I finally read the New York Times piece on the Middle East issue on campus that some have criticized. I think writer Linda K. Wertheimer maybe tried to be fair, and some casual reader might think it was fair; but the bias is there. She says Israel built the wall to stop suicide bombings and while stating that it runs through the West Bank, doesn’t identify the problem there. She does mention pro-Palestinian complaints of being targeted as anti-semitic and pro Israel types’ complaints of anti-semitic statements and being blamed for actions by Israel.
Some students say they are ostracized when they show support for Israel, while Palestinian activists talk of being labeled “terrorists,” and finding their photos and names posted on canarymission, a website that tracks professors and students who, it says, promote “hatred of the United States, Israel and Jews.” S.J.P. [Students for Justice in Palestine] members insist they are anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic — a debatable distinction to those who cannot separate the state of Israel from their Jewish identity.
So here is the bias. The article revolves around whether or not people are anti-semitic, and the pro-Israel types get to frame the debate. At no point in the article is the question raised as to whether some forms of support for Israel really express a form of bigotry that should be condemned. There’s only one standard: The pro Palestinian folks are judged on whether or not they are antisemitic. The pro Israel side is not judged on whether or not they are anti-Palestinian. At best there is the acknowledgement that some charges of anti-semitism are overblown.
The good guys as portrayed in the story are the ones who seek “mediation” and want the students to get along. There is Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, an Israeli settler who overcame his fear of Palestinians:
His fear faded after attending a dinner of Palestinians and Jewish settlers organized by Roots, an effort based in the West Bank to achieve peace with nonviolence. He grew to realize that “our triumph was their tragedy,” and went on to lead Roots with Ali Abu Awwad, who co-founded the initiative in 2014…
Scanning the students in the room, Mr. Awwad criticized S.J.P. and divestment supporters for refusing to enter into dialogue with Jewish groups because they felt it legitimized Israel.
The bad guys are anti-semites or people who support Palestinian terrorism, with maybe some people guilty of making false charges of anti-semitism also being guilty– though the poor dears have made Israel part of their identity so it is understandable. And so when students report anti-semitic statements we don’t know how many of those were anti Israeli vs. anti Jewish.
Support for Israeli brutality as a form of bigotry– that’s not an issue at all. It doesn’t occur to the writer that it could be an issue. People take sides in the Israel/Palestine conflict, but only one side has a problem in that some of its members are bigots.
It’s like covering civil rights in America and only noticing the bigotry of Louis Farrakhan. Wertheimer and the Times editors probably think she was scrupulously fair.