Oh SNAP! NYT Mentions Israeli Nukes in Bibi Iran Piece

When I sat down to take in the headlines yesterday on the New York Times website, I was not altogether pleased with the paper of record. Admittedly, I am in an almost constant state of perturbance when it comes to the Times; however, their particularly heinous reporting on the Bibi "red line" hullabaloo Friday got my blood up, propelling me to dash off a long letter to the new Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, from whom I have yet to receive a response. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting posted an excellent write-up of the affair, so I won't bother doing so here. Suffice it to say that my exasperation level was unusually high.

So imagine my mirth when I came upon the following excerpt in the piece "Israeli leader makes case against Iran on US TV":

Mr. Netanyahu, who also appeared on the CNN program "State of the Union" on Sunday, sought to link the violence [at US embassies in the Middle East] with Iran's nuclear ambitions, arguing that Iran's leaders were driven by the same fanaticism that enraged the protesters. Israel has its own nuclear arsenal, though it has never publicly acknowledged it.

WHAT? Did the New York Times just mention the fact that Israel has nukes!? Oh SNAP! Day-um, hear that, Bibi? Bet that BURNS!

But what could have possibly gotten into the Times to allow such a tawdry fact into their Iran reporting? It's not like a mention was called for by the information preceding it. I think that my reaction to its inclusion was so marked precisely because there doesn't seem to be a compelling reason for the Times to mention the Israeli arsenal at this particular point in the piece.

Since I don't have ears at the Times, here's how I like to imagine this going down: the Times is quite permissive when it comes to the Likud's unsubstantiated tirades against Iran, right? But suggesting that Iran's nuclear ambitions and the violence at the US embassies in the Middle East are somehow linked is a new level of ridiculousness that even the Times is not ready to endorse. It also doesn't help Netanyahu's case that this ruckus smells an awful lot like an electioneering scheme in favor of Mitt Romney. (Dear Bibi: if you wish to keep the Times in your good favor, you should probably lay off the Prez.) Of course, the Times has to report on the idiotic remark, but that doesn't mean it has to stay silent on it. Thus we observe it taking out its frustration by pulling a card that almost no major media outlet ever does: that Israel has its own arsenal of nukes. "Ok, Bibi, want to play this game? Let's play. You step too out of line on the Iran blather, we mention your nukes. Got it?"

Mr. Netanyahu, who also appeared on the CNN program
This one's for posterity.

It also may not be a coincidence that the Times' mention comes about two weeks after a brave piece from the Washington Post's ombudsman Patrick Pexton on the marked absence of mainstream reporting on Israel's worst-kept secret. While the Times note falls far short of reporting on the issue, it does help to amplify "how Israel's doomsday weapons affect the Middle East equation," as Pexton wrote. If only everyone were to throw Israel's nuclear stockpile at Netanyahu every time he made a hip shot at Iran, the world would be much improved.

In any case, I'm still not particularly happy with the Times, although they did give me a good chuckle. I do wish to give a warm welcome to Ms. Sullivan. May you emulate your colleague over at the Post instead of your predecessor at the Times—and answer your emails.

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