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Netanyahu slams NYT editorial for 'demonizing Israel,' vows to ignore its ‘ill-founded advice’

Incoming Israeli prime minister accused The New York Times of ‘burying the Holocaust for years,’ on the same day it published a crossword puzzle resembling swastika

Likud party chairman Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the assembly hall of the Knesset, Nov. 21, 2022. (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed an article by The New York Times editorial board on Sunday, saying it undermines Israel’s elected government.

“After burying the Holocaust for years on its back pages and demonizing Israel for decades on its front pages, the New York Times now shamefully calls for undermining Israel’s elected incoming government,” Netanyahu tweeted

The editorial referred to Netanyahu’s next government as “a significant threat to the future of Israel – its direction, its security and even the idea of a Jewish homeland.” 

In its title, the editorial warned that “The Ideal of Democracy in a Jewish State Is in Jeopardy.” 

The opinion piece highlighted two far-right ministers in the new government, Itamar Ben Gvir, who was “convicted in Israel in 2007 for incitement to racism and supporting a Jewish terrorist organization” and Bezalel Smotrich, who “has long supported outright annexation of the West Bank.”

The paper expressed concern about the future of the “two-state solution” policy in light of Israel’s political shift rightwards. It called on the Biden administration not to accept it, but rather to “do everything it can to express its support for a society governed by equal rights and the rule of law in Israel.” 

In response, Netanyahu said: “While the NYT continues to delegitimize the one true democracy in the Middle East and America’s best ally in the region, I will continue to ignore its ill-founded advice and instead focus on building a stronger and more prosperous country, strengthening ties with America, expanding peace with our neighbors, and securing the future of the one and only Jewish state.”

In Israel, the Times article was shared by prominent journalists, lawmakers and activists leaning to the political left. It was highly criticized by people on the right, who often mockingly refer to the Times as a “former newspaper,” questioning its credibility.   

Veteran Israeli journalist Nachum Barnea, who writes for mainstream newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth, said in a radio interview that he feels uncomfortable about the “bluntness” of the editorial. 

“I would have expected a little more politeness from them towards the designated prime minister," Barnea said. 

One day after the Times editorial board published the article, the paper faced backlash for including a swastika-shape crossword puzzle on its pages. Democratic strategist Keith Edwards shared a picture of it on social media, pointing out: “This is the NYTimes crossword puzzle today on the first day of Hanukka. What the hell, @nytimes?”

Blake Flayton, a columnist for the Jewish Journal wrote, “Today’s New York Times crossword is um … making me nervous.”

This is not the first time that a New York Times crossword puzzle resembles the Nazi symbol. In 2017, the paper faced similar criticism, to which it replied on social media: “Yes, hi. It’s NOT a swastika. Honest to God. No one sits down to make a crossword puzzle and says, “Hey! You know what would look cool?”

The New York Times is a publicly traded company, yet it is controlled and has been owned for years by its publishers, the Jewish Sulzberger family. The paper’s coverage of the Holocaust earned it harsh criticism, as it placed news of the Nazi atrocities on the back pages, with little mention of the Jewish victims. The editorial choices for Holocaust coverage was believed to be part of its publisher’s agenda, as a reformist Jew with an assimilationist view. 

“The story of the Holocaust – meaning articles that focused on the discrimination, deportation, and destruction of the Jews – made the Times front page just 26 times, and only in six of those stories were Jews identified on the front as the primary victims,” wrote author Leff Laurel in his book, “Buried by the Times.”  

Tal Heinrich is a senior correspondent for both ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. She is currently based in New York City. Tal also provides reports and analysis for Israeli Hebrew media Channel 14 News.

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