BDS advocate and newly elected Democratic congresswoman. (AP/Jim Mone) AP/Jim Mone
BDS advocate and newly elected Democratic congresswoman. (AP/Jim Mone)

A Times article published on Tuesday whitewashes anti-Semitic comments by a newly elected Muslim Democrat, demanding its readers view her victory as a “glimmer of hope” for “racial equality and justice.”

By: Ira Stoll, The Algemeiner

One of the worst features of the contemporary New York Times is that it has gone beyond merely reporting the news and ventured, instead, into the more treacherous territory of instructing readers which emotions they should have about the news.

One danger of that is that not all Times readers may share the emotions the Times newsroom judges appropriate. And another danger, or perhaps an advantage, is that in ordering up the emotions, the Times exposes biases that it would prefer to have kept hidden.

So it is with the election to Congress of a Democrat from Minnesota, Ilhan Omar, who has emerged after the election as an open supporter of the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.

A Times article published in print on January 1 titled “Joyful Headlines About Race and Equality … A few stories about race, from the many we published, that are worth celebrating,” by Adeel Hassan, reported, “2018 also held glimmers of hope — if you search hard enough — with stories about racial equality and justice. Here are a few of that we published and that are worth celebrating.” Among these stories that the Times insists are “joyful” and “worth celebrating” was, the paper says, that “Ilhan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan became the first Muslim women elected to Congress.”

Islam is a religion, not a “race,” so it’s difficult to see why this development fits into the Times -constructed category of “stories about race.” Maybe it’s just something the Times feels like celebrating. The paper, at least in this article, doesn’t even consider the possibility that choosing to boycott the Jewish state might not be an example of “justice” or “hope,” but rather a grave injustice.

It’s the second celebratory Times article in two days about Ilhan Omar. The first one did concede that “Her support for the boycott, divest and sanctions movement to pressure Israel to improve treatment of Palestinians is making Jewish leaders nervous.”

That Times‘ language inaccurately describes the goal of the BDS movement, which is not to “improve treatment of Palestinians,” but rather eradicate Israel and eliminate it as a Jewish state by insisting on a “right of return” to Israel for “7.25 million Palestinian refugees.”

Criticized by its Own Staff

The language in the first Times article appeared to be a bit much even for some staffers at the New York Times itself. An editor and writer on the Times opinion page, Bari Weiss, tweeted of Omar, “The reason Jews are ‘nervous’ about her is because she tweeted: ‘Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.’” A Times columnist, Bret Stephens, retweeted Weiss with the comment, “Anti-Semitism, in other words.”

Lower down, that first Times article reported “Ms. Omar’s careful answer on the 2018 campaign trail to questions about Israel — and her postelection clarification that she does indeed back the boycott, divest and sanctions movement — has left some Jewish leaders feeling betrayed.”

An editor at The Forward, Batya Ungar-Sargon, tweeted, “Yo @nytimes, @IlhanMN is not ‘making Jewish leaders nervous’ bc she supports BDS but bc she made an anti-Semitic comment about Israel and ignored activists and Jewish journalists who tried to ask about it – which your reporter didn’t in this puff piece.” Ungar-Sargon said she’d like to know if the Times journalist asked Omar “the questions we Jewish journos keep trying to ask but getting stonewalled: Why did you lie to constituents? Do you believe Israel has supernatural powers?”

The Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein wrote the story up yesterday under the headline, “New York Times whitewashes anti-Semitism of incoming House Democrat Ilhan Omar.”

“Just the latest demonstration that the Times is perfectly comfortable excusing anti-Semitism as long as it’s coming from the Left and masked as mere criticism of Israel,” Klein observed.

‘Celebrate’ Anti-Semitism?

After today’s Times follow-up taking it to another level, Klein’s otherwise apt take merits a revision. The Times isn’t just “perfectly comfortable excusing anti-Semitism” — it goes beyond that, and orders readers to be “joyful” and “celebrate” it as an example of “hope,” “equality,” and “justice.”

They were serving penne a la vodka in the Times newsroom on New Year’s Eve. The kindest possible explanation for this episode is that whoever was on editing duty overindulged to the point where his or her judgment was eroded.

Because if the Times newsroom in a fully sober state really thinks that the election to Congress of a BDS-supporting spreader of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories is a “joyful” sign of “hope” that is “worth celebrating” — well, then maybe things at the Times are even worse than previously imagined.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.