New York Times omits, falsifies and cheerleads for Israel

Sun shines behind New York Times building

The New York Times is not fairly reporting on Palestinians.

Brendan McDermid Reuters

I sent the following letter to The New York Times on 16 September to challenge the newspaper’s misleading coverage of the pushback in New Jersey against the decision by Ben & Jerry’s not to sell its product to settlements illegally located in the occupied West Bank.

My principal complaint was the fact the newspaper ignored that genocide promoter Archie Gottesman is a member of the New Jersey-Israel Commission pushing for action against Ben & Jerry’s and parent company Unilever.

Here is my unpublished letter:

Re: N.J. to Pull $182 Million Out of Unilever Over Ben & Jerry’s and Israel

Patrick McGeehan’s article on New Jersey becoming “the latest state to announce plans to divest from the company that owns Ben & Jerry’s over its decision to stop selling ice cream in Israeli-occupied territories” is highly misleading.

He buries the lede.

One has to read to the final two paragraphs to see anyone recognizing that New Jersey is not standing against anti-Semitism but shielding anti-Palestinian racism. Palestinians live under a system of dual law akin to Jim Crow and apartheid. Claiming anti-Semitism when Palestinians and their allies are nonviolently pushing back through boycott and divestment to promote equal rights is a sickening reversal of reality and a failure to grapple with the facts.

Notably unmentioned by McGeehan is that Archie Gottesman is on the New Jersey-Israel Commission. The commission has promoted the work of the NJ Department of Treasury in rejecting Ben & Jerry’s.

Gottesman, for her part, has pushed for genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. She tweeted in 2018 that “Gaza is full of monsters. Time to burn the whole place.” Her eventual apology was weak and unconvincing.

That a commission she serves on is engaged in blocking a nonviolent effort to secure equal rights and freedom for Palestinians should come as no surprise. After all, she was not removed from the NJ-Israel Commission or the boards of Democratic Majority for Israel or Zioness when her endorsement of anti-Palestinian genocide came to light. In fact, DMFI board co-chairs Ann Richards and Todd Richman tried to contextualize her tweet to limit its impact, even as they accepted her apology.

Finally, Deborah Lipstadt, President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, has just this week promoted the work of JewBelong, an organization co-founded by Gottesman. Fighting anti-Semitism does not have to mean promoting anti-Palestinian racism, but New Jersey, Gottesman and Lipstadt are all firmly on that path.

It’s tragic and deeply disturbing that more isn’t being done to expose and reject their anti-Palestinian animus.

Failure to correct error

The supposedly liberal New York Times not only omits key information, as it did by ignoring Gottesman’s involvement with the New Jersey-Israel Commission, but makes anti-Palestinian mistakes that go uncorrected.

On 10 September, Patrick Kingsley wrote that Hazem al-Joulani “was the latest of at least 60 Palestinians killed since the start of the year, mostly by Israeli security officers, according to a tally compiled by the rights group B’Tselem.”

This is remarkably misleading, yet the newspaper of record did not respond to my inquiry which noted that at least 260 Palestinians were killed in May alone, including 66 children.

Yes, “at least 60 Palestinians killed since the start of the year” is technically accurate, but it’s such a serious underestimate as to leave readers misinformed. And it’s a far cry from what the B’Tselem statistics actually indicate for the year up until 30 July.

Their tally is that Israeli security forces in that time period killed 281 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Another two Palestinians were killed in the West Bank by what B’Tselem calls “Israeli civilians.” Three Palestinians were killed in uncertain circumstances.

Documentation by B’Tselem itself shows settler-soldier cooperation in increasingly violent attacks on Palestinians. There is an alarming paramilitary dimension to the activities of some Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

B’Tselem spokesperson Dror Sadot indicated to me by email on 19 September that the correct number for The New York Times to have reported at the time of the September article would have been closer to 300 – or approximately five times higher than the reported figure.

Evidently the newspaper was only reporting the West Bank Palestinian death toll this year, but making it sound as though all Palestinians were being included.

The underestimate of the number of Palestinians killed this year reminds me of Darryl Li’s 2002 response to Charles M. Sennott’s claim in The Boston Globe that “Israeli human rights groups estimate…at least 400 Palestinian civilians” had been killed to that point during the second Intifada.

Li, formerly of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, noted that this was like saying, “There are at least five people in China.” At the time, Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem provided a Palestinian civilian death toll more than three times higher than Sennott’s.

And so it goes. Year after year the mainstream American media whitewash or diminish – when not actively cheerleading for Israel – what Palestinians face as the occupation entrenches itself and life becomes more difficult for Palestinians.

Cheerleading from Bret Stephens

Bret Stephens, who writes commentary for The New York Times, does more than his share of cheerleading for Israeli war crimes against Palestinians and others in the region.

Stephens has received considerable though not career-ending criticism for his racist comment on anti-Semitism being the “disease of the Arab mind.”

And are the Arabs that Stephens so despises angry at Jews because they’re Jews or angry at people dispossessing and occupying Palestinians? If faced with an occupation led by Afrikaners, would Stephens seriously think that Arabs and Palestinians might suddenly find it acceptable? It’s absurd.

Stephens was back at it during the recent debate in the House of Representatives over Iron Dome when in the pages of The New York Times he accused the opponents of the rocket interceptors of being “ill-intended bigots.” In fact, two of those he named actually ended up voting for the Iron Dome funding so perhaps his outrageous charge intimidated some.

The “bigots” claim is a false and grotesque condemnation of the Democrats most likely to support equal rights for Palestinians and Jews rather than inferior rights for Palestinians – the position held implicitly or overtly by the majority. (I am intentionally excluding Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky who voted no solely because he opposes all foreign aid and not out of concern for the rights of Palestinians.)

Stephens’ column was picked up by the Star Tribune, the largest circulation newspaper in Minnesota.

Jeremy Slevin, who works in communications and strategy for Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, was rightly upset that he needed to spend his “Saturday night explaining to the hometown paper why showing an image of rockets and saying a Muslim woman launched a ‘strike’ on Israel is not okay.”

The title for the op-ed chosen by the “Star Tribune” read: “Omar, ‘squad,’ launch another anti-Israel strike.”

All four members of the (original) Squad are women of color and two are Muslim. There is no after-the-fact apology from the newspaper that accompanies the op-ed. The rhetoric serves only to contribute to an atmosphere that has led to death threats against members of the Squad.

Notably, while Stephens referred to Squad members Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, he never once mentioned the Squad as a whole. Star Tribune opinion editors obviously went out of their way to vilify the four members of the group.

The newspaper simply allows to stand the insinuation that the members of the Squad are actively engaged in promoting rocket fire on Israel rather than concerned with Palestinian rights.

And, as it turned out, not all of the members of the Squad voted against the extra Iron Dome funding. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York simply voted present, much to the dismay of many advocates for Palestinian rights who had expected more of the potential candidate for the US Senate.


Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune,, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.