What the New York Times chooses to cover in the Arab-Israeli conflict – and what it excludes – is a story in itself. The paper’s silence, as of this writing, about an event that has rocked the Israeli media and public and triggered calls for government action once more raises serious questions about the paper’s news judgment. After all, the Times reports on no other foreign nation as minutely as it does Israel, whether about negotiations, housing permits in Jerusalem, Israeli gravel-use in the West Bank or a Tel Aviv polygamist.
The story being ignored is the Im Tirtzu campaign to expose the New Israel Fund’s connection to the defamatory Goldstone Report via its funding of groups that spurred the creation of and then contributed harsh commentary about Israel to the UN document. Originally founded as a student organization to counter anti-Zionist activity on campus, Im Tirtzu publicized revelations about the NIF-Goldstone ties in provocative ads across the country. The campaign began in January and has already prompted moves in the Knesset to intensify oversight of foreign political entities financing groups in Israel.
According to polls, the Israeli public by a significant margin opposes politically-based foreign funding of activity in Israel.
So why the silent treatment by the Times?
For starters, many of the very same NIF-supported NGO’s under fire for allegedly helping fuel the Goldstone calumnies against Israel are also preferred news sources of the Times, quoted regularly as reliable critics of Israeli society. B’Tselem and Yesh Din, for instance, are favorites, together cited at least 25 times in the last two years, typically charging the Israel Defense Forces or other official bodies with misconduct, and sometimes prompting entire stories focused on the NGO charges.
Gisha, another NIF grantee, has been invoked at least 10 times in the same period as an objective organization demanding “free movement” for Palestinians. Gisha allegations have triggered front page, multi-story coverage.
HaMoked, yet another New Israel Fund-financed NGO, has been cited by the Times denouncing Israel for its handling of residency issues for Palestinians. Still another, Bimkom, has appeared in the Times blasting Israel for the effects on Palestinians of the separation barrier. Two more favored by both the Times and NIF are Physicians for Human Rights and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. The newspaper has cited the former assailing the Israeli military for ethics violations, the latter deploring alleged discrimination in traveling the roads. One more NGO that enjoys both the support of the NIF and the confidence of the Times is Breaking the Silence, which alleges abuses of Palestinians by soldiers.
The claims of all these groups are tainted by ideological bias and factual distortion. As Ha’aretz’s military correspondent notes with regard to Breaking the Silence, “Any organization whose Web site includes the claim by members to expose the ‘corruption which permeates the military system’ is not a neutral observer.” Indicative of the disregard for fairness and objectivity, the soldier “testimonies” posted on its Web site include no dates and no specifics, but are anonymous charges the military cannot investigate – or refute.
B’Tselem, created to “change Israeli policy in the occupied territories” and to monitor treatment of Palestinians there, has produced strikingly skewed and false categorizing of Palestinian casualties. The group has included terrorists such as Abdul Salaam Sadek Hassouneh, who murdered six at a Bat Mitzvah celebration in 2002, as “civilians” killed by Israel. Similar distortions minimizing violence against Israelis color much of B’Tselem’s work.
Gisha pursues legal measures against Israel charging “segregation” and has signed ads alleging Israel is an apartheid regime. Its reports minimize or ignore entirely the threats against Israel.
And so it goes with all the groups.
Yet the Times promotes their message and their standing, presenting them as mainstream, credible, worthy sources. Indeed, the paper avoids identifying their political hue, which is uniformly well to the left, if not radical. In Times parlance, they are merely Israeli “human rights groups.” Only once, for example, was any tagged correctly as an “Israeli leftist advocacy group” – and this not in a news story, but a summary brief. Perhaps accidentally.
Nor is this pattern regarding political labels applied consistently across the political spectrum. For example, on the few occasions when the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs has been quoted, the think tank has repeatedly been termed “conservative.”
Given all this, the absence of attention to the NIF-Goldstone connection is unsurprising, if journalistically indefensible.
The New Israel Fund must, moreover, be grateful for the Times silence; its American donors generally believe they contribute to the betterment of life for rape victims and battered women, for the enhancement of the environment and the strengthening of Israeli education. Most would not likely be happy learning NIF-funded publications had a hand in the Goldstone Report and smear Israel as an apartheid regime.
Most would probably not be contributors if they knew that, according to NGO-Monitor’s Anne Herzberg, there are NIF-funded groups that “demonize Israel at the UN, support boycott and divestment campaigns, promote ‘lawfare’ cases against Israeli officials and even advocate erasing the Jewish character of the state.”
Regrettably, the paper’s affinity for NIF-funded groups that blame Israel for the conflict and related problems is matched by its lack of attention to the genocidal demonizing of Israel in Palestinian society and the wider Arab world. Unmentioned in its pages, for instance, was a recent translation from Arabic by MEMRI (Middle East Media Research Institute) of yet another screed by a Muslim preacher in Nablus who calls Jews Nazis, exhorts his flock to kill all Jews and says:
Palestine was subjected to a loathsome occupation of its land and holy places by these neo-Mongols, who perpetrated, on this holy, blessed, and pure land, acts of killing, assassination, destruction, expropriation, Judaization, harassment, and the fragmentation of the homeland. (January 29, 2010)
In fact, a number of NIF groups would agree with much of what the preacher at the Bourin mosque had to say. But that only underscores the need for serious investigation of the New Israel Fund and the many politically extreme grantees enjoying millions of dollars of its largesse.
It underscores too the question about the news judgement of the Times, which has drifted increasingly away from objective reporting on Israel, has promoted its defamers, and continues to ignore the onslaught of Palestinian and broader Arab anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hate indoctrination.
Andrea Levin is Executive Director and President of CAMERA, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.