A week after the Anti-Defamation League released a report on the frightening trend of anti-Semitic tweets aimed at Jewish journalists, one of those journalists, Julia Ioffe, said she was “personally glad to see the outpouring of antisemitism” because it restored Jews’ status as a persecuted minority.
Ioffe, a columnist at Foreign Policy and contributor at Politico, spoke Thursday night at the Temple Emanu-El in New York, as interlocutor for Jeffrey Goldberg. “Both Jeff and I have been the subject of really surprisingly vicious attacks on social media,” she said. “As a pessimistic Soviet Jew, I always felt this was there.”
An emigre to the U.S. from Moscow as a girl in 1990, Ioffe later elaborated:
Personally and not because I’m a pessimistic Soviet Jew– personally I was kind of glad to see the outpouring of antisemitism, because for a long time I was very frustrated by the discussion on kind of the liberal side of the political spectrum, where Jews, like Israel, were no longer seen as the underdog, no longer seen as the persecuted minority, in fact, this kind of scurrying line of anti-Semitic stereotype of us as the establishment, and people who run and control everything…. I had black friends, for example, black intellectuals who say, “Our issue is the more important one, we are the persecuted minority, you’re part of the establishment, you are white,” and to me seeing that reaction, that seeing that anti-semitic reaction that came with Trump I think got those people to kind of see us again as the minority… I think that people are recognizing that we’re still kind of in the same boat…I’m seeing it as a little reminder to people.
Goldberg shook his head when Ioffe said that Jews and blacks were in the same boat. “I don’t know if I agree with your perceptions of Jews in America,” he said. “Two things can be true at once.” The American Jewish story is that here we “became white. In Europe we were the most oppressed group.” He described an America in which no Jew is persecuted. But because Jews are not easily categorized — “a people, a religion, a country, a tribe” — on the margins there is continuing anti-Semitism, though young people need to be reminded of the Holocaust.
Ioffe’s family emigrated to the United States from Moscow when she was 7, according to Wikipedia, at the end of a period when American Jews mounted political pressure to force the Soviet Union to allow Jews to leave Russia.
She was targeted by anti-Semites last spring after she published a profile of Melania Trump in GQ. She likened the attacks to the experience of Jews in Russia.
The ADL’s new report, Anti-Semitic Targeting of Journalists During the 2016 Presidential Campaign, documented 19,000 anti-Semitic tweets aimed at journalists. A “spike” of such tweets “occurred on May 17, 2016, when Melania Trump asserted that Julia Ioffe ‘provoked’ the anti-Semitic attacks against her.” The ADL said:
Ioffe wrote a profile of Donald Trump’s wife, Melania, for the May 2016 issue of GQ. [White supremacists Andrew] Anglin and [Lee] Rogers (self-identified Trump supporters) felt the piece was unflattering. Anglin wrote to his supporters on April 28, “Please go ahead and send her a tweet and let her know what you think of her dirty kike trickery. Make sure to identify her as a Jew working against White interests, or send her the picture with the Jude star from the top of the article.” Anglin provided Ioffe’s Twitter address and the anti-Semitic picture he mentioned. Rogers followed a similar path a few days later, telling his supporters, “I would encourage a continued trolling effort against this evil Jewish bitch.” He then provided Ioffe’s Twitter address.
Here’s Melania’s “provoked” quote. Haaretz:
“I don’t control my fans,” Melania said in an interview with DuJour. “But I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”
The Guardian published a story on the abuse last April in which Ioffe likened the attacks to Russian anti-Semitism:
On Thursday, Ioffe answered a phone call from an anonymous caller who played a Hitler speech. She received another call from “Overnight Caskets”. On Twitter, users posted photos of her face superimposed on a mug shot from Auschwitz. The Daily Stormer, a white supremacist site, attacked Ioffe in a blogpost titled: “Empress Melania Attacked by Filthy Russian Kike Julia Ioffe in GQ!”
“It’s unsettling,” she said on Thursday night. “I started the day off having a sense of humor about it but by the end of the day, after a few phone calls like this, with people playing Hitler speeches, and the imagery, and people telling me my face would look good on a lampshade, it’s hard to laugh.”
Ioffe worked as a reporter in Moscow for three years. During this period, she experienced antisemitism and witnessed colleagues receive bouquets of funeral flowers at work. But never as a journalist working in the US.
“The irony of this is that today, when I was getting all of this horrible antisemitic shit that I’ve only ever seen in Russia, I was reminded that 26 years ago today my family came to the US from Russia. We left Russia because we were fleeing antisemitism,” Ioffe said. “It’s been a rude shock for everyone.”
Ioffe posted some of those anti-Semitic threats:
At the Temple Emanu-El Skirball Center last night Goldberg said Ioffe was number 7 on the ADL’s “top ten” list of targeted journalists, while he was the Bronze medalist, at number three. In fact, she is not on the ADL’s “top ten” list.