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The war for ‘The New York Times’

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A war has begun for the soul of The New York Times.

People in the Palestinian solidarity movement criticize the Times all the time — we do; the glass is always half empty — but then so do supporters of Israel. The glass is also half-empty for them. And something you may not have noticed lately is that we are beginning to have victories. There are people at The New York Times who fully comprehend Israel’s crisis and want the newspaper to reflect that reality. They are digging in, and they are under attack. But they are having little victories.


— Jodi Rudoren is gone. She was the last New York Times bureau chief in Jerusalem and came out of a firmly Zionist background and could be counted on to offer a warm, fuzzy, pro-Israel slant to any story that was often embarrassing. Even the human rights atrocities of Gaza could be spun by Rudoren (“sliver of opportunity“). She has been replaced by Ian Fisher, who seems like a fair, open-minded reporter who is probably right now in shock at what he is seeing. His hunger strikers piece yesterday was very good. His piece on Banksy’s new hotel — Fisher’s emphasis was the “ugly” wall. Anyone who tells it like he sees it is going to help Palestinians.

— Yesterday the Times International edition ran Marwan Barghouti’s piece saying that Israel is a “moral and political failure.” We know we slammed the Times for burying this piece in the international edition in our dudgeon yesterday. But the amazement is that it ran at all — Barghouti’s explanation that 40 percent of the male Palestinian population has been in Israeli prisons, that his son jailed in the years that Americans go to college, and these prisons are the cradle of a global anti-colonial movement . . . Yes, the piece has come under enormous attack. Israelis including the prime minister are expressing outrage that it ran at all. To the point that the backsliders of the New York Times have appended a clarification filling in what Barghouti was convicted of. “The article . . . neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization . . .” Etc.

Actually, the many Nelson Mandela references were sufficient context; Mandela was also charged with terrorism, the ANC did use violence. But it is a measure of the war that the Times is in that Michael Oren became unhinged over the newspaper’s role:

Shame on NYT for printing libelous op-ed by convicted killer Barghouti, the Palestinian Dylann Roof. Americans would be horrified. So are we

Crazy, yes. But Oren’s right about one thing: the Times is now in play. And where it goes, everyone else will follow.

— Yes, you say: the New York Times hired neoconservative crank Bret Stephens as an op-ed columnist the other day, a great setback to the discourse; Stephens has a long track record of racist statements. But while editorial page editor James Bennet’s announcement was fulsome (“beautiful,” “profound,” “bravery,” “generous,” “thoughtful”), it contained this important signal:

You can expect other additions to our lineup in coming months as we continue to broaden the range of Times debate about consequential questions.

We read this as a sign that a pro-Palestinian columnist is coming, maybe even an anti-Zionist. Bennet knows exactly what Zaid Jilani is saying at the Intercept and what we have been saying here about the Times‘s conservative pro-Israel range. David Brooks’s son served in the Israeli military, for god’s sakes. The Times is getting battered by young people on the left for the fact that Roger Cohen and Tom Friedman’s weary Zionism is the best it has to offer to critics.

And bear in mind, if you’re pro-Israel, you have seen a deficit. Where is the firebreather to replace AM Rosenthal, William Safire and Bill Kristol? Well, you just got Stephens. The Times is in play.

— There is further evidence of the Times-at-war in the pushback to Stephens from within the Times ranks. (Michael Calderone reported on this at Huffpo.) Declan Walsh, the paper’s Cairo bureau chief, tweeted the following over the weekend:

Not cool: new NYT columnist once wrote about the “disease of the Arab mind”.

Max Fisher, the Times “interpreter,” promptly expanded the thought:

I initially assumed it was just a sloppy rhetorical flourish, but the digging in suggests the line was intended to mean exactly what it said

Bret Stephens became defensive about the criticism and slung some more anti-Arab horseshit.

There was a time when journalists at a major newspaper were careful not to criticize that paper publicly. Those days are over, thanks to the internet. Two Times reporters are peeved at the racism of a colleague. They surely speak for many more. (Some of whom read Yakov Hirsch pointing out this racism first, last year: “The Politics of Jewish Ethnocentrism.”)

There was a time when the New York Times was a reliable supporter of Israel. A.M. Rosenthal and Max Frankel begat Ethan Bronner and Jodi Rudoren. We say those days are coming to an end. The shift in American discourse on the Palestinian issue that Bernie Sanders reflected a year ago is happening deep inside the Times too. Younger writers are woke on this question. They’re not going to just shut up about it. The neocons are also digging in. But the coverage is getting better . . . the coverage is getting better. Glass half full.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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18 Responses

  1. ckg on April 18, 2017, 2:58 pm

    If climate-denying/human-rights-denying Bret Stephens doesn’t like two new NYT colleagues’ opinion of him, his thin skin will be in for a rough time once he starts reading the “Readers’ Picks” comments of his columns.

  2. pabelmont on April 18, 2017, 3:43 pm

    Phil and (((James))): all I can say is: from your mouths to God’s ear. We used to joke about I/P peace not happening in various lifetimes, the funniest being about God saying not in His lifetime. Well now we’ve got
    [1] 1.5oC, 2.0oC and other GWCC horrors on a fairly close horizon (in part because Trump is so outrageously corrupt and iggorant);
    [2] I/P peace (of course) on some very distant horizon (you know, after I/P are all under water or dry as a bone due to GWCC) (because the government and Jewish population of Israel are so morally corrupt); and
    [3] the NYT again (or is it for the first time?) acting like a responsible newspaper instead of like a fount of propaganda for one government or another (I cannot guess the horizon on this one, the NYT management having shown itself so corrupt)).

    But it’s a happy idea, the reform of NYT in some imminent bye-and-bye. And maybe they’ll support Bernie and forget about the oligarchy that brought us Clinton and Trump. And run a daily news-story or opinion piece on GWCC. Anything could happen if people get smart and ethical at the same time!

  3. Les on April 18, 2017, 7:39 pm

    The only people who appear less than Palestinians in the Times pages are Jews who support bds.

    • Lillian Rosengarten on April 20, 2017, 8:40 am

      Thank you for this Phil, an important piece. Surely this is the beginning of a shift to take on the crimes of Zionism and the suffering of Palestinians . The Zionist agenda is a failed agenda of man’s inhumanity to man. And yes perhaps the demise of David Brooks and Tom Friedman along with their bloated ,dishonest, and more often disgusting opinions

  4. just on April 18, 2017, 8:00 pm

    “Barghouti’s N.Y. Times Article Met by Israeli Ritual of Diversion and Denial

    Comparing article to terror attack and suggesting sanctions against the Times, as Michael Oren did, is more damaging to Israel’s image.

    ……After 24 hours of outrage and condemnation, an editor’s note conceded that further context was needed, pointing out that Barghouti had been convicted on “five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization.” News of the clarification spread like wildfire on social media. It was described in glowing terms as yet another historic victory of good over evil and of the Jewish people over its eternal enemies.

    It was another example of the time-tested Israeli ritual of accentuating the insignificant at the expense of the essence, the results of which are well known in advance. First you manufacture righteous indignation over a minor fault in an article or the problematic identity of its writer, then you assault the newspaper or media that publicized it and cast doubt on its motives, then you demand to know how this was even possible and who will pay the price. In this way, the Israeli public is absolved of the need to actually contend with the gist of the article or public utterance, in this case Barghouti’s claims that he was physically tortured, that almost a million Palestinians have been detained over the years, that their conviction rate in the Israeli military court system is absurdly high, whether it’s really wise to hold as many as 6,500 security prisoners in custody at one time and so on.

    The guiding principle of this perpetual war waged by Israel and its supporters against the so-called hostile press – to paraphrase a legendary John Cleese episode about a visit by German visitors to Fawlty Towers – is “Don’t mention the occupation!” After one spends so much energy on protestations and exclamations of how unthinkable, how outrageous and how dare they, there’s very little enthusiasm left to consider eternal control over another people or the malignant status quo that many Israelis view as the best of all possible worlds or how is it even possible that someone who is defined by former Israeli Ambassador and current deputy minister Michael Oren as a terrorist and a murderer on a par with Dylann Roof, who killed nine African American worshippers in a church in Charleston, is considered by many people around the world, including those at the New York Times, as an authentic leader whose words should be read and heard.

    In an interview with IDF Radio on Tuesday, Oren put the ingenious diversionary strategy on full display. He described Barghouti’s op-ed as nothing less than a “media terror attack.” To this he added a pinch of conspiracy theory with a dash of anti-Semitism by claiming that the Times purposely published Barghouti’s article on Passover, so that Israeli and Jewish leaders wouldn’t have time to react. Then he approvingly cited the wise words of his new oracle, Donald Trump, describing the publication of the article and its content as “fake news.” And for his grand finale, Oren intimated that the proper Zionist response would be to close down the Times’ Israel office, no less.

    In this way, anyone who wants to address Barghouti’s claims substantively, even if it’s to criticize them, is seen as collaborating with a terrorist and enabling terror. It’s the same system by which anti-occupation groups such as Breaking the Silence are tarred as traitorous, backstabbing informants so that no one dares consider the actual testimonies they present about the hardships of occupation and the immorality of forcing the IDF to police the West Bank. What’s hilarious, however, is that so many Israelis and Jews are convinced that articles such as the one written by Barghouti, which most readers probably view as yet another tedious polemic about an intractable Middle East conflict, somehow causes more harm to Israel’s image than a senior government official who compares a news article to a terror attack and who recommends closing down the offices of the most widely respected news organization in the world, a la Putin or Erdogan. 

    read more:

    “a la” Netanyahu or Trump… not so sure that Chemi Shalev has this correct, either:

    “… the offices of the most widely respected news organization in the world…”

    Thanks, gentlemen of MW.

    • inbound39 on April 19, 2017, 1:07 am

      What Oren conveniently forgets is Israel is the Occupier and under the Fourth Geneva convention Barghouti can resist Israeli’s by any means. Barghouti is not a terrorist he is a legitimate defender of his homeland under attack by an illegitimate occupier.

      • Misterioso on April 19, 2017, 10:54 am

        Well and truly stated!!

    • Maghlawatan on April 19, 2017, 1:19 am

      I think Shalev is excellent. Both he and Roger Cohen understand where Israel is going. The NYT can take instructions from the Israeli Government in the manner of a friend buying beer for an alcoholic. Oren may think he is in control. He is not in control.

  5. Citizen on April 18, 2017, 8:16 pm

    Will the NYT start noting the violent pasts of Israeli contributors, too? via @972mag

  6. Sibiriak on April 18, 2017, 11:01 pm

    NYT Mocks Skepticism on Syria-Sarin Claims

    […]Rutenberg traveled to Moscow with the clear intention of mocking the Russian news media for its “fake news” in contrast to The New York Times, which holds itself out as the world’s premier guardian of “the truth.” Rather than deal with the difficulty of assessing what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, which is controlled by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and where information therefore should be regarded as highly suspect, Rutenberg simply assessed that the conventional wisdom in the West must be correct.

    To discredit any doubters, Rutenberg associated them with one of the wackier conspiracy theories of radio personality Alex Jones, another version of the Times’ recent troubling reliance on McCarthyistic logical fallacies, not only applying guilt by association but refuting reasonable skepticism by tying it to someone who in an entirely different context expressed unreasonable skepticism […]

    • Keith on April 19, 2017, 5:11 pm

      SIBIRIAK- “Rather than deal with the difficulty of assessing what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, which is controlled by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and where information therefore should be regarded as highly suspect….”

      Focusing too heavily on the guilt or innocence of Assad regarding the use of poison gas tends to divert attention away from the overarching reality of what is occurring. Uncle Sam is a serial mass-murderer and habitual liar who has no moral standing to judge others or intervene. There is no such thing as a humanitarian empire. The empire supports these rebranded al-Qaeda offshoots who act as imperial proxy forces. The empire bears primary responsibility for ALL of the death and destruction in Syria. Additionally, the empire is also increasing its involvement in the Saudi attack on Yemen and resultant starvation which is occurring there and in Somalia too. Both Syria and Somalia were among the seven countries targeted for destabilization by the neocons in 2003. The responsibility is obvious for those with eyes to see. Trump is now responsible for policies which have resulted in the starvation deaths of thousands of Yemeni and Somali children, and will result in the starvation deaths of many thousands more. A long quote and link to Thomas Mountain re: Yemen and Somalia.

      “The USA, according to Defense Secretary “Mad Dog” Mattis, he who ordered the use of chemical weapons in Fallujah, Iraq, is about to take a major step towards direct intervention in support of the Saudi Arabia war on the Yemeni people.
      Never mind the tens of thousands of Yemeni children already dead and buried from the US backed Saudi enforced starvation blockade of food and medicine to the Houthi homeland.
      Already moves are underway to increase direct US military involvement in Somalia, the other key link in controlling the “Gate of Tears”. First comes Mad Dog Mattis calling for an increase in airstrikes, then on the ground coordinators, “training officers” and in the end, direct military intervention by the US, as Somalia itself continues to be rocked by insurgency and famine. What possible good can come from an aerial onslaught on the Somali people by the American Luftwaffe, whose so called “smart bombs” seem to inevitably find targets containing Somali women and children.

      Famine to the left of Bad Al Mandab, famine to the right of Bad Al Mandab, it seems a famine policy is being enacted by Pax Americana and its lackeys at the UN when it comes to the Horn of Africa.” (Thomas Mountain)

    • JWalters on April 19, 2017, 8:36 pm

      Excellent article. Life is getting more difficult for the NYT’s mouthpieces for war profiteering criminals.

  7. Trygve on April 18, 2017, 11:52 pm

    Bret Stephens may have a new kindred spirit in the opinion section of the New York Times. On 14 April, Tablet magazine congratulated Bari Weiss on her upcoming move to the opinion section of the Times from her post as associate book review editor of the Wall Street Journal.

    Here is how Ms. Weiss described herself:

    “Since the crucible of my college years—in which being an outspoken Zionist made you fascist, supporting the war in Iraq made you an imperialist, and believing that some cultures are indeed more enlightened than others a hegemon—I’ve gotten used to feeling politically homeless.”
    (“A Test for the Anti-Trump Movement” in Tablet Magazine, 27 February 2017.)

    • JosephA on April 19, 2017, 9:56 am

      There’s a lot of confidence in that statement. If only her convictions were justified. I don’t believe in immoral wars or settler-colonialist apartheid, Bari Weiss seems to feel the opposite.

  8. amigo on April 19, 2017, 10:15 am

    I don,t suppose the NYT would publish a list of Israel,s Jewish Terrorist leaders.Begin/Shamir and the other members of terrorist gangs ie Irgun , Hagannah and Lehi , all of whom were involved in throwing bombs into Arab Markets and buses , not to mention blowing up King Davids Hotel and the slaughter of 200 +innocent civilians in Deir Yassin.

    Yup , brave heroes . every man jack of them and they provide role models for heroes like Sgt Azaria the medic who shot an unarmed Palestinian who no longer posed a threat , (if he ever did) to the most moral Army.

    I know Jon S /Jackdaw/catalan et al , these guy,s were freedom fighters resisting British Colonialism and oppression.

    Funny how that works –eh.If only Dick and Jane had the real facts , instead of those “alternative” versions supplied by Israel,s shills in the US media.

    But I digress.Israel is forced into all this occupation and house demolition stuff. Their hands are tied , not to mention , it is what their God has demanded.What,s a zionist to do.

  9. RobertHenryEller on April 19, 2017, 10:58 am

    Maybe the NYT is improving. But then Liz Spayd, NYT Public Editor qualified the Barghouti opinion piece with the following:

    “An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and The Times Does Too”

    Marwan Barghouti is an unusually popular political figure among Palestinians, especially for a man behind bars. He is a charismatic leader who has written three books and for many years has commanded an outsize presence beyond the Israeli prison where he is serving time. He was given five consecutive life terms after being convicted in an Israeli criminal court of premeditated murder for his role in terrorist attacks that killed five people, along with other crimes.

    On Sunday, he wrote a piece for the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times to draw attention to a mass hunger strike for what he calls Israel’s arbitrary arrests and poor treatment of Palestinian prisoners.

    “Israel’s inhumane system of colonial and military occupation aims to break the spirit of prisoners and the nation to which they belong, by inflicting suffering on their bodies, separating them from their families and communities, using humiliating measures to compel subjugation,” he wrote. “In spite of such treatment, we will not surrender to it.”

    In the piece, Barghouti makes reference to his life sentences and additional 40-year term but he does not say the crimes for which he was convicted. More crucially, neither did the editors of the Opinion pages. A biographical sentence at the end of the Op-Ed simply says, “Marwan Barghouti is a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.”

    I asked Jim Dao, editor of the Op-Ed pages, about the decision not to include Barghouti’s crimes.

    Dao noted that the piece does say the author received multiple life sentences but he acknowledged that it doesn’t state the crimes for which he was convicted. “We are drafting an editors’ note that will provide that information,” he said.

    Here’s the note, attached after our exchange:

    This article explained the writer’s prison sentence but neglected to provide sufficient context by stating the offenses of which he was convicted. They were five counts of murder and membership in a terrorist organization. Mr. Barghouti declined to offer a defense at his trial and refused to recognize the Israeli court’s jurisdiction and legitimacy.

    In the meantime, a rash of readers have objected — in emails to me and on social media — to what they say was The Times’s distorted characterization of Barghouti.

    Here’s Jonathan S. Blank of Alpharetta, Ga.:

    The New York Times and all media lose credibility and contribute to the degradation of journalism when they publish misleading author credentials within editorials and op-eds. The author is described by The New York Times for its readers as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” That is true, but what is misleading is what The New York Times elected to omit from the description — that the author has been convicted of five separate counts of murder in an Israel civilian court (not military, civilian). To omit that critical piece of information and simply describe the author as a leader and politician effectively prevents the reader from placing his opinions in proper perspective.

    This isn’t a new issue for the Opinion section. I have written before on the need to more fully identify the biography and credentials of authors, especially details that help people make judgments about the opinions they’re reading. Do the authors of the pieces have any conflicts of interest that could challenge their credibility? Are they who they say they are, and can editors vouch for their fidelity?”

    The following is the letter I sent to Liz Spayd:

    “Ms. Spayd:

    Have you also insisted that Israeli authors not omit their crimes when publishing in the NYT? I have seen no evidence that you have done so.

    Have you also insisted that the New York Times not omit the crimes of Israeli authors when the paper publishes the opinions of Israeli authors? I see no evidence that you have done so.

    Have you also insisted that the New York Times allow its readers to comment when the NYT publishes partisan opinions by Israeli authors? I see no evidence that you have done so.

    Most Israeli leaders, certainly including Benjamin Netanyahu, have been complicit in the same sort of crimes, and on a larger scale, than this Palestinian you so self-righteously point out murdered innocent people, while you have failed, and continue to fail, to insist the NYT point out his crimes, but not the crimes of murder, crimes against humanity, crimes against international law, that Netanyahu and many other Israelis commit. Are those crimes not worth mentioning? Or is the conviction or non-conviction in un-representative courts your grounds for your double standard?

    You are as guilty as the New York Times is.”

    At best, the NYT should be damned with faint praise. The Times is still kissing Zionist butt.

  10. just on April 19, 2017, 1:32 pm

    Here’s Oren:

    “…Barghouti’s byline drew immediate ire from the Israeli Foreign Ministry and senior Israeli politicians, including Israel’s Deputy Minister for Diplomacy Michael Oren who called on the government to consider punitive action against the paper—including possibly closing its Israel bureau.

    Speaking to Army Radio on Monday, Oren described the publication as a “journalistic terror attack”, and railed the Times for publishing “fake news” that was “full of lies.”

    “As for the New York Times, if someone in the paper helped him [smuggle the op-ed out of prison], the New York Times should be held accountable,” Oren told Army Radio.

    Acknowledging that such a move might “sound extreme”, he explained that there was precedent: “At the start of the Second Intifada, when CNN… helped terrorists,” he said, “Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not hesitate to close its bureau here.”It was not immediately clear to what incident Oren was referring.

    Other Israeli officials echoed Oren’s statements.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely, of the ruling Likud party, said the “very disappointing decision” to publish Barghouti’s piece “legitimizes terrorism” and “seriously undermines the credibility” the paper.

    Oren, until recently Israel’s ambassador to Washington, further accused the editors of the New York Times of running the piece deliberately on the last day of Passover in order to make it difficult for the Israeli government to respond.

    The New York Times declined i24NEWS request for comment on Oren’s remarks, and referred to its published clarification.”

    Yeah, go ahead and shut it down. The truth is still out!

    (Remember this? “The explosion hidden inside the UN Apartheid report” – See more at: No amount of jamming your ears, closing your eyes, all while sounding your “barbarous yawp” will change that. (h/t Walt Whitman)

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