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June 16, 2015

Even in Describing Ministries, NY Times Treats Israel Differently


robert mackey.jpg

The New York Times will occasionally refer to government ministries in various countries. Nothing strange there. It's an internationally focused newspaper, and it covers, among other things, foreign governments.

But, as is so often the case, there is something strange about how the coverage looks when the subject of Israel comes up.

Let's consider some examples of how The New York Times has referenced government ministries responsible for conveying and controlling information. It won't be hard to notice the recent exception:

About Myanmar: “Photographs posted online by the Myanmar Ministry of Information showed scores of men crowded inside a wooden boat…” (May 23, 2015)

About Liberia: “The Information Ministry issued a statement saying… (March 21, 2015)

About India: “A senior official in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry denied…” (January 17, 2015)

About the PA: “The Palestinian Authority's Information Ministry issued a statement…” (September 28, 2009)

About Israel: “The government’s ministry of Hasbara — responsible for what Israel calls public diplomacy and its critics call propaganda…” (June 15, 2015)

Myanmar, Liberia, India, and the Palestinian Authority each have their fair share of "critics," of course. Plenty have charged those countries with propaganda. So why are only Israel's critics given the opportunity to define, in disparaging terms, the country's efforts at communication and advocacy?

Note also that Robert Mackey, the author of the language about Israel above and perhaps the most biased journalist at the newspaper, refers to the (now defunct) Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs as the "ministry of Hasbara." The New York Times doesn't refer to India's ministry of Sujna, or the Palestinian ministry of El Yaalan. (Thanks Google Translate.) So why, when it comes to Israel, do we read about the capital-h Hasbara ministry?

Although hasbara is a Hebrew word that means, more or less, explanation, Israel's critics have taken to using it as a derisive word. For example, the anti-Israel and sometimes anti-Jewish website Mondoweiss called on readers to "Make ‘hasbara’ a household word," and insisted the word "describes a concerted form of propaganda that no one word in English captures."

It is no coincidence that the Mondoweiss piece focused largely on use of the word hasbara by none other than Robert Mackey. And this helps explains the Mackey's most recent use of the term. He knows his fellow-travelers would understand his use of the word as a negative. And he wants more people to see it that way. It is "thanks to Mackey," the Mondoweiss piece explained a year ago, that Americans will hopefully "start using the word hasbara with all its cynical implications." (One month after that Mondoweiss piece was published, Mackey referred to hasbara as "a Hebrew euphemism for propaganda.")

Every pro-Israel utterance should be suspected as inauthentic and malicious. That, Mondoweiss insists, is what hasbara means. It's a theme Mackey himself has worked hard to promote in the past, and as we can see, it's one that he continues to push.

Posted by GI at June 16, 2015 02:13 PM

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