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Monday, December 19, 2011

The New York Times Sanitizes Critical Response to Thomas Friedman's Anti-Semitic Tirade

There can and will be no forgetting Thomas Friedman's anti-Semitic tirade in his op-ed, “Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir” (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/14/opinion/friedman-newt-mitt-bibi-and-vladimir.html?_r=1&hp), in which he declared:

"I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby."

It now turns out that The New York Times was only willing to publish one letter-to-the-editor in response to Friedman's racist rant, which was submitted by the American Jewish Committee (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/16/opinion/us-support-for-israel.html). However, The New York Times "sanitized" this reply.

As reported by David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, in The Jerusalem Post (http://blogs.jpost.com/content/new-york-times-columnist-tom-friedman-crossed-line), the following is the original letter-to-the-editor submitted by the AJC to The Times:

“Tom Friedman is entitled to his opinion about the pro-Israel statements of Republican presidential candidates. But his assertion that the standing ovation Congress gave Prime Minister Netanyahu a few months ago was ‘bought and paid for by the Israel lobby’ is both inaccurate and shockingly insidious. Public opinion polls consistently show a high level of American (and, yes, American Jewish) support for and identification with Israel. This indicates that the people’s elected representatives are fully reflecting the will of the voters. Friedman’s identification of a rich and powerful ‘Israel lobby’ conjures up the ugliest anti-Semitic stereotypes. Does he identify with those who traffic in such rhetoric, notably Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, who coauthored a book by that name? One surely hopes not.”

Now contrast this with what was published by The Times:

“Thomas L. Friedman is entitled to his opinion about the pro-Israel statements of Republican presidential candidates. But we strongly object to his assertion that the standing ovation that Congress gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a few months ago ‘was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.’ Public opinion polls consistently show a high level of American (and, yes, American Jewish) support for and identification with Israel. This indicates that the people’s elected representatives are fully reflecting the will of the people.”

In short, The New York Times redacted the AJC's observation that Friedman "conjures up the ugliest anti-Semitic stereotypes."

In the past I have noted the proclivity of The Times to engage in censorship of online responses that are critical of its editorials or the opinions of its columnists (see: http://jgcaesarea.blogspot.com/2009/06/open-letter-no-1-to-clark-hoyt-public.html). However, this reformulation of the AJC's letter goes far beyond the pale of ethical journalism. What a surprise . . .

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