“Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!” Psalms 43:1 (The Israel Bible™)
After being criticized by Jews and Christians alike, the New York Times amended an editorial that claimed Jesus was a Palestinian but the correction is still inadequate, displaying bad journalistic practice that is currently plaguing the media. All this during a wave of antisemitic cartoons and half-apologies.
In an op-ed published in the NY Times two weeks ago, Eric V. Copage claimed that “Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin.”
“As I grew older, I learned that the fair-skinned, blue-eyed depiction of Jesus has for centuries adorned stained glass windows and altars in churches throughout the United States and Europe,” Copage, who is Black, wrote. “But Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin.”
A flood of criticism followed, much of it focused on the blatant inaccuracy of referring to any part of the region as Palestine. Arabs did not enter the region until 700 years after Jesus died.
One week after the op-ed was published, the NY Times published a correction that was no more accurate than the original.
“Because of an editing error, an article last Saturday referred incorrectly to Jesus’s background,” the NY Times wrote. “While he lived in an area that later came to be known as Palestine, Jesus was a Jew who was born in Bethlehem.”
The op-ed was amended to read, “ But Jesus, a Jew born in Bethlehem, presumably had the complexion of a Middle Eastern man.”
Though the correction is appreciated, it still ignores the fact that that the region was known as Judea at the time Jesus lived and is now known as Israel. At no time in history has an independent political entity known as Palestine ever existed.
The NY Times has made other antisemitic faux pas recently. Last Thursday, the NY Times published a political cartoon drawn by Portuguese cartoonist Antonio Antunes Moreira of the Lisbon-based Expresso newspaper, the cartoon depicts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a guide dog for a blind yarmulke-wearing President Donald Trump. Netanyahu’s collar features a blue Star of David.
The cartoon immediately attracted criticism, including from Donal Trump Jr., the president’s son, who tweeted: “Disgusting. I have no words for flagrant anti-Semitism on display here. Imagine this was in something other than a leftist newspaper?”
The NY Times tweeted an explanation.
An Editors’ Note to appear in Monday’s international edition. pic.twitter.com/1rl2vXoTB3
— New York Times Opinion (@nytopinion) April 27, 2019
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) compared the NYT to the notorious Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, noting that the response was not, in fact, an apology.
“Some have termed this an apology – it is not, it is cold-blooded and at best descriptive,” CAMERA wrote. “Neither the word apology nor any synonym for apology is employed, and there is nothing about accountability or further steps the Times will take to make sure nothing like this ever happens again. This did not happen in a vacuum, but there is nothing about the responsible editor or editors being fired, or even disciplined.”
The NY Times published another response explicitly apologizing for the cartoon. Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman, said the paper was “deeply sorry” for publishing the cartoon.
“Such imagery is always dangerous, and at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, it’s all the more unacceptable,” Ms. Murphy said in a statement on behalf of the Opinion section. “We are committed to making sure nothing like this happens again.”
Despite the apology, the NY Times published another cartoon on Sunday that was criticized for perpetuating antisemitic tropes. This cartoon depicted Prime Minister Netanyahu taking a selfie as he descends from Mount Sinai bearing a stone tablet decorated with a Star of David.
Wait…the @nytimes featured ANOTHER Netanyahu cartoon? This one AFTER the Thursday cartoon depicting Netanyahu as a dog? Am I reading this right? Is the Times obsessed with Israel’s prime minister? pic.twitter.com/r1KsSaYWtw
— Dan Senor (@dansenor) April 29, 2019
The gaffs could not have come at a worse time. On Saturday, a gunman entered the Poway Chabad Synagogue outside of San Diego and murdered 60-year old Lori Kaye and wounded three others.
The original offensive cartoon came one week before Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorating a dark period in history which was made even darker by the role media played in demonizing Jews. This was highlighted in a speech on Monday by Israel’s ambassador to the US, Ron Dermer, marking Holocaust Remembrance Day. Dermer blamed the NY Times for becoming “a cesspool of hostility towards Israel that goes well beyond any legitimate criticism of a fellow, imperfect democracy.”
“The same New York Times that a century ago mostly hid from their readers the Holocaust of the Jewish people has today made its pages a safe-space for those who hate the Jewish state,” Dermer said. “Through biased coverage, slanderous columns and anti-Semitic cartoons, its editors shamefully choose week after week to cast the Jewish state as a force for evil.”