and buses the equivalent to Israeli counterstrikes against the terrorists in the form of "military incursions" and airstrikes.

A generation has grown up in a period of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with suicide bombs and military incursions, rocket fire and airstrikes. Young people on both sides may think about the other more as an enemy than as a neighbor.

That revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager gave the Times excuse to write a much-reviled editorial, "Four Horrific Killings," which appeared on Tuesday:

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.” Israelis have long had to cope with Hamas’s violence, including a recent increase in rocket attacks from Gaza. And Palestinians have been fully guilty of hateful speech against Jews.

The liberal New Republic weighed in on the editorial, with an erstwhile Times defender calling it a "collection of errors and misrepresentations." For one, the Times got the meaning of Netanyahu's poem quote precisely wrong – "the very phrase quoted by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explicitly rejects the possibility of human revenge." The editorial also falsely accused Netanyahu of being silent on the murder of the Palestinian teen, when in fact he spoke out against it, a fact itself recorded by the paper itself.

Israel's ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer took to Buzzfeed to lambaste the editorial, and CAMERA's Tamar Sternthal wrote her own fact-check for the Times of Israel. In fact, pro-Israel media watchdogs have been all over the New York Times for the paper's slanted coverage of Israel counterattacking against murder and rocket attacks by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.

(The paper's critics earned a partial victory with a correction noting Netanyahu did indeed quickly speak out against the murder of the Palestinian teenager.)

Despite Hamas being sworn to Israel's destruction and with a clear intent to kill Jews and conquer Israel, the Times is loath to label it a "terrorist" organization, and that held through in the coverage, with "militant" being a favored euphemism. Yet the Times labeled the Israeli hard right as "extremist" on several occasions.

CAMERA also accurately accused the Times's international edition of getting the blame precisely reversed in a lead-story headline: "Israel presses air barrage and Hamas strikes back." Sternthal explained: "Uninformed, casual readers would have no clue from this grossly skewed headline that the opposite is true. It is Israel which is striking back following 386 Palestinian rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip and targeting civilian communities in southern Israel since June 12, when the three Israeli teens were abducted and killed."

And the group Honest Reporting caught a weird word choice in Wednesday's edition, in which reporters Stephen Erlanger and Fares Akram called "contentious" Israel's humane policy of dropping leaflets warning Gaza Strip civilians of upcoming military action against terrorists.

The story also glossed over how the Palestinians embed terrorists among the civilian population, making it harder for Israel to root them out without killing civilians. Hamas, of course, has no such compunction against indiscriminate targeting of civilians, whether Jewish or Arab.

This was not the first or last example of the Times' anti-Israel slant; it promises to crop up again whenever Israel is attacked. Last year the paper celebrated a mother who raised her sons to kill Jews for Hamas in this offensive obituary.