November 17, 2023

'New York Times' writer Nicholas Kristoff lost sight of facts, nuance - opinion

By Barbara Sofer

The most disappointing part of Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Nicholas Kristof’s recent op-ed in The New York Times, “Losing sight of a shared humanity,” is its dateline.


Reporting from Jerusalem, how simple it is to check the facts and to gain deeper and more nuanced insight into what is happening, especially when you are an internationally recognized journalist with superb credentials and contacts.

He came “to listen and learn,” says Kristof. I was hopeful that his presence in Israel would give him a greater appreciation of the evils of Hamas and its implications for the free world.

A few examples from the recent “Losing sight of a shared humanity” column.

In ‘Losing sight of a shared humanity,’ Nicholas Kristof loses sight of Israel

Israel’s invasion of Gaza is destroying tunnels, ammunition dumps, and Hamas fighters, yes. But I’m afraid it’s also helping to pulverize the recognition of shared humanity that in the long run allows people to live beside one another in peace.”

Shared humanity means it must exist on both sides.


How could there be less shared humanity than onOctober 7 when a ceasefire was in place?

Kristof, a longtime reporter in the Middle East, certainly knows about the unusual and humane announcements by Israel in Arabic, to warn the civilian population that it plans to destroy tunnels, ammunition dumps, and hunt Hamas fighters and that the residents should move to a safer part of the Gaza Strip so the IDF can get to the tunnels. Some 20,000 phone calls were made to Gazans to make sure they got the message. Likewise, hospital officials received dedicated calls to move their patients and medical staff to the South because there were bunkers filled with terrorists beneath their buildings.

That’s just the opposite of a surprise inhumane attack.

Kristof: “The poisonous hatred in turn is already spilling over to the United States and other countries worldwide.”

Which poisonous hatred? The hatred toward the Jews or from the Jews? Are there examples of Jews expressing poisonous hatred on campuses? Did the Christian and Muslim students at Cornell University have to hide in their rooms because of threats from Jews? What about the Jewish students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who were advised to enter their classrooms and labs from the back door?

Kristof describes going somewhere in Jerusalem, probably to find an authentic Gaza news source. He makes an appointment with “some Gazans who were temporarily allowed to visit Israel and became stuck in east Jerusalem.” He doesn’t explain why they were in Jerusalem in the first place and how they “got stuck.” They’re certainly not hostages.

Perhaps the Gazans were receiving medical treatment not available in Gaza’s hospitals located above those billion-dollar tunnels. Each tunnel costs as much as a high-end MRI machine. The gravel imported for the simplest tunnel could pay for a lot of ketamine and propofol, common anesthetics.

TO REACH his source in east Jerusalem, Kristof reports that his Israeli taxi driver refused to take him the whole way and abandoned him “on the side of the road to get a Palestinian taxi.” As a Jerusalemite and head-covering religious woman whose professional work frequently takes her into Arab homes in Jerusalem and elsewhere, I have to wonder why he didn’t arrange to travel with one of the many Arab taxi drivers who are familiar and comfortable with the streets and byways in the Arab neighborhoods, as well as the Jewish ones.

Once safely there (whew), Kristof’s unnamed source was a “sweet” (his description) 57-year-old Gazan woman who approved of the Hamas act on October 7. Kristof doesn’t mention if she was specifically satisfied with the beheadings, rapes, burning babies, but his “sweet” source did think it was okay to murder five-year-olds because “they are all Jews and Zionists.”

No shared humanity here.

This, to use his own words, “ breaks his heart” because her bigotry was, in his opinion, nurtured “not only by Hamas propaganda but also by Israeli bombing.”

Then Kristof touches on – of all subjects – the Amalekites. Like any journalist using an unfamiliar reference, he provides gloss to readers unacquainted with this ancient people of the Bible. He describes the Amalekites as “the target of a divine genocide,” omitting the more common explanation that they were the terrorists who attacked the Israelites when they were at their most vulnerable – leaving slavery out of Egypt. Because the Israelites have been freed from slavery (the basis of “Let My People Go”) by God’s strong hand, other hostile tribes are deterred from attacking them – until Amalekites show that no matter their virtues, Israelites are flesh and blood and can be killed liked anyone else.

We Jews are commanded to remember the Amalekites: a lesson to be wary of such evil persons in the future.

Haman in the Persia (today’s Iran)-based Purim story planned genocide against the Jews and is linked to the Amalekites.

Also Hitler.

At every Passover Seder, we spill wine for the loss of life of the Egyptians who pursued the Israelites into the sea – but not for the Amalekites.

To balance his op-ed, Kristof points out that Israelis have bigots and extremists, too. He quotes an unnamed “far-right” rabbi saying, “You may think you’re being merciful, but you’re being vicious to the ultimate victim whom this child will grow up and kill.”

I don’t know which rabbi made this alleged statement, but we did have Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu say that a military option would include nuking Gaza. No sooner were the words out of his mouth when they were widely condemned, including by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and mocked and disparaged on national Israeli news channels.

KRISTOF ALSO quotes a Palestinian nurse whose teenage brother “was shot dead by Israeli forces on the street in front of his school” as if the IDF and police have regular drive-by joyride shooting sprees.

A repeated theme in many of his recent columns is that because of “big bad” Israel, Palestinian children need to undergo operations without anesthesia. He refers us to a video he has watched about “a nine-year-old boy having his foot amputated on a Gaza hospital floor, without adequate anesthesia as his sister looks on and waits for her own surgery.”

A key question he asks, after watching the film, is “How can we not feel the same revulsion we felt watching Hamas videos of attacks on Israelis?”

He might not know that orthopedists often use a local anesthetic, a nerve block, in such surgery, and the patient is awake. Why the sister was watching, what surgery she was having, and why, at the beginning of the fighting, there might be a shortage of inexpensive anesthetic are all a mystery.

Here’s something to know about shared humanity. The children of the Jews who survived the Holocaust went into healing professions out of proportion to their numbers. And they help everyone. That’s because despite the horrors they underwent, their core values and humanity amazingly survived Auschwitz, and they brought up their children to make a better world.

Kristof urges Israel to use only “surgical attacks” to get rid of the tunnels. At the same time, The New York Times has published sketches of the Hamas metro, a booby-trapped, reinforced world below the ground with train tracks, supply depots, prisons for captives, and nearly impenetrable bunkers for high command. Endoscopic surgery is impossible.

Journalists have a moral responsibility to recognize evil for what it is and to recognize the difficulty of eradicating it. If not, they contribute to undermining the very values they espouse and would like to proliferate for their children and grandchildren.

When you have a popularly elected government that makes hatred of Jews, the destruction of Israel, and the evils of the free world key elements of the school curriculum, you aren’t nurturing humanity. When you routinely set up rocket-building workshops in schools and sports centers, you aren’t nurturing humanity.

 The so-called humans who decapitated babies and burned them alive don’t have humanity to lose.

If Kristof’s “sweet” source thinks murdering kindergarteners is okay, what do his other sources approve of?