In the face of a rising tide of anti-Semitism, CNN deserves praise for presenting its special report “Rising Hate: Antisemitism in America,” but it’s important to note the report had both positive and negative aspects, including crucial omissions.
The positives included, for example, a statement by ADL leader Jonathan Greenblatt that anti-Semitism has “become a political prop for people on both the right and the left.” Also positive was host Dana Bash’s statement that “Over the past five years, FBI data shows Jews have been the victims of hate crimes more often than any other religion.”
A further positive was Bash’s interview with Cassie Blattner, a Jewish student at SUNY New Paltz who was kicked out of a sexual assault survivors’ group she co-founded because she shared a pro-Israel Instagram post. Blattner was told by her former friends that “because I’m a Zionist, that that means I’m an oppressor. And that means that I am not against all forms of oppression, which means that I’m not against sexual violence.”
But why would a Zionist be viewed as an oppressor? The answer—entirely omitted by CNN—is because of anti-Israel propaganda, much of it from CNN and its media colleagues, and groups like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations. This media/NGO complex delegitimizes Israel and helps give a green light for attacks on Jewish students on American campuses.
And while, as mentioned above, the program did point to anti-Semitism coming from both the left and the right, a glaring omission was the failure to actually name any guilty parties on the left.
For example, CNN omitted any mention of “progressive” politicians like Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who have frequently engaged in blatant anti-Semitism when launching attacks against Israel. Examples include Omar’s Tweets charging that “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”
Omar also leveled the malicious charge that her pro-Israel political colleagues are bought off by Jews, tweeting that “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”
(For more details about Omar and these tweets see “Top Four Reasons Why Rep. Ilhan Omar is Wrong about AIPAC, Israel and the Palestinians.”)
Since Omar and her “squad mates” are popular with young “progressives,” their drumbeat of anti-Israel statements has undoubtedly contributed to the hostile campus atmosphere Jewish students face. But CNN’s viewers saw no hint of this.
In contrast, a certain person was in CNN’s sights: former President Donald Trump, who was heavily criticized for supposedly “normalizing prejudice” and somehow encouraging anti-Semitic attacks. Trump’s name appears more than 30 times during the program.
But this focus on Trump is only possible because of CNN’s further omissions about the violent anti-Semitic attacks it cites in its report.
For example, CNN devotes much attention to the attack this year on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas—but gives no details about the attacker, Malik Faisal Akram, except that he wanted to somehow gain the freedom of a convicted Al-Qaeda terrorist being held in a Texas prison. Viewers would have to infer his ideology and beliefs, and his membership in the Tablighi Jamaat Muslim sect was unmentioned.
CNN also focused on the deadly attack in 2019 on Chabad of Poway, in Southern California. The perpetrator of that attack, John Earnest, was a white supremacist believer in replacement theory, and a hater of Trump, referring to the former president as “that Zionist, Jew-loving, anti-White, traitorous [expletive].”
It’s safe to say neither Malik Faisal Akram nor John Earnest was a big fan of Trump, and neither man was likely to have been inspired to attack Jews by anything said by the former president.
Anti-Semitism cannot be rolled back and overcome without an honest look at why it exists and why it is growing. Deflecting attention by demonizing the media’s favorite bogeyman will not help end the demonizing of Jews. Indeed, it will only make things worse.
Alex Safian is associate director of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).