TEL AVIV – The New York Times debated publishing an oped by an Israeli settler leader over fears that the piece, which envisions alternatives to the two-state solution, qualified as “hate speech” for “denying personhood to the Palestinians,” a leaked transcript describing a Times editorial meeting showed.
During the meeting, the editor of the Times editorial page, James Bennet, was asked by a Times employee about matters “that shouldn’t even be debated,” such as “climate change” and, apparently, opinions expressed by settlers, meaning Jews who live in eastern Jerusalem or the West Bank.
The transcript, which was published by the Huffington Post, showed Bennet replying as follows:
[W]e had a big argument over a piece by a settler. And you know, pick your issue. For some people it’s climate change, for some people it’s trans rights, for others it’s a two-state solution and the fate of the Palestinians. In this case, it was the settler saying, look, the two-state solution is dead and [it’s] time to face reality, and here’s some alternative paths for what the future would look like. And we had a real debate about whether this piece was crossing a line, because was it denying personhood to the Palestinians? Was it an act of, kind of, hate speech in a sense?
I felt strongly that we should publish the piece and we did, as did others. Because this particular viewpoint is hugely consequential. It actually is creating reality on the ground. To pretend that somehow we would be — either to think that we were legitimating that point of view by having it in our pages or to tell ourselves that we were somehow changing the reality by not allowing it into our pages seems to me to be deluded a little bit. And our readers need to hear it, like, unmediated, I think. They need to confront these arguments. And we published that piece, and we faced that.
The oped in question, entitled “A Settler’s View of Israel’s Future,” published last year, was authored by Yishai Fleisher, the international spokesman of the Jewish Community of Hebron. In it, Fleisher argues that the two state solution is dead and he offers three alternatives he believes have a far better chance at resolving the conflict. Hebron is home to an historic Jewish community and to the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, Judaism’s second holiest site after the Temple Mount.
Media critic Ira Stoll noted that the piece was blasted by the Times’ anti-Israel readers and commenters. The Times awarded a gold ribbon and “NYT Pick” distinction to one Michael from Colorado who opined, “The only just one state solution is the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza become citizens of Israel. They should have full voting rights. Anything else is apartheid. … The Jewish Supremacist of Israel are no different than the White Supremacist of South Africa or the White Supremacist who voted for Trump.”
Another Michael, this time from Berlin, was also awarded an “NYT Pick” gold ribbon for his comment: “The Zionists want to hang on to their privileged position at the expense of the Palestinians. So long as they continue do this they can never be considered democratic and the State of Israel must be considered what it truly is: an apartheid state.”
Both comments merited several dozen “thumbs up” from other Times readers.
Stoll, writing in The Algemeiner, notes the Times‘ hypocrisy for not thinking twice about publishing opeds authored by nefarious figures such as Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
It’s kind of funny that while the Times has published eight — eight! — op-ed pieces by Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister of the terror-sponsoring, Holocaust denying, political-prisoner executing, Jew-killing, woman-oppressing government of Iran, the piece that really prompts a “big argument” inside the Times about whether it is beyond the pale is the one from some Israeli living in Hebron.
“At least, to Bennet’s credit, and to look at the bright side, the settler spokesman’s piece was published. He only has seven more articles yet to go before he reaches parity with Zarif,” Stoll concludes.