Los Angeles Times counters charges of anti-Israel bias

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CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, is taking out full page ads in Los Angeles newspapers charging the Los Angeles Times with anti-Israel bias. Besides what they call “unbalanced” op-eds, they also accuse the Times of utilizing Nazi imagery. LA Times op-ed editor Nicholas Goldberg defends the charges in an interview with the Jewish Journal this week. (The Los Angeles Times has long been targeted by protesters over their coverage of Israel. In 2002, some 1,000 readers participated in a one-day boycott to protest their “anti-Israel” stance, part of a nationwide effort that focused on other supposedly anti-Israel newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post. )

Goldberg told the Los Angeles Jewish Journal that living in Jerusalem and covering the region as a reporter from 1995-1998 meant he “emerged with a more sophisticated and nuanced viewpoint.”

I do feel that the way the region is covered, and especially the way the conflict is covered in the opinion pages in America, has generally been very narrow compared to what you read in Israel. If you read Ha’aretz, if you see the Arab newspapers — if you see Al Ahram in Cairo — you will be exposed to points of view that you don’t hear in the United States. One of the things I decided when I became Op-Ed editor is that I would like to bring a broader range of viewpoints on the Middle East to the page. I’ve tried to do that.

As to CAMERA’s charges:

JJ: CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, published advertisements alleging that you put out 50 percent more pro-Arab Op-Eds than pro-Israel Op-Eds in a 19-month period and that your pages are biased.

NG: I think their numbers are misleading. They took a bizarre time period of 19 months for some reason ending last July, and they left off a number of pieces that we’ve run on the Op-Ed page that didn’t seem to help their cause.

I went back and I looked at the pieces that we’ve run in the last year and a half, and what I found was that about 30 pieces we ran were highly supportive of Israel, from people on the right or people who were defenders of the Israeli government like Alan Dershowitz, Michael Oren, Max Boot, Natan Sharanksy, Moshe Ya’alon, Yossi Klein Halevi and Zev Chefets. I also found a handful of pieces that were pretty centrist, for example, by American diplomats writing about the future of the peace process.

Then I found about 30 pieces that were critical of Israel. But these 30 pieces weren’t “pro-Arab,” as CAMERA would want you to think: 17 of those came from Jews or Israelis who are Zionists, who are pro-Israel, but who are in some way critical of Israel. Of the remaining writers, there’s a small number that a group like CAMERA would say are terribly offensive. For instance, we’ve published Jimmy Carter; John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who wrote “The Israel Lobby”; UCLA professor Saree Makdisi; and on two occasions we published representatives of Hamas.

That’s my count, and it’s quite different from theirs. My count shows a balance.

And the cartoon?

NG: They said it echoes Nazi imagery. I would say that’s an unfortunate coincidence — but that’s all it is. We’re not Nazis here at the Los Angeles Times; we’re not anti-Semites. The fact is that before the State of Israel was created, the use of the Star of David in an illustration like that was meant to represent “the Jews.” Today the Jewish star, which sits on the Israeli flag, is used by illustrators not just as a religious symbol, but as a national symbol. That’s what it was meant to represent in this case. The illustration was about American politicians feeling pressure to support Israeli policies, which was what the piece was about.

I don’t think the illustration was anti-Semitic or Nazi-like

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