U.S. Newspapers Absolve, Glorify Israeli Authority's Actions and Reactions: Ben & Jerry's, Pegasus spyware, and Olympic Baseball
August 13, 2021

Editor's Note: This article is part of the Press on Palestine series, an initiative by Palestine Square. It covers the month of July 2021. Press on Palestine highlights bias in mainstream American reporting on Palestinian affairs and the Arab-Israeli conflict.


  1. Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2021.

Ben and Jerry’s Israel Boycott Could Cost Unilever

The statement—which clarified that Ben & Jerry’s “will stay in Israel”—has sparked outrage from the usual voices of the Zionist commentariat, who predictably are accusing the company of anti-Semitism or, in the words of Israeli President Isaac Herzog, a “new kind of terrorism.”

The Wall Street Journal turned to Eugene Kontorovich, Israeli settler and law professor at George Mason University, to explain the legal ramifications of the news. Kontorovich, who has helped US states draft anti-Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) legislation, claims in the July 21 edition of the Journal that Ben & Jerry’s “has not boycotted anyone but the Jewish state”—ignoring the fact that the company’s brief 126-word statement made sure to mention that its products were staying in Israel. The author also made the bizarre and baseless claim that the Palestinian Authority may have contacted Ben & Jerry’s to request the boycott, which would subject Unilever, Ben & Jerry’s London-based parent company, to legal penalties.

But Kontorovich’s central argument is that Ben & Jerry’s decision will cause serious problems for Unilever because “33 American states have passed laws that restrict government contracting or investing in companies that boycott Israeli people or businesses.” Yet the author did not mention that every single time these state laws have been challenged in court, they have been stricken down as unconstitutional, most recently in the case of Abby Martin vs. the state of Georgia. But when the Journal fails to even disclose that Kontorovich is also a contributing author to some of the anti-BDS legislation, why would the author bother informing Journal readers that his legal challenges to BDS continue to fail?


  1. Washington Post, July 18, 2021.

Private Israeli spyware used to hack cellphones of journalists, activists worldwide

Pegasus, a spyware developed by the Israeli firm NSO Group, has been used to spy on thousands of journalists, activists, politicians, etc. and has stolen data from encrypted apps like WhatsApp and Signal. The Washington Post even devoted a 5,000+ word write-up to the scandal—yet what was crucially missing was an analysis of the Israeli government’s role in creating and spreading the use of the spyware. Not only was the spyware created by ex-Israeli spies with government training, but Tel Aviv has encouraged NSO to continue work with Saudi Arabia, even after it was revealed that the spyware played a role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of the Saudi government.

While the Post is doing its best to absolve the Israeli government of capability by emphasizing that Pegasus is a “private” Israeli spyware, equally important is the paper’s inability to connect the scandal with the Abraham Accords, better known as the Arab normalization agreements with Israel. A key element of the United Arab Emirates’ decision to normalize relations with Israel last year was its desire to increase cooperation on things like cyber intelligence, cyberwarfare and tech integration. While Abu Dhabi and Tel Aviv will boast that this cooperation is being used to combat threats from Iran and Hezbollah, it is abundantly clear that this intelligence can, and will, be used against activists and critics of these governments’ policies. As Saudi scholar Madawi al-Rasheed, a target of Pegasus spying, noted, “Thanks to Israeli malware, UAE complicity and Saudi intrusions, [Saudi] exiles will have to search for secure methods to share information and to mobilize.”


  1. New York Times, July 17, 2021.

Where are the fans for Israel’s National Baseball team? In New York

Wall Street Journal, July 19, 2021.
A Goldman Sachs Analyst by Day, He Helped Pitch Israeli Baseball Into the Olympics

Both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal ran pieces in July telling the “underdog” story of the Israeli national baseball team that has qualified for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo. According to the Journal, Israel, the 24th-ranked baseball team in the world, achieved a “wild and improbable” run to Tokyo by upsetting several higher-ranked European teams.

In reality, the “Israeli” baseball team is almost entirely made of Americans—some of whom are Jewish, some of whom simply have a Jewish relative. Many players on the team are former or current professionals who played in Major League Baseball, including 4-time MLB all-star Ian Kinsler, or the high levels of the minor leagues. The Times article even notes that the late billionaire Sheldon Adelson had to fly all the Americans on the roster to Israel on his private jet in 2017 so they could claim citizenship to qualify for the World Baseball Classic—yet the same article claims that the team “shocked the baseball world” by qualifying for that year’s tournament. So why is it surprising or even notable that a team full of high-quality professional American baseball players defeated squads full of European amateurs who will never sniff high-level professional leagues?

It’s not—and it doesn’t take a baseball fan to see through the charade. The Journal article even admits that no more than a thousand Israelis actually play baseball, but the mainstream American media loves opportunities to set aside politics and fawn over Israel in other contexts. Portraying Israel as an underdog on the baseball field plays upon fanciful characterizations of it as a tiny, helpless country surrounded by big, mean neighbors that nevertheless always manages to come out on top. Understanding the American power behind Israel—whether in the context of the country itself or its “national” baseball team—reveals the absurdity of this depiction.

About The Author: 

Eli Powelson is an American historian based in New York. He holds a BA in History from San Francisco State University, an MA in Arab and Middle Eastern History from the American University of Beirut, and will soon begin a PhD program in Middle East History. His research has focused on Palestine in the early British Mandate era with a special concentration on media analysis.

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