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The press covers anti-Semites, but omits the anti-Semitism

Regrettably, The Philadelphia Inquirer is not the only major U.S. news outlet to treat anti-Semitism with kid gloves.

Washington, D.C., city council member Trayon White. Source: Screenshot.
Washington, D.C., city council member Trayon White. 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.

Major U.S. news outlets are, once again, giving anti-Semites the benefit of the doubt. Two recent reports offer more troubling evidence that many in the media treat anti-Semitism differently than other types of racial and ethnic hatred.

Take, for example, a March 17 article by The Philadelphia Inquirer titled, “Former athletic trainer says Agnes Irwin School illegally fired her for social-media posts critical of Israel.”

Reporter Maddie Hanna details allegations by Natalie Abulhawa, a 24-year-old Palestinian American, who claims that she was “unlawfully fired” from her position as an athletic trainer at Agnes Irwin “after parents complained about years-old social-media posts criticizing Israel.”

The Inquirer notes that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has filed charges on Abulhawa’s behalf, arguing that her dismissal from the private school violates the federal civil rights act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act.

To its credit, the newspaper does briefly note some of Abulhawa’s disturbing tweets:

“’Israel doesn’t have the right to exist,’ one tweet reads—a 2016 post that still appears on Abulhawa’s Twitter account. Many of the other posts compiled by the site, all of which date to 2016 or earlier, appear to have been deleted; among them are posts referring to ‘stocking up on rocks’ while mentioning the presence of Israeli soldiers, and calling for Zionists to ‘rot in f***king hell.’”

Later the Inquirer says that Abulhawa participated “in an anti-Israel protest with her mother, a Palestinian author.” Without additional details, this sounds rather innocuous. Indeed, the news report is set up in a manner that gives Abulhawa the benefit of the doubt, assisting her claims that she’s not anti-Semitic.

But the Inquirer omits that that protest which Abulhawa and her mother attended featured signs asserting that “Jews control the U.S. Senate.” Similarly, the newspaper also fails to mention that calling to end the Jewish state of Israel meets the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by numerous governments, as well as the U.S. State Department. Further, the overwhelming majority of American Jews support Jewish self-determination, or Zionism, and it seems reasonable to think that someone calling for them to “rot in f***king hell” should not be teaching children.

Canary Mission, a nonpartisan organization that seeks to highlight anti-Semitism, documented Abulhawa’s troubling comments. The Inquirer, however, chooses to cast Canary Mission in dark terms, writing that Abulhawa and CAIR “say the website is Islamophobic and targets college students active in advocating for Palestine.” For good measure, the Inquirer adds that Canary Mission “has been referred to by the Jewish Forward as a ‘shadowy online blacklist.’ ”

Canary Mission, of course, is nothing of the sort. One can peacefully advocate for the existence of a Palestinian state and not make so much as a blip on the website. But if you call to attack Jews, make anti-Semitic remarks or seek the destruction of the world’s sole Jewish state, then you might very well find your public comments highlighted by Canary Mission.

But while the Inquirer casts doubt on Canary Mission, it does no such thing for CAIR, which the newspaper treats uncritically. However, CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in the 2009 Holy Land Foundation trial, the largest terrorism financing case in history. As the FBI noted in an April 28, 2009 letter to a U.S. senator:

“CAIR was named as an unindicted co-conspirator of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in The United States v. Holy Land Foundation et al. … During that trial, evidence was introduced that demonstrated a relationship among CAIR, individual CAIR founders (including its current President Emeritus and Executive Director) and the Palestine Committee. Evidence was also introduced that demonstrated a relationship between the Palestine Committee and Hamas, which was designated as a terrorist organization in 1995. In light of that evidence, the FBI suspended all contacts between [itself and] CAIR.” Hamas calls for a Jewish genocide and the destruction of Israel.

As CAMERA has documented, no fewer than five former lay leaders or CAIR staffers have been arrested, convicted and/or deported on terrorism-related charges.

CAIR also has a history of anti-Semitism. As the Middle East Forum (MEF) has documented, CAIR’s research and advocacy manager, Zainab Arain, has promoted “the modern variation of the long-debunked blood libel that claims Israel kills Palestinians to steal their organs” and shared an article from “the white nationalist website Information Clearing House, which alleges Israeli control over American leaders.” n a March 1998 article in the Georgetown Voice, CAIR’s leader Nihad Awad claimed that US foreign policy was “driven in part by the Jewish origin of many Clinton administration officials.” CAIR’s San Franciso head, Zahra Billoo has called for monitoring “Zionist synagogues,” referring to them as “enemies.”

Indeed, CAIR itself has launched a public campaign to free Aafia Siddiqui, a terrorist convicted of trying to murder U.S. troops. Siddiqui blamed her subsequent conviction on Israel and had previously called for genetically testing jurors, to ensure that they weren’t Jewish. In January 2021, a terrorist named Malik Faisal Akram took a Colleyville, Texas synagogue hostage, in an attempt to free Siddiqui. CAIR’s campaign to free the convicted terrorist and antisemite has continued unabated.

So, while the Inquirer casts doubts on Canary Mission it treats CAIR, which has its own troubling history, as credible.

The Inquirer even uncritically quotes Abulhawa’s claims that Canary Mission “paints me to be a very violent and anti-Semitic person, which is very far from the truth.” Yet calling to throw rocks at Jews and saying that you hope that the majority of them rot in hell is both violent and anti-Semitic. And it isn’t Canary Mission that “painted” Abulhawa as an anti-Semite. Rather, her own words, collected by Canary Mission, do that.

Finally, the Inquirer also repeats Abulhawa’s assertion that “Canary Mission’s section on her involvement with Temple’s Students for Justice in Palestine club was misleading, given that some of the listed incidents involving the club took place before she was a student there.” In other words: the group had a documented reputation for anti-Semitism—several SJP clubs have had members physically threaten Jewish students—before she decided to join them. Oh.

Regrettably, the Inquirer is not the only major U.S. news outlet to treat anti-Semitism with kid gloves.

On March 23, The Washington Post published a 1,938-word profile of Trayon White, a D.C. city council member who is running in the Democratic primary to be the city’s mayor. To be mayor of the nation’s capital is, of course, an important job. Candidates deserve scrutiny, and it is part of the media’s job to ensure that the electorate is properly informed. Yet the Post largely glosses over White’s troubling history.

In 2018, the city council member made a video claiming that Jews were controlling the weather for their financial benefit. In the video, White says: “Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation. And D.C. keeps talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

White’s remarks drew condemnation and mockery. He subsequently deleted the video. Yet the Post, in its lengthy profile, buries the incident in two sentences in the 21st paragraph of a 38-paragraph article.

The Post merely states that White “could also have trouble attracting voters who remember a 2018 video he posted saying that a snowstorm in D.C. was the result of ‘Rothschilds controlling the climate’—evoking a Jewish family that has often been the focus of [anti-Semitic] conspiracy theories. White has apologized for the remarks.”

Yet, even in these two sentences, the newspaper fails to properly inform readers. Saying that White’s comments were simply “evoking a Jewish family that has often been the focus of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories” is overly verbose and not sufficiently descriptive. Good journalism is about brevity and the truth. It would be much easier, and more accurate, to note that White’s comments were anti-Semitic.

The Post also fails to inform readers about White’s subsequent behavior—behavior that would call into question the sincerity of his “apology.”

In April 2018, a month after the infamous video, White was invited to tour the U.S. Holocaust Museum—part of an attempt to educate the councilman about the dangers of anti-Semitism. His staff and members of the Jewish Community Relations Council joined him. But as Newsweek noted at the time, “Trayon White Sr.’s Trip to the Holocaust Museum Went as Badly as You Might Expect.”

White left the tour early, failing to explain himself. He was found outside the museum after the tour ended. A member of his staff even asked a JCRC rabbi if the Nazi ghettos were like a “gated community.” And White himself—before leaving prematurely—openly wondered if the Jews were manufacturing some of the weapons that were being used against them.

At another point, White, as the Washington Post noted in an April 23, 2018 letter to the editor, “contradicted a museum expert about a photograph of a German woman who was being humiliated by Nazi stormtroopers for being ‘defiled’ by a Jew. Mr. White insisted the woman in the photograph was being protected by the Nazis because that perception is what supported his view of history.”

This, the Post’s lengthy and glossy profile would have you believe, is an “apology.” Newsweek, the Post and numerous other news outlets covered White’s Holocaust museum trip—but in their profile on White’s mayoral bid, the newspaper fails to tell readers about it.

However, the newspaper does inadvertently get one thing right. The Post’s report quoted White as saying that he was running for mayor to bring “equity, leadership and real accountability.” Yet these things are frequently missing in politics, as White’s continued service on the council illustrates. They are also frequently missing in media coverage of anti-Semitism.

Sean Durns is a senior research analyst for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee 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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