By Jerold Auerbach
The New York Times, owned by Jews named Sulzberger ever since Adolph Ochs purchased the floundering newspaper in 1896, might have passed along Hanukkah greetings to its Jewish readers and to the world’s only Jewish state. Yet within five days it launched a three-article fusillade, supplemented by an editorial, castigating Israel. No surprise that each article was written by a Jew.
Predictably, Thomas Friedman launched the assault (12/16). Still mired in the left-wing Peace Nowism of his undergraduate years at Brandeis, when he was a student leader of Breira (the ideological antecedent of J-Street), Friedman warned against “West Bank settlers and scary religious-nationalist zealots.” Sounding rather zealous himself, he offered his dire forecast that the new government to be elected in March “will lead Israel into a dark corner, increasingly alienated from Europe, America and the next generation of American Jews.” Its best policy option is to embrace the “Israeli-designed traffic management application Waze.com.” Check it out.
Four days later Jodi Rudoren, following in Friedman’s ideological footsteps as Jerusalem Bureau Chief, contributed a feminist propaganda piece. Ostensibly celebrating retiring Maj. Gen Orna Barbivai, the highest ranking woman in IDF history, Rudoren took cheap pot-shots at the “testosterone-driven institution” that carved out a “pink ghetto” – while winning every war foisted upon it since 1948. Israel, she conceded, is “the only nation with a gender-neutral draft,” quickly adding: “but that may sound more equal than it is.”
Yet even Rudoren acknowledges that women comprise “more than half of Israel’s military officers” – compared with 17 percent in her American homeland. She neglects to mention that women served in the military prior to Israeli independence; and ever since 1948 they have filled combat roles, which American army women have yet to do. By contrast, the first American four-star female general led the Army Material Command that supplies soldiers with equipment, outfits, and arms – not exactly a front-line position. Frozen in her feminist categories, Rudoren can only compare General Barbivai’s military career with “beneficiaries of affirmative action.”
By Shabbat Hanukkah the Times Editorial Board was prepared to weigh in against Israel. Evidently horrified, as Friedman was, that voters in the democratic Jewish state might re-elect a right-wing prime minister in March, editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal guided “The Embattled Dream of Palestine” into print. It cited “the Palestinians’ longing for a self-governing homeland” – which they rejected as far back as 1937, again in 1947 with the UN Partition Plan, at the Camp David Summit in 2000, and with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s 2008 Peace Plan. In Foreign Minister Abba Eban’s memorably accurate phrase, they “never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
But Israel, according to Times editors, is to blame. They warn of dire consequences “if Israel adopts a new law under consideration emphasizing the country’s Jewishness over democracy.” But the new Basic Law proposal does no such thing: it equates their importance. Lamenting “stalled” negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (but declining to specify who stalled them), the editorial blamed Israel for “narrowing the space for a peace deal by expanding settlements” – although Palestinians rejected peace deals decades before the first settlement was built.
I was reminded of the trenchant observation by Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, one of the founders of the restored Jewish community in Hebron following the Six-Day War. Some thirty years ago he succinctly reminded me that “the largest Jewish settlement in the Middle East” is the State of Israel.
The crescendo of Times criticism came on the sixth day of Hanukkah. In the lead Sunday Review article, Roger Cohen asked “What Will Israel Become?” His answer was a foregone conclusion, appropriately fed to him by Amos Oz, Israel’s foremost left-wing fiction writer, identified by Cohen as “the conscience of a liberal and anti-Messianic Israel.” Absent a two-state solution, Oz predicted, there will either be a single “Arab state” or “an Israeli nationalist dictatorship, suppressing the Palestinians and . . . its Jewish opponents.” With hysteria like this, who needs analysis?
Cohen tries. “Tolerance is under attack as a wave of Israeli nationalism unfurls and settlements grow,” he laments. But even an Israel “bent on Jewish supremacy” can yet be rescued by implementation of the partition proposal rejected by Palestinians after the Six-Day War. To be sure, it would return Israel (Abba Eban again) to pre-war “Auschwitz borders.” Does Cohen care?
Perhaps by the eighth day of Hanukkah The New York Times will remind its readers that Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel defined Zionism even before Theodor Herzl published The Jewish State in 1896, the year that Adolph Ochs purchased the Times. But nearly 120 years later a Times conversion seems unlikely.
P.S. Adding yet another brick to its wall of liberal Jewish wailing in the Sunday Times Magazine (12/21), reporter Jason Horowitz was riveted by the tedious lament of a Washington rabbi who feels shamed by Israel and bemoans the fate of “the greatest ethical tradition in history” as it is “dragged through the mud” by Right-wing politicians and settlers. The Times, like the Palestinians it so admires, never misses an opportunity to castigate Israel – especially during Hanukkah.