The New York Times has never been a big fan of Israel, or non-assimilated and non-leftist Jews for that matter. But it’s hard to escape the impression that the Times has decided to intensify its hostile stance towards Israel, Israeli Jews, and American Jews who support Israel.
These efforts take two forms.
First, the Times whitewashes Israel’s enemies.
Last month, the paper published a paean to Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese terror army, which controls Lebanon and remains the most powerful and dangerous terror organization in the world.
In an article ostensibly about Christmas celebrations in Beirut, the paper singled out Hezbollah for praise for its permissive stance on observing the Christian holy day.
Noting wistfully that “because of financial constraints,” the terror group ditched its past practice of dispatching a Santa to give out gifts in Christian neighborhoods, the Timeslauded Hezbollah, which seeks the annihilation of world Jewry and has seeded terror cells across the globe, because it sent representatives to a Christmas concert sponsored by Iran.
The presence of Lebanese terror operatives at the festival, sponsored by their Iranian state sponsor, the Times cooed, “demonstrate Hezbollah’s inclusivity as a major political and military force in Lebanese society and … highlight its political alliances with Christian parties.”
Owing to Hezbollah’s effective control over the Lebanese state and military, Lebanon’s Christian President Michel Aoun and his fellow Christian politicians serve as Hezbollah’s underlings.
The Times’ willingness to disseminate pro-Hezbollah propaganda may have represented a new low in its advocacy for terror groups. But arguably, the Times’ decision to champion the most powerful non-state actor in the world — with one of the world’s largest missile arsenals, all pointing at Israel — is not the worst aspect of its coverage.
What may be worse is the Times’ campaign to effectively disenfranchise American Jews. The paper undertakes this campaign by using its pages to legitimize antisemitism emanating from the left, delegitimize friends of Jews on the political right, and shame American Jews who stubbornly refuse to abandon Israel, or turn their back on Israel’s friends. These American Jews also impertinently notice the galloping Jew hatred on the political left.
This move by the Times is more dangerous because it is more difficult to criticize. It is easy to spot apologetics for terrorism. It is harder, and more controversial, to call the Times out for manipulating American Jews in the service of left-wing antisemites.
The Times’ influence operation against American Jews and American Jewish supporters of Israel is being carried out – conveniently enough — by its Jewish columnists. These writers run the gamut from far-leftists to neo-liberal former conservatives in the Never Trump camp.
Far-left Times columnist Michele Goldberg has a prolific record of anti-Israel writing. So it wasn’t much of a surprise when, on December 8, she published an article arguing that it isn’t antisemitic to reject the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and political freedom in their homeland.
Goldberg insisted that the Jewish people’s right to self-determination is contingent on Israel’s satisfaction of the Palestinians’ demands and its appeasement of the left’s ever-expanding list of grievances. Israel is guilty of a raft of sins, she alleged — from failing to give the Palestinians a state (despite the fact that the Palestinians have rejected every offer of statehood Israel has put forward); to standing with right-wing European governments – which stand with Israel; to supporting President Donald Trump – who supports Israel; to cultivating good relations with Saudi Arabia – which is supposed to be the point of peace processes Goldberg and her comrades supposedly want to advance.
Given Israel’s deplorable, unforgivable behavior, Goldberg argues that rejecting its right to exist and implementing discriminatory boycotts against Israeli Jewish products is reasonable and justified, not discriminatory and bigoted.
Newly sworn in members of Congress Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN) are not antisemites for supporting Israel’s annihilation and for denouncing its supporters as disloyal Americans, Goldberg wrote.
The next blow came from columnist Bret Stephens. Stephens has a record of pro-Israel positions stemming back from his tenure as Jerusalem Post editor from 2002-2004. Now a vocal member of the Never Trump clique, Stephens, who has abandoned several of his formerly held positions to advocate against the president, published an intellectually dubious article on December 26 titled “Donald Trump is bad for Israel.”
In it, Stephens insisted that all of Trump’s pro-Israel policies are basically meaningless. Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem; scrapping the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran; reinstating crippling economic sanctions on the Iranian regime; defunding the Palestinian Authority and UN agencies devoted to the perpetuation of Palestinian suffering and hatred for Israel — these are all meaningless gestures, by Stephens’s telling.
And whatever marginally positive effect these policies may have had on Israel’s international position pales in comparison to the damage Trump has allegedly caused Israel through his failure to support what Stephens refers to as “the liberal international order against totalitarian states,” and his preference for “a purely transactional foreign policy based on the needs of the moment or the whims of the president.”
Stephens’s apparent purpose in publishing his column was to shame Jews who support Trump because of his friendship and support for Israel.
Stephens’s colleague, Bari Weiss, makes a similar argument. Together with Stephens, Weiss has watered down her support for Israel since she moved with Stephens to the Times from the Wall Street Journal in 2017.
In a stunning appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher in November, Weiss insisted that Jews who support Trump because they like his policies on Israel and the Middle East are betraying the “values that have sustained the Jewish people.”
To date, the height of the Times’ onslaught against Jews – Israeli and American – who think that actual pro-Israel policies are more meaningful than abstract concepts, and believe that it is antisemitic to argue that Jews are uniquely unworthy of self-determination — came last week. On January 4, the Times’ deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weisman published an essay titled, “American Jews and Israeli Jews are headed for a messy breakup.”
Although presented as a news analysis, Weisman’s article was really a threat against Israeli Jews and the American Jews who support them, and a diatribe against Judaism as it has been practiced for thousands of years.
Weisman first received national attention in September 2015 when he published a news analysis of lawmakers who opposed Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran. Weisman inserted a table in the analysis that highlighted the names of Jewish lawmakers who opposed the deal in yellow. He specifically categorized them as Jews. Also highlighted in yellow was the percentage of Jews residing in states and Congressional districts of lawmakers who opposed the nuclear deal.
Following the 2016 presidential election, Weisman wrote a book which purported to be about anti-Semitism titled, (((Semitism))): Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump.
Weisman did three things in his book. He used the presence of antisemitism on the right as a means to castigate the entire Republican party and conservative movement as antisemitic. He ignored and dismissed antisemitism on the Left. And finally, Weisman attacked Judaism, Jews who observe Judaism, and Jews who support Israel.
Weisman accused pro-Israel American Jews of disloyalty to America, arguing, “The American Jewish obsession with Israel has taken our eyes off not only the politics of our own country, the growing gulf between rich and poor, and the rising tide of nationalism but also our own grounding in faith.”
Weisman’s January 4 article in the Times was an amplification of the arguments he made in his book. Again he ignored left wing anti-Semitism. He regurgitated Goldberg’s allegations of Israeli moral infirmity. He defended Tlaib and Omar and their hatred for Israel. And thne, Weisman insisted that American Jewry should forget its ties to Jewish tradition and to the Jewish people and instead embrace an identity based entirely on leftist ideology and propaganda.
In his words, “American Jewry has been going its own way for 150 years, a drift that has created something of a new religion, or at least a new branch of one of the world’s most ancient faiths.”
It is hard to know how influential the Times‘ ever-escalating campaign against Jews will be on the American Jewish community. Survey results and other data indicate that the vast majority of American Jews are not buying the claim that Israel is morally infirm, incapable of discerning its national interest, and deserving of hatred and destruction.
Most American Jews don’t think that American Jews should tell Israel how to handle the security and other challenges it faces. And even as anti-Israel groups in the American Jewish community receive adulation and attention disproportionate to their small numbers, they do not seem to have built major inroads into the Jewish community. This explains why their efforts are directed towards weakening existing Jewish institutions rather than building their own. Their constituencies are too small to support them.
But whether the New York Times succeeds or fails in its campaign to mainstream leftist antisemitism, shame pro-Israel American Jews, and detach the Jewish community in the U.S. from Israel and the rest of the Jewish world, it is worth taking note of, and condemning, what the newspaper is attempting to do.