columnAntisemitism

Liberal media is still in denial about post-Oct. 7 antisemitism

Rather than acknowledge the link between woke ideology and hate, “The New York Times” tries to blame the problem on their conservative political foes.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters gather in front of the Colorado Convention Center, the site of the opening plenary of the Jewish National Fund-USA annual conference in Denver, Nov. 30, 2023. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel protesters gather in front of the Colorado Convention Center, the site of the opening plenary of the Jewish National Fund-USA annual conference in Denver, Nov. 30, 2023. Photo by Carin M. Smilk.
Jonathan S. Tobin
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

Seven months of an unprecedented surge in antisemitism that has turned American college campuses and even K-12 schools into hostile environments for Jews has changed a lot of minds about the issue. The willingness of much of the political left to downplay or even justify the atrocities of Oct. 7—and then to flip the narrative about the war that Hamas started to one in which the victims of terrorism are somehow the real villains of the story—has shocked even many political liberals into rethinking their assumptions about where the real danger for Jews lies.

But not The New York Times.

As two lengthy news features published in the paper this week confirmed, the flagship of liberal journalism in the United States hasn’t let events or the reality of a post-Oct. 7 world interfere with their ideological or political agendas.

In one story, the newspaper devoted the time of four reporters to take a deep dive into contemporary antisemitism. But the result of what is described as their extensive research is that they have come to the conclusion that the real culprits are not the people who seek the destruction of the one Jewish state on the planet, legitimize a genocidal terrorist movement as justified “resistance” or attempt to allow those responsible for the mass murder of 1,200 people to get away with it. Instead, the Times believes that the problem rests with (surprise!) Republicans who are rallying in support of a beleaguered State of Israel and who are opposed to the deluge of Jew-hatred on display in the American public square since the current war began.

In another article, the paper reported a congressional hearing about the growing problem of antisemitism in K-12 schools throughout the country as primarily one about how those in charge of these institutions scored points against members of Congress who care about the issue.

These are just two prominent examples out of many that could be pointed to that show how the Times and other liberal media outlets manipulate coverage of this issue to promote their own partisan agendas. They are worth noting precisely because they illustrate how ideological agendas work to present a distorted picture of an antisemitism crisis that serves primarily to deflect attention from the real cause.

In this case, that means denying or downplaying the fact that the principal engines of antisemitism in 2024 America are left-wing ideologies like critical race theory and intersectionality, which grant a permission slip to Jew-hatred. The pervasive influence of these toxic ideas in American education has helped to indoctrinate largely ignorant students to parrot what earlier generations might have easily understood to be Soviet-era Marxist propaganda about Zionism being racism and Israel being an “apartheid state” against which all “resistance”—even the orgy of rape, torture, kidnapping and wanton destruction that Palestinians carried on Oct. 7—can be justified.

These ideologies have mainstreamed a belief that the world is divided into two perpetually warring groups: white oppressors and people of color who are their victims. And it is only through belief in the orthodoxies of this new secular religion can one conclude that Israel—the democratic nation that was attacked—is a genocidal “white” oppressor (even though the majority of Israeli Jews are people of color since they trace their origins to the Middle East or North Africa) and that the real genocidal terrorists of Hamas and their Palestinian supporters are victims deserving of sympathy and support.

Woke permission for hate

Moreover, only by subscribing to these ideas can the delegitimiation of normative Jewish beliefs and the harassment of Jewish students up to and including violence be treated as reasonable expressions of free speech. Everyone knows that if this sort of treatment were directed at other minorities such as African-Americans, Hispanics or Asians, rather than being defended, it would be treated as racism and punished accordingly.

But for the Times and its dogged reporters, the pro-Hamas disruptions of campus life are, like the Black Lives Matter riots of the summer of 2020 that the paper also justified, “mostly peaceful.” Open calls for the destruction of the Jewish state—the “from the river to the sea” mantra (something that could only be achieved by genocide) and “globalize the intifada” (supporting international terror against Jews)—are parsed as mere expressions of sympathy for Palestinians. For the Times, the entire discussion about the woke delegitimization of Israel and Jewish rights is a distraction from what they are really interested in—the claim that Republicans and conservatives are the real antisemites.

With masses of students, professors and professional agitators rallying in support of Hamas in the wake of the brutal killing of 1,200 men, women and children on Oct. 7 and venting their hatred against any Jews in reach, one need not dig deep to find evidence of open antisemitism in contemporary America. But the Times’ outrage is still directed at their traditional targets: the same Republican Party that has become virtual lockstep supporters of Israel and opponents of antisemitism.

Though the Gray Lady has a long history of discomfort with Zionism and downplaying antisemitism that stretches back to its non-coverage of the Holocaust, it has played a particularly important role in seeking to legitimize the movement to destroy Israel in recent years. This is seen not just on its editorial pages, where anti-Zionist and antisemitic opinion pieces, even those that call for Israel’s destruction, have become commonplace.

It has also been seen in their open advocacy in their news section for woke ideology and the intersectional framework associated with critical race theory. A straight line can be drawn from the paper’s publication of its fraudulent “1619 Project” in 2019, which put forward a narrative about America being an irredeemably racist nation, and its coverage of the current surge in antisemitism.

Partisanship also plays a significant role in shaping the coverage of antisemitism. The paper’s story, titled “How Republicans Echo Antisemitic Tropes Despite Declaring Support for Israel,” is a classic example of this kind of misdirection.

Of course, there is evidence of antisemitism on the right.

The embrace by right-wing talkers with large audiences, like Candace Owens, of antisemitic tropes and the decision of former Fox News host Tucker Carlson to platform Israel-haters on his show that can be seen on X is deeply troubling. But the Times story doesn’t even mention them. That’s not surprising because to do so would be to understand that in contemporary political discourse, most antisemitic rhetoric is couched in attacks on Israel and its supporters—something that undermines the left far more than the overwhelmingly pro-Israel right. Instead, they return to familiar refrains of Democrats in recent years.

Attacking Trump, defending Soros

They resurrect the false claim that former President Donald Trump characterized those who attended the August 2017 “Unite the Right” neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., as “very fine people.” Yet they ignore the way that President Joe Biden treats those who oppose Palestinian claims of victimhood as morally equivalent to antisemites. And they minimize the constant drumbeat of antisemitic incitement from members of the left-wing congressional “Squad” such as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).

The article also claims that Trump’s complaints about Jews who don’t support him not caring about Israel are evidence of antisemitism. It may be both foolish and evidence of ignorance about the way most liberal Jews don’t prioritize support for the Jewish state when they vote. But it isn’t antisemitic.

Their main interest, however, is in recycling the Democratic talking point that any criticism of George Soros—the Hungarian-born billionaire who is the single largest donor to Democratic candidates and leftist causes through his Open Society Foundation—is antisemitic. They also assail anyone who speaks of “globalists” as engaging in antisemitic tropes that “mainstream anti-Jewish rhetoric.”

The claim about Soros is simply a partisan talking point. Soros is Jewish but has always eschewed any expression of Jewish identity or support for Jewish causes or Israel. If conservatives focus on his influence, it is because it is so pervasive since his foundation has given away more money than any other such group in the world. By itself, his campaign to elect soft-on-crime prosecutors in cities throughout the United States has done as much damage to this country as that of any contemporary individual. And though the Times seeks to downplay it, his foundation has also been a major source of funding for groups that are helping to organize the pro-Hamas and antisemitic protests, as well as those in Israel that work to support terrorists and their apologists.

At this point, criticizing Soros is not only not antisemitic, it is likely to be a sign of opposition to antisemitism.

As for the use of terms like “globalists,” it does bear a resemblance to Stalinist antisemitic tropes about “cosmopolitans” who were fated to be liquidated in purges. But in the third decade of the 21st century, it is a reference to the debate about economic and political efforts to globalize the economy, much to the detriment of the working class, as well as to “green new deal” programs that would destroy the American economy and undermine individual rights. Such globalists are left-wing elites and corporate giants entirely unrelated to Jewish interests. To claim that it is an antisemitic trope does nothing about actual antisemitism but does serve to silence legitimate concerns and dissent against fashionable ideas the Times and left-wing Democrats champion.

The paper does note the absurd claims about the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act put forward by Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene (R-Ga.) about its criminalizing belief in the New Testament. But while those 20 Republicans who agreed with her deserve criticism, the paper characterized the 70 Democrats who think that Title VI protections of the 1964 Civil Rights Act shouldn’t apply to Jews as commendable supporters of the First Amendment rights of antisemites.

Failed journalism

As far as the authors of the piece go, the significance of Oct. 7 lies primarily in giving it “an opening” to Republicans. The article thinks that there is something unholy about the way that the GOP has paraded its support for Israel and sought to contrast it with the behavior of the left-wing base of the Democrats who have turned out in the streets on behalf of the Hamas murderers.

The notion of Oct. 7 being a pretext for Republican political maneuvers was also the basis of another article published the same day in the Times titled, “How Public School Leaders Upstaged Republicans and the Ivy League: Mixing it up a bit, schools leaders showed, can go far toward neutralizing a Congress with a craving to make a point.”

The conceit of this piece was that the congressional testimony of leaders of school districts in New York and Berkeley, Calif., where documented instances of woke indoctrination in K-12 schools are abundant triumphed over the efforts of supposedly oafish Republicans to portray them as antisemites.

The hearing wasn’t as successful as the one held by the same committee in December, during which three elite university presidents claimed that it depended on “the context” as to whether calls for Jewish genocide violated their school’s rules. It’s true that most of the questioning this time wasn’t as sharp or informed as it was at the previous hearing. But the problem, about which organizations like the Jewish public interest law firm The Deborah Project have done extensive work, is real. The Times’ main preoccupation now, as in December, is to castigate those GOP members, like Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), who are focused on exposing the links between woke ideology and the surge in antisemitism as political opportunists and denying the reality of the Jew-hatred they are trying to expose.

Both articles say little about the real challenges of confronting contemporary antisemitism and a lot about the lengths to which ideologues will go to deflect attention from left-wing vitriol. Honest liberals and conservatives need to be able to confront the hate that comes from those on their side of the political aisle—something that few of us in a politically bifurcated hyper-partisan society seem capable of doing these days. In the meantime, the disgraceful efforts of the publication that once claimed to be the country’s newspaper of record to downplay evidence of real antisemitism in favor of partisan talking points about their foes illustrates the equally dismal state of contemporary journalism.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor-in-chief of JNS (Jewish News Syndicate). Follow him @jonathans_tobin.

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