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By Jonathan Mark, New York Jewish Week,
February 22, 2011
‘You almost never hear the word ‘Israel,’” wrote Thomas Friedman in The New York Times (Feb. 8) of the recent Cairo demonstrations.
Not in Cairo, nor in the Times’ coverage of the demonstrations. You didn’t hear the chants that called Hosni Mubarak an “Israeli traitor,” or see the effigy depicting Mubarak “as a vampire with a Star of David on his forehead,”
and there was more than one such effigy near the center of the square. You could only have read about that in the Jerusalem Post (Feb. 3).
You also wouldn’t have known that when CBS correspondent Lara Logan suffered “a brutal and sustained sexual assault,” according to CBS, the 200-man Egyptian mob was chanting, “Jew, Jew,” as they assaulted her, if indeed they did. The Times didn’t have that. You could only have read that in the New York Post (Feb. 16), which cited an unnamed person at CBS as its source.
Though the Times print edition didn’t have it, the Times online Caucus blog (Feb. 16) provided a link to an outside blog that was headlined, “’60 Minutes’ Correspondent CBS Reporter Lara Logan Repeatedly Sexually Assaulted by Egyptian Protesters Yelling, ‘Jew! Jew!’”
Did the crowd chant that or not? If the crowd did, why not report it? If the crowd didn’t, why link to it?
Most other mainstream papers, didn’t report the “Jew” chants, either, except in columns or blogs.
Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen was as ambivalent as the Times. He explained (Feb. 16) that the “Jew, Jew,” story first appeared in the New York Post, “so a second source would be advisable. Still, the assault and its undertones of pogromist anti-Semitism (though Logan is not Jewish) is very troubling and, at the very least, suggests that not everyone in Tahrir Square that night had democracy on their mind.”
When the Times of London (Feb. 20) picked up and further investigated the anti-Jewish angle to the Logan attack (published behind a pay wall), other papers, including the New York Daily News and New York magazine, picked up the baton, referencing the Times of London, not the Post. The New York Times still held back.
Was the New York Post’s reputation the only problem? Do a search of The New York Times and you’ll see how often The New York Times cites stories from the Post.
It’s not like the Logan attack and its Jewish angle were one of a kind. According to a statement from Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, there have been “at least three … violent episodes,” including Logan, in which “the perpetrators accused the journalists of being Jewish, or of spying for Israel.”
Alexander Flax, associate director for media relations at the ADL, told The Jewish Week that in addition to Logan, two members of a Fox News crew were severely beaten and hospitalized after being accused of being Israeli spies. The online New York Times linked to that story but did not report it.
And a news team from Sweden was attacked and hospitalized with severe injuries, accused of spying for Israel. That story also was almost exclusively online in the United States, not in print.
So now that brings us to three violent assaults laced with anti-Semitism that weren’t reported in most mainstream papers, only one of which can be “blamed” on the reputation of the New York Post as sensationalist and “right wing.”
There may have been more assaults. Al Jazeera (Feb. 3), hardly right wing, reported that “many of the gangs who attack reporters shout ‘Yehudi!’ (‘Jew!’).”
That’s “gangs,” in the plural; “reporters,” plural.
If the New York Post reported that a CBS source said the gang attacking Logan shouted “Jew, Jew,” was that really a story that couldn’t be believed because it appeared in the Post? Or was it hard to believe because it exposed the hollowness of the previous coverage? Many journalists were openly rooting for the “pro-democracy” demonstrators to succeed. Then, as Richard Cohen writes, the Logan story exposed the demonstrators as being less than advertised.
“The crowd in Tahrir Square,” writes Cohen, “was almost invariably characterized as friendly and out for nothing but democracy. In fact, some of the television correspondents acted as if they were reporting from Times Square on New Year’s Eve, stopping only at putting on a party hat.”
Michael Graham pointed out in the Boston Herald (Feb. 17) that CBS’ own statement about Logan stated that she was not caught in the middle of a pro- and anti-Mubarak street fight but that she was “covering the jubilation” when she was attacked “amidst the celebration.”
The idea that this jubilation and celebration included a mob of 200 men screaming their hatred of Jews while they sexually assaulted Logan “doesn’t fit the narrative,” said Graham.
Here’s what also doesn’t fit the “peaceful” narrative.” The Egyptian Ministry of Health, reported Daily News Egypt (Feb. 17), said there were 365 people killed and 5,500 injured during the 18 days of protests. Even given the fighting that broke out at the very end, these numbers are closer to the Gaza war of 2009 than to Philadelphia in1776.
Many, from the Village Voice to the right, wondered why CBS kept quiet for four days about what happened to Logan. In that corporate hush-up, it is understandable why the Post’s source at CBS didn’t want to be identified.
But the anti-Jewish chants, writes, Diana West, columnist for the online Town Hall (Feb. 18), a conservative site, were “an essential piece of the story, this clue to the hysterical, obsessive anti-Semitism of the Islamic world including Egypt. … Such a news blackout is hard to imagine if, for example, a star correspondent had been similarly violated by a mob of tea party-goers at, say, a massive Glenn Beck rally — and particularly if other correspondents had previously suffered unprecedented assaults and threats from the same crowd.” There would have been “a natural zeal to investigate cultural or other reasons for the brutality. Not excuses. And not disinterest.”
What of the culture? There has been anti-Semitic incitement, broadcast from Egyptian mosques, week in and week out, long before the anti-Mubarak uprising, and Islamic leaders in Egypt have continued to attack Jews, as well as Israel, in the aftermath.
Kim Barker in a Times op-ed (Feb. 19) did not write about what this augured for Jews but feared that someone reading about this might become Islamophobic. “This attack,” insisted Barker, “had nothing to do with Islam.”
Did the anti-Semitic Muslim Brotherhood, the largest opposition group in Cairo, have anything to do with it? Don’t blame them either. The Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t even have anything to do with Islam, it has “eschewed violence” and is “largely secular,” said director of National Intelligence James Clapper during hearings (Feb. 10) on Capitol Hill.
The Obama White House corrected him later that day.