Among the many kerfuffles resulting from the publication of Michael Oren’s book Ally was a little spat regarding the New York Times’s editorial policy. In his book, Oren describes a conversation with Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal regarding an editorial by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Oren relates the conversation as follows:
“When I write for the Times, fact checkers examine every word I write,” I began. “Did anybody check whether Abbas has his facts exactly backward?”
“That’s your opinion,” Rosenthal replied.
“I’m an historian, Andy, and there are opinions and there are facts. That the Arabs rejected partition and the Jews accepted it is an irrefutable fact.”
“In your view.”
“Tell me, on June 6, 1944, did the Allied forces land or did they not land on Normandy Beach.”
Rosenthal, the son of a Pulitzer Prize-winning Times reporter and famed executive editor, replied, “Some might say so.”
Unsurprisingly, the Forward rushed to Rosenthal’s defense. Elder of Ziyon has rebutted much of the Forward’s rebuttal. What stands out, however, is Rosenthal’s claim, made to the Forward, that his comment about Normandy was sarcastic.
This is not the only instance, however, in which the Times has let the truth about their editorial policy slip. Rosenthal’s claim of sarcasm is belied by the fact that Oren’s account of events is supported by at least one other statement from the Times about its policies. In April of 2014, the media watchdog group Camera made similar charges that New York Times contributing opinion writer Ali Jarbawi misrepresented the history of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Camera reported that a New York Times editor “told Camera that Jarbawi’s errors are not errors because the author ‘believes’ them to be true.”
The New York Times’s editorial policy, therefore, with respect to the Palestinians, seems to be best summed up as “It’s not a lie, if you believe it.”