Text 'seems to question Israel’s legitimate defense needs'

ADL slams NYT for saying Israeli defense research best known for work on killing

Anti-Defamation League says New York Times article about Defense Ministry R&D activity during coronavirus pandemic uses ‘sensationalist, degrading and demonizing language’

The New York Times building in New York City, May 13, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)
The New York Times building in New York City, May 13, 2019. (Luke Tress/Times of Israel)

The Anti-Defamation League on Sunday condemned The New York Times over an article about the Israeli Defense Ministry’s work during the coronavirus pandemic, saying the paper used “sensationalist, degrading and demonizing language.”

The letter to the paper, penned by CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, joins similar criticism from Israel’s envoys in Washington and New York over the article published Thursday.

The report, about Israel’s dozens of teams, from a variety of backgrounds, all working toward defeating the coronavirus, was headlined “Israeli Army’s Idea Lab Aims at a New Target: Saving Lives,” and began: “The Israeli Defense Ministry’s research-and-development arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to kill people and blow things up, with stealth tanks and sniper drones among its more lethal recent projects. But its latest mission is lifesaving…”

“Wow. That’s sensationalist, degrading and demonizing language. Would The Times use the same verbiage to describe the US Department of Defense?” wrote Greenblatt.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 2, 2017. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

“The Israeli Defense Ministry’s research and defense arm is in fact critical to Israel’s defense and security. In the face of murderous regimes like the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, and a reign of terrorism from Palestinian suicide bombers, tunnels and homemade rockets targeting civilians,” he said, noting that “Israel’s military has unfortunately had no choice but to innovate again and again over the years to protect its people from harm.”

“This gratuitous opener not only diverts attention from this unique story, but also seems to call into question Israel’s legitimate defense needs. The Times can do better,” he wrote.

On Friday, Israel’s Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer slammed the paper, saying it was libeling and demonizing Israel by unfairly depicting the ministry’s research and development branch as being best-known for pioneering ways to kill people.

“The @nytimes, which buried the Holocaust, is best known for pioneering ways to libel and demonize the Jewish State. Now it is doing the same,” wrote Dermer on Twitter, referring to criticism in the past that the newspaper, and others, failed to recognize and publicize the plight of European Jewry during World War II.

Last year, Dermer called The New York Times a “cesspool of hostility towards Israel” after it published a caricature that the paper has since acknowledged was anti-Semitic and for which it later apologized.

Israel’s consul general in New York, Dani Dayan, also criticized Thursday’s article, drawing attention to the Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defense systems, which were developed by the same teams profiled in the story.

Newly-appointed Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan seen at the opening of a conference discussing issues and ways to fight the boycott Israel movement, at the Jerusalem Convention Center, March 28, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

“‘The Israeli Defense Ministry’s R&D arm is best known for pioneering cutting-edge ways to save innocent lives, with Iron Dome & David Sling among its more famous recent projects. Under the pandemic it continues to save lives.’ I edited it for you @nytimes. Now it’s fit to print,” Dayan tweeted, referencing the newspaper’s slogan.

The New York Times article highlights Israeli innovations in the fields of diagnostic testing, tracking technology and telemedicine. In addition, it takes a look at Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center, where Israel Aerospace Industries has adapted jet and helicopter cockpit controls for the storage and analysis of information on coronavirus patients.

The article focuses on the work done by the Directorate of Defense Research and Development, which is led by Gen. Danny Gold, who is best known as the innovator of the Iron Dome missile defense system.

“In Israel, if there is a mission that has to be done, it’s like a war,” Gold told the newspaper. “Everybody drops what they’re doing, tunes into the mission and works on the mission with a lot of energy and creativity.”

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