Rabbi Richard Block, president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and one of the leading rabbis of Reform Judaism, last week cancelled his subscription to The New York Times.
In an open letter published in Tablet Magazine, Block identified himself as “lifelong Democrat, a political liberal, a Reform rabbi,” but no longer a subscriber to the Times on account of “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.”
Block described what alienated him from the Times regarding its coverage of Israel, especially during Operation Protective Edge.
Renowned Israeli novelist, leftist, and self-declared “Israeli peacenik” Amos Oz captured the essence of the conflict in two questions he posed to a German radio audience. “What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery? What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?”
The answers are self-evident to everyone except the New York Times. Its obsessive focus is on Palestinian civilian casualties, especially children, publishing photos of their corpses and little else, as if they tell the whole story. The deaths of innocents in wartime are tragic and heartbreaking; they diminish us all. But a newspaper committed to balance and fairness would provide context and perspective. It would show traumatized Israeli children running to shelters, cowering, wetting their beds, and suffering nightmares. It would publish photos and accounts of militants launching rockets from the roofs of mosques, a church, and a media hotel, alongside schools, refugee shelters, clinics and hospitals, and of weapons concealed by Hamas in UN facilities. It would substantiate casualty figures from Hamas, which is known to have falsified them in the past, before reporting them as fact. It would highlight Hamas’ use of civilians as human shields, its urging civilians to ignore Israel’s advance warnings to depart, so that Gazans would be killed and inflict PR damage on Israel. Such a paper would cover the threats of death that inhibited reporters and photojournalists from telling the true, full story. But the Times did not.
At the end Block recounted the specific incident that prompted his decision.
The straw that broke my subscription’s back came on Aug. 19, when Hamas violated yet another truce, sending a fusillade of rockets into Israel. The Wall Street Journal’s headline read, “Gaza Rocket Strikes End Cease Fire.” A U.S. State Department spokesperson condemned the renewed rocket fire, holding Hamas responsible for causing the ceasefire to break down. The Times headline: “Rockets From Gaza and Israeli Response Break Cease-Fire.” Seriously? A newspaper that cannot distinguish between starting a fight and defending oneself is intellectually deficient, morally obtuse, and profoundly unworthy of its readers.
Rabbi Block expressed similar sentiments in How Should Rabbis Speak about Israel? that appeared in the May 2014 issue of The Tower Magazine:
Israel needs many things, but one thing it does not need is more public criticism, which is ubiquitous. Some is legitimate, but lacks context. Much of it is exaggerated, unfair, uninformed, or plainly wrong. Increasingly, it lurches from offensive to anti-Semitic, rationalizing the shortcomings of Israel’s adversaries and ignoring the worst abuses of others, focusing exclusively and obsessively on the Jewish State. This willful blindness finds expression in such ways as a blatantly anti-Semitic study guide circulated by the Presbyterian Church, and the immoral, hypocritical, and pernicious BDS Movement, which denies the legitimacy of a democratic Jewish state, even alongside a Palestinian one.
[Photo: Union for Reform Judaism / YouTube ]