Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mahmoud Zahar

Why Does the New York Times Only Cover Some Kinds of Anti-Semitism?

Here’s a pop quiz that I’m sure nobody will have a hard time passing: Which of the following two stories made it into the New York Times?

1. One of the top leaders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, a man who has been written about on hundreds of occasions in the Times, responded to the dedication of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem by delivering a viciously anti-Semitic rant in which he promised the annihilation of Israel and said that the Jews “killed and murdered your prophets” and “have always dealt in loan-sharking” and are “destined to be destroyed.”

2. A Vatican preacher compared condemnation of the Church over its sex-abuse scandal to the persecution of Jews, remarks from which Church officials immediately distanced themselves.

The first story, of course, was not covered. The second was not just covered, but given above-the-fold, front page treatment. Why is this?

Is it because this is Easter weekend? This fact probably elevates media interest a little bit — but enough to land the story on the front page? Maybe it’s because Jewish groups complained about the sermon? Sure, but Jewish groups routinely complain about anti-Semitism and incitement and are routinely greeted with yawns from the press. So why the different treatment?

The reason, I think, is because the Times is a left-wing paper and adheres to one of the central tenets of enlightened progressivism: people who can be identified as Third World, or who are not members of the Judeo-Christian/European world, must not be held to the same standards to which white, First World people are held. This double-standard — it is the racism of the enlightened — pervades the treatment of different cultures and religions in the strongholds of Western liberalism, that is, in the media, academia, and the “human rights” community.

The fact of the matter is that the most violent and genocidal kinds of anti-Semitic (and anti-Christian, and anti-American) hate speech are commonplace in the Muslim Middle East, yet are covered in the West only by boutique outlets such as MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. But when a white, Christian, European makes a statement that really is far more insensitive and dumb than it is anti-Semitic, not only does it land on the front page of the New York Times, but it is given sensational media coverage throughout the western world. The key factor is not the offense itself — it is the religious or cultural identity of the person who has committed the offense.

As Charles Jacobs one wrote,

To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor. Imagine the media coverage and the rights groups’ reaction if it were “whites” enslaving blacks in Sudan. Having the “right” oppressor would change everything.

This is because, as Pascal Bruckner points out in his magnificent new book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, progressivism is obsessed with a belief in the hypocrisy and guilt of Western Civilization, and therefore with the need for repentance. “The duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed. Our only right is to remain silent.”

We can see the truth of this thesis before our eyes today: the mildly offensive words of a Vatican preacher get front-page scrutiny. The genocidal hatred of a Hamas leader doesn’t even make it into the paper.

Here’s a pop quiz that I’m sure nobody will have a hard time passing: Which of the following two stories made it into the New York Times?

1. One of the top leaders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, a man who has been written about on hundreds of occasions in the Times, responded to the dedication of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem by delivering a viciously anti-Semitic rant in which he promised the annihilation of Israel and said that the Jews “killed and murdered your prophets” and “have always dealt in loan-sharking” and are “destined to be destroyed.”

2. A Vatican preacher compared condemnation of the Church over its sex-abuse scandal to the persecution of Jews, remarks from which Church officials immediately distanced themselves.

The first story, of course, was not covered. The second was not just covered, but given above-the-fold, front page treatment. Why is this?

Is it because this is Easter weekend? This fact probably elevates media interest a little bit — but enough to land the story on the front page? Maybe it’s because Jewish groups complained about the sermon? Sure, but Jewish groups routinely complain about anti-Semitism and incitement and are routinely greeted with yawns from the press. So why the different treatment?

The reason, I think, is because the Times is a left-wing paper and adheres to one of the central tenets of enlightened progressivism: people who can be identified as Third World, or who are not members of the Judeo-Christian/European world, must not be held to the same standards to which white, First World people are held. This double-standard — it is the racism of the enlightened — pervades the treatment of different cultures and religions in the strongholds of Western liberalism, that is, in the media, academia, and the “human rights” community.

The fact of the matter is that the most violent and genocidal kinds of anti-Semitic (and anti-Christian, and anti-American) hate speech are commonplace in the Muslim Middle East, yet are covered in the West only by boutique outlets such as MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. But when a white, Christian, European makes a statement that really is far more insensitive and dumb than it is anti-Semitic, not only does it land on the front page of the New York Times, but it is given sensational media coverage throughout the western world. The key factor is not the offense itself — it is the religious or cultural identity of the person who has committed the offense.

As Charles Jacobs one wrote,

To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor. Imagine the media coverage and the rights groups’ reaction if it were “whites” enslaving blacks in Sudan. Having the “right” oppressor would change everything.

This is because, as Pascal Bruckner points out in his magnificent new book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, progressivism is obsessed with a belief in the hypocrisy and guilt of Western Civilization, and therefore with the need for repentance. “The duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed. Our only right is to remain silent.”

We can see the truth of this thesis before our eyes today: the mildly offensive words of a Vatican preacher get front-page scrutiny. The genocidal hatred of a Hamas leader doesn’t even make it into the paper.

Read Less

Der Spiegel: “An Israeli Affront Against Germany”

The headline is breathless, and the article is stupid. The German paper claims that both the failure of the Shalit talks and the Dubai assassination were grave Israeli insults to Germany.

This marks the second time that the Germans have been snubbed. [The first time, Der Spiegel says, was when the Mossad did not tell the German mediator in the Shalit talks that the Dubai assassination was about to take place. No, that doesn't make sense to me either -- NP] In late December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected at the last moment a detailed agreement that his negotiator Hagai Hadas had hammered out with Hamas via the German intelligence agency. …

Zahar said it had been difficult to convince Khalid Mashaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas in Damascus, Syria, to approve the deal. Netanyahu’s subsequent rejection seriously damaged his reputation within Hamas, says Zahar. “I have suffered a lot internally,” he adds. “I am not ready to negotiate anymore.”

So Israel rejected a prisoner swap and hung Mahmoud Zahar out to dry? This is pure Hamas spin — and therefore very attractive to Western journalists. The reality of the negotiations is that Israel has been waiting on a Hamas answer on the prisoner swap since December, an answer that has not been forthcoming because of a rift between Hamas’s Gaza and Damascus leadership. The Gazans want to do the swap; the Syrian leadership does not:

Last December, at the conclusion of a round of mediated negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought the deal to the inner cabinet on security matters, which gave a conditional approval to the German offer.

Since then, Hamas has avoided providing its own response to the offer. It may be that this was part of an effort to avoid having the blame for failure directed at the organization. However, the absence of a response also reflected genuine disagreement between al-Zahar and others in the organization.

Intelligence sources in the West and Israel have said that al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, are aware of the severity of the crisis that the organization is experiencing as a result of more than three years of siege on the Gaza Strip, and are eager to reach a compromise that would permit them to also show some gain in the form of a large prisoner release.

It is not unusual in the least for leaders of Palestinian terrorist groups to baldly lie about any number of things; holy warriors grant themselves many indulgences. What should be unusual is the willingness of Western reporters to reprint these lies as journalistic fact. One would think that a German paper should be especially careful about breathlessly repeating false allegations against the Jewish state.

The headline is breathless, and the article is stupid. The German paper claims that both the failure of the Shalit talks and the Dubai assassination were grave Israeli insults to Germany.

This marks the second time that the Germans have been snubbed. [The first time, Der Spiegel says, was when the Mossad did not tell the German mediator in the Shalit talks that the Dubai assassination was about to take place. No, that doesn't make sense to me either -- NP] In late December, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected at the last moment a detailed agreement that his negotiator Hagai Hadas had hammered out with Hamas via the German intelligence agency. …

Zahar said it had been difficult to convince Khalid Mashaal, the exiled political leader of Hamas in Damascus, Syria, to approve the deal. Netanyahu’s subsequent rejection seriously damaged his reputation within Hamas, says Zahar. “I have suffered a lot internally,” he adds. “I am not ready to negotiate anymore.”

So Israel rejected a prisoner swap and hung Mahmoud Zahar out to dry? This is pure Hamas spin — and therefore very attractive to Western journalists. The reality of the negotiations is that Israel has been waiting on a Hamas answer on the prisoner swap since December, an answer that has not been forthcoming because of a rift between Hamas’s Gaza and Damascus leadership. The Gazans want to do the swap; the Syrian leadership does not:

Last December, at the conclusion of a round of mediated negotiations, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought the deal to the inner cabinet on security matters, which gave a conditional approval to the German offer.

Since then, Hamas has avoided providing its own response to the offer. It may be that this was part of an effort to avoid having the blame for failure directed at the organization. However, the absence of a response also reflected genuine disagreement between al-Zahar and others in the organization.

Intelligence sources in the West and Israel have said that al-Zahar and Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, are aware of the severity of the crisis that the organization is experiencing as a result of more than three years of siege on the Gaza Strip, and are eager to reach a compromise that would permit them to also show some gain in the form of a large prisoner release.

It is not unusual in the least for leaders of Palestinian terrorist groups to baldly lie about any number of things; holy warriors grant themselves many indulgences. What should be unusual is the willingness of Western reporters to reprint these lies as journalistic fact. One would think that a German paper should be especially careful about breathlessly repeating false allegations against the Jewish state.

Read Less




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