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Anti-Semite Zena Agha boards on New York Times as Jerusalem reporter

Zena Agha, New York Times, Gaza, Gal Beckerman, German, Warsaw Ghetto, Nazi, European, Jews


Anti-Semite Zena Agha boards on New York Times as Jerusalem reporter

Zena Agha is sure to become the Bureau Chief of The New York Times in no time, almost as fast as you can say “settler-colonial state” or “occupied Arab land” or “encroachment”, writes Hugh Fitzgerald

The New York Times’ Jewish owners, the Sulzbergers, have for decades tried to make sure that no one could accuse them of being partial to Jews, or to Israel, in their coverage. In the 1930s and during the war, the Times deliberately underreported the torment endured by the Jews of Europe.

In her study Buried By the Times, Laurel Leff shows how The Times consistently placed major stories about the Nazi treatment of European Jews on back pages “by the soap and shoe polish ads.” Leff found that during the period September 1939 to May 1945, very few stories about Jewish victims made the Times front page. “The story of the Holocaust—meaning articles that focused on the discrimination, deportation, and destruction of the Jews—made the Times front page just 26 times, and only in six of those stories were Jews identified on the front as the primary victims.”

Leff points out that the Times often used a more generic term, such as “refugee” or “nationality” to refer to Nazi victims who were Jewish. In his review of her book, Gal Beckerman writes, “More shocking even than the chronic burying of articles with the word ‘Jew’ in them is how often that word was rubbed out of articles that specifically dealt with the Jewish condition. It’s almost surreal at times. How could you possibly tell the story of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising without mentioning Jews? But The Times did, describing how ‘500,000 persons … were herded into less than 7 percent of Warsaw’s buildings,’ and how ‘400,000 persons were deported’ to their deaths at Treblinka. As Leff put it, The Times, ‘when it ran front-page stories, described refugees seeking shelter, Frenchmen facing confiscation, or civilians dying in German camps, without making clear the refugees, Frenchmen, and civilians were mostly Jews.’”

The Times was distinctly disinterested in the war the Arabs conducted in 1948 to snuff out the young life of the Jewish state. The paper gave short shrift, too, to the 900,000 Jews who were expelled or fled from Arab lands. Through the 1950s, the paper largely ignored the Egyptian terrorist attacks on Israeli civilians, but deplored Israel’s invasion of the Sinai in 1956 to put an end to those attacks. It never reported on the Syrian gunfire that rained down from the Golan Heights on Jewish farmers far below. It failed to report on the Jordanian army’s blowing up of 55 synagogues in the Old City, and on its uprooting of tens of thousands of gravestones in the ancient Jewish cemetery at the Mount of Olives, some to be crushed into gravel for use as building material, and others used to line the floors of army latrines. No record of this in the paper of record.

And recently the Timeshas been outdoing itself with its anti-Israel columnists, such as Nicholas Kristof and Tom Friedman, and guest contributors including Peter Beinart and Mustafa Akyol.

“The New York Times, Again,” by Jerold Auerbach, Algemeiner, November 8, 2021:

Nothing seems worthier of publication in the New York Timesthan the laceration of Israel. This, to be sure, is nothing new. Decades before there was even a Jewish state to criticize there was the looming menace of Zionism to rile the publisher, editors and eventually columnists and Jerusalem Bureau Chiefs. As far back as the Balfour Declaration (1917), which called for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” the Times obsessed over the danger of Zionism to the patriotic loyalty of American Jews….

The Sulzbergers, worried about charges of “dual loyalty,” were intent on not giving Israel sympathetic coverage. According to the Times, it was wrong of Israel to insist on putting Adolf Eichmann on trial, trying to make the world think that Jews were his main victims, and not “humanity.” And after the Six-Day-War, the Times could not understand what gave Israel the right to establish settlements in the “West Bank.” Could it have something to do with the Palestine Mandate, Article 6, that called for “close settlement of Jews on the land”? What land? The land that was intended by the League of Nations to be included in a future Jewish national home, which extended from the Golan in the north to the Red Sea in the south, and from the Jordan River in the east to the Mediterranean in the west. The Jewish settlers were doing exactly as they had been urged to do in the Palestine Mandate. Those settlers built on land they bought from Arab landowners – some of them absentee landlords living in Amman or Beirut –as well as on state and waste lands. The New York Times has never brought up the Palestine Mandate in its unsympathetic overage of the “settlements” (really, Jewish towns and cities), much less explained its provisions and the territory to which it was supposed to apply.

Fast forward to November 7, 2021 when an Opinion column entitled “Israel is Silencing Us” appeared in the Times. It was written by Palestinian-Iraqi Zena Agha, a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., whose expertise includes Israel’s “spatial practices and colonial cartography.” In translation, Israel is the source of evil for its “continuous, unchecked encroachment onto Palestinian land.”

How is Israel displaying its “continuous, unchecked encroachment onto Palestinian land”? Didn’t Israel remove every last one of its citizens from Gaza in 2005 in exchange for — nothing? No encroachment there. Didn’t Israel twice offer to give up almost all of the West Bank to the Palestinians in return for peace? In 2000 Ehud Barak offered to give Yassir Arafat some 92% of the West Bank and 100% of the Gaza Strip, with some territorial compensation for the Palestinians from pre-1967 Israeli territory; Arafat was also promised east Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine, as well as half of the Old City – the Muslim and Christian Quarters – which would become part of the Palestinian state. Arafat did not respond; he simply walked out. And Olmert was even more generous, offering Mahmoud Abbas 94 percent of the West Bank, and by way of compensation, would give the Palestinians Israeli land equivalent to 5.8 percent of the West Bank, along with a link to the Gaza Strip. He offered to withdraw from Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem and place the Old City — home to Jerusalem’s most sensitive holy sites — under international control. Abbas, like Arafat before him, simply walked out.

Neither offer showed Israel as interested in “encroaching onto Palestinian land.”

To bolster her complaint, the author [Zena Agha] refers to a list of (contrived) evils perpetrated by the Jewish state. Foremost, and predictably, is its “occupied West Bank.” In her rendition, Israeli government approval for the expansion of Jewish settlements has a clear goal: “to silence the independent monitoring of Israel’s human rights violations that stand between total annexation of the occupied West Bank and international accountability.” She even extends the “crimes of Israeli occupation” to Gaza, without mention — or, perhaps, awareness — that Israeli settlers were evicted and Israeli soldiers departed, more than fifteen years ago.

The West Bank was “occupied” only by Jordan, from 1948 to 1967, a state that had no claim to the territory other than that of military occupier. Israel’s situation is quite different. The West Bank (a/k/a Judea and Samaria) was always included in the territory meant by the League of Nations to be part of the future Jewish National Home. Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War did not establish a new claim, but allowed Israel to enforce its pre-existing claim.

So it is, she (Zena Agha) claims, that “five million or more Palestinians [are] living under Israeli military occupation.” But according to the Palestinian Authority’s Central Bureau of Statistics (2018), that is a population exaggeration by two million. It is highly unlikely to have more than doubled in three years. As for Israeli “occupation,” perhaps the best example of her fallacious claim is Hebron, the world’s oldest Jewish community and the ancient Jewish capitol before King David relocated his throne to Jerusalem. Now two-hundred thousand Arabs and seven hundred Jews inhabit divided Hebron.

Agha was counting the two million people in Gaza as living “under Israeli military occupation.” They are not. Nor are the Palestinians in Areas A and B in the West Bank. Israel voluntarily gave up full control of Area A, and retains only security control in Area B.

Hebron has had a continuous Jewish presence for more than 3,000 years, save for two years following the 1929 pogrom, when all the Jews were killed or fled; 160 Jews returned in 1931. The Arabs arrived in Hebron some 1600 years after the Jews; does Agha really think Hebron should be considered as under “Jewish occupation”? And now Hebron has 200,000 Arabs and only 700 Jews. Who in the second-holiest city in Judaism is the real occupier?

Agha claims that Israel has deliberately been “silencing” those who have been monitoring its human rights violations, a clear allusion to the six NGOs whose staffs include members of the PFLP, which Israel outlawed not because of their “monitoring human rights violations,” but because of the convincing evidence it had found of those NGOs transferring funds to the PFLP and also helping to recruit operatives for the terror group. There are 500 NGOs in Israel monitoring Israel’s behavior; 494 of them are being left entirely alone by Israel. If Israel had wanted to shut down all those “monitoring its human rights violations,” it has hardly made a dent, but of course, that was never its intent. It wants only to close those that have helped to fund, and to recruit operatives for, terrorist groups such as the PFLP.

Agha is undeterred by the abundant evidence that undermines her claim of Israeli “human rights violations,” the deliberate “silencing” and “continuing movement to delegitimize, defund and permanently gut Palestinian NGOs.” Yet as of January 2020, there were 135 Palestinian NGOs operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. That is hardly evidence of gutting. She concludes that Israel’s goal is “targeting Palestinian human rights defenders by labeling their legitimate work ‘terror,’” the better to facilitate Israel’s “continuous, unchecked encroachment onto Palestinian land.”…

The numbers are even more devastating to Zena Agha’s claim than the author realized – not 135, but 500 NGOs, have been operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

The audio and video evidence that the six NGOs and the PFLP are closely linked, the receipts for deposits and withdrawals and transfer of funds, the overlapping of PFLP staff with those working for the NGOs – all this should convince those with open minds, but Zena Agha is not one of them. And her remark about Israel’s “continuous, unchecked encroachment onto Palestinian land” ignores the complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, the from much of the West Bank (all but Area C), and the offers by Israeli prime ministers to give up between 92% and 94% of the West Bank, along with compensatory parcels of land taken from Israel itself.The Palestinians flatly refused those offers. “Encroachment onto Palestinian land”? What encroachment?

Given Zena Agha’s house blend of misinformation and malice, I expect she will fit right in with Patrick Kingsley at the Jerusalem bureau of the New York Times. Why, she’s sure to become the Bureau Chief in no time, almost as fast as you can say “settler-colonial state” or “occupied Arab land” or “encroachment”.

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Blitz’s Editorial Board is responsible for the stories published under this byline. This includes editorials, news stories, letters to the editor, and multimedia features on

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