By Sherwin Pomerantz
For some years there has been talk that the New York Times has a residual bias against Israel. However, most of the proof offered has been anecdotal and not supported by anything tangible that people can point to and have an “aha” moment.
However, in the last two weeks two op-eds appeared that give significant credence to what can only be termed a negative obsession not only with Israel, but with Jews as well.
To understand the issue, it is important to understand how the editorial pages of the paper are arranged. Each day the paper has two pages of editorial content. There is a half-page dedicated to the editorial position of the paper itself. In addition there is a full page of syndicated columnists such as Roger Cohen, Frank Bruni, Charles Krugman, etc. The remaining half page generally consists of two guest op-ed pieces, although on occasion they give the entire half page to one writer.
On July 25th one of the guest op-eds was written by Alon Tal, an Associate Professor in the Department of Desert Ecology at Ben-Gurion University, and the author of “The Land Is Full: Addressing Overpopulation in Israel.” In that piece he makes the case that Israel’s population growth is a threat to our quality of life, Specifically, “Given that Israel has the highest birthrate in the developed world, those who care about its future should realize that demographic growth is no longer a blessing but a threat to the quality of life in the Jewish state.”
His thesis is that our quality of life is at risk if the population of Israel continues to grow unchecked. As he says:
In a country that argues over everything else, overpopulation, it seems, is one issue we never want to address. There are two reasons for this taboo: First, the loss of six million Jews in the Holocaust made pro-natal policies axiomatic in the young state of Israel. Second, Palestinian authorities have, historically, promoted a high birthrate among the Arab population as a way of undermining the Jewish state by demographic means. Thus, both Arabs and Jews considered having large families a patriotic duty.
Neither reason is valid today: The global total of Jews, which had fallen to 11 million in 1945, has rebounded to pre-World War II levels. There are currently about 17 million people in the world who identify as Jewish. This number is destined to grow much higher, thanks mainly to Israel’s population trend.
It is Israel’s high fertility rate — 50 percent higher than most other Western countries — that puts it on an unsustainable course. This didn’t happen naturally; it is the result of decades of government programs that encouraged large families and created obstacles to abortion. As the country fills up, Israel needs a change of direction, with economic strategies to empower women of all communities in its diverse society.
In other words, we do not need more Jews in Israel because adding Jews will challenge our overall quality of life and we do not need more Jews in the world because we have already replaced the six million lost in the Holocaust.
Can anyone imagine why the New York Times thinks it is important to give half of its op-ed space to someone writing on this topic unless they are biased against us? Can anyone imagine that they would ever publish an op-ed piece that urges Turks to stop having more Turkish children, or even Americans to stop having more American children? Was this really the most important topic in the world on July 25th?
But there is more.
On July 30th they gave space for another one of their two guest op-eds to Ruth Margalit, an Israeli writer living in New York who wrote a piece entitled: “How Benjamin Netanyahu Is Crushing Israel’s Free Press” which excoriates Israel for its, as she terms it, “unchecked expansion of paid content in editorial pages, as well as on the outsized influence of Israel Hayom (“Israel Today”), the free daily newspaper owned by the American casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and widely believed to promote the views of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.”
It does not occur to Margalit, of course, that the very existence of Israel Hayom is symbolic of freedom of the press as there is no effort by the government (only by the other papers) to close it down. For sure the government might be more inclined to lean in that direction if it was openly anti-administration but, nevertheless…..
She also, of course, fails to mention that there are many “democratic” countries that are much worse violators of the concept of freedom of the press than Israel. For example, even before the recent coup attempt, democratic Turkey had more journalists in jail than any country in the world. One would not even want to venture a guess at how that number has increased since the coup attempt.
Once again, of all the problems in the world on July 30th the New York Times chose to give half of its guest op-ed space to a writer critical of Israel, not Turkey, not China, not Egypt but Israel.
So, in the course of 5 days, 20% of the guest op-eds were Israel-critical while Erdogan was locking up hundreds of dissidents, while there were 600,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan with no place to live and without either jobs for themselves or schools for their kids, and while the Republic nominee for president of the United States was venting his spleen on every minority group in America.
CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America recently ran an ad campaign about the New York Times that said: “All Rant, All Slant, All the Time.” Perhaps J J Goldberg, the Atlantic columnist who tweeted that he was going to stop reading Ha’aretz and that the Jerusalem Post is not much better, would be better advised to stop reading the New York Times.
Sherwin Pomerantz is a 32 year resident of Jerusalem, president of Atid EDI Ltd., an economic development consulting firm, and former National President of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel.