Most Americans would not recognize the Sulzberger name. Our country’s most successful propagandist, the publisher of the New York Times keeps his name out of the news. Operating in the shadows, he has established a reputation for his flagship newspaper as the ultimate American referee, the keeper of the score on all matters, foreign and domestic. Aside from the New York Times, Sulzberger owns and operates The Boston Globe and dozens of other municipal papers in the country. He operates a news syndicate that distributes articles around the English speaking world and further amplifies his voice. He also shares ownership of the International Herald Tribune with the Washington Post.
As the self-designated ‘paper of record’, what the New York Times chooses to publish or decides to censor eventually ends up effecting public policy. It is a common occurrence for a Congressman or a Senator to include columns from the Times in the congressional record. The volume of distribution alone accords Sulzberger and his bully pulpit journalists a forum to slice and dice policies and policy makers according to their very private agendas.
With such a franchise, the editors and journalists at the New York Times, have created for themselves a power-base that acts as a virtual lobby. Sulzberger has long accorded himself the authority to act as a shadow president, a shadow congress and a shadow Supreme Court. Although unelected, this invisible power broker is perhaps the strongest element in the arsenal of the formidable Jewish Lobby. This very ethnic newspaper has a national reach that American politicians ignore only when assured of strong support from the Washington Post, the other ‘national’ newspaper.
Over the course of the last nine months, a group of Arab-American and progressive journalists have carefully monitored Sulzberger’s advocacy journalism on a single subject; the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Exposing Sulzberger’s obvious and systematic anti-Palestinian bias has been light duty. Indeed, it often appears that Sulzberger has allowed his journalists to moon light as public relations officers for the Israeli government. As a hyphenated ethnic American, I am very conscious of the difficulty in maintaining objectivity on a subject as emotional as the Palestinian struggle for independence. But, unlike William Safire, Thomas Friedman and Deborah Sontag, I make no attempt to disguise my ethnic affinities.
It seems ludicrous that an ethnic publishing company should market itself as a ‘national’ newspaper. America is a free country, and ethnic groups should definitely be encouraged to have their voices heard. Every patch in the great American ethnic quilt adds vibrant color to the character of our nation.
Having said that, it is only intellectually honest to acknowledge that some of the patches in our quilt are more authentically American than others, in the sense that they consciously lack a ‘hyphenated’ identity. In today’s America, if you want to stay ethnic, no worries. No one shoves you into the melting pot. Put your hyphen on your sleeve and you are welcome to speak up for yourself, your community and ‘the folks in the old country’. If you want to melt in the great mainstream, well that is also a choice one can freely make.
How ethnic is the New York Times? Well, ethnic enough to cover up for a ‘war criminals in the old country’, like Ariel Sharon. In fact, by following the New York Times reporting of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict it is plainly evident that Sulzberger does not only align himself with Israel, right or wrong, but with the Israeli Likudniks, who are extremely right-wing and always wrong. Now, there is no more certain sign of ethnic allegiance than when you swear allegiance to an extremist political faction in a foreign country. Sulzberger and his crew are no different from the Irish-Americans who support the Real IRA or Peruvian-Americans who support the Shining Path or Afghani Americans who support the Taliban. The symbiotic relationship with the Likud, a party dominated by Jewish supremacists and war criminals, firmly casts the New York Times and its affiliated publications in the camp of the ‘very ethnic press’.
In a recent article, Roger Cohen (NYT, 6/30/2001) wrote that “it is precisely because the Serbian strongman so consistently disavowed any responsibility for, or knowledge of, the slaughter that the trial seems poised to play a central role in shaping Balkan history. The evidence offered by prosecutors to support charges of crimes against humanity can serve as documentary material of pivotal importance. Suppressed or distorted history has long fed the Balkan gyre of violence; perhaps this trial may help to break that cycle by laying out the facts.”
They know all about ‘suppressed and distorted history’ at the New York Times. As ethnic reporters they like to dress up their ‘old country’ leaders in the finest attire. So they suppress any mention of Qibya or Sabra and Shatila or three decades of systematic daily violations of basic Palestinian human rights. They deliberately confuse their readers on the subject of the forced exile of the Palestinians in 1948. They report next to nothing about the humiliating and crippling siege of Palestinian towns and villages, an abominable form of collective punishment.
Is there anything more ethnic than supporting a war-criminal because he is a fellow Jew? Over the course of the last year, Sulzberger’s reporters have exposed ex-Senator Kerrey’s Vietnam atrocities, but deliberately ignored Sharon’s filthy record as a serial mass executioner of innocent civilians. They have ranted and raved about Haider of Vienna and ignored the constant racist drivel by the spiritual leader of the Shas party. Is it any wonder that they are uncertain about where to stand on Milosovic? They seem to be struggling to take a clear stand on whether a Milosovic trial will be good for the Jews.
Nine months ago, Milosovic ruled supreme over Serbia. Is it not possible that Sharon and other Israeli military leaders will someday be made to answer for Qibya and Sabra and Shatila? Are we to assume that Israeli military leaders will walk away from their responsibility in the recent killing of five hundred Palestinians and 13 Israeli-Arab citizens? Is it not a war crime to plan and execute a siege that has the deliberate intent of destroying the Palestinian economy and social infrastructure? Why does the New York Times continue to justify the collective punishment tactics such as the destruction of Palestinian homes and olive trees? Is it not disgusting that Sulzberger collaborates with an Israeli ‘unity’ government that includes parties that are blatantly and vocally racist? This ‘unity government’ would make George Wallace blush. Tolerating such extreme racism ‘among your people’ is something that should permanently strip the very ethnic Sulzberger of his avowed ‘liberal’ and ‘civil libertarian’ credentials.
Too bad there is not a specific war crime tribunal for journalists and publishers who encourage ‘Sharon to be Sharon’. The New York Times’ iron wall defense of Sulzberger’s favorite war criminal will not stand the test of time. In the age of the internet, the Sharon cover-up will result in casting appropriate doubt on the New York Times ability to play the role of ‘paper of record’. Their constant attempts to fabricate the historical record, all in the interest of prolonging a vicious and racist land grabbing foreign occupation, are well-documented. Sulzberger’s tactic of falsifying history by repeating fabricated and partial news in edition after edition will no longer carry the day. Them days are gone. Check your favorite search engines to get a glimpse of why ‘yellow journalism’ is bound to fail the test of time. The news of a Belgian trial for Sharon’s war crimes will melt the iron in Sulzberger’s mighty wall. Sooner or later enough Americans will get to see at least part of the BBC Panorama show exposing Sharon’s war crimes.
Accepting this particular ethnic paper as a ‘national’ newspaper has never been in the American national interest. The sooner Americans learn about Sulzberger’s role in the campaign to sanitize the war crimes of Ariel Sharon, the more likely we will develop an alternative ‘national’ press that reflects the interests of all ethnic groups, including the interests of Americans with-out a hyphen. When Sharon and Milosovic end up sharing a cell in the Hague, it will be a grand day for international criminal law. It will also be a serious blow to the New York Times, for it will further expose Sulzberger’s complicity in denying Sharon’s many victims a chance to get a measure of justice.
Defending a serial war criminal, simply because he is a fellow Jew, is not something Sulzberger should be allowed to get away with. It is time to cut his paper empire down to an appropriate ethnic size. For every child and every woman killed in Qibya, for every refugee slaughtered at Sabra and Shatila, let us resolve to get Sharon to the Hague. And let us never forget that one of his willing enablers is the man in the shadows, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr.
Mr. Ahmed Amr is Editor of NileMedia.com in Seattle and a regular contributor to Media Monitors Network (MMN)