I’ve been reading the NY Times for a long time. My father did before me. I read every article published there about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and often write about them here. I have a long and deep respect for the wonderful reporting that has come out of Israel in its pages. Steven Erlanger, the Jerusalem bureau chief, has, until now, been in that august tradition that included David Shipler, (the early) Tom Friedman, Deborah Sontag, James Bennett and Serge Schmemann. But he really let himself and his predecessors down today.
He wrote a terribly imbalanced story about incitement against Jews fomented by Hamas, which practically gave over his article to promote the views of propaganda outfits like MEMRI and Palestine Media Watch. In doing so, Erlanger touted them as if they were dispassionate, professionally competent observers of the Arab media. Nothing could farther from the truth. This sentence in particular is problematic:
Along with Mr. Marcus’s group, the Middle East Media Research Institute, or Memri, also monitors the Arabic media. But no one disputes their translations…
How can a journalist writing for as distinguished a newspaper as the Times make such a statement? For one, Brian Whitaker, an editor of The Guardian’s Comment is Free blog, has written regularly about MEMRI’s distorted translations of Arab media–translations which are designed more to prove ideological points rather than provide an well-grounded, proportionate picture of what the media is actually saying. These are a few of the columns he’s written over the years:
Yigal Carmon-Brian Whitaker Debate
Arabic Under Fire
Arabsats Get the MEMRI Treatment
And Whitaker is not the only one. Any Google search would uncover multiple reputable media critiques of MEMRI and Palestine Media Watch.
Several images accompany the story including one with this caption:
In a play staged at a Gaza cultural center this month, a Palestinian farmer pulls his dead child from a house bombed by Israel.
I have no idea about the content of this play, but why would such a work be seen as an impermissible expression of anti-Jewish incitement? Are Gazans not allowed to dramatize their suffering as peoples of most other nations of the world do? Personally, I think Erlanger and his editors really lost their way on this story.
Let me take a slight detour by acknowledging there is hate and incitement against Israelis and Jews in Gaza. Hamas is an organization riddled with anti-Semitic attitudes. This is real. This is troubling. It is rightly written about in the Times and condemned by all who support tolerance and respect between both peoples and religions. But the grievous problem with Erlanger’s story is that he completely omits any context for it.
Why do Gazans hate Israelis and Jews? Could it possibly have a wee bit to do with Israel’s strangulation of the Gaza Strip and the privation that this has caused for the 1.5 million people who live there? If Steven Erlanger lived on handouts, couldn’t afford to feed his family, couldn’t get any medical treatment if his children became ill, couldn’t leave his home to travel anywhere for business or pleasure, and was treated as the enemy by an occupying power–might he not harbor deep hatred for those he blamed for such treatment? Might his hatred possibly even be irrational, prejudiced and grossly distorted? I don’t know. That’s for Erlanger to say. But if he’s honest and recognized human frailties shared by many of us, he might acknowledge this as a distinct possibility.
Erlanger also commits a sin of omission. He bangs on the incessant drumbeat of Muslim hate without acknowledging a problem as deeply troubling on the Israeli side: Jewish incitement against Arabs. I know something about this subject since I’ve just published a Comment is Free essay on it. There is a long tradition within Israel of such hatred against Israel’s perceived Arab enemies. And it is more than just words. It is hatred that has led to violence. Haaretz reported this week that a prominent Israeli Orthodox rabbi called for the children of Palestinians who murder Israelis to be hung from trees. Not the murderers, but their CHILDREN!
Erlanger somehow believes that this phenomenon is less pressing, less prevalent and less problematic than the hatred he wrote about in Gaza’s mosques. I beg to disagree. Such incitement led to the assassination of an Israeli prime minister who many serious analysts believe would have succeeded in resolving the I-P conflict had he lived. Jewish hate is no less poisonous and deadly than Muslim hate. Discount it at your peril.
I want to make clear that my purpose here is not to minimize or justify Palestinian hate. It is to point out that hate is not a one-way street, as Erlanger implies. It is a two-way street. And as long as journalism like this passes for fair and balanced, no one will be able to address the problems and divisions keeping both sides apart in order to bridge them.
Those like Erlanger who allow you to believe that only one side are to blame in causing this bloody mess of a conflict are doing a deep disservice to truth and history. Both sides are wrong. Both sides are imperfect. Both sides hate. Both sides must acknowledge their errors and turn away from them in a mutual compromise.
I often say: Palestinians don’t have to be taught to hate. All they have to do is walk out their front doors.
I hope you will contact the NYT with a rebuttal, Richard.
This is a tough one for you. You know that Erlanger is no “right-wing pro-Israel wingnut”. your statement “Jewish hate is no less poisonous and deadly than Muslim hate.” is demostrably false. Erlanger, and every Jew and Arab in Israel know this. Arabs walk around in perfect safety even in “right-wing, religious” neighborhoods and even in Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria. It is not enough to endless repeat the names Goldstein and Amir to claim Jews are hatefilled people. Come up with a lot more if you want to prove your point.
You want it both ways which isn’t surprising.
When I write – when you comment with as much or half as much fervor about the incitement within the Palestinian or Arab media you state – ‘there are 1000 right wing Arab hating sites that already do that so there’s no need?
Then you state it’s not your mission to point this out here?
Now, the NY Times writes an article and has the nerve to cite Memri or PMW and you complain that they do so without any context…..
So it is apparently just you that can write about Israeli incitement bcs your context is assumably understood even when it’s consistently 1 sided and over the top, But an article that cites how Memri’s translations are accurate, an indisputed fact by the way, you then complain they’re given without any context.
You mean context? –
Such as making a major issue over the placement of the 20% statistic and how far it might have gone in forming or changing American Jewish opinion?
Whereas, context –
Palestinian goes on a wanton murder spree – PA Media glorifies him – JTA misplaces a statistic stating 20% of Arabs versus 20% of committed terrorist via East Jerusalem Arabs….
and you write over the top strong adjectives not even present in the NY Times article about the right wing Israel first extremists blah blah blah….
But again, the fact that I am pointing out how hypocritical you are (ie… I complained about your context previously and you insulted, condescended and patronized) must mean what? I am a right wing Israel first extremist?
Or perhaps, just an observer that finds hypocrisy in you…. lest anyone criticize you?
How dare they?
So MEMRI is a secretive organization we should be wary of bcs Carmon is a former Intelligence agent.
But then Whittaker cites for backup on this the leader of CAIR!! Enough said….
Of course, Shin Bet or Mossad chiefs that support talking with Hamas are great and not to be discounted bcs of former intelligence work but Carmon wanting to open up the incitement within the Arab press is a shadowy guy.
Ahhh… so Whittaker admits the accuracy of their translations?
I didn’t know that was MEMRI’s purpose? just as Mr. Silverstein’s purpose is not to give complete context when he acuses Israel of pogroms etc… it’s “understood” that he’s got a purpose here.
And in his article he talks about an Iraqi official who supposedly gave MEMRI an inaccurate quote and then at the bottom of the article it turns out his story was later backed up from other sources.
So what are you left with from this entire article?
Whittaker is a leftist who despises MEMRI but can’t dispute their accuracy. Thus, their videos and translations are accurate.
Hannan Lis says
The past sixty years are filled with such hatred and racist ideology. Long before June of 1967 Arab political, academic and religious leaders along with the media, educational systems and popular culture of all Arab nations used Nazi-like depictions of Jews as the norm rather as the exception. For the New York times to “expose” this now is a little late to the game. The idea that Jews are guilty because of the occupation and therefore carry any responsibility to this systematic and calculated campaign of hate an bigotry is actually correct. Yes, we Jews are responsible because we dare to exist, survive and thrive. Anti Jewish propaganda in the Arab world has served as the linchpin of many “liberation” movement both secular and religious. Arab leaders,both Political and religious used such sentiments as a shield for their own failure to provide for the basic needs of their population. Hatred is a cheap and endless commodity in the Middle East, however, after a prolonged usage of such hatred , the western media gets used to it and accepts it as the norm.
Yigal Amir supposedly proves that Jews are a “poisonous, hatefilled peope”. What about Sweden? They had both a Prime Minister and a Foreign Minister assassinated? What about Israeli Arabs…they assassinated an Arab Knesset Member in the 1970’s? What about the American people? They assassinated President Kennedy and made TWO attempts on President Ford? What about the Palestinians? They assassinated MInister Ze’evi? THere have also been numerous assassinations in Gaza recently of public officials. What about the Bangladeshis? They assassinated several Prime Ministers? What about India? They assasinated Indira and Rajiv Gandhi.
Richard Silverstein says
Not a tough one at all. It’s bad journalism. I’ve written to Erlanger himself & told him so. I think he knows there is a problem w. the points I raise. But he’s clearly biased & recently wrote a separate tendentious story about Israel’s relations with Iran, so this isn’t the first bad one he’s written. Most of the time he manages to conceal his prejudices pretty well. But every so often they leak out as they did here.
Interesting that you say it is “demonstrably” false but then forget to demonstrate any proof. Maybe it’s demonstrably false to you. But as I’ve pointed out here innumerable times, your views are a fringe & not credible.
Arabs know that Arab hate is more poisonous than Jewish hate??? What planet are you on?
Tell it to the inhabitants of Jabel Mukaber who would’ve been pummeled by pogromists if they’d dared venture out of their homes. Tell it to the 12 Nazareth Israeli Arabs murdered by the Border Police while demonstrating peaceably during the Intifada. Tell it to the Arabs sprayed with automatic weapons fire by Israeli Arab-hater, Natan Zada. Tell it to the scores of Arabs who were gunned down in their village under Palmach orders for violating a curfew they didn’t even know existed during the War of Independence. Tell it to the 250 or so murdered villagers of Deir Yassin to whom Menachem Begin’s crew wanted to teach a lesson. I could go on.
I wrote an entire Comment is Free essay on precisely this subject & it’s filled with examples. Only the blind & deaf like you need more proof.
No, I don’t assume context is understood. That’s why I clearly & explicitly stated that there is Palestinian hatred & incitement. I clearly & explicitly stated that there is hatred on both sides. I didn’t only talk about one side. I acknowledged it on both sides. What more do you want, blood?
His name is “Whitaker,” not that you’d care about accuracy. To the best of my knowledge the leader of CAIR is not an intelligence agent for the PA or any Arab government. Intelligence agents esp. Israeli ones are not generally accorded the title of most impartial political observers. Whitaker’s arguments against MEMRI do not rely on CAIR. They rely on actual ACCURATE translations by independent experts which show the errors & distortions of MEMRI. That has nothing to to do w. CAIR.
If I had to choose bet. Ephraim Levy (the former Mosad director you disparage) or Yigal Carmon to save my life or the life of the Israeli nation I know who I’d trust.
You’re quoting from an article Whitaker wrote 6 yrs ago. His most recent article deals solely with an entirely mistranslated story from MEMRI in which Whitaker says (he’s trying to be charitable):
Doesn’t sound to me like he trusts MEMRI’s translating skills anymore.
Whitaker is a repsected journalist writing for one of England’s most distinguished newspapers who does test the accuracy of everything MEMRI translates or publishes before he accepts them as accurate. How about you? What are yr credentials? Where do you publish? And I got news for you–my comment threads don’t count.
Oh please spare us the mordant self-pity. Instead of dealing with the real issues of Israel’s moral responsibility for the injustice of the Occupation you run the bow across your violin strings and play us the sad tune of Jew hatred through the ages. It won’t wash my friend. The fact that we have suffered and the fact that Arabs have historically felt hatred toward us doesn’t justify the Occupation. Two unjustifiable or immoral wrongs don’t make a right.
You’ve really left me with no choice on this.
“I’ve been reading the NY Times for a long time. My father did before me.”
“You’ve failed your highness, I am Liberal. Like my father before me!”
Kindly meant. 🙂
Jane in Germany says
I have noticed many times you acknowledge when the Palestinians are behaving reprehensibly, and then you always add a “but.” Why is that? Do you honestly think they are justified?
Perhaps acquaint yourself with the Hamas charter and then ask yourself if their views are really due to the “occupation”, or something more sinister.
P.S I am also troubled by your constant banning of people who dispute your views, even in a respectful manner. Ironically, I came to your site the first time after reading about you in the NY Times (if I am not mistaken), in an article on cyber bullying in which you were portrayed as a victim.
Richard Silverstein says
The views of Hamas are no more sinister than are the views of extremist Israeli nationalists like Avigdor Lieberman and numerous others inside and outside the current government.
I don’t run my blog to please you or to ease your troubled mind. I conduct myself as I see fit. And btw, tell me who I banned who disputed my views in a respectful manner? If you’re talking about Amir, keep in mind that he’s published 100 or more comments here many of which I found deeply offensive w/o banning him. Telling me I should be proud of the IDF killing Palestinians in cold blood was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
You think because I ban people fr. this blog that I’m a cyberbully?? Puh-leeze. I could publish here 100 brutish, thuggish, violent, physically threatening, foul-mouthed comments sent to this blog which would make you blush to read them.
I ban people fr. this blog for a number of reasons which you can read about in the comment rules. People who don’t respect me or the rules don’t get to participate. It’s as simple as that.
Richard Silverstein says
If you want to make the argument that Palestinians are a poisonous hate-filled people you can be damn sure I’m going to ask you to explain Yigal Amir, Meir Kahane, Barch Goldstein, Natan Zada & countless other Jewish terrorists. If, on the other hand, you try to take a more balanced approach to understanding Palestinians that embraces both criticism of them and understanding of their suffering & need for justice, then no, I won’t try to force you to explain the Jewish haters who’ve made life miserable for Palestinians.
All I’m saying is that Israelis & Palestinians are brothers (& sisters) in sin. They have the same weaknesses & imperfections. They aspire to the same honorable goals.
Jebel Mukaber doesn’t prove anything. I repeat a fact that everyone, Erlanger and everyone else in Israel (Including Arabs) know : ARABS WALK AROUND ALL PARTS OF ISRAEL FREELY, including ‘right-wing’ and ‘religious neighborhoods, including Jewish settlements in Judea/Samaria. Your use of Ronald Reagan’s style of making policy based on anecdotal evidence will not fly…pointing out a few instances of Jewish violence does NOT prove your point…which is there is no difference between Jewish and Arab society. Like I said…the statistics prove what I say and which you know: Since Oslo, there have been THOUSANDS of violent, indiscriminate attacks by Arabs on Jewish passersby, and a HANDFUL in the other direction. By insisting on ignoring the truth, you are simply discrediting your views.
liberal white boy says
Thanks for inserting the (early) in front of Thomas Friedman. It’s good to know that I can still come here to find out what I should think about some of these issues.
Richard Silverstein says
This apparently proves something ground-shaking to yr mind. I’m not sure what it is. Jews I am sure can walk in Israeli Arab towns as well & before the Intifadas they could even walk through towns in the Occupied Territories w/o fear. What does any of it mean? Does it mean that Jews don’t hate Arabs or vice versa? Of course it doesn’t’ & only an ideologue like you could deny the obvious–that there is vehement hate & rage on both sides toward the other.
You think there have only been a “few instances” of Jewish violence? The instances I provided were but the tip of the iceberg. Someone could write a book about this (& probably has) there have been so many. You’re hiding yr head in the sand like a Jewish ostrich.
That is false, an outright lie. There have been thousands of violent, indiscriminate attacks by Jews on Arabs. And I include in these attacks unprovoked violence & humiliation perpetrated by thuggish settlers as well as Border Police.
<blockquote>Tell it to the inhabitants of Jabel Mukaber who would’ve been pummeled by pogromists if they’d dared venture out of their homes. Tell it to the 12 Nazareth Israeli Arabs murdered by the Border Police while demonstrating peaceably during the Intifada. Tell it to the Arabs sprayed with automatic weapons fire by Israeli Arab-hater, Natan Zenda. Tell it to the scores of Arabs who were gunned down in their village under Palmach orders for violating a curfew they didn’t even know existed during the War of Independence. Tell it to the 250 or so murdered villagers of Deir Yassin to whom Menachem Begin’s crew wanted to teach a lesson. I could go on.</blockquote>Fact check:
1. The 12 Arabs killed were not form Nazareth but from different villages in the North (including Nazareth)
2. They were rioting, not mere demonstrating (even your beloved Ha’aretz knows this: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/790350.html)
3. The mentally ill AWOL soldier’s name was Natan Zada, not Zenda.
4. The curfew event appened in 1956 (not the War of Independence) and was committed by border police and not the Palmach and took place in Kfar Kassem.
Your playing semantics is just silly. You ‘acknowledge’ Palestinian incitement and then find an Israeli act to which you use over the top descriptive adjectives… if your purpose is to purposefully expose Israeli incitement or acts not as known as Palestinian than ok, that’s a legit excuse… but don’t pretend you go at both with as much fervor.
Your pupose and context needs to be understood, as well as this NY Times article, where they were writing about PA incitement… however, you then hypocritically then point out that when writing about PA incitement, didn’t give it any justification with any Israeli culpability to provide context….
Oh, in that case the leader of CAIR sounds like exactly the kind of guy I want to trust. CAIR’s many links to Islamist extremists and terrorist groups and their not so secret Saudi funding which they don’t want to admit to, is not really relevant.
So esp ‘Israeli ones’? you just got the zeitgeist on that one.. no real proof, as an insider you just generally know and imparting this inside zeitgeist awareness to your readers.
It is notable though how in his initial article, which you linked to, that right after trying to smear MEMRI, after he admits their translations were accurate, he then cites the leader of an organizaion with shadows and links to extremist groups, just a tad revealing and ironic while he’s using “shadowy” links as a means to defeat credibility.
It shows where his impluses and biases lie…
I wasn’t disparaging him I was just making a point which you proved… when a former director makes a point you or the Guardian agree with then former Intel directors [who are obviously a lot more knowledgeable of good and bad] than the average person, become relevant… when they another time or another former director state something you don’t like… well then ESPEC ISRAELI ONES are to be looked at with condescension and suspicion.
Shame on them for missing that semantic point!
So if a question was posed to Jews or Americans how do you feel about Muslims in general versus how do you feel about Muslims who are dancing on 9/11 and smiling? So in that case any American that made the racist hateful comments this fine Mufti made and regularly makes – you could then put the comments into better context…. and not accuse any American who states with hystreonic over the top adjectives of ignorance and hatred? bcs they were particularly speaking about Muslims in a particular act.
So much thanks to Mr. Whitaker for making this enlightening point as to the fuller context of the fine Mufti’s words….
Yes, but the leader of CAIR, funded by the Saudi Wahabists, is someone apparently Whitaker believes is a valid opinion and interpreter unbiased to the West. The NY Times and other newspapers should have more translators to watch and translate the Arabic media and what their leaders say in Arabic versus English… and make sure MEMRI gets their translations exactly on the money… and then actually publish it so people can read them – that’s a valid conversation that is not happening enough… shine the light on it…. the more light the better.
And a left wing newspaper in England. Though it’s funny you didn’t note that since you frequently note a newspaper, organization or person is right wing when you feel that is the case? Wonder why that is?
Good for Mr. Whitaker here, though to provide fuller context it is doubtful that he’ll cite any of the benfits and service MEMRI does provide or when their translations or citations and completely accurate and worthwhile to note.
particularly when he displays how different often an Arab leaders words are in Arabic versus what they say to the Western press.
I’m about 6′ 2″ and handsome, thanx for asking… as far as my observational skills… they’re pretty strong. But thanks for pointing out how I mistyped Mr. Whitaker’s name… that was pretty important.
Richard Silverstein says
Your comment was so incoherent, rambling & lacking in credible argument I don’t think there’s anything worth responding to. Glad you had yr say.
Richard I had the same reaction to the Erlanger article. I was disappointed in him because it was so blatantly one sided and the story and facts were not put in context or more broadly discussed ( the emotional psychological aspect). Btw Haaretz has been reporting on this lately too I suspect also for reaction which it got/gets on the Talkback.
This criticism is NOT to excuse Hamas. The two (excusing and explaining- not justifying) get confused in argument and that is where arguments go off-track. That is also not to say as well that Hamas acting in Palestinians best interest in the long term with what some rightfully can also call child abuse.
The protests about your criticism of Erlanger here do not take into account that Palestinians have a very different daily reality than Israeli’s. An Israeli child does not have to deal with the level of ongoing trauma, anger, desperation, humiliation.
Erlanger’s report however brings worry and sadness and horror of what teaching hate and martyrdom means for the future of all in the area. There is more than one reaction one can have to this article in it’s one-sidedness and lack of context. This is part of what Israel also is bringing down upon herself by postponing solutions to the situation under the illusion that it has the upper hand.
I could not make sense of the Solomon 123 post either though I tried. I post here again to say that I used to get regular emails from MEMRI. I was sort of coerced into registering for them as I was having a back and forth discussion with someone who swore by MEMRI and kept sending me references. And then I got wind of the criticism about the translations. MEMRI’s work may be worthy in part but I cannot trust it now.
Richard Silverstein says
1. You say the Arabs killed were “not from Nazareth” but that some WERE from Nazareth. Which is it? At any rate, I meant to say that the demonstration at which they were killed was in Nazareth.
2. They were demonstrating and they were killed. Even if they were rioting killing them was a criminal act for which the Israeli police & government have refused to punish anyone in a shameful dereliction of duty & responsibility.
3. Thanks for correcting that mistake. As for Natan Zada’s mental state I’ve never heard any news report alleging he was mentally ill nor that he was under any form of mental health treatment. In fact, his family, from the stories I read, also were extremists. Were they all mentally ill as well & is that how he came by his hate for Arabs? Your attempt to transform homicidal hate for Arabs into mental illness is rather unconvincing.
4. Again thanks. I wrote my comment before researching & confirming what I wrote which is almost always a mistake. I stand corrected & thanks for that.
The alleged commenter “AD” has revealed at his blog that he is Aussie Dave deliberately concealing his identity under a pseudonym. Really, Dave–don’t you think this kind of subterfuge is beneath you? Oh, that’s right, you’re Aussie Dave. This type of behavior is precisely the way you operate.