The silence of the Times

I wrote at length about the execrable Mearsheimer/Walt “Israel Lobby” paper published by the London Review of Books and the Kennedy School of Government a month ago in “They too dare to speak out!” Among many other of their paper’s bizarreries, Mearsheimer and Walt deem the New York Times a member of the “Israel Lobby.” In the “Manipulating the Media” section of the pseudoscholarly verion of the paper posted on the Kennedy School site, Mearsheimer and Walt write:

Editorial bias is also found in papers like the New York Times.  The Times occasionally criticizes Israeli policies and sometimes concedes that the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, but it is not even-handed.  In his memoirs, for example, former Times executive editor Max Frankel acknolwedged the impact of his own pro-Israel attitude on his editorial choices. In his words, “I was much more deeply devoted to Israel than I dared to assert.” He goes on: “Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries.  As more Arab than Jewish readers recognized, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective.” 

(Footnote omitted.) The Mearsheimer/Walt use of Frankel’s autobiography is characteristic of the dishonesty of their pseudoscholarship. Frankel’s book itself provides evidence of the voluminous anti-Israel opinion that filled the Times’s editorial pages under Frankel’s editorship, including Frankel’s reference to Anthony Lewis’s criticism of Israel’s “drift toward a kind of South African apartheid.” As for himself, Frankel discusses his own criticism of Israel’s government and how he “was cast as turncoat in chief” by Jewish supporters of Israel because of it. None of this is acknowledged anywhere in the Mearsheimer/Walt paper.

Indeed, it is hard to believe that Mearhseimer and Walt actually read Frankel’s book. Add the fact, unmentioned by Mearsheimer and Walt, that Frankel retired from his post as executive editor of the Times in 1994 and one has a fuller view of the quality of the evidence they adduce in support of the various propostions asserted in their paper.

Moreover, anyone who actually reads the Times knows that the Mearsheimer/Walt account of the Times’s editorial treatment of the Israel/Arab conflict is more than a little off the mark. For an assessment of the Times’s post-1994 news coverage of events in the Israel-Arab hostilities, see Stephanie Gutmann’s The Other War: Israelis, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy. For an assessment of the Times’s opinion coverage of the Israel-Arab hostilities, see CAMERA’s July 2005 assessment.

Given the Mearsheimer/Walt indictment of the Times, I waited with interest for the Times to speak up and be heard on the subject. Yet over the past month the Times has studiously maintained its silence. Until today. Today the Times publishes the op-ed column by NYU Professor Tony Judt in defense of the Mearsheimer/Walt paper: “A lobby, not a conspiracy.” Ed Lasky and Richard Weitz comment on Judt’s column at the American Thinker. Given Judt’s previous call for the disestablishment of Israel in a 2003 New York Review of Books article, I’m not sure that his is the voice that we needed to clarify the terms of the debate.

For my present purposes, however, I note only that the Times has yet to plead to the charge leveled against it in the Mearsheimer/Walt paper. It is a charge that by itself renders both the Mearsheimer/Walt paper and Judt’s op-ed column ludicrous.

UPDATE: A graduate student at one of the institutions with which Mearsheimer and Walt are affiliated and who asks not to be identified objects to my characterization of the position asserted by Professor Judt in the linked NYRB article:

I’m not an organization or special interest or anything like that, just a regular person who visits your site at least once a day. Power Line is pretty much unique among the blogs I visit for its clarity, honesty, and willingness to admit mistakes. With that last point in mind, I believe you misrepresented Tony Judt’s conclusions in his 2003 NY[RB article]…

You wrote that Tony Judt should not be believed or trusted because he, among other things, supports the disestablishment of Israel. In fact, Judt supports no such thing. He supports the disestablishment of a Jewish/Israel, one that is predicated upon an ethnoreligious
criterion. He supports this position not out of anti-Semitism or a deep hatred of Israel. Rather, he sees an integrated Israel as the last, best path toward peace with the Palestinians and the only way Israel can live up to the ideals that have made it a bastion of democracy in an autocratic region. Feel free to disagree with his argument (I know I do) but this is clearly not the same as “wiping Israel off the map.”

Please read Professor Judt’s NYRB article and apply your knowledge of the region to assess the meaning of Professor Judt’s modest proposal for Israel. In my view, disestablishing Israel as a Jewish state means disestablishing Israel.

I should add that the Times covered the Mearsheimer/Walt paper in Alan Finder’s April 12 article, “Essay Stirs Debate About Influence of a Jewish Lobby.” Finder’s 1300-word article does not mention the Mearsheimer/Walt paper’s allegation that the Times is a member of the “Israel Lobby,” or that the Times is guilty of editorial bias in favor of Israel. Click on the extended entry below for the Times April 12 article in full.


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