Opinion

The New York Times Published a Fascist-adjacent Op-ed, and That's Good

Sen Tom Cotton's outrageous op-ed, pushing the U.S. military to undermine democracy and individual rights, called for America to do exactly what Israel has been doing for years. We need that transparency

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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New York Times Building in New York, August 14, 2013
New York Times Building in New York, August 14, 2013Credit: Brendan McDermid/ REUTERS
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, a Republican, wrote an op-ed piece with fascist characteristics, and The New York Times published it. Editorial page editor James Bennet was forced to resign because of the essay, which apparently wasn’t properly reviewed before publication. The Daily Beast reported that the Times had solicited the piece from Cotton.

Cotton called to send the military into American cities to put down the demonstrations and rioting by force and restore order. The piece caused an uproar in the United States, which reached Israel as well. Most liberals believed that the op-ed should not have been published; most conservatives believed that the dismissal of the editor was proof the right was being silenced.

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Far be it for us to offer advice to The New York Times, but it’s good that the op-ed appeared, unfortunate that the editor was forced out, and whoever thinks the piece shouldn’t have been published is no liberal and has no confidence in his convictions.

The essay had to be published. It’s an outrageous piece that calls to undermine democracy and individual rights. Translated to German it sounds even worse: Ordnung muss sein; there must be order. But when a U.S. senator feels this way, it’s very important that the public knows it. When MK Bezalel Smotrich doesn’t want his wife lying next to Arab women in the delivery room, the public should know it. If he chose to write an essay explaining his position, it would be important to publish it, even in Haaretz, and then respond to his racism with full force. That’s the lifeblood of a free press and of open and argumentative opinion pages.

These pages are meant to present a variety of opinions, not just one. Newspapers that preach to the choir are not journalism, but mouthpieces and they’re boring. In any case what’s really influential in journalism is the news, not the opinions. Incitement, brainwashing, cover-ups, denial, agitation, divisiveness, dehumanization and demonization, along with revealing the truth, humaneness, honesty and preserving the values of society are all found in the news stories far more often than in the opinion pieces.

In Israel, as in the United States, there is shockingly little difference between the right and left when it comes to intolerance and even belligerence toward opinions that deviate from the boundaries of the sacred consensus within the camp. Perhaps the right is more aggressive, but the left is no less dogmatic. The pretense of liberalism within this camp is far more hollow than it seems. There is plenty of evidence of this.

Both right and left in Israel have long waged war against any opinion that isn’t Zionist. In their eyes, such opinions are not legitimate. This is belligerent. The right is unforgiving of the left, the left denies the opinions of the right, even though the differences between them are smaller than one might think, if they exist at all.

A protester in Tel Aviv holds a sign featuring George Floyd and Eyad Hallaq, an unarmed Palestinian shot dead by Israeli border police, June 6, 2020.
A protester in Tel Aviv holds a sign featuring George Floyd and Eyad Hallaq, an unarmed Palestinian shot dead by Israeli border police, June 6, 2020.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

The problem begins with the tolerance of deviant opinions within the camps. The right is more open toward right-wing positions that are more extreme, while the left has no tolerance for extreme left-wing views. The left flees the radical left as if from fire, is embarrassed by it, tries to disavow it and cuts off all links with it.

A one-state solution? Palestinian flags in the square? Criticism of the sacred legal system? Test the Zionist left. The issue of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is of course the most updated measure of intolerance; try to murmur a quarter of a good word about Netanyahu within the “just not Bibi” camp. It’s the end of the world. Liberals they may be, but not to that extent. By this standard, a liberal newspaper should never publish an offensive conservative essay, lest the camp be rendered impure.

Cotton, by the way, was merely calling for his country to do exactly what Israel has been doing for years in the occupied territories, and it’s still, for some reason, considered a democracy even in his country. In this, too, there are different forms of tolerance. In Israel and in the United States it’s legitimate to support the continued Israeli occupation, which maintains itself doing what Cotton was suggesting to the Americans: Using the army to brutally and violently suppress opposition and uprisings that are exceedingly justified, in Minneapolis and in Jenin.

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