The media goes to bat for congressional anti-Semitism

With the growing concern over anti-Semitism in the United States, the media’s failures are worse than inexplicable—they’re unacceptable.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Source: Screenshot.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.). Source: Screenshot.
Sean Durns
Sean Durns
Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

“There can be no higher law in journalism,” the famed columnist Walter Lippmann once wrote, “than to tell the truth and shame the devil.” But when it comes to the devil of anti-Semitism, many reporters are showing remarkably little interest in telling the truth. For proof, one only need look at their coverage of freshmen Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.

Tlaib, a high-profile member of Congress, has been caught following a virulently anti-Semitic Instagram account—and using her official account to do so. Yet the press couldn’t be troubled to report it.

A March 8, 2019 report by the Capital Research Center (CRC) found that Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) “follows an Instagram account that routinely shares blatantly anti-Semitic posts and conspiracy theories.” CRC investigative reporter Ashley Rae Goldenberg noted that the account, “free.palestine.1948,” routinely shares “posts comparing Jews to vermin and Hitler, posts asserting Jews wield an enormous amount of power, and posts claiming Israel ‘did’ 9/11 and supports ISIS.”

The images and screenshots that are detailed in Goldenberg’s report are disturbing: the Jewish state is shown as a rat, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is depicted as a fanged vampire sucking the life out of a Palestinian child, and Jews are compared to Nazis and alleged to control the media. Israel is blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks and the creation of ISIS.

When confronted with the CRC report, Tlaib “quietly unfollowed the account and stealthily edited her Instagram bio to say she does not support ‘all’ of the posts of the accounts she chooses to follow,” Goldenberg observed. However, the Congresswoman’s office told the CRC that they have “no comment” and failed to so much as offer an explanation or condemn the social-media account that Tlaib’s official page was following.

The Instagram account “free.palestine.1948” has also expressed support for Tlaib, who supports the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that seeks to delegitimize and destroy the Jewish state. A newly elected member of Congress, Tlaib has previously claimed that American supporters of Israel “forgot what country they represent.” As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) documented, The New York Times initially tried to paper over Tlaib’s use of the dual-loyalty canard.

Tlaib has also associated with Abbas Hamideh, “an ardent supporter of Hezbollah” who has said, “Israel does not have a right to exist.” Other outlets, including The Daily CallerThe Washington Examiner and Fox News, among others, noted that Hamideh—who has praised the deceased arch-terrorist and child-murderer Samir Kuntar—attended the congresswoman’s swearing-in. Indeed, Tlaib was even photographed with Hamideh, and the Anti-Defamation League asked the representative for an explanation.

As CAMERA detailed in a Jan. 21, 2019 article, most major U.S. newspapers failed to report that a sitting member of Congress was associating with someone who praised terror groups and called for Israel’s destruction.

For its part, the legacy media continues to cover for the congresswoman. The Washington Free Beacon , American Spectator and The Daily Caller detailed Goldenberg’s report. By contrast, larger media outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, neglected the story. Both The Post and The Times, however, have filed reports on the social-media accounts and comments of other public figures. Tlaib’s anti-Semitic associations also went unmentioned in a sympathetic March 18, 2019 Post report, and CNN’s Jake Tapper failed to confront the congresswoman about them in a recent interview.

Journalists have also covered for another freshman congresswoman tainted by anti-Semitism: Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. Like Tlaib, Omar supports BDS and is obsessed with the Jewish state. In 2012, she accused Israel of “hypnotizing the world”—an age-old anti-Semitic canard, as The New York Times’s Bari Weiss detailed.

More recently, Omar said that her critics represent a “political influence in this country that says it is OK to push for allegiance to a foreign country”—meaning Israel. As Steve Emerson, the executive director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism has noted, this meets the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism.

That definition, Emerson observed, includes “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.” By implying that Jews have “dual loyalty,” Omar’s remarks were a textbook case. They explicitly questioned the motive of American Jews and had nothing to do with Israeli policy.

Yet that wasn’t how the media reported it.

Numerous outlets, including The Washington PostThe New York Times, NPR and Slate magazine, among others, ran commentaries that whitewashed and obfuscated on Omar’s anti-Semitism. The vast majority of them pretended that Omar was talking about Israeli policy and not the loyalty of American Jews. Virtually none noted that her comments met both the State Department and the widely adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definitions of antisemitism. Omar was even given column space in The Washington Post, in which she disingenuously claimed to support a “two-state solution”—a position that is irreconcilable with her support for BDS.

With the growing concern over anti-Semitism in the United States, the media’s failures are worse than inexplicable—they’re unacceptable.

“Sunlight,” the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, once wrote, “is said to be the best disinfectant.” However, the press—the self-styled “guardians of truth”—is failing to provide such light with full and honest reporting about the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in Congress. Their failure will enable the virus to spread.

Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for the Washington, D.C., office of CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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