Ron Radosh

The New York Times, Obama, and Israel: A New Low for the Paper of Record

If one needs any more proof of the animus towards Israel coming from the editors of The New York Times, look no further than today’s editorial — which marks a new low for the paper. Perhaps they were merely lazy and decided to plagiarize editorials appearing regularly in the pages of The Nation. Or perhaps they just realize that most of their readers don’t subscribe to the official publication of the far Left, and need to get the message out on their own.

Whatever the explanation, the editors felt the need to both chastise Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel for defending his country’s interests, and to praise to the skies President Barack Obama for his highly extraordinary and rude treatment of Netanyahu two days ago. According to their account, “the Obama administration had hoped Mr. Netanyahu would give it something to work with.” But instead, he unceremoniously would not condemn the very legal building in Jerusalem that all previous administrations had not contested. Instead, Netanyahu’s firm stance is interpreted by them as an assault on the supposed but really non-existent “peace process,” and a barrier to reaching a “two-state solution” for the Middle East.

As usual, the editors call the government “right-wing,” which means to the Times readers it is evil personified. Moreover, by insisting on the right to build in an area which everyone knows will be part of Israel once peace is attained, somehow to the editors it is to take place in an area “which Palestinians hope to make the capital of an independent state.”  So by refusing to accept Obama’s demands, the editors assert that Obama “has been understandably furious at Israel’s response.”

Meanwhile, just a few days after Secretary of State Clinton told AIPAC that the U.S. would demand  “sanctions that bite” on Iran, we have all learned that instead, U.S. policy is to soften any talk of sanctions in the vague hope that Russia and China will work with us to convince Iran to move away from its program for a nuclear bomb capacity. But while the U.S. can play nice with Iran, the announcement that an apartment complex will be built someday in Jerusalem means to the Times that the administration has to get even tougher with Israel.

As they see it, the Palestinians are “justifiably worried” that the land they hope to obtain will be nibbled away. The paper forgets to ask why their leaders have rejected virtually every settlement offered them in recent years that would have given them almost everything they want. Such an offer was made to Mahmoud Abbas by the previous Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before he left office, and was turned down to his great consternation. Don’t expect that from the Times editors, who only ask that Israel be “pressed” by the Obama team to “halt building in East Jerusalem.” Only one side to the issue, it seems, is to be subject to pressure.

Acknowledging that many Israelis “find Mr. Obama’s willingness to challenge Israel unsettling,” the paper makes it clear that they “find it refreshing.” No surprise here. Indeed, the editorial makes it quite clear that the paper has become the official editorial voice of the administration’s foreign policy-makers, and the cheerleader-in-chief for whatever domestic and foreign policy the administration comes up with. Why, I wonder, are they surprised that anyone in Israel or this country have what they call “questions” about Obama’s “commitment to Israel’s security,” which they call “misplaced”? Could it simply be that the Israelis know what is important to their own security, and somehow take great offense at Obama’s one-sided pressure on Israel alone, a policy that began the moment he took office?

For those who share these very real concerns about Obama’s policy, a very good parody appeared on a blog site today, which appears as an AP report that during their private meeting, Obama asked Netanyahu to request of all Jews that at their Seder on Monday “the traditional closing refrain ‘next year in Jerusalem’ be deleted during the upcoming Passover holiday, calling the ancient passage provocative and unhelpful for the future of peace talks. Calling it ‘an easy fix,’ Obama strongly urged the Jewish People to replace it with ‘next year in peace’ or ‘next year in Tel Aviv,’ leaving the exact wording to final status talks between Israelis and Palestinians.”

The parody continues with this: “The Prime Minister reportedly attempted to diffuse the situation by offering to remove it from the conclusion of the lesser-known Yom Kippur service, and suggesting the phrase was defunct anyway since Jews have controlled all of Jerusalem since 1967. However, a visibly irritated President Obama flatly rejected the compromise, adding it was another indication the ‘stiff-necked’ Prime Minister did not appear ‘serious about peace.’”

Of course, in the real world, the front page news in the same edition of the Times gives publicity to the forthcoming White House Seder, which is obviously meant to reassure its Jewish readers that how can anyone even think that the President has anything but the best wishes for America’s Jewish citizens, or for the citizens of Israel? It is a technique familiar to all those who when challenging Obama’s policies on the Middle East, are met with the refrain: “But he appointed Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod, and his wife has an African-American Jewish rabbi who is a member of her family.”

One has to actually wonder: at this week’s White House Seder, can we really be sure that the service will end with “next year in Jerusalem”?