The most important story in the world

Was it Turkish-American relations, mass murder of Nigerians, the car ramming in London? Guess again.

Att'y Stephen M. Flatow

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Which is more important—21,000 people being exiled from their homes, or one critic of Israel being asked a few questions at the airport?

Which news deserves more attention—children drowning in “pit toilets” in South Africa, or one American Jewish pundit being slightly inconvenienced?

Which should we pay more attention to—a terrorist attack in the heart of London, or a promoter of boycotts against Israelis being delayed in his travels for 20 minutes?

According to any reasonable person, the answer, of course, is that the deaths of innocent people around the world are much more important. But not according to the editors of the New York Times.

The apparently earth-shaking news that Israel critic Peter Beinart was briefly questioned at an Israeli airport because of his pro-Palestinian activities (which include promoting the boycott of Jews who live beyond the 1948 armistice line) was, incredibly, given nearly half a page in the New York Times on Wednesday.

Let’s compare the 29 paragraphs—plus a large photo—that were allotted to Beinart to the amount of space allotted to some of the other news reported in the same day’s edition of the Times.

Beinart was given about the same amount of space as the news that in the run-up to Nigeria’s forthcoming elections, “hundreds have died in mass murders” in one province alone, and “21,000 people have been forced from their homes.”

Get it? The questioning of Peter Beinart is—according to the Times—as important as the mass murder and expulsions of thousands of black Africans. Could Beinart be benefiting from that awful “white Jewish privilege” that some of his ideological cohorts loudly complain about?

The Beinart story received substantially more space in the Times than an article about how strains in Turkish-American relations could undermine the war against ISIS. But who cares about the war on terror when we can talk about how Israel is “suppressing dissent”?

The 29 paragraphs allotted to Beinart’s little episode were substantially more than the 20 used to describe the sanitation crisis in South Africa, where hundreds of thousands of children have been forced to use “pit toilets.” Two children recently fell into such mass toilets and drowned. But that’s not nearly as urgent an issue as Peter Beinart being asked a few questions.

Meanwhile, in London, police announced that a car-ramming attack which injured three people this week was, in fact, a terrorist attack. But the resumption of car-terrorism in Britain’s capital was given less space in the Times than the “persecution” of Peter Beinart.

In other not-so-important news mentioned in that day’s newspaper, the chief Pentagon spokeswoman is being investigated for abusing her staff, efforts to create a vaccine for Lyme disease have stalled, and an American journalist missing in Syria is reported to still be alive.

But who cares about government corruption, deadly diseases, or the lives of missing journalists? The main thing is that Israeli security officials forgot that Peter Beinart is on the special list of privileged Jewish critics of Israel who, because they are somewhat famous, should never, ever, be questioned, no matter what, even for a few minutes.

The obvious question is: Why did the New York Times elevate the Beinart story above so many news stories that were much more important?

And the obvious answer is: To make Israel look bad. It’s as simple as that. There are editors and reporters at the Times who have a deep grudge against Israel, and will seize upon and exaggerate any story that harms Israel’s image—even if that means violating journalistic standards and intellectual decency. 

Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. His book, “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror,” will be published later this year.