Right at the beginning of the New York Times‘s big article yesterday on the Israeli election, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was given space to race-bait the group of Palestinian political parties in the campaign. Netanyahu said:
There won’t be, there can’t be a government that relies on the anti-Zionist Arab parties, parties that deny Israel’s very existence as a Jewish and democratic state. . . Parties that glorify and praise bloodthirsty terrorists who murder our soldiers, our citizens and our children. That simply cannot be.
When Donald Trump tells racist lies, the New York Times calls him out on it. Not here. It wasn’t until the 34th paragraph that the paper even quoted Palestinian leader Ayman Odeh — and it didn’t let Odeh counter the dishonest allegation that he “glorifies bloodthirsty terrorists.” Nor were other Palestinian political leaders offered a chance to contradict Netanyahu’s smears. The average reader of the New York Times may accept Netanyahu’s slurs as the truth. But the fact is that the Palestinian parties are nonviolent political organizations, bravely working within the Israeli system.
Ayman Odeh himself says Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is his hero, and on a visit to the U.S. a few years ago he made a point of visiting the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Dr. King’s home congregation, where he was introduced from the pulpit to a standing ovation.
Odeh explained back then:
Maybe for you in America, Dr. King has become boring because you hear about him so much. But for me he is the man who has most inspired me. During the [2015 election] campaign I used to speak about him all the time. In my first speech in the Knesset, I quoted him.
Somehow, despite Ayman Odeh’s ongoing prominence in Israel’s politics, the New York Times has still not gotten around to writing a profile of him. (Though The New Yorker has.)
The Times article also diminished the accomplishment of the Palestinian Israeli political parties, which won 13 seats in the Knesset. As Odeh observed, Netanyahu ran a campaign of incitement, partly intended to frighten Palestinian Israeli voters into staying home. But Palestinians responded angrily, by going to the polls, and — as Odeh said outside his house the morning after the election — winning enough votes in Israel’s complicated political system to deny Netanyahu the chance to form another rightwing governing coalition.
Despite this achievement, the Times report referred to Avigdor Lieberman’s far right-wing party, Yisrael Beteinu, as the “clearest winner,” more important than Ayman Odeh and the Joint List. The Times said that the election results gave “a small third party the power to decide the outcome” — although in fact Lieberman’s party came in fourth, after the Joint List.
The fact that Lieberman nonetheless now wields more power than the Joint List is a reflection of the sad truth that Palestinians are essentially barred from Israeli government. The Times nowhere explained that all of the major Jewish political parties have said that they will never form a government that relies on the support of the Joint List or any other mostly Arab/Palestinian political grouping. One consequence is that Palestinian Israelis, who make up 20-25 percent of Israel’s population, will never serve as government ministers, aside from the occasional token.
The Times could be reporting on this shocking fact, which is a form of electoral apartheid. Instead, the paper helped Benjamin Netanyahu promote racist lies.