Three New York Times columnists have extensive experience with Israel/Palestine. Thomas Friedman spent most of the years from 1979 to 1988 in the region; his first book is called From Beirut to Jerusalem. Bret Stephens served for 2 years as the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post. And Bari Weiss, now a regular writer for the op-ed page, first made her name as a student at Columbia, when she pushed the university to fire professors who were critical of Israel.
In recent weeks, Israel’s intention to illegally annex up to 30 percent of the occupied West Bank has been a burning issue. Annexation has provoked widespread debate in Israel and resistance from Palestinians, prompted warnings from Europe and Arab nations, stimulated 119 Democratic members of the U.S. Congress to sign a letter cautioning against it, and, last but not least, inspired a vigorous and angry debate within the pro-Israel lobby here in the United States.
But none of the three New York Times columnists have written anything about the annexation controversy. Not a single word.
Their failure has been repeated in the rest of the paper. The Times has a large bureau in Washington, D.C., but so far there’s nothing about the resistance to annexation in Congress, where an even stronger warning, signed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, calls for American military aid to Israel to be conditioned on no annexation.
The Times has reporters who specialize in religion and politics, but not a word yet on the furious debate among pro-Israel Jewish groups, which includes the leader of one, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, complaining that more liberal Jewish groups are trying to “bully” and “intimidate” him. The flagship of the Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), may have already been holed below its waterline by criticism of its silence on annexation, but Times readers have heard nothing of the controversy.
The only branch of the Times that is covering annexation at all is its Jerusalem bureau, and it is doing a biased and inadequate job. Yesterday, July 1, was the first day Benjamin Netanyahu could have imposed annexation, and the paper did report today that he is delaying action. But David Halbfinger’s article, characteristically, does not include reaction from one single solitary Palestinian. He does suggest that Netanyahu is pausing because opposition is rising, but he makes no mention of the resistance in either the U.S. Congress or among significant elements of the Israel lobby in the United States. He nowhere explains that annexation is a violation of international law.
Why is the New York Times missing in action on the burning issue of annexation? Undoubtedly because there is no way to twist annexation in a pro-Israel direction. As the more perceptive critics within the U.S. Israel lobby recognize, illegal annexation will end even the distant hope of a 2-state solution, and cement the view of Israel as an apartheid state. Better to keep silent and hope the threat disappears.
For now, Benjamin Netanyahu has delayed, surely because of the widespread global opposition. So how do Thomas Friedman, Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss feel today? They have one of the best platforms in the world, but they were too cowardly to say anything.