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‘NYT’s takeout on a Jewish leader’s ‘criticisms’ of Obama doesn’t dare to mention Israel

on 28 Comments

A front page piece in the New York Times today on the fact that Penny Pritzker, his finance chair in 2008, has apparently cooled on the president, is irresponsible in its refusal to address the effect of Obama’s policy toward Israel on her attitude. 

The article of about 2500 words, “Leading Role in Obama ’08, but Backstage in ’12,” by Jodi Kantor and Nicholas Confessore, goes at great length into the ways in which Pritzker’s close association with Obama embarrassed her– because he has to be pro-labor and she has been opposed to labor as part of the family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain, because she wanted to be Commerce Secretary or at least a White House insider and she’s not in the loop. 

But the article also speaks of Pritzker’s support for “Jewish causes” and hints that Israel played a role in her disaffection. Well into the jump:

She has drawn business and Jewish leaders to support Mr. Obama, but when many of them turned hostile toward the president because of his policies, some directed their ire toward her, even though she had her own criticisms, too.

What does this mean? What are his “policies”? What are the money people saying to her? And what are Pritzker’s “own criticisms”? The word Israel isn’t even in the article!

The basis of a democracy is a people’s right to know. Here the Times alludes to a central question of foreign policy as it touches on a politician’s ability to raise money, and refuses to address the question openly and honestly. It is hard not to reach the conclusion that the Times is in the Israel lobby: it is actively suppressing issues of political influence that could only damage Israel’s toehold in our politics.

I am told that Ali Abunimah has been asking the Times reporters on twitter how they could justify not referring to Israel. How long can this blackout last?

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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28 Responses

  1. ColinWright on July 15, 2012, 2:05 pm

    ‘It is hard not to reach the conclusion that the Times is in the Israel lobby’

    In other news, the existence of a continent in the antipodes has been confirmed, and recent astronomical observations confirm that the earth does indeed orbit the sun.


    • Theo on July 16, 2012, 9:09 am

      Yes, and the pope is catholic!!
      The NYT found its haven many years ago.

  2. David Doppler on July 15, 2012, 2:18 pm

    Toehold? I’d say Netanyahu’s repeated unanimous standing ovations from a bipartisan joint session of Congress, most of them afraid to be seen NOT standing and applauding enthusiastically, represents more than toehold. What’s Dershowitz’s description? the most effective lobbying effort in the history of mankind? or words to that effect.

    What this is is a taboo, almost universally observed by journalists and politicians alike.

  3. eGuard on July 15, 2012, 2:22 pm

    PW: I am told that Ali Abunimah has been asking the Times reporters on twitter

    “I am told”? You have to be told? Is this how you get your information? Why not just follow him?

    • annie on July 15, 2012, 3:43 pm

      eguard, some people don’t tweet. mondoweiss tweets but i think that’s primarily adam. ali abunimah has written over 78,000 tweets. maybe phil just wanted to mention ali without going on a fishing expedition. phil works off lots of tips, he’s a busy guy!

      • gazacalling on July 15, 2012, 4:17 pm

        Good answer, Annie!

        I’m such an idiot. I read the NYT article but didn’t even think of this angle.

        This is why I need MW!

      • Theo on July 16, 2012, 9:12 am

        I have participated several blogs over the years, including LKL, however at MW we have more brain concentrated than in our capital.
        Now, is that comparision good or bad, you must decide.

      • eGuard on July 15, 2012, 5:49 pm

        OK for step one (twitter reading). But then, after “being told”, MW could write here: “Ali Abunimah tweets: …”.

        To me it is silly to write: “I have been told that ABC has tweeted xyz”.

      • Avi_G. on July 16, 2012, 2:29 am

        eGuard says:
        July 15, 2012 at 5:49 pm

        OK for step one (twitter reading). But then, after “being told”, MW could write here: “Ali Abunimah tweets: …”.

        To me it is silly to write: “I have been told that ABC has tweeted xyz”.

        It has to do with credibility and journalistic ethics.

        Phil — or any other journalist — cannot write about something without confirming it for himself. It has to be a first-hand account. So to cover himself — just in case — Phil wrote, “I have been told”. Most likely, he didn’t have the time to check the Tweet himself. Do you see the distinction?

      • eGuard on July 16, 2012, 8:50 am

        Yes I see the distinction. PW obviously wrote what happened so that is correct in a sense. But PW could have looked for the tweet and then quote directly from that source. I meant “silly” as in: not the first handling that comes to mind.

  4. radii on July 15, 2012, 2:34 pm

    if the political American Jews who have “cooled” on Obama were honest they’d hold a digital stop-watch and stand next to a height marker and say, “When we say ‘jump’ we meant this high [points to height marker], and this fast [shows time on stop-watch]”

  5. Basilio on July 15, 2012, 2:48 pm

    It’s kind of funny how some Jewish “leaders” are complaining about his policies regarding Israel. He hardly says anything critical of Israel. They just know that, unlike Bush, he’s not crazy about Israel due to its behavior. George W., however, could care less about the Palestinians.

  6. Sin Nombre on July 15, 2012, 4:42 pm

    Phil Weiss wrote:

    “How long can this blackout last?”

    Umm … so long as jewish media owners, publishers, editors, executives and etc. make clear to their reporters that their job depends on observing same?

    Next question?

    • Carowhat on July 15, 2012, 11:54 pm

      Most reporters don’t need anyone to tell them to observe any blackout. They do it willingly as a matter of course.

  7. mdesch on July 15, 2012, 4:53 pm

    Great point. The same thought occurred to me when I read the piece. What else could explain Pritzker’s dampened ardor? In truth, BHOPAL is hardly out of step with her on any issue.

  8. Scott on July 15, 2012, 5:52 pm

    The puzzle is, if right wing Zionism is so important to people like Penny, why did she support Obama in the first place? He did have a past record of making clear his support for the two state solution, and had left a lot of hints out there of his desire (even discounting his friendships with people like Khalidi). And there was (as Beinart points out in his book) a well-established liberal Zionist community in Chicago which had drawn Obama in. Was Pritzker simply unaware of this, or in some way part of it? Or has she moved to the right on the issue in the last four years–a scary possibility?

    • Citizen on July 15, 2012, 8:33 pm

      Pritzker was picked back in April to make Obama know he was not jumping high or fast enough for Bibi’s Israel:

      There’s been a direct threat to pull Jewish donations by some of his earliest and formerly very strong supporters like Pritzker since last April. Back then, they were noting that Mitt said Obama’s pointing out to Bibi in public that the American policy was against settlements should have been done in private. Mitt’s got the American value of informed consent down pat, eh?

  9. dbroncos on July 15, 2012, 6:10 pm

    “It’s kind of funny how some Jewish “leaders” are complaining about his policies regarding Israel. He hardly says anything critical of Israel.”

    Three things:
    1. His connection to Reverend Wright
    2. His Cairo speech where he spoke of Palestinian rights.
    3. His suggestion that Netanyahu suspend settlement construction.

    That’s it. His name didn’t help his cause among Zionists either (He’s a Muslim infiltrator!)

    • Avi_G. on July 16, 2012, 2:40 am

      Zionists expect Obama to be like them, ditto heads, unquestioning, unequivocally supportive and forever loyal. So the entire American Jewish community follows in lockstep. Anyone who strays from the proverbial path is immediately called out on it. And the religious-nationalist indoctrination at the synagogue helps perpetuate that condition.

  10. traintosiberia on July 15, 2012, 7:21 pm

    I wonder what more do they (ex- Obama supporters and perennial Israeli supporter ) want Obama to do for Israel.
    What hasn’t he done for them?

  11. CTuttle on July 15, 2012, 9:46 pm

    Goodness, Phil… the Atlantic writer Wright, takes fellow Rosen out behind the woodshed…


    …Rosen doesn’t adduce a shred of evidence that Kane–the man whose reputation he’s trying to besmirch and whose career he’s trying to damage–is anti-Semitic. No complaint is filed about anything Kane has ever said or written. Rather, the allegation is just that Kane works for a publication that has featured articles, written by other people, that, in Rosen’s judgment, gave off anti-Semitic vibes… {…}
    …Some readers may disagree with me about Mondoweiss, and they’re free to express their views in the comments section below. But I want to reiterate that calling Rosen’s regrettable piece McCarthyite–as I’m doing–doesn’t depend on whether you do or don’t think any of those Mondoweiss pieces is beyond the pale. Because the person Rosen attacked–the person whose voice Rosen is trying to silence–didn’t write any of those pieces.

    It’s kind of amazing, when you think about it. You write a piece arguing that a given person shouldn’t be allowed to write for respectable publications, and at no point do you make critical reference to anything this person has ever said or written!

  12. Denis on July 15, 2012, 9:53 pm

    @ Phil “The basis of a democracy is a people’s right to know. ”

    While I agree that the strength of a democracy is proportional to the amount and quality of relevant information available to the citizens, this assertion that there is a “right to know” is a bit over the top.

    It might fly just a little ways as far as the people’s right to know what its government is doing, and even that “right” is awfully limited. There is no such right in the Constitution, for instance. And the government’s secret agendas and programs have been upheld time and time again by the courts. So, as far as a “right to know” with respect to the government, you’re not totally wrong but you’re on thin ice.

    But when it comes to the existence of any right of the people to know anything about a newspaper or why it does what it does, you’ve fallen through the ice. “The people” have no right whatsoever to know anything about what a journalist or newspaper does, or thinks, or why it writes what it writes. FOIA does not extend to private individuals or businesses. Besides, the rights go in the other direction: freedom of speech includes the right not so say anything one wants not to say, and that includes newspapers. If NYT wants to tell just half of the story, then that’s their decision. The only right the people have here is to not buy the rag, and the right to publish blog articles complaining about the lop-sided reporting.

    Just imagine the mess in the courts if individuals could sue NYT or any paper on the grounds that the paper failed to say what the individuals thought they had the right to know. Or if journalists could be criminally prosecuted for failing to tell “the people” the whole story. Please don’t be givin’ these legislators any wild ideas; the Constitution’s under enough stress as it is.

  13. Nevada Ned on July 16, 2012, 1:04 am

    In November, rank-and-file American Jews will vote for Obama, because he’s a Democrat and because Romney is trying to please the rightwing Republican base. The only issue is the size of the margin. Jews vote Democratic more heavily than any other group besides blacks.
    The big Jewish campaign contributors are another kettle of fish: More likely to be Republicans, more tied to right-wing Israeli policies, etc. Think of Sheldon Adelson as an extreme example.

    Penny Pritzker, Obama’s finance chair in 2008, still supports him but with less enthusiasm. Well, I can’t blame her in the least. Lots of us – I include myself – suffered from “George W. Bush fatigue” in 2008, resulting in a clouding of the critical faculties. So now in 2012 we’re likely going to be holding our noses and voting for Obama.

    • Denis on July 16, 2012, 12:06 pm

      @ NN: In November, rank-and-file American Jews will vote for Obama

      You are right. Who freakin’ cares how the majority of 2% of the population votes? The “Jewish vote” has absolutely no effect on the outcome of anything except a handful of mayoral and legislator contests — not even in FL. None.

      No presidential politician is kissing Bibi’s butt to get Jewish votes. It’s the shekels, and the Republicans are doing just fine in that race. Ask AIPAC. That is why the American political system is so sick: it is controlled by the wealthy. Tail wags dog.

      The Democrats are in a bad spot. Obama turned out to be a fast-talking shyster like his father was. His agenda on the things liberals care most about is worse than Bush’s. But they bought Obama’s crap and this time around the only conscientious thing to do is not vote at all. A vote for Obama is a vote to further erode personal freedoms, to extend Gitmo, to expand government surveillance on private individuals w/out warrants, become complicit in the murders of more thousands of innocent Pakistanis and Afghanis via drone attacks and butchering off-their-rockers US soldiers.

      In this atmosphere, the Democrats would be better off to punt the presidential election and focus all their efforts, time, and money on getting control of the Senate by 2014. The Republican no-no-no agenda, the coming vacancies on the USSCt, and the cloture rules mean that owning a super-majority in the Senate is now more important than owning the WH.

  14. tidings on July 16, 2012, 8:57 am

    In the same spirit, Phil, have you noticed that none of the stories reporting the drop in Caterpillar share prices (-23.87 % 52 weeks change vs. +3.93% for the S&P500) ever refers to the divestment that’s been going on, courtesy of BDS?

  15. Les on July 16, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Independent (London)
    US Jewish leaders criticise Isreali West Bank report that denies occupation
    Amy Teibel
    Monday 16 July 2012
    . . .
    Signatories included businessmen and philanthropists Charles Bronfman and Stanley Gold, the former head of the Israel lobby in Washington, Tom Dine, and former Jewish Agency board chairman Richard Pearlstone.
    . . .

    • Citizen on July 16, 2012, 8:01 pm

      Thanks, Les–important piece of news–wonder if Obama knows about it yet?

      Another signatory among the 40 prominent Jews is, with his own spin, Rabbi Daniel Gordis of the Shalem Institute think tank in Jerusalem; hesaid the question was not whether Levy’s legal opinion was correct:

      “The question is whether or not it is wise for Israel at this particular juncture to take a stand which would appear to most people to be the equivalent of annexing the West Bank,” making Israel appear to be the obstructionist party in peace efforts, Gordis told The Associated Press.

      The Levy report, written by a committee with pro-settler sympathies and released last week, reaffirmed Israel’s longstanding position that the West Bank is not occupied territory and therefore Israel has the legal right to settle it. That position is at odds with the international consensus that settlements are illegitimate and an obstacle to peace.

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