The New York Times just can’t stop attacking Jews

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Pew finds that orthodox Jews mirror evangelical Christians in voting. AP Photo

The New York Times just can’t stop attacking Jews

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The New York Times has a long history of disdain for Jews. It goes back to the 1940s, when it famously buried coverage of the Holocaust. And it has continued in more recent decades, whitewashing the 1991 pogrom in Crown Heights, publishing clearly antisemitic cartoons, and breaching basic journalistic integrity to promote an incomplete narrative about Hasidic yeshivas. Why this is the case can be debated. That this is the case is clear.

So it should be no surprise when the paper of record runs what amounts to a PR piece for a group of New Jersey residents claiming they oppose a new Jewish cemetery and mikvah in their town because of alleged “environmental concerns.” More specifically, they claim they are worried these new facilities will contaminate the water wells. The New York Times goes on to suggest it is reasonable to believe these projects may result in the water being poisoned, possibly even giving residents polio.

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This is quite a throwback to the Middle Ages, when Jews were routinely, yet falsely, accused of “poisoning wells and starting plagues, including the Black Death.” One would have thought such charges would have been discredited in modernity, but that is clearly not the case.

The story gets worse. The Jewish News Syndicate reported that the accusations did not arise because of studies or evidence. Rather, they originated with a small group called Rise Up Ocean County — which has been banned on Facebook for its offensive posts and described as “racist and antisemitic” by Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ). Interestingly, the central claims made by those who oppose the new cemetery and mikvah, and then painted as a respectable opinion by the New York Times, “echoed many of the elements of a 2022 post on the group’s blog.”

Unsurprisingly, the evidence for the claims made by the groups and presented as legitimate by the New York Times is seriously thin. The piece cites a 1998 World Health Organization report that suggests, under certain circumstances and with certain types of soil, diseases could “seep into groundwater and spread waterborne diseases.” It also quotes a number of residents who seem fully convinced that if this mikvah and cemetery become operational, it will put their children in danger when they play with water.

However, the same WHO document also says that “in a well-managed cemetery with suitable soil conditions and drainage arrangements, the risk is probably slight.” A more recent report found that “pathogens from cemeteries were unlikely to travel far if graves were dug at ‘an appropriate depth.’” A microbiologist who spoke with the New York Times also pointed out that “soil is really a great filter” and that “it clings on to a lot of the elements that get released during decomposition, so they’re not going to travel real far from where that body rests.”

The evidence appears relatively conclusive. The assertions of the activists are baseless. This is not surprising, as their worries are obviously outlandish.

It seems that a few rabidly anti-Haredi groups and people made up lies about the Jewish community in this town and then convinced some portion of the non-Haredi population that this presents a grave threat to their health and safety. In other words, this is a classic antisemitic conspiracy theory. This is not said lightly, as emotionally fraught phrases such as “antisemitism” have become relatively overused in recent years in a way that waters down the term. But this is a clear-cut case.

And while it is true that all of the studies debunking the central claims of the activists are included in the New York Times article, they are buried more than 25 paragraphs down. The headline and the first two dozen paragraphs — in other words, everything most readers will actually see — are all framed in a way such that the religious Jews are seen as the enemy of the environment and of the community in question.

But when one digs a bit deeper, it becomes obvious who the real antagonists of this story are. It’s not only those making up lies to prevent a cemetery and mikvah from being built.

Rather, it is the New York Times, too.

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Jack Elbaum is a summer 2023 Washington Examiner fellow.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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