June 27, 2012 · 0 Comments
By Michael McGehee:
On page five of today’s New York edition of the New York Times is an article by Thomas Erdbrink entitled “Iran’s Vice President Makes Anti-Semitic Speech at Forum” where readers are informed that “Iran’s vice president [Mohammad-Reza Rahimi ] delivered a baldly anti-Semitic speech on Tuesday at an international antidrug conference here [in Tehran], saying that the Talmud, a central text of Judaism, was responsible for the spread of illegal drugs around the world.”
There is no excuse for the comments made by Rahimi . They are what they are: racist.
But with Iran being the main “enemy” of the U.S. in the Middle East, and its main ally being Israel, there is one way to check if the New York Times coverage of racist government officials is consistent, objective and rooted in moral opposition to racism anywhere, or whether it’s a political tool: look and see how often they provide similar coverage to when Israeli leaders make racist comments.
In 2004 when Likud member Yehiel Hazan said, “The Arabs are worms,” and, “You find them everywhere like worms, underground as well as above,” how did the New York Times respond?
There is not one mention of the remark.
As a thought experiment, imagine how the “paper of record” would respond to an Iranian politician saying, “The Jews are worms.” No comment is necessary.
Also in 2004, when former Deputy Defense Minister Ze’ev Boim asked the questions: “What is it about Islam as a whole and the Palestinians in particular? Is it some form of cultural deprivation? Is it some genetic defect?,” the NYT responded with silence.
Here we can repeat a similar thought experiment. If a high-ranking Iranian official wondered out loud whether or not Judaism and Israelis suffered from a genetic defect, what new sanctions would the U.S. propose? Perhaps Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, would use the statement to argue for assassinating Iran’s leaders.
More recently is the case of Israel’s Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman. Here is an Israeli politician who campaigned on the slogans “No citizenship without loyalty,” and “Only Lieberman understands Arabic.” The last slogan is akin to Nazi Germany’s ”final solution.”
So when Lieberman said earlier this year that, “Any future agreement with the Palestinians must address the matter of Israeli Arabs in the formula of territory and population exchanges,” we can look and see how the New York Times rebuked the comment as racist and advocating ethnic cleansing. The comment is nowhere to be found.
True, NYT correspondent Isabel Kershner has written on Lieberman’s citizen loyalty plans—see “Israeli Cabinet Approves Citizenship Amendment” as an example—though the language is much softer. Kershner describes the above mentioned law as “contentious,” and only refers to it as “racist” when describing how critics respond. Whereas in the article on Iran’s Vice President Rahimi, it is Erdbrink who calls the statement racist.
And New York Times columnist Roger Cohen has probably gone the furthest (which in the big picture isn’t saying too much) when he referred to Lieberman as “Israel’s race-baiting anti-Arab firebrand,” who Cohen says should not “find a place in a government led by Benjamin Netanyahu.” But this was an opinion piece, with no quote, certainly not the center of an entire piece, and not on the same par as an article in the front section criticizing Israel for its racist political leaders.
And there are many, many other examples. But it suffices to show that there is differential treatment. Worse, an absurdly racist comment by an Iranian politician on how Judaism is responsible for the illegal drug trade does not have the same implications as reducing a people to “worms” who have a “genetic defect” and who can only be removed by force as a solution. Rahimi’s comment was shocking and deplorable, but they can hardly be as threatening as Israel’s leaders, whose comments are part and parcel of an ongoing process to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their land. That the more objectionable cases of racism received either total silence or softened coverage—while another that amounts to little more than ineffectual raving of a depraved politician gets more coverage and stronger rebukes—this can only be explained by the political situations dividing the two. One is a friend, the other a foe.