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New York Times Bares Anti-Israel Bias in Dispatch From Berlin

The New York Times newspaper. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

New York Times bias against Israel has spilled over to affect not only coverage of Washington, US college campuses, and the Middle East, but even the newspaper’s coverage from Germany.

A front-page Sunday New York Times news article from Berlin puts on display many of the tricks the Times uses to villainize Israel.

There’s a framing issue: rather than framing the story as Germany reverting to its egregious tradition of Jew-hating, the Times frames the story as faulting Israel for behaving so badly that even its friend Germany is recalibrating. (The Times re-upped the story and the framing again with a hyperlink and a mention in another news article on Wednesday, summarizing it with the claim that “the mounting death toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza have led some German officials to ask whether that backing has gone too far.”)

There’s an “experts” issue, in which Times-approved “experts” are trotted out as a kind of Greek chorus to convey the Times reporter and editors’ opinion while maintaining the appearance of journalistic objectivity.

There’s a lack-of-context issue: the Times quotes Israel’s critics as if they are neutral observers, without noting that they lack credibility.

And there’s a personnel issue: the Times reporter from Germany has a background that may dispose her to sympathize with the anti-Israel side of the conflict, and Times editing doesn’t appear to have corrected for that.

Let’s take these four issues in sequence.

Start with the framing. The Times news article says, “Berlin’s hardening tone is partly a response to fears over Israel’s continued insistence that it must enter Rafah in order to pursue Hamas operatives it says are in the southern Gazan city.” This doesn’t seem like “insistence,” a loaded word; it seems like just plain fact. How is Israel going to defeat Hamas without going into Rafah? Alas, the hardened terrorist fighters don’t seem like they are about to surrender voluntarily.

What’s more, there’s no way to know for sure if those “fears” are genuinely what is motivating “Berlin’s hardening tone.” Perhaps there are other factors, such as domestic politics, economic ties to Israel’s enemies, the temptation to depict Israelis as aggressors as a way of assuaging German guilt over the Holocaust, or Germany’s large and sometimes restive population of Muslim immigrants. Those factors are downplayed in the Times article in favor of blaming Israel.

As for the “experts,” the Times article says, “Foreign-policy experts say that by hewing to its strong support of Israel, Germany has also undermined its ability to credibly criticize authoritarian governments like that of Russia’s Vladimir V. Putin for human rights violations.” Use of the term “expert” to describe professors and advocacy-group employees who are frequently incorrect is itself an inaccuracy in labeling. It doesn’t seem to have occurred to the Times or its “experts” that siding with Iran-backed Hamas doesn’t exactly buttress human-rights credibility. What is more “authoritarian” than Hamas and Iran, which murder their internal rivals and independent journalists?

Who is a Times “expert” on this topic? Here’s how the Times handled it:

The sense of diminishing credibility on human rights is particularly strong in the set of developing or underdeveloped countries sometimes referred to as the Global South, a point brought home during a visit to Berlin this month by Malaysia’s prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

“We oppose colonialism, or apartheid, or ethnic cleansing, or dispossession of any country, be it in Ukraine, or in Gaza,” Mr. Anwar told journalists as he stood beside Mr. [German Chancellor Olaf] Scholz. “Where have we thrown our humanity? Why this hypocrisy?”

This is where the lack of context comes in. Anwar Ibrahim didn’t condemn the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas. He and Malaysia have a long history of antisemitism and no diplomatic relations with Israel, according to a Jan. 10 article in The Diplomat. In Oct., Ibrahim reportedly called a Hamas leader to pledge Malaysia’s “unwavering support.” The Times shares none of that context with its readers, making it sound like Ibrahim is a paragon of humanity or some sort of neutral human-rights home-plate umpire.

As for the personnel issue, a Times memo announcing the hiring of Erika Solomon reports, “Erika earned a degree in history and literature from Harvard University in 2008. She then moved to Damascus on an Arabic fellowship before pivoting to journalism.” It says that “desperate to stay abroad, she took an internship with Reuters in the West Bank.” It’s certainly possible that up-close exposure to Syria and the Palestinian Authority might make a reporter more sympathetic to Israel, but, at least to judge by Solomon’s dispatch from Berlin, that doesn’t seem to be what happened. In fact, as an undergraduate, in an interview with a student publication, she talked about trying to be more sympathetic to Arabs:

Erika L. Solomon ’08 comes from a Jewish family — an ethnic tie to the Middle East that drew her to the study of Arabic culture. “A lot of Jewish people study the Middle East and Arabic as a kind of counterbalance to their ethnic identity,” she said. “They want to understand this culture they see themselves in conflict with.”

Solomon believes that such an opposition-oriented interest in the Middle East can be extremely limiting. “I sometimes worry that they go to these great lengths to study Arabic and the Middle East without making the effort to change their built-in perceptions,” she says of Jewish students at Harvard. “It’s the kind of thing that Arabic students talk about — there are the people who study Arabic because they want to be in the CIA, and there are the people who study it because they feel sympathetic.”

That article referred to “Solomon, who identifies herself as Latin American and German.”

It’s not Solomon’s fault that she “comes from a Jewish family” or “identifies herself as Latin American and German.” It might not even be relevant or worth mentioning if the Times article itself weren’t so egregious that readers are left scratching their head at how that could have happened. Sadly, at the Times, the “comes from a Jewish family” issue isn’t limited to a single reporter but reaches all the way to the top.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

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