Friday, July 15, 2005

The Sulzberger Indifference Template


The New York Times editorial today on the Gaza disengagement, "Aimless in Gaza," follows what I would describe as the "Sulzberger Indifference Template" for editorials on Israel. The godfather of this Template was Arthur Hayes Sulzberger (left), publisher of the Times from 1935 to 1961 and co-founder of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism. He was grandfather of the current publisher.

When you read Times Middle East editorials, remember that the newspaper is an ancestral property of the Sulzberger family, whose historic indifference to Israel and Jewish concerns has been well documented. The Times' disgraceful refusal to cover the Holocaust was recently recounted in a book, and Arthur Hays Sulzberger's hostility to Israel has resonated through generations of Times editorial writers.

So on to today's manifestation of the Sulzberger Indifference Template:

1. Whatever The Problem, Blame Israel . This is the cornerstone of the template. These editorials always maintain a pretense of even-handedness ("the failure of Israeli and Palestinian leaders"), but the message of the editorials is almost invariably that Israel gets the lion's share of the blame for whatever happens to be going awry at any particular point in time ("Sadly, most of the blame for the current paralysis lies with Mr. Sharon").

2. Ignore Palestinian Flouting of the Road Map. One essential feature of the Times's editorial and news coverage (most recently here) has been to ignore the Palestinian failure to act against terror groups, as required by the first phase of the Road Map for Peace.

3. Promote the Myth of Palestinian "Moderation." Having ignored Palestinian Authority inaction, failures, incitement and ties to terror groups, the Times today goes on to chide Israel for failing to support the Palestinian Authority and its "moderate" chairman. ("Demonstrating to the Palestinians that they haven't really won anything is far, far less important to Israel's well-being than strengthening the authority and credibility of moderate Palestinian leaders like Mr. Abbas.")

4. Whitewash Terror Groups. In accordance with its view that the Palestinians don't have an obligation to confront terror groups as required by the road map, the Times believes that these murder gangs are "opposition groups" that do all sorts of good stuff and need to only say, "We won't do it no more." (Mohammed Abbas "faces a rapidly strengthening opposition movement, Hamas, which is building popular support through its extensive network of social welfare programs while refusing to follow Mr. Abbas's lead in renouncing terrorism.") Not disarming, not disbanding. "Renouncing" is good enough for the Times.

5. Palestinian Failures Are Caused By Israel. The Times excuses Palestinian inaction in Gaza thusly: "With Israel taking a chilly 'that's for you to work out' approach to the logistics of the transfer, Mr. Abbas has begun responding in similar tones."

6. The U.S. Must Pressure Israel. The Times, like a stern and disapproving mother, knows better than Israel what is in that country's best interests -- which is, of course, to "do more" for the Palestinians. That is always couched in terms of Israeli leaders acting against the best interests of their own people and, of course, the world at large. Thus, after the "in similar tones" baloney noted in No. 5, the Times continues: "That is a luxury neither side can afford, and the rest of the world can't either. Ms. Rice and Mr. Wolfensohn need to spend the next month getting the two sides working together constructively on a smooth transfer that builds a basis for a wider peace." Any U.S. comments even mildly critical of Israel therefore need to be highlighted and exaggerated.

7. Ignore U.S. Criticism of the Palestinians. The corollary to the above is that the frequent U.S. comments criticizing the Palestinian Authority need to be ignored.

8. Israeli skeptics are nuts. This is a favorite theme of Tom Friedman, and is reflected in numerous editorials as well. Israelis who have oppose further Oslo-like concessions, including the entire Likud party, are "right-wing" and "nuts" (a term Friedman has used often) and must be described in exaggerated, hysterical terms. Whenever possible they should be likened to Hamas or other Palestinian extremists. The logical basis for opposition to Israeli concessions, such as their tendency to encourage Palestinian terrorism and intransigence, should be ignored or derided.

Over all, what appeared today was a typical Times editorial--condescending, detached from reality, one-sided. The same mentality that kept Auschwitz off the front pages is continuing to burn bright on 43rd Street.

I'll update the Template as warranted. After all, it is a dynamic template, one that the Times is always improving -- in pursuit of its beloved goal of bashing Israel at every opportunity.

UPDATE: The Snapshots blog has a thorough examination of the "Israel is bad, Palestinians are good" Times editorial policy.
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