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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

If You Were Revolted by Helen Thomas, Have a Look at The New York Times

If you were revolted by the vile utterances of Helen Thomas, who resigned yesterday, have a look at the following chain of events involving The New York Times. As those who are familiar with this blog know, in the past I took the Times to task for posting rabidly anti-Semitic comments, approved by the Times "moderators", in response to their editorial content, and in fact, certain comments were ultimately, albeit belatedly, removed ( The problem, however, persists.

In response to Robert Mackey's New York Times "Lede" article, "Israelis Explain, and Mock, Flotilla Crisis" (, the following comment, no. 24 written by "farmboy", was posted by the Times moderators and states in relevant part:

"Israel lies all the time, and as I understand it lies are not considered sinful by the Orthodox if they serve to advance the cause of the chosen people."

Outraged by the comment, which is anti-Semitic and inflammatory in the extreme - bear in mind that Senator Joe Lieberman is also an Orthodox Jew - and given Mackey's claim in his own comment to the column that "if a comment seems to add little to the thread, or is inflammatory, attacks other readers, the author or The Times, it will not be posted," I sent my own comment:

"Is it your contention that comment no. 24 from 'farmboy' is not racist, vulgar and inflammatory?"

Needless to say, my comment was censored.

Undeterred, I sent an e-mail to Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the Times, requesting his response. Mr. Rosenthal did not get back to me.

And when Mr. Rosenthal didn't respond, I sent an e-mail to the public editor of the Times, requesting his feedback. Lo and behold, yesterday I received the following reply from a member of the public editor's staff:

"Thank you for writing. It's good to hear from you again. Since you send these over the weekend, let's give Mr. Rosenthal a couple of more days to respond.

Mr. Mackey does not moderate the comments on his blog - the Website staff does.

In my view, since this comment addresses Israel and not Jewish people, I think I would have approved it, though I would have thought about it for awhile. I am loath to approve comments that say someone lied. But, I take this as criticism, of the government of Israel, and that, in my mind is fair game. But, I can see how it can be read as Anti-Semitic and as a slight against Jewish people themselves, so I would have taken care with it.

I hope this helps."

In effect, the public editors office is saying that it would err on the side of anti-Semitism. My answer:

"[T]he comment . . . says that "lies are not considered sinful by the Orthodox [i.e. Orthodox Jews - there is no "Orthodox" Israel or "Orthodox" Israeli government] if they serve to advance the cause of the chosen people [i.e. the Jews]."

As I understand it, your position is that it is acceptable for 'moderated' comments in the Times to label all Orthodox Jews as ready to lie if such lies advance their own interests. Please correct me if I am wrong. Tell me: Would it be acceptable to say that all Catholics are ready to lie if such lies advance the interests of the Pope? Not a chance!

This is vulgar, anti-Semitic, abusive and inflammatory in the extreme, and if this is deemed to fall within the realm of the norms of The New York Times, it deserves to be disseminated to all of your readership so as to enable them to decide whether they should be subscribing to or placing advertisements in the Times.

I await your earliest possible response."

And then I heard back from Andrew Rosenthal:
"I have not gotten involved in this exchange because it involves a newsroom feature, The Lede, and is therefore beyond the range of my responsibility."

I am now waiting to learn from the public editor as to who is "responsible" for posting anti-Semitic comments at the Times, but meanwhile I am also distraught by Andrew Rosenthal's decision to ignore this problem by stating that it is someone else's responsibility. If the issue involved slurs against African Americans, would he also take the position that it is someone else's job?

I wish Mr. Rosenthal would consider what his father, former executive editor of the Times, once wrote:

"After the Nazis' slaughter of Jews was fully exposed at war's end, Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, the influential daughter, wife and mother of Times publishers, changed her mind about the need for a Jewish state and helped her husband, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, accept the idea of Israel and befriend its leaders. Later, led by their son, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and their grandson Arthur Sulzberger Jr., The Times shed its sensitivity about its Jewish roots, allowed Jews to ascend to the editor's chair and warmly supported Israel in many editorials.

And to this day the failure of America's media to fasten upon Hitler's mad atrocities stirs the conscience of succeeding generations of reporters and editors. It has made them acutely alert to ethnic barbarities in far-off places like Uganda, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo. It leaves them obviously resolved that in the face of genocide, journalism shall not have failed in vain."

When the Times states that comments are "moderated", yet permits anti-Semitism, it thereby informs its readership that anti-Semitism is not abusive and falls within accepted norms.

The employees of the Times are not nearing their 90th birthdays and cannot plead "senility" in their defense. Regrettably, it appears that the Times not only lacks sensitivity to Jews, but has now made them "fair game" on its once respected pages.


  1. Reuters does the truth little justice when they distribute doctored photographs to distort the message (and this is not the 1st time that they have been caught out at this)

  2. More relevant - according to the followers of Muhammed - it is allowed to lie to the infidels, as a strategy, to further their plans. So, as the saying goes - al rosh haganav boer ha kova (the hat on the head of a thief burns)... a little misdirection goes a long way!

  3. Hi, Jeffrey!

    Did you notice how illiterate this public editor is? His English is not ESL, it is something else. He (she) is very calm and assertive, knowing that antisemitism is newspaper's policy. Moreover, he (she) is sure that power in the USA belongs to his (her) people and this is an open season for Jew-hunting.

  4. Marina,

    I was indeed disappointed by his shallow indifference. I can only wonder what he thinks is being achieved by the public editor's office.

  5. It seems to me that, with such ever-increasing and egregious attacks on Jews, a standardized response is in order. What if well-established organizations, those perceived as having gravity, even with publications as impervious and insensitive as the NY Times, were to undertake orchestrated action? What if the Jewish Federation or the Orthodox Union or some such were to begin a barrage of letters and phone calls? What else can be done other than putting t'fillin and doing mitvot?

  6. PS....also saying tehillim...the remarkable uptick in anti-semitism, or, at least, its ever-more-glaring exhibition, even in the wake of 9/11 and other well-known terror events, seems inexplicable except to liken this to Germany in the 20's. Perhaps we are finally, after several decades of calm, barreling headlong into another gathering storm. As students of the period leading to the Holocaust, we know the gradual encroachment of brutality that made it all seem, for a time, tenable for its subtlety.

    On financial message boards, with the luxury of anonymity, there has been an extraordinary outpouring of Jew-hatred. This appears on Goldman Sach's board, and that of Israeli stocks. Jews need to do some serious reflection to re-consider the validity of that unflappable truth which says "it couldn't happen here."

  7. Happyminyan,

    I strongly recommend reading Amos Elon's "The Pity of It All, A Portrait of the German-Jewish Epoch 1743-1933".