‘The New York Times’ sanitizes Israeli racism

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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One of my themes is that while Israel is experiencing a dark night of the soul due to the racism pervading that society, Americans are in the dark about this reality because our media refuse to do the (obvious) story. And so while Haaretz covers the story every other day, sometimes desperately, and Andrew Sullivan is waking up to it here, establishment institutions like the New York Times and the New Yorker (and the Columbia Journalism School, junketing to Yad Vashem) turn a blind eye. 

In the Times case, the problem surely reflects the fact that its two Jerusalem reporters are Jews who are deeply invested in Israeli society. One of them, Ethan Bronner, has a son in the Israeli military. The other, Isabel Kershner, is an Israeli who’s married to an Israeli.  Not a lot of bandwidth!

Let’s look closely at a recent piece by Kershner that demonstrates this blindness.

Three days ago Kershner wrote a story on ground zero of the new racism, the eviction of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem to make way for Jews. Kershner played up an international real-estate angle (which Ethan Bronner has also harped on): Watch out, Israel, if Jews exercise a "right of return" to Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem that were owned by Jews before 1948 (when Jordan took over governance, for 19 years), then Palestinians are going to exercise a similar "right of return" to West Jerusalem, to houses that they were forced out of in 1948 during the Nakba, when Israel was created. Kershner quoted two or three Israelis who are worried about what the Sheikh Jarrah evictions mean to the right of Palestinians moving back into Israel. 

Saying that the issue touches "mainstream" Israelis, Kershner quoted Yossi Klein Halevi, a neoconservative and contributor to the New Republic: 

Yossi Klein Halevi, a senior fellow at the Shalem Center, a research institution in West Jerusalem, said he opposed a Jewish “right of return” to properties lost in the 1948 war. But he noted that more and more Arabs were buying apartments in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood where he lives.

“It cannot go one way in Jerusalem,” Mr. Klein Halevi said. “I am deeply torn.”

Kershner says that Halevi works in West Jerusalem, implying that Halevi’s talking about a neighborhood in West Jerusalem. I.e., we’re evicting Palestinians from East Jerusalem under old renationalized title; that gives them a reason to move into West Jerusalem under similar title, and I’m anguished about that…

But wait a second: Yossi Klein Halevi lives in East Jerusalem, the future capital of the alleged Palestinian state. Here he is on NPR two days ago:

"I live in French Hill, which is a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem. It’s very heavily university populated. It’s a liberal neighborhood…"

So the whole international-title issue has nothing to do with it. Halevi wasn’t talking to Kershner about the Palestinian right of return to West Jerusalem, he was actually just objecting to having Arabs as neighbors.

A view that most Americans would say is: purely racist.

I bet that Kershner knows that Halevi lives in East Jerusalem. I’d ask her if she knew that, but she didn’t respond to my last email.

So let’s be clear: the real underlying bogeyman here–for Halevi, and maybe for Kershner too– is not some interpretation of international law as it embraces the Jewish state and the Palestinian territories, but the threat of open housing, a pretty much universally acknowledged civil right.

Shut your eyes and go back 40 years to a story of my childhood in Maryland. Imagine for one second the New York Times covering segregationist Democrat George Mahoney in 1966 when he ran for governor with the slogan, "Your Home Is Your Castle," to stop black people from moving into white neighborhoods.

Imagine the Times seeking to dignify Mahoney’s attitude as one of anguish over a principle of law.

Well, you can’t. Mahoney was a racist dufus, and everyone I knew said as much, and he was defeated. Look up the Times index; it called Mahoney a "white supremacist."

In Israel and Palestine today, with Jewish supremacy running rampant, the Times is incapable of such frankness.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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