Dear New York Times,
It’s over between us.
For 30 years, I’ve been in love with you, NYT.
I met you soon after I moved here from Chicago. Never before had I read such thoughtful, compellingly written journalism, with dispatches from all over the globe that mirrored my politics and my interests. You opened my eyes, New York Times. Back in Chicago, the papers covered only local news, but you showed me there was a larger world out there, filled with enchanting possibilities.
It was love at first sight. From that very first time, I turned to your editorials and op-ed pages to shape my opinions. I wouldn’t see a movie or a play until I read your reviews. I chose books based on your recommendations. I tore out your recipes and saved them in a special notebook. It was a thrill when my illustrations appeared in your hallowed Sunday Magazine. The papers that described 9/11 and the election of our first black President are preserved lovingly in my basement.
Many of my modern Orthodox friends and relatives stopped reading you long ago, NYT. You know why. That old bugaboo, your biased anti-Israel reporting. I always defended you. “We have to know all sides of the story,” I explained to them. “You need to know how the other guy thinks. You can’t just bury your head in the sand, shut yourself away from the world, and only read the opinions of people who agree with you.”
I still believe that. But for now, I will get those opinions someplace else.
Oh, don’t look at me that way. You know what I’m talking about. Your coverage of “our boys,” a tragedy that began with the disappearance of three Israeli high school kids on their way home from school one night and ended with the discovery of their bodies under a pile of rocks in a Palestinian field, an event spanning 18 days of baffling and ominous silence. Mostly, the media soft-pedaled it, as if the children of West Bank Jews, the ones you refer to as “settlers,” maybe kinda sorta had it coming. Last Monday, while the Jewish world was wild with worry, holding prayer vigils and trying to stay optimistic, you, New York Times, chose to print an article equating the grief of an Israeli mother whose child had been kidnapped by terrorists while returning home from school with the grief of a Palestinian mother whose son was accidentally killed when he disobeyed his parents’ orders and ran out of his house to join a mob hurling rocks at Israeli soldiers as they searched for the lost boys. I’m sure you thought you were presenting a balanced view of the news.
On Tuesday you published a wildly erroneous editorial, saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu only commented on an innocent Palestinian teenager’s murder at the hands of Jewish nationalist extremists “after days of near silence.” How come I knew that he called it “reprehensible” on the day of the murder, and condemned it again the next day on national television-but you didn’t?
This isn’t the first time my faith in you has been tested. I almost broke up with you in November, when you reported on a sleeping 19-year old Israeli soldier who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist on a bus. The picture you chose to run was a photograph of the killer’s mother, the caption implying that it was she who was the victim of injustice. When readers wrote to point out the mismatch between the photo and the story, you admitted that, perhaps, it wasn’t the best way to illustrate this particular article after all. You know what troubled me most? It was like your editors hadn’t even read the piece. As if they assumed that if the paper was featuring a story involving Israel and a woman in a hijab, Israel was automatically in the wrong.
That shook me deeply, New York Times. Because if you could be so unashamedly one-sided about this story, what else have you been wrong about?
Since your article last week, the one that disturbed me so much, atrocities have piled up, civil unrest has escalated. Israelis are running for bomb shelters as rockets and missiles fly from Gaza to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. An innocent, baby-faced 16-year-old named Muhammed Abu Khdeir was savagely murdered by Jewish extremists. Rockets and missiles are falling from Gaza into Ashdod and Ashkelon. In formerly peaceful neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, mobs of angry Palestinians are attacking Jewish soldiers. Innocents in Gaza are being used by Hamas as human shields. And in the eye of this maelstrom, Racheli Fraenkel, the mother of a murdered Jewish boy, reached out to the parents of the murdered Palestinian boy and offered her condolences.
So you see, I’m keeping up with the news from Israel, now more than ever. I’m just not getting it from you.
My husband is of a different mindset. His attitude is “Bring it on.” He’ll tell you that a belief, after all, is of no value until you can defend it rationally against all comers. He doesn’t just read you, New York Times, he scours the net for every wavelength of opinion on Israel, from Al Jazeera to the UK’s Guardian, both of which make you look like the Jewish Press. He writes copious comments, sends letters to the editor, and even emails the journalists directly. And although these rarely get published, he feels that he’s at least contributed to the general discomfort. He just doesn’t give them any money if he can help it.
He suggested new, more balanced sources, alternatives to both the consistently anti-Israel and to the simplistic black-and-white pro-Israel rags: Haaretz, the Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, the Council on Foreign Relations‘ website (www.cfr.org), and the Christian Science Monitor. He also reads several dozen incredibly dry blogs written by foreign service professionals, academics, and open-minded policy analysts. But that’s just the problem. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the well-read, progressive population doesn’t read these alternatives. They read you, New York Times.
I won’t pretend I won’t miss you. I’m sure there will be times that I reach for you, and you won’t be there. I’m accustomed to having you around, always waiting right outside my front door in the morning, or spread provocatively across my dining room table. But I’m a big girl now, all grown up, and there are other places to get my news fix. It’s a big wide world out there. You taught me that.
So this is goodbye. Maybe I’m just being emotional right now, but I can no longer turn my head and pretend that I just don’t see what you’re doing.
You broke my heart, New York Times.