At first, today’s New York Times article on the role of Palestinian citizens of Israel in the endless post-election maneuvering there looks like an improvement. But on closer inspection, the report maintains most of the paper’s chronic bias.
Thera are some positive signs. There’s a valuable quotation from Yuval Diskin, a former head of Israel’s security agency, who criticizes Benjamin Netanyahu’s use of anti-Arab racism against the Joint List, the political grouping that represents Arab citizens and just won 15 parliamentary seats in the latest election. Netanyahu has been trying to torpedo efforts by the centrist Blue and White alliance to form a coalition government against him with outside votes of the Joint List, the 3rd-largest political force in the country. Diskin says:
Dismissing more than half a million citizens by rendering the 15 members of the Joint List illegitimate, coupled with incitement against anyone who engages with them, crosses a red line.
Diskin’s former position gives his words greater impact; if the 15 Palestinians were truly a security threat, he would know. Times reporter David Halbfinger also quotes Dan Meridor, an old political warhorse from Netanyahu’s own party, who says flatly that the prime minister is “appealing to racists.”
Unfortunately, on balance the Times article is still biased. It quotes 6 Israeli Jews, but only 2 Palestinians in the report and the first Palestinian doesn’t come on stage until paragraph 15. Even worse, the Times repeats Netanyahu’s charge that the Joint List “includes lawmakers who support terrorism”— without giving any of the 15 Palestinians a chance to respond to the libel.
Ayman Odeh, the charismatic lawyer who heads the Joint List, has been described as a political “superstar,” but he appears nowhere in this article. Anyone who meets Odeh learns right away that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is his hero, but the Times has yet to tell that to its readers. And when will the paper finally get around to doing a profile of this remarkable man, who is more important than ever on the Israeli political scene?
Another failure is that Halbfinger barely mentions the deep grievances felt by Palestinian citizens of Israel. Their status as second-class citizens might help explain why they enthusiastically voted for the Joint List.
But the Times article’s biggest failure is that it once again whitewashes widespread anti-Arab racism among Israeli Jews. Benjamin Netanyahu is a master at using dog whistles to reach his potential voters. The Times does quote some of his coded language, but it sounds relatively mild to an American audience, and the paper never provides an honest translation.
I would bet that I could go to Israel, conduct some man-in-the-street interviews among Israeli Jews, and within minutes get some hair-raising racist quotes. That’s the reality that the Times ignores, and it explains why Netanyahu’s strategy may work one more time — and force a fourth election.