Friday, August 4, 2017

Anti-Israel bias in Boston Globe revealed in discrimination op-ed

This op-ed was published in the Jewish Advocate on August 4, 2017. It may also be found on the Jewish Advocate website at

Following the text of the article, we include here the correspondence with the Boston Globe. This correspondence was not included in the Jewish Advocate.

Jewish Advocate

Anti-Israel bias in Boston Globe revealed in discrimination op-ed

By Alan H. Stein

Alan H. Stein is the founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel, and president emeritus of PRIMER-Connecticut.

The July 18 Boston Globe op-ed by Katherine Franke headlined, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," was so biased and hateful that CAMERA felt compelled to issue a major alert devoted entirely to it. But it wasn't out of character for the Boston Globe, which has a long track record of strong anti-Israel bias.

Franke's op-ed was not only factually flawed and misrepresented the anti-discrimination bill before the Massachusetts Legislature in order to unfairly malign Israel, it was given a misleading headline designed to imply something false: that the Legislature was considering a bill that would outlaw boycotts.

I've been keeping a log of Globe opinion pieces - editorials, op-eds and letters - relating to Israel since September 2014, and categorized each as either pro-Israel, anti-Israel or neutral. During that time, the anti-Israel opinion pieces have outnumbered the pro-Israel pieces 92-75. I'm sure I missed some items, but the disparity is pretty clear.

The most telling category is editorials, since that reflects the official opinion of the newspaper. During this period, I found only one Globe editorial that could be considered pro-Israel; published last November, it deplored the UNESCO decision "denying the Jewish people's historic connection to the holiest site in Judaism." In contrast, I found seven anti-Israel editorials.

There were 33 pro-Israel op-eds, compared with 48 anti-Israel op-eds. Of the pro-Israel op-eds, 18 were from Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby and 7 were from famed attorney Alan Dershowitz. Take those away, and we see the Boston Globe published only eight pro-Israel op-eds, in contrast to 48 anti-Israel op-eds!

There have been slightly more pro-Israel than anti-Israel letters, 41- 37, but even here, but it seems like when the Globe publishes pro- and anti- letters in the same issue, it generally gives more prominence to the anti-Israel letters.

For example, the Boston Globe chose to publish just two letters about Katherine Franke's anti-Israel op-ed, one supporting the op-ed and one criticizing it. This may seem balanced, but the Globe put the anti-Israel letter prominently on top. The anti-Israel letter was two-and-a-half times as long as the pro-Israel letter it published - 235 words to 92 words - and exceeded the Globe's 200-word limit.

Franke's op-ed itself was nominally in opposition to a bill before the legislature, "An Act prohibiting discrimination in state contracts." The key provisions are that companies entering into significant contracts with the state must certify they are in compliance with certain existing anti-discrimination laws and will not refuse "to do business with any other person when that action is based upon such other person's race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity or sexual orientation."

Franke misrepresented that provision as a "pledge that they will not engage in a boycott." She then used that misrepresentation to link the anti-discrimination bill to the prohibition on political boycotts in Alabama at the time of the Montgomery bus boycott.

We can argue about whether Massachusetts should enact a bill to punish hateful anti-Israel boycotters; however, the bill under consideration was written to avoid including the word boycott. This was pointed out to the Boston Globe, with a request for a correction. The Globe acknowledged receiving the request but dismissed it, arguing that 'pretending discrimination' and 'boycotting' are synonymous.

The headline, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," clearly implies the bill would outlaw boycotts. Even if one buys the Globe's argument about boycotts and discrimination being the same, the bill does nothing to outlaw anything. When pressed on this, the Globe claimed the headline was, "smart, pertinent, and accurate."

At the same time, it is hard to imagine the Globe publishing an oped with the headline, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw discrimination."

Yet the Boston Globe not only published an op-ed supporting discrimination against Israelis, the newspaper defended it.

Email Exchange

The following is the exchange of emails with the Boston Globe. Most emails also contained the prior emails; that duplication is omitted here.

Sent July 19 with subject "Please issue a correction" to and

To: The Boston Globe

The July 18 op-ed, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," contains, among many other factual errors, the blatantly false statement that the anti-discrimination bill being put before the legislature "would require that anyone who applies for a state contract over $10,000 must sign a pledge that they will not engage in a boycott that targets a person or entity because of their 'race, color, creed, religion, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation..'"

The proposed bill doesn't even contain the word "boycott."

As you are aware, while newspapers aren't responsible for the opinions contained in the opinion pieces they publish, they are responsible for the accuracy of the facts they publish. In accordance with that solemn responsibility, the Boston Globe is obligated to publish a correction.

Additionally, the very title of the op-ed, while technically not factually incorrect, is tantamount to a factual error because it strongly implies there is an effort to have Massachusetts outlaw boycotts. Even the language incorrectly given in the op-ed would do nothing to restrict boycotts.

Quite frankly, the Boston Globe should be embarrassed that it published such an error-filled and malicious op-ed, one which effectively promotes discrimination, and should not only issue corrections for the factual errors but apologize for publishing it.


Alan Stein

Sent July 21 with subject "Resend: Please issue a correction:"

[I sent this request for a correction on July 19 and have neither seen a correction issued nor received a response to my message. Since the article was given prominence in the Boston Globe, the error was blatant, unquestionable since the text of the proposed legislation is publicly and easily available, and fundamental to the entire thrust of the article, there is no question but that a correction must be issued. I therefore infer that my original email got lost in cyberspace and never reached the Boston Globe; hence this resend. If this doesn't reach you either, I will try again using a different email account.]

Received July 21:

Dear Mr. Stein,

I did receive your original e-mail, so there was no reason for the follow-up. I don't think the column was in error as you describe. I have pasted a link to the language of the bill in question (I acknowledge that the word "boycott" is not included, but please note this language:  "... will not during the duration of the contract, refuse, fail, or cease to do business with..." That sounds like the description of a boycott to me).

I have shared your original letter with the op-ed editor, and we'll revisit this after the weekend.


Matthew Bernstein
Letters editor

Sent July 21:

Dear Mr. Bernstein:

I am astounded by your response.

The proposed legislation is called "An Act prohibiting discrimination in state contracts," not "An Act prohibiting boycotts in state contracts."

I cannot imagine that the Boston Globe would have ever published an analogous op-ed had the rest of the sentence you partially quoted ended with the word "race." And had the Boston Globe had the poor sense and insensitivity to publish such an analogous op-ed and received a request for a correction, I cannot imagine anyone at the Boston Globe defending the indefensible by saying "That sounds like the description of a boycott to me."

Ignoring all the bias, hatred and factual errors in the op-ed which I didn't mention in my earlier email, what about the headline, which is totally the responsibility of the Boston Globe and had such a disgracefully misleading implication that it was tantamount to a factual error?

As I wrote, the Boston Globe is obligated under various codes of ethics to issue a correction for the factual errors in the op-ed and has a moral obligation to apologize to its readers for publishing such a disgraceful op-ed with such a misleading headline.


Alan Stein

Received July 24:


Matt Bernstein forwarded his email stream about your objections to Professor Franke's column. No correction is needed. I concur with Matt's interpretation -- and the interpretation of many others -- of the bill. The term boycott isn't used in the legislation, but the definition is.

You might note that we ran an opposing view today. And Jeff Jacoby has also weighed in.

Ellen Clegg

Sent July 24:

Dear Ms. Clegg:

You've got to be kidding.

At last count, there were 77 co-sponsors for this legislation, which they called "An act prohibiting discrimination in state contracts," not "An act prohibiting boycotts in state contracts." Although I often disagree with many of our state legislators on various issues, I believe most of them are fairly intelligent. I can only infer that you believe either (a) all 77 co-sponsors erred in using the term discrimination rather than boycotts or (b) discrimination and boycotts are synonymous.

Also, neither you nor Mr. Bernstein has responded regarding the headline, "Mass. shouldn't outlaw boycotts," which is so blatantly misleading, clearly implying the bill would outlaw boycotts, as to be tantamount to a factual error. I still await a response regarding that issue.

Finally, regarding Jeff Jacoby's weighing in, I double-checked both yesterday's paper and today's paper and couldn't find the item to which you sent a link. Has or will his "weighing in" appear on the actual paper, or merely online or in emails?

I do appreciate the column by Jeremy Burton being run, but an error-filled, hateful op-ed doesn't get balanced by a single rational op-ed. As with violence and terrorism, it's easier to destroy than to rebuild; it's easier to inspire hatred than to undo the damage.


Alan Stein

Received July 24:

Jeff has a newsletter that goes to subscribers who sign up, and is also published on our website. There's no such thing as "merely" online anymore, because that's where our audience is growing.

I thought the headline was smart, pertinent, and accurate - it reflects the gist of Professor Franke's argument quite well. No correction needed there, either.

Ellen Clegg

Sent July 24:

Dear Ms. Clegg:

Re "merely" online: Perhaps I should have written "online only." Since the entire printed paper is also online, the "online only" readership is clearly a proper subset of the total readership.

Re the headline: It may have been smart, but it certainly was neither pertinent nor accurate. I just went through Franke's op-ed again and saw nothing to suggest she was arguing the proposed legislation would ban boycotts. Although I haven't done so on a professional level and headlines were never my forte - for me they were generally an annoying afterthought - I have edited both newspapers and newsletters and would not have given anyone who came up with a headline as misleading as the one on Franke's op-ed the chance to write another.

I do thank you for at least reading what I've written and hope that, even though the Boston Globe is clearly unwilling to take ownership of its mistakes at this time, attempts will be made to be accurate and responsible in the future.


Alan Stein