I cancelled my subscription to The New York Times more than twenty years ago, in protest of its anti-Israel bias and in an effort to curb the resulting angst that accompanied my morning readings. Unfortunately, the gratification has been purely personal because the newspaper has since descended into further vituperative expression of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish and anti-Judeo Christian values. But at least I spare myself the a.m. angst.
Unsurprisingly, this slant follows in the predictable historic footsteps of its New York Times publishing parents, Arthur Hays Sulzberger having gone down in publication infamy for burying the Holocaust in his newspaper’s back pages, next to soap advertisements. And though he shared views with discreditable company in high places during the war years, the influence of Sulzberger’s paper was the most far-reaching and thus the most shameful.
This subject was part of a recent event hosted by the U.S. Holocaust Museum at The Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College, entitled ‘Americans and the Holocaust: What did New Yorkers Know?’ Moderated by award-winning New York Times journalist and author Ralph Blumenthal, Columbia University professor Dr. Rebecca Kobrin and museum expert JoAnna Wasserman discussed how much New Yorkers knew about Nazism and the Holocaust and explored how the New York press covered the rise of Nazi brutality.
Discussion centered on existing anti-Semitism and the gap between American sympathy for Jews and their unwillingness to receive refugees. The Depression played a role, as did the eagerness of FDR and the American government to downplay Nazi crimes against the Jews.
While focusing on the mainstream media’s general failure to convey the enormity of Nazi atrocities, The Times was rightfully targeted for its shameful abandonment of the Jews, all the more contemptible because its Jewish publisher didn’t want his paper to appear as “a special pleader for the Jews.” To his credit, Blumenthal admitted that, “It hurts me as a Times reporter to recite this history, but it’s true.” And he spared no pains in criticizing the paper for its “extraordinary failure of journalism.”
Between the years 1939-1945, The New York Times published more than 23,000 front page stories. Of these, only 26 were about the Holocaust. The fate of the Jews was the subject of only one lead editorial, and Hitler’s plan for their total annihilation was mentioned only six times in nearly six years.
It took more than fifty years for The Times to offer a mea culpa. In 1996, the paper finally ran a statement about its Holocaust coverage. “The Times has long been criticized for grossly underplaying the Holocaust while it was taking place. Clippings from the paper show that the criticism is valid.”
The criticism might be “valid” but it was hardly internalized. Far from becoming a true repentant, The Times has surpassed even its own traditional anti-Jewish bias. In today’s era of anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism, the paper has gone from burying stories about Jews as victims in its back pages to featuring stories about Jews as perpetrators on its front pages.
It is sadly ironic that three days before the U.S. Holocaust Museum event, a blaring New York Times headline read: “Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem.” This skewed headline prompted Senator Ted Cruz to accuse the newspaper of “celebrating” terrorists. “The NY Times headline is emblematic of…their antagonism to the State of Israel,” Cruz said. “The NY Times has a message to be conveyed…Israel, bad. Israel, bad.”
The paper’s anti-Israel coverage has deteriorated so badly that the pro-Israel watchdog group CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America) recently put up a large billboard outside the paper’s headquarters accusing it of “defaming Israel with distorted news.”
Yet none of this deterred the audience at the event’s conclusion from shockingly applauding The New York Times. Nor did it prevent them from turning a symposium on Holocaust awareness into a Trump-bashing affair, replete with comparisons of ICE agents to Nazi Stormtroopers.
New Yorkers, particularly the secular Jewish ones predominantly represented among the audience, seem to have learned nothing from the years of FDR. Loud and gleeful booing of the most pro-Israel administration, three days after it moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, proves that the Jewish left is impervious to the lessons of the Holocaust if they conflict with their own social and political agendas.
Not much has changed since the Sulzbergers of the world put politics and personal animus ahead of the truth and what should have been their rightful allegiances. And not much has changed among the anti-Semites of the world. Europe is now enduring levels of anti-Semitism “not seen since WWII,” according to the European Jewish Congress. And political, media and academic institutions revile Israel at unabated pace.
This makes Holocaust awareness all the more urgent. Because while the Holocaust stands alone in the irrefutable annals of human tragedy, so must its irrefutable lessons. Only by accurately learning from the mistakes of the past can we safeguard the present and the future.
Mrs. Sara Lehmann can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org