In recent days we have made a lot of the fact that the New York Times ran a front-page article equating the campus Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS) against Israel with anti-Semitism. The piece completely left out the fact that many Jewish students support BDS (about one in five of activists Weiss has seen in his travels).
Well, Margaret Sullivan, the Times public editor, agrees. In a piece titled, “A Jewish Litmus Test Was Unacceptable,” she hammers on the fact that David McCleary, a University of California PhD candidate who is Jewish and supports BDS, was subjected to the third degree by a Times stringer because his name doesn’t sound Jewish and that neither he nor any
other Jewish student who supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement was quoted or represented in the story.
Sullivan quotes David Nasaw, a professor at CUNY and biographer of Joseph Kennedy, complaining about the framing of the piece:
I am distressed about the lack of evidence in the piece to support the authors’ assertions about this deeply sensitive and volatile issue. Divestment is supported by a large group of individuals — some of them members of minority groups, and some Jews. (I, incidentally, do not support the movement). To make this into a “Minority vs. Jewish” question, without supplying evidence, is to distort the issue.
And Sullivan concludes by undermining that framing herself:
the article certainly would have benefited from quoting one or more Jewish students who support B.D.S. (The story does nod in that direction twice – including in a mention of Jewish Voice for Peace at Columbia University.)
Throwing a Times stringer under the bus for her questions is a bit like blaming the New England Patriots’ ball boy for the Deflategate scandal. The real issue, as Sullivan suggests, is that the Times editors (the Brady’s and Belichick’s of the scheme) set out to smear BDS by supplying that stringer with a list of questions that included this gem:
“to what extent is BDS used as a fig leaf for anti-Semitism?”
This is a victory in the struggle for accountability. The New York Times was compelled to acknowledge its bias. The newspaper’s role as a weapon for Israel’s p.r. efforts in the U.S. has been blunted by Sullivan’s excellent analysis. We bet there are many other Times staffers who are chagrined by the paper’s role.
P.S. David McCleary felt that the Times questions, including asking whether he was bar mitzvah’d or looked Jewish, were “insulting and demeaning.” When is the Anti-Defamation League going to call out the Times for actions that Sullivan calls “unacceptable and unprofessional?” About never. Because the Times was doing so in service of Israel, and the ADL is a Zionist organization.