Writing in the New York Times , op-ed columnist Bret Stephens scathingly lambasted not only the international edition but his own paper.
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Would that have gone unnoticed by either the wire service that provides the Times with images or the editor who, even if he were working in haste, selected it? The question answers itself. In a charming little afterword Auerbach, who is a professor emeritus at Wellesley College, tells us that he first became aware of the New York Times when, as a child, his father showed him a picture of Hank Greenberg crossing home plate after hitting the grand slam that clinched the pennant for the Detroit Tigers.
Greenberg, it turned out, was his cousin.
"The Jewish State" (Theodor Herzl)
A resolute creature of habit, I continued to begin each day with The New York Times as my breakfast companion. Along the way, I realized that the Times had a Jewish problem. Auerbach introduces his study by noting that was the year in which both the enterprising young Adolph Ochs bought the New York Times and Theodor Herzl published Der Judenstaat. Fiercely loyal Reform Jews and eventually Episcopalians of Jewish descent , they were vehemently opposed to, if not appalled by, the notion that Jews were anything but members of a religious faith.
One could understand this attitude during the first half of the 20 th century, when the idea of a Jewish state could have been seen as far-fetched. But it persisted far longer, until well after the establishment of the state. Saying so is not an endorsement and is not a criticism, but merely a statement of reality.
And, as Auerbach shows, the attitudes and anxieties underlying this policy extend back a full half-century before Auerbach provides readers with so many examples of outright imbalance on the part of the paper that a reader might be justified in thinking that he is just cutting and pasting previous paragraphs with a change of locale, date, and reporter.
Contrast, for example, the way Israeli victims and Palestinian perpetrators were treated by the paper in the following seven instances between and In Hamas bombed a bus in downtown Jerusalem, killing 19 people. In , 13 Israeli soldiers were ambushed and killed in Jenin while engaged in house-to-house fighting because the IDF did not want to drop bombs that would kill innocent civilians.
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At the same time, eight Israelis were killed in a suicide bus bombing. In reporting on these events, the paper focused on reports of an Israeli massacre of a hundred Palestinian civilians.
The reports were false. In , when an Israeli Arab set off a bomb killing six Israelis at a bus stop, Times correspondent Joel Greenberg visited his village and covered his funeral. There was no coverage of the Israeli victims. This time the newspaper acknowledged that this was a poor choice.
These are by no means the only instances of bias Auerbach documents during this year period. The paper described the SS St.
The same thing happened when the Struma , a boat stranded off the coast of Turkey, sank with over seven hundred Jewish passengers aboard in Nonetheless, it should be noted that there were scores of articles in the paper that did call attention to the specific suffering of Jews. Kristallnacht was given front-page coverage. Reports on the mass killing of Jews were repeatedly published. Subsequent events would prove him spectacularly wrong.
It has not. Sometimes Auerbach goes too far, criticizing the paper for publishing views that, while critical of government policy, are held by many Israelis. But the charge that denying Jews a right to a Jewish state amounts to treating the Jewish people differently from other peoples cannot be sustained. I do so partly for reasons of space, but mainly because these questions have largely though not completely lost their importance.
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The fact is that today millions of Jews live in Israel and, ancestral homeland or not, this is their home now. My point is that even if we grant Jews their peoplehood and their right to live in that land, there is still no consequent right to a Jewish state. The anti-Semitic forces in those days, those opposing emancipation, were associated not with denying Jewish peoplehood but with emphatically insisting on it!
The idea was that since Jews constituted a nation of their own, they could not be loyal citizens of any European state. The liberals who strongly opposed anti-Semitism insisted that Jews could both practice their religion and uphold their cultural traditions while maintaining full citizenship in the various nation-states in which they resided. The simple answer is because many non-Jews rightfully live there too.
But this needs unpacking. In particular, there is a distinction to be made between a people in the ethnic sense and a people in the civic sense. Though there is no general consensus on this, a group counts as a people in the ethnic sense by virtue of common language, common culture, common history and attachment to a common territory.
Who is a Jew in the Jewish state?
One can easily see why Jews, scattered across the globe, speaking many different languages and defined largely by religion, present a difficult case. The other sense is the civic one, which applies to a people by virtue of their common citizenship in a nation-state or, alternatively, by virtue of their common residence within relatively defined geographic borders.
This can easily be seen by noting that the Jewish people is not the same group as the Israeli people. About 20 percent of Israeli citizens are non-Jewish Palestinians, while the vast majority of the Jewish people are not citizens of Israel and do not live within any particular geographic area.
More on this below. So, when we consider whether or not a people has a right to a state of their own, are we speaking of a people in the ethnic sense or the civic one? I contend that insofar as the principle that all peoples have the right to self-determination entails the right to a state of their own, it can apply to peoples only in the civic sense.