Commentary Magazine


Israel Won’t “Bibiwash” NYTimes Bias

The unceasing drumbeat of Israel-bashing on the pages of the New York Times is not exactly a secret. The paper’s editorial pages along with columnists Tom Friedman and Nicholas Kristof have presented a solid front of opposition to the State of Israel with none of the paper’s other columnists presenting an alternative view. The avalanche of one-sided sniping at the Jewish state reached a crescendo this week with a column by Friedman in which he mimed anti-Semitic attacks on Israel’s backers by claiming that Congress was “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.”

But the office of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is apparently not prepared to play along with the pretense that the Grey Lady practices objective journalism. As the Jerusalem Post reported yesterday, Ron Dermer, a senior adviser to Netanyahu, wrote to the Times to tell them the PM would not write a piece for the op-ed page because doing so would “Bibiwash” the paper. Though the Times invited Netanyahu to contribute a piece defending his policies, Dermer pointed out that 19 of 20 op-ed articles published since September were blasts aimed at Israel. After a litany of outrageous assaults on the country, there was no need for the prime minister to legitimize the Times with a token article.

As Dermer pointed out out, the only op-ed article published by the Times during this period that defended Israel was by Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist whose claim to fame is the fact that he lent his name to a libelous United Nations report attacking Israel that he has since recanted. Every other piece has been part of the one-sided campaign in which the Jewish state has been skewered from every possible angle including some outrageous and clearly false assertions a less biased paper would never have considered. That list included an absurd article claiming it was wrong for Israel to take pride in its fine record on gay rights and one by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in which he re-wrote history by claiming Arab armies invaded the newborn Israel in 1948 to protect Palestinian Arabs rather than to destroy the Jewish state.

Netanyahu’s office is only just now noticing something the paper’s readers deduced long ago. The editors of the Times abandoned any semblance of balance on their opinion page many years ago. In terms of American domestic politics and foreign policy that means a preponderance of liberal views with only token and half-hearted opposition by the Times’s house “conservatives.” However, when it comes to Israel, it means a page in which Israel’s friends are unwelcome while its critics and enemies enjoy a year-round open season on the Jewish state. In the not-so-distant past, writers like A.M. Rosenthal and William Safire would balance the views of the editorial column and the paper’s left-wing columnists, but now there is no one on staff ready to do so.

Under the circumstances, Netanyahu’s koshering of the Times would do nothing but allow the paper to pretend to be fair. Though its doubtful anybody at the Times is likely to take this criticism to heart, by calling them out for their bias Dermer and his boss have performed a public service that should warm the hearts of many of the paper’s readers as well as those who have long since given up reading it.