A native of Montreal, Ricki Hollander became interested in media coverage of Israel while she was studying biology at The Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is now a senior research analyst at CAMERA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, a group dedicated to promoting “accurate and balanced coverage of Israel and the Middle East.”
Between July 2011 and January 2012 she analyzed The New York Times and its alleged anti-Israel bias. As part of a multi-city American speaking tour, Hollander will present her findings on Feb. 14 at Temple Beth Shalom in Livingston in a talk called “Changing The Times? An interactive briefing on countering anti-Israel bias in The New York Times.”
She spoke by telephone with NJJN on Feb. 4.
NJJN: How would you position The Times in rating bias against Israel?
Hollander: We haven’t ever done a methodical study that compares The Times to other media, but I can say The Times is one of the most influential newspapers. It is known as “the paper of record,” and what we found in our study is that an indictment of Israel is embedded throughout the news coverage.
NJJN: Can you cite examples?
Hollander: I looked at a two-week period where there were daily suicide bombings and Israeli military responses. When I compared the coverage, the news about the terrorist attacks was usually buried in the newspaper, whereas the military responses were front page news with pictures of Israelis pointing guns or Palestinians who were injured. The Palestinian point of view was presented almost twice as much as the Israeli point of view on the peace process.
NJJN: The CAMERA website lists 44 criticisms and 44 corrections The Times has made since 2000. Do you consider that fair-minded?
Hollander: Yes, it is very fair-minded. When they see evidence of outright errors they will try to correct them and set the record straight. But some bias isn’t about correcting errors…. There are double standards of Israeli society that are always emphasized and brought to the front page.
NJJN: In an October 2012 interview, Times editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told NJ Jewish News that such criticism was “completely ridiculous…. If you try to walk a line in the middle and report on what is going on and reach conclusions based on reporting and observation, you are viewed as taking sides.” As far as its editorials and op-ed columns are concerned, Rosenthal insisted they “are not supposed to be fair; they are supposed to be opinionated.” What is your response?
Hollander: We found that three-quarters of the commentaries were condemnation or criticism of Israel. There were no columns critical of Palestinians. In their news coverage, nothing the Palestinians did was called a crime. There are double standards here.
NJJN: What is your message to the Jewish community?
Hollander: Be aware that what you are reading in The New York Times is not necessarily a reflection of daily events. It is a filtered view. We would like people to hold The New York Times accountable.