Creating people's geographies
Letter to the Editor 9 August 2006
Read this letter as a response to recent article here (‘Left or Right, Israelis Are Pro-War‘ by Steven Erlanger)
Dear Friends at The New York Times,
I was disturbed to read the August 9 article below by Steven Erlanger commenting on support by the Israeli left for Israel’s wars (“Left or Right, Israelis are Pro War”). Steven Erlanger is indeed correct that the vast majority of Israelis, including the mainstream Israeli left and Peace Now, support the war in Lebanon.
However, Mr. Erlanger’s article captures New York Times’ news and editorial departments’ general pattern of refusing to acknowledge dissenting Israeli voices – both Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israeli Jews to the left of Peace Now.
It is particularly troubling that Steven Erlanger’s article completely ignores the views of Palestinian citizens of Israel, 20% of Israel’s citizens. Many Palestinian ctitizens of Israel are highly critical of the Israeli government’s violence against Palestinians or Lebanese. However, in this article, Mr. Erlanger’s article does not quote or acknowledge a single Palestinian citizen of Israel. Indeed, Palestinian citizens of Israel have held numerous protests against the war (Haaretz, ynetnews.com), and the Israeli government has repressed other protests (Israelinsider.com). While some past New York Times news articles have reported on Palestinian citizens of Israel, on the balance it appears that The New York Times as an institution may prefer not to acknowledge the existance of the 20% of Israel’s citizens who are Palestinian.
My research on New York Times op-eds on Israel/Palestine supports this conclusion. Since September, 2000, The New York Times has published 164 op-eds on Israel/Palestine. Not a single one of those op-eds was written by a Palestinian citizen of Israel who currently lives in Israel (between September 2000 – April 2003 The New York Times published three op-eds by Shibley Telhami, a professor who left Israel in 1970 for the US, and rarely acknowledges either that he is Palestinian or that he was born in Israel). In contrast, 71 of the op-eds published by The New York Times were written by Israeli Jews.
Additionally, similar to Steven Erlanger’s August 9 article purporting to summarize the views of the Israeli left, The New York Times news and editorial departments generally refuse to publish the views of any Israeli Jews to the left of Peace Now. Again, looking at the 71 op-eds by Israel Jews published by The New York Times since 2000, in order to find any Israeli voices left of Peace Now, I had to return to the period of September, 2000 – April, 2002 – to six op-eds by Allegra Pacheco, Amira Hass and Tom Segev. I personally am aware of numerous op-ed submissions by Israeli Jews who disagree with Israeli policy that have been rejected by The New York Times over the last three years. A number of those op-eds were then published in other major newspapers in the US and Canada.
By generally refusing to acknowledge Palestinian citizens of Israel and Israeli Jews critical of Israeli policies, The New York Times paints a false picture of Israeli society. Critical Israel voices receive far greater hearing in the Israeli media than in The New York Times. Contrary to Steven Erlanger’s claim (“There have been weekly demonstrations against the war from smaller, more pacifist groups, but they have rarely drawn more than a few hundred supporters”), Ha’aretz Daily reported on a rally in Tel Aviv of over 5000 Israelis last Saturday (http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/746637.html). A July 29 protest organized by women’s peace groups attracted up to 3000 people (http://www.womensenews.org/article.cfm/dyn/aid/2850/context/archive), and Ha’aretz and YNet reported on large protests organized by Palestinian citizens of Israel (see above).
I hope the New York Times news and editorial departments will take steps to redress these significant and persistant gaps in its representation of Israeli society.