The wheels are really coming off the cart. The latest report from former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren’s forthcoming book is that he says Jewish journalists have a disproportionate role in American media (Surprise!) but they verge on anti-Semitism in their criticisms of Israel and its rightwing prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
You didn’t see this in the New York Times. No: Chemi Shalev has the story in Haaretz.
Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, claims that Jewish journalists are largely responsible for American media’s anti-Israel coverage and the “double standard” it applies in its coverage of the Jewish state. Oren also writes that the antagonism towards Netanyahu shown by Jewish journalists such as Thomas Friedman and Leon Wieseltier resembles historic hatred of Jews…
Oren dismisses the claim that “Jews control the media” as an anti-Semitic canard, but then proceeds to lend it credence by writing that it “reflects the disproportionate number – relative to their share of the U.S. population – of Jewish journalists.” He goes on to say that “the presence of so many Jews in print and on screen rarely translates into support for Israel. The opposite is often the case, as some American Jewish journalists flag their Jewishness as a credential for criticizing Israel. ‘I’m Jewish,’ some even seem to say, ‘but I’m not one of those Jews – the settlers, the rabbis, Israeli leaders, or the soldiers of the IDF.’”
Right. That’s exactly what we do. Because Israel claims to speak in our name, as the Jewish state. Oren gets vicious:
Pondering what could drive Jews to “nitpick” at what he describes as their own “nation-state”, Oren claims that some “saw assailing Israel as a career enhancer – the equivalent of Jewish man bites Jewish dog – that saved several struggling pundits from obscurity….
Our own nation-state. This is of course why Oren moved there from the United States– and now is a member of the Israeli parliament– he believed it was his country. And he expects us to hold the fort in the U.S. for our own little piece of heaven in the Middle East, and keep the checks coming, but keep our mouths shut when Israel adopts the same kind of Jim Crow and slave-state policies that we fought in the U.S.
Oren names only Wieseltier and Friedman in the account that Shalev produces. Though he also identifies David Remnick and Robert Silvers.
He singles out the “malicious” op-ed page of the New York Times “once revered as an interface of ideas, now sadly reduced to a sounding board for only one, which often excluded Israel’s legitimacy”, but says the paper is not alone. “The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, both Jewish-edited, rarely ran nonincriminating reports on Israeli affairs.”
But then Oren is talking about Roger Cohen, Ken Silverstein and Max Blumenthal, too, by implication:
Oren says that he was particularly pained by articles critical of Israel in which “the bylines were Jewish”.
And there’s this bit about Wieseltier.
He recounts a conversation in which he accused Wieseltier of harboring “pathological hatred” towards Netanyahu – and Wieseltier agreeing with him. “The antagonism sparked by Netanyahu,” he continues, “resembled that traditionally triggered by Jews. We were always the ultimate Other – communists in the view of capitalists and capitalists in communist eyes, nationalists for the cosmopolitans and, for jingoists, the International Jew.
This is really crazy. Wieseltier appears at AIPAC, the leading Israel lobby group! He is the reverent son of a Revisionist Zionist who held the line against criticisms of Israel at the New Republic for 25 years as its literary editor, who barked Jeffrey Goldberg’s shins when he was too critical of settlers, who dismissed Walt and Mearsheimer’s landmark description of the Israel lobby as anti-Semitic.
Now we find out that Wieseltier is a self-hating assimilating Jew, per Oren. This just shows how meretricious the use of the “anti-Semite” label is, and ought to offer even more encouragement to all you non-Jewish critics of Israel who are afraid to say anything lest you be tarred.
Over at the New York Review of Books, Robert Silvers has maintained liberal Zionist principles of a generational character. He has run Michael Walzer and Moshe Halbertal defending Israel from war crimes charges in Gaza, alongside David Shulman reporting from the occupation, but he has endeavored to dismiss the one-state discussion ever since the late Tony Judt blurted it out in the magazine 12 years ago. At The New Yorker, David Remnick has been more critical: he has complained about the Israel lobby and published Yousef Munayyer’s reckoning of a Gaza slaughter and argument for a single state; but he has also held the liberal Zionist line, promoting Bernard Avishai and Ari Shavit’s ideas of how to get the toothpaste back in the tube.
I’m thrilled by Michael Oren’s shot, as a sign of what is coming: open warfare between the American Jewish community and the Israeli one that will break out in the U.S. press. Haaretz won’t be the only publication to cover it. Even Abraham Foxman is criticizing Israel these days, and any college freshman can tell you the country violates American democratic values. So the pro-Israel crowd is going to respond by invoking our supposed “loyalty” to Israel– or as the Times phrased it not long ago, “[Jewish politicians] will eventually need to make an awkward, painful choice between the president of their country and their loyalty to the Jewish state”– and almost all American Jews will stand by the country they live in.
Then the Obama administration will refuse to veto a Palestinian state resolution in the Security Council, the issue will break fully inside US politics, and you will see young mainstream Jewish journalists declaring, I’m an anti-Zionist, and politicians running against the Israel lobby in 2016.
An important polarization will take place. Zionism will be seen by everyone to be what it has worked out to be, a segregationist ideology, and important liberal Zionists led by Peter Beinart will with sadness and sagacity renounce it.
P.S. Here’s Josh Marshall, himself an Israel supporter, on the Oren mess:
So Jews don’t like Netanyahu for all the hideous and dark reasons gentiles have historically not liked Jews.
The whole thing descends to a parodic, almost Dolezalesque level of gobsmacking when Oren puts forward Leon Wieseltier as the exemplar of these self-hating, anti-Israel Jews
(By the way, Marshall says of the lobby: “American Jews, who despite not holding a candle to the numbers of Israel’s evangelical supporters, are still a not insignificant foothold of the alliance…” That’s irresponsible. We are the straw that stirs the drink. How many of Israel’s evangelical supporters was Obama afraid of alienating when he vetoed the settlement resolution or installed the platform plank on Jerusalem? Zero.)
Thanks to Annie Robbins.