Leading Reform rabbi cites newspaper’s one-sided coverage of Gaza war
I am a lifelong Democrat, a political liberal, a Reform rabbi, and for four decades, until last week, a New York Times subscriber. What drove me away was the paper’s incessant denigration of Israel, a torrent of articles,photographs, and op-ed columns that consistently present the Jewish State in
the worst possible light.
This phenomenon is not new. Knowledgeable observers have long assailed the Times lack of objectivity and absence of journalistic integrity in reporting
on Israel. My chronic irritation finally morphed into alienation and then to visceral disgust this summer, after Hamas renewed its terrorist assaultsupon Israel and the Times launched what can only be described as a campaign
to delegitimize the Jewish State.
The Middle East conflict is complex, but the root cause of Israel’s
confrontation with Hamas is not. Committed by its charter to “obliterate” Israel and kill all Jews everywhere, Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S., Britain, and the European Union, a designation substantiated by its raining rockets down on Israel’s civilians and
tunneling under its border to kill and kidnap, indisputable war crimes.
Renowned Israeli novelist, leftist, and self-declared “Israeli peacenik” Amos Oz captured the essence of the conflict in two questions he posed to a German radio audience. “What would you do if your neighbor across the street
sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting
machine gun fire into your nursery? What would you do if your neighbor
across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to
blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?”
The answers are self-evident to everyone except the New York Times. Its
obsessive focus is on Palestinian civilian casualties, especially children,
publishing photos of their corpses and little else, as if they tell the
The deaths of innocents in wartime are tragic and
heartbreaking; they diminish us all. But a newspaper committed to balance
and fairness would provide context and perspective. It would show
traumatized Israeli children running to shelters, cowering, wetting their
beds, and suffering nightmares. It would publish photos and accounts of
militants launching rockets from the roofs of mosques, a church, and a media
hotel, alongside schools, refugee shelters, clinics and hospitals, and of
weapons concealed by Hamas in UN facilities. It would substantiate casualty
figures from Hamas, which is known to have falsified them in the past,
before reporting them as fact.
Â It would highlight Hamas’ use of civilians as
human shields, its urging civilians to ignore Israel’s advance warnings to
depart, so that Gazans would be killed and inflict PR damage on Israel.
a paper would cover the threats of death that inhibited reporters and
photojournalists from telling the true, full story. But the Times did not.
What it did instead is revealed by a sample of headlines: “As Israel Hits
Mosque and Clinic, Air Campaign’s Risks Come Home;” “Israelis Watch Bombs
Drop on Gaza From Front-Row Seats;” “Questions About Tactics and Targets as
Civilian Toll Climbs in Israeli Strikes;” “Foreign Correspondents in Israel
Complain of Intimidation;” “Israeli Shells are Said to Hit UN School;”
“Military Censorship in Israel;” “A Boy at Play in Gaza, a Renewal of War, A
Family in Mourning;” “Israel’s Supporters Try to Come to Terms with the
Killing of Children in Gaza;” “Israel Braces for War Crimes Inquiries on
Gaza;” “Resisting Nazis, He Saw Need for Israel. Now He Is Its Critic.”
Then there are the op-eds: “Israel’s Puppy, Tony Blair;” “Israel’s Bloody
Status Quo;” “How the West Chose War in Gaza;” “Darkness Falls on Gaza;”
“Israeli Self-Defense Does Not Permit Killing Civilians;” “Israel Has
Overreacted to the Threats it Provoked;” “Zionism and Its Discontents;”
“U.S. Should Stop Funding Israel, or Let Others Broker Peace;” “Israel’s Colonialism Must End;” “Unwavering Support of Israel Harms U.S. Interests,Encourages Extremism;” “Eight Days in Gaza: A Wartime Diary: Life and Deathin the Gaza Strip.” The last column consumed nearly the entire op-ed page.
The straw that broke my subscription’s back came on Aug. 19, when Hamas violated yet another truce, sending a fusillade of rockets into Israel. The
Wall Street Journal’s headline read, “Gaza Rocket Strikes End Cease Fire.” A U.S. State Department spokesperson condemned the renewed rocket fire holding Hamas responsible for causing the ceasefire to break down.
Â The Times headline: “Rockets From Gaza and Israeli Response Break Cease-Fire.”
Seriously? A newspaper that cannot distinguish between starting a fight anddefending oneself is intellectually deficient, morally obtuse, andprofoundly unworthy of its readers.
I know the Times won’t miss me. The feeling is mutual.
Rabbi Richard A. Block is president of the Central Conference of American