No Cease-Fire at The New York Times

Smoke trails mark the path of Palestinian missiles fired from Gaza City. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Smoke trails mark the path of Palestinian missiles fired from Gaza City. (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

During the fragile ceasefire last weekend Hamas rockets from Gaza fell silent but the month-long fusillade against Israel waged by The New York Times reached its bizarre crescendo. In a two-day onslaught of front-page articles, the Times managed to feature a Holocaust hero who lacerated the Jewish state for betraying its professed humanitarian values, followed by an account of four “high-rolling Israeli brokers” who violated international norms against organ trafficking.

Saturday’s headline proclaimed: “Resisting Nazis, He Saw Need For Israel. Now He Is Its Critic.” Only the Times could top that, and it did on Sunday. In “Kidneys for Sale,” subtitled “Brokers in Israel Connected Patients With Poor Donors Abroad,” it momentarily shifted its gaze from Gaza to excoriate “Israel’s irrepressible underground kidney market.” That was more venom than the Times expended on Hamas tunnels.

For the newspaper notorious for burying the Holocaust in its inside pages – when it even deigned to notice the annihilation of six million Jews – the discovery of a Holocaust hero who happened to be related, through marriage, to “the murder of our kin in Gaza” was irresistible. Young Times reporter Christopher F. Schuetze, (who identifies his special interests as “Education, Smart Cities, Green Biz & Energy”) collaborated with Anne Barnard, who had left her Beirut base to reinforce the preoccupation of Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kirshner with victimized Gaza women and children.

Lea Rubin For NY Observer

A billboard on 40th Street, across the street from The New York Times‘ headquarters in Times Square. (Photo by Lea Rubin)

They recounted the story of 91-year-old Henk Zanoli, who courageously smuggled a young Jewish boy from Amsterdam to safety in a Dutch village, where his relatives hid the youngster, the only family survivor, until the war ended. Mr. Zanoli was deservedly honored by Israel as one of the “Righteous Among the Nations.” But after a recent Israeli air strike destroyed a Gaza house, killing six of his relatives by marriage, Mr. Zanoli returned his medal to protest “murder carried out by the State of Israel” – against his family and “the Palestinians on the whole.”

Mr. Zanoli, Mr. Schuetze and Ms. Barnard wrote, is among “many other critics” (unidentified) who “say their objection to Israeli policy is not anti-Jewish but consistent with the humanitarian principles that led them to condemn the Holocaust and support the founding of the Jewish state.” Yet “the Zionist project,” in Zanoli’s (flagrantly biased and blatantly false) opinion, contained “a racist element in it in aspiring to build a state exclusively for Jews.”

Only “a state no longer exclusively Jewish,” Mr. Zanoli declared, can attain a sufficient level of righteousness for him to reclaim his medal. (He seems unaware that 20% of Israel’s population is Arab.) As for the Hamas Charter Preamble, which proclaims: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam invalidates it,” Mr. Zanoli (and the Times reporters) remained silent.

So the Times managed to locate a Holocaust hero who now accuses Israel of war crimes. Surely that explains why he received so much unchallenged attention in its pages. But imagine, wrote “Elder of Ziyon” in The Algemeiner, that “a valid military target” was concealed in the house that belonged to Mr. Zanoli’s Gaza in-laws. Indeed, among those listed by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights as killed in the attack was Mohammed Mahmoud al-Maqadama, who just happened to be a member of Hamas’ Al Qassam Brigades and was so identified in his martyr poster. Might the Times have checked on the presence of “a terrorist at the Ziyada house,” Elder of Ziyon pointedly inquired, before rushing into print?

Similarly diligent reporting by Kevin Sack, who authored “Kidneys for Sale,” might have considerably shortened his five-thousand-word polemic. During an investigation of the global organ trade the Times discovered three “central operators in Israel’s irrepressible underground kidney market.” Updating Shakespeare’s avaricious Jew from “The Merchant of Venice,” Mr. Sack’s account described how the Israelis have “pocketed enormous sums for arranging overseas transplants,” while they “nimbly shifted operations” to enhance their profits.

The New York Times Building on 8th Avenue (Photo by Lea Rubin)

The New York Times Building on 8th Avenue (Photo by Lea Rubin)

The primary geographical focus of the Times account was Costa Rica between 2009-2012. It identified eleven patients who traveled there for kidney transplants, six of whom were Israelis – hardly an earth-shaking number. It justifies no more than a footnote to the far larger story that the Times’ relentless focus on a solitary Israeli transplant recipient virtually ignored.

In its preoccupation with “high-rolling Israeli brokers,” it took the Times twenty-nine paragraphs to divert its gaze from Ophira Dorin (whose solemn photo adorned Page 1), who traveled to Costa Rica for her transplant. Only then did it note that according to experts, China, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Turkey and Russia are “hot spots for organ trafficking.” Yet the Times remained fixated on the four alleged “transplant brokers” in Israel who “brazenly ply their trade” while denying their guilt. Four paragraphs from the end of his interminable account, Mr. Sack noted the absence of any criminal charges against them.

The Times account of Israeli transplant transgressions hardly represented a journalistic breakthrough. More than four years ago the Associated Press reported the detention of six Israelis on suspicion of running an international organ trafficking ring. Nor did the Times cite data gathered by the World Health Organization indicating that 10,000 black-market operations in organ transplants, 68.5% of which involve kidneys, occur annually – with China a primary transplant destination. The Times’ analysis, Mr. Sack writes (but only the Times’ analysis), “suggests that Israelis have played a disproportionate role” in major organ trafficking cases since 2000. In reality, it seems disproportionately minuscule.

With a Gaza ceasefire momentarily in place, the Times seemed desperate to discover Israeli misdeeds. The newspaper that virtually ignored the Holocaust until it was impossible to deny, and resolutely opposed the creation of a Jewish state, contrived a new way to lacerate Israel, and only Israel, for its moral failings. Now that Hamas has broken the ceasefire with its renewed rocket barrage against Israel — an event memorably marked by an absurd Times headline that read “Ceasefire broken by Hamas rockets and Israeli response” — the Times can resume its denunciation of the Jewish state for killing the women and children used by Hamas as civilian shields for their fanatical terrorism.

Jerold S. Auerbach is Professor Emeritus of History at Wellesley College. He is the author of 11 books, most recently Jewish State Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy.