By Ira Stoll
Some of the best illustrations of anti-Jewish bias by the New York Times come when the newspaper writes the same story about Judaism and another religion or culture. Then we have the chance to compare the results side by side.
I’ve written in the past about the issue of women-only hours in public swimming pools. When the separate swimming time was established to accommodate Muslims in Toronto, the Times praised it as a “model of inclusion.” When a pool in Brooklyn did it in part to accommodate Orthodox Jewish women, the Times wrote an editorial denouncing the practice and suggesting that the Jews smelled. Similarly, a Times column denounced the use of chickens in a Jewish ritual, but another Times article reported on a Senegalese ritual involving caged birds without making any objections on behalf of the welfare of the birds.
Yet the Times just seems to keep spitting out these examples of double standards in coverage, and the Jews seem to just always come out with a worse deal than the other groups the Times is writing about.
Example number one comes with New York Times arts section coverage of two different exhibits. One had to do with Jews: an exhibit at the New York Historical Society titled “The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World.” That article appeared inside the arts section of the newspaper. It ran for a mere 1100 words and was accompanied by three photographs. It concluded with a vague warning about “the kind of religious fervor that promotes a kind of violence against certain groups.” It wasn’t clear what religion that referred to, but it certainly was a negative reference.
The second article was about an exhibit that had to do with Muslims: “The Art of the Qur’an: Treasures from the Musuem of Turkish and Islamic Arts.” That show, even though it is at the Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C., not in the New York Times prime readership area of New York, rates a review from the Timeson the front cover of one of its weekend arts sections. Not only does the review of the Muslim exhibit get better placement than the review of the Jewish exhibit, it gets more space: nearly 1700 words, accompanied by seven photographs, covering a full page inside the paper and half of the section front — about three times as much newsprint as was devoted to the Jewish exhibit. And rather than warning ominously about the link between religion and violence, as the Times review of the Jewish exhibit did, the Times review of the Muslim exhibit was an unqualified, breathless, salivating rave: “It’s a glorious show… art of a beauty that takes us straight to heaven. And it reminds us of how much we don’t know — but, given a chance like this, will love to learn — about a religion and a culture lived by, and treasured by, a quarter of the world’s population… everything seems to glow and float, gravity-free… miraculously beautiful things.”
Two other recent examples of the Times double standard involve topics I have touched on earlier. The Times review of a new novel by Jonathan Safran Foer faulted it for being too particularly Jewish. “This aspect of the novel makes it feel a little restricted,” the Times reviewer complained. Yet a Times review of a movie about black people carried this passage:
Only after I had seen “Moonlight” for a third time — and only after a European acquaintance pointed it out to me — did I notice the almost complete absence of white people from the movie. I don’t bring this up to suggest that the movie or my admiration for it in any way “transcends” race. Nor do I want to damn this film, so richly evocative of South Florida that it raises the humidity in the theater, with the faint praise of universalism. To insist that stories about poor, oppressed or otherwise marginal groups of people are really about everyone can be a way of denying their specificity.
Got that? The Times faults the Jewish novel for not being about everyone, but praises the black movie for precisely the same quality. It’s a double standard, just as with the Times reviews of the two different museum exhibits.
Finally, after a recent piece I wrote about the Times’ weird coverage of a new Yasser Arafat museum in Ramallah, a reader tweeted to remark that she had recently visited the stunning Yitzhak Rabin Center in Tel Aviv. “Dare I search NYT archives for coverage?” she asked. I did and didn’t find anything. It’s possible there was such coverage and I missed it or couldn’t find it in the Times archives, but if not, it sure looks like the Times found the opening of the Arafat museum news fit to print, but not the Rabin center.
As these examples mount, they erode the credibility of the Times just as surely as its front-page headline from last Sunday, “Hillary Clinton Appears to Gain Late Momentum on Surge of Latino Voters.” That story, published the Sunday before the election, reported, “Democrats continued to hold the upper hand, thanks in part to the changing nature of the electorate in the most crucial states.” The Times coverage of Jews and Israel is about as fair and balanced and accurate and reliable as its coverage of the presidential election was, which is to say, not very.
(c) 2016 The Algemeiner Journal