Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The New York Times and Israel (Again)

by Elliott Abrams
October 15, 2014


The New York Times, whose hostility to Israel is visible in both its news and its editorial pages, was at it again yesterday. In an editorial (about the symbolic vote in the UK parliament backing Palestinian statehood) entitled “A British Message to Israel,” the Times‘s editorial board unloaded yet again with a barrage of advice, opinion–and untruths.

Here are some of the key words:

The vote is one more sign of the frustration many people in Europe feel about the failure to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement despite years of promises.

The most recent American-mediated talks collapsed in April. Meanwhile, Israel continues to build new settlements or expand existing ones, thus shrinking the territory available for a Palestinian state and ignoring an international community that considers such construction illegal. The recent war in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, which killed more than 2,000 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, has increased the sense that violence will keep recurring while peace remains elusive.

There are a couple of points worth making in reaction to this.  First, on settlements, note that the Times makes two claims: that “Israel continues to build new settlements” and that expansion of existing ones is “shrinking the territory available for a Palestinian state.” Neither assertion is true. In the last decade the Israelis removed all the settlements in Gaza and four very small ones in the West Bank. The days of building new settlements all over the West Bank are long gone. And “settlement expansion” has meant expansion of population, not territory, so their footprint in the West Bank has not changed. The so-called “peace map” is the same.

Second, note the way the Times refers to the recent Gaza war: It seems that “violence will keep recurring.” How nasty of Violence to do that. The Times does not consider that Hamas deliberately started this conflict, and by burying this sentence in an editorial censuring Israel makes it clear that Israel is really to blame.

This is ludicrous, considering the barrages of rockets and missiles and mortars Hamas shot into Israel, but it is of a piece with the Times‘s general view: Israel is the problem. It is this bias that, last summer, led one of America’s leading Reform rabbis to cancel his subscription. He is Richard Block, president for 2013-2015 of of the association of Reform rabbis (the CCAR). Here is how Block began:

I am a lifelong Democrat, a political liberal, a Reform rabbi, and for four decades, until last week, a New York Times subscriber. What drove me away was the paper’s incessant denigration of Israel, a torrent of articles, photographs, and op-ed columns that consistently present the Jewish State in the worst possible light.

This phenomenon is not new. Knowledgeable observers have long assailed the Times lack of objectivity and absence of journalistic integrity in reporting on Israel. My chronic irritation finally morphed into alienation and then to visceral disgust this summer, after Hamas renewed its terrorist assaults upon Israel and the Times launched what can only be described as a campaign to delegitimize the Jewish State.

That campaign continues, most recently in the editorial about the British move.

Post a Comment 14 Comments

  • Posted by Andrew T. Halmahy

    You make me proud. While in total agreement with you and having the identical reaction to the Times, I beat you by six months. I put them in Spam six months ago and find my teeth in better shape – I no longer need to grind them.

  • Posted by AK

    Given the author’s staunch Zionist bona fides there is nothing new here, a mere reassertion of the tired old mantra that Israel does no harm, even as the current Israeli regime butchered more than TWO THOUSAND defenseless, women, infants, seniors whose biggest offense is their Muslim faith (an inconvenience to a theocratic Israel). This does not bode well for us Semites who embrace a diverse universe in thought and faith and imperils our goodness and safety.

  • Posted by Rachel Peine

    what are we to do when the Democrats stand for everything I believe in EXCEPT Israel, and the Repubs are disgusting EXCEPT for Israel.

  • Posted by Jon Steelman

    the British message? or massage? The chutzpah of some across the pond is unnerving, or perhaps its just amnesia. British sources, both public and private, have been funding projects to support Hamas in the Gaza, alleged humanitarian relief, for several years. (i.e., Miles of Smiles operation ca. 2011 – http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/article/17866.) thus, when some in the British Isles take exception to the eventual fruit of that largesse (indirect support of the Hamas administrations in Gaza, tunnels from Gaza to Israel, and missiles, et al.), the mind is officially boggled. Where is the likes of Tony Blair when we need him?

  • Posted by Steven

    I agree with you Mr. Abrams on the New York Times turning on Israel but America has rapidly socially liberalized in the last six years. I hope you don’t deny their was a bias in Israel’s favor since 1948. I also hope you can see my points from an impartial point of view being your the former special assistant to the president and senior director for democracy, human rights and international operations. Two big factors in recent history are 1. The general public’s view of how Israel treats Palestine and as you argue how the media now frames it in Palestine’s favor. 2. Benjamin Netanyahu. I like him as a leader and have great respect for his service in the Sayaret Matkal but when he was urging the world to attack Iran before she attacks Israel, world leaders I believe listened with contempt. Iran being urbanized like Iraq and Mountainous like Afghanistan would have been quite the quagmire. America’s defense forces being in the region for 10 years already were too frayed for a third campaign. Luckily it did not happen. It made Netanyahu look like a warmonger at a time when you don’t want to look like one. Which brings us to today. Netanyahu is still beating the drum while grabbing land. Israel can accomplish her goals but needs a smarter strategy and a better way of framing policy. If I sounded biased at any point in this comment I’ll let you know that I am both pro Palestine and pro Israel. I have great respect for both Palestine’s right to exist which by the way exists a growing movement in the Jewish community for a free Palestine and Israel’s right to exist, her history and her record of successes in a region where they are the odd man out. I’ll leave you with a Hebrew proverb that you can share with your pro Israel supporters and policymakers “Don’t be too sweet, or else you will be eaten up; but don’t be too bitter, or else you will be spitted out.”

  • Posted by David M

    One has to wonder about the roots of this anti-Israel bias shown by the NYT. Perhaps a cultural anthropologist might be able to understand why the Ochs family with its Jewish roots would permit such distortions and lies about Israel to appear on its pages so routinely.

    Thank goodness the USA still has papers that recognize the realities of the Middle East (especially the Israeli reality) and print balanced and understanding pieces.

    I do not subscribe to the NYT nor will I until it drops its biased anti-Israel coverage! I’m not hopeful of seeing that change.

  • Posted by Mark Shyres

    Well, perhaps stronger action is called for against the NY Times? I recently wrote the editors of the paper asking for one day a week off from their attacks on Israel, but got no response Anyone care to suggest another, more direct approach?

  • Posted by LJBartels

    Please, someone graph out Mr Abrams’ assertion that the recent settlements are in fact inside the 2-state solution line that Israelis intend. I understand that Palestinians own land and homes and apartments on the Jewish side and that Jews can at times secretly purchase the properties using willing Palestinian, tho perhaps shady characters to do the purchasing. I understand that the reason for hidden transactions is that Palestinians may ostracize, terrorize, brutalize, or even kill people who sell to Jews. I get all of that. What I don’t see is that these purchases are inside some recognized geographic lines. Please, someone graph the Israeli claim…and Mr. Abrams’ assertion.

  • Posted by Michael Fox

    Does anyone really believe that Israel would be so stupid to trade land for peace with Abbas and the Palestinian Authority? Let’s erase the past and say Abbas is not a pathological liar and an instigator of violence against Israeli Jews. Let’s say his PA is not a financially corrupt organization and that Abbas is the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people. Let’s say Israel signs a deal with him and the state of Palestine is initiated…..does any truly rational human believe that would bring peace to the Jews in Israel? To the middle east? That the creation of a Palestinian state would somehow end global anti-Semitism?
    How many other Islamic terrorist organizations and governments in the middle east will never accept a Jewish state on Muslim land?
    A Palestinian state would be the beginning of the end for Israel. The good news for the west is, a Palestinian state and the demise of Israel would solve a myriad of bothersome problems for both the oil addicted nations and the anti-Semites of the world..

  • Posted by Dee

    Abrams says the NYT claim that “Israel continues to build new settlements” is not true. But Abrams is incorrect on this, as well as his assertion that existing settlements are expanding in terms of population only, not territory.

    In September, according to Haaretz: “Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank yesterday announced the takeover of 988 acres (3,799 dunams) belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem. The move clears the way for construction of a new settlement named Gvaot.”



  • Posted by Patrick J. Stevens

    Thank you for these observations on the Times’s editorial in question.
    What struck me as ultimately pathetic was the arrogance of the editorial. All the entities heaping continual opprobrium on Israel–media, parliaments, various “rights” organizations–would do well to remember that Israel’s first obligation is providing for the security of its citizens. The “Palestinian cause” (the Times’s phrase in this editorial) pales by comparison.
    And just to be clear, Israeli security will very likely continue to look like this: a democratic state, well-armed, economically and culturally thriving, with its national capital in an ethnically and religiously diverse Jerusalem solely under Israeli sovereignty. Above and beyond these stipulations, security control over the geographical footprint of the former Palestine Mandate, the Golan Heights and contiguous Mediterranean waters.

  • Posted by Dee

    Abrams is incorrect when he says Israel is not building new settlements and/or expanding existing settlements in terms of territory. The settlement of Gvaot is one example.

    According to Haaretz in September: “Israel’s Civil Administration in the West Bank yesterday announced the takeover of 988 acres (3,799 dunams) belonging to five Palestinian villages between the Etzion settlement bloc and Jerusalem. The move clears the way for construction of a new settlement named Gvaot.”


  • Posted by itasara

    To AK, “current Israeli regime butchered more than TWO THOUSAND defenseless, women, infants, seniors whose biggest offense is their Muslim faith ” totally bias and untrue. You don’t listen to the truthful news. I’m not going to explain it to you if you just see the lies your statement implies. Ask Hamas why they put their targets in the middle of palestinean civilian areas. Ask Hamas why their own failed rockets killed their own people. Ask Hamas why Israel sends emails and leaflets to the civilians before the planned to bomb a building and why Hamas soliers told the people it was a lie and not to go anywhere. Israel has no desire to kill innocent people, but Hamas does and they teach children to hate hate hate. And you propogate another same old same old anti-semetic accusation. Please go educate yourself.

  • Posted by Robert S.

    The New York Times and Haaretz share common values, not in a complimentary manner. The NYT is no longer a reliable source of news but the ideological mouthpiece of the Obama Administration’s disdain for Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu in particular. Haaretz, similarly ceased to be a reputable source of news. It became a tool of the left promoting the failed policies of Livni and Olmert, while savaging Prime Minister Netanyahu. Olmert practically offered everything the PA asked for. Olmert was rebuked and he realized that Abbas simply cannot nor desires to accept the existence of a Jewish State.

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