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In long obit for Hedy Epstein, ‘NYT’ buries Palestinian solidarity

US Politics

The great Hedy Epstein has died and the New York Times has all but covered up her most significant moral achievement.

The Times has a 24-paragraph obituary for Hedy Epstein, the activist who was an inspiration to many on our site, who died in St. Louis at 91 on May 26. This is how they characterize her:

Ms. Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who spoke widely about the persecution of the Jews in Germany, and who spent most of her adult life working for a broad range of social justice movements.

The fact that Hedy Epstein was outspoken for Palestinian rights doesn’t come till the very end of the story, after Vietnam, Cambodia, Black Lives Matter, fair housing, Kristallnacht, the kindertransport, and other causes and events.

After the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, Ms. Epstein channeled her energies into the Palestinian cause. She helped found the St. Louis chapters of the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace.

We venture to say that were it not for her channeling her energies into Palestine, Hedy Epstein would not warrant 24 paragraphs in death in the New York Times. Obituaries often describe exemplary lives, and the reason Hedy Epstein’s was so exemplary is that she experienced the tremendous historical trauma that was the basis for Israel’s creation by world powers in 1948 and yet turned against the idea of a Jewish state. That’s what makes Hedy Epstein so special.

The obit notes that in 2011 at age 86 Hedy Epstein was on the boat the Audacity of Hope trying to break the Gaza blockade. That should have been the first sentence in the Times article. The fact that it is not and her Palestinian work is buried in the story is yet another example of bias (conscious or not, it doesn’t matter) aimed at preserving Israel’s positive image in the minds of New York Times readers.

James North and Philip Weiss
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12 Responses

  1. annie
    annie
    May 29, 2016, 11:37 am

    New York Times has all but covered up her most significant moral achievement.

    sorry, i had a different reaction to the obit. i liked it. aside from the opening/introduction, there were more paragraphs about her activism for palestine than any other acts of justice she pursued. yes, it was at the base of the article, but it did come at the end of her life. also, because the author directly proceeded with quotes from her democracy now as well as her book title “Remembering Is Not Enough” and also “Remember the past, don’t hate, don’t be a bystander”.. it connected these quotes (conscious or not, it doesn’t matter) to her activism for justice in palestine. (and no equivocation or scare quotes around occupation!)

    here is the finale of the article:

    After the massacre of Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in 1982, Ms. Epstein channeled her energies into the Palestinian cause. She helped found the St. Louis chapters of the Palestine Solidarity Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace.

    Beginning in 2003, she traveled several times to the West Bank as a volunteer with the International Solidarity Movement. In the West Bank village of Bil’in, near Ramallah, she was tear-gassed while demonstrating against the Israeli occupation and suffered damage to her hearing when sound bombs went off.

    She became an impassioned supporter of the Free Gaza Movement and in 2011 was aboard the ship the Audacity of Hope in a flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

    “I can’t solve every problem — I probably can’t solve any problem, but I have to do whatever it is possible for me to do,” she told Amy Goodman of the radio program “Democracy Now!” in 2014. “I just cannot stand idly by, because if I did — anyone that stands idly by becomes complicit in what is going on.”

    Her 1999 memoir, written in German and published in Germany, was titled “Erinnern Ist Nicht Genug” (“Remembering Is Not Enough”).

    Ms. Epstein often addressed audiences at schools and community events about the Holocaust. Her talks concluded with an admonition: “Remember the past, don’t hate, don’t be a bystander.”

    i thought it made her activism for palestine even stronger because it followed a lifetime of struggle for justice in other arenas (both in life and the article with the exception of the opening highlighting her recent arrest in st louis). so by the time a reader encountered it it becomes difficult for her critics (of which there have been many) to discount her moral fiber.

    plus i like the photo they chose at the top, taken in cairo in 09 holding the sign “hunger strike for gaza” with her fist raised. i liked many things about it.

    i think it is likely hedy epstein will be remembered as, if not the most famous, one of the most famous holocaust survivors in recorded history — much to the chagrin of her critics. this will be her legacy, and i think this obit serves that legacy.

    • just
      just
      May 30, 2016, 7:04 pm

      I thought it respectful and honest. A good remembrance, indeed.

      I think this article is the best fit to post this about 2 other great activists.

      From today’s Democracy Now!:

      “Today, a special broadcast remembering the lives of two champions of social justice: Father Daniel Berrigan and attorney Michael Ratner.”

      “Remembering Father Daniel Berrigan, a Prophet of Peace

      In this Memorial Day special, we begin today’s broadcast remembering the life and legacy of the legendary antiwar priest Father Daniel Berrigan. He died on April 30, just short of his 95th birthday. Berrigan was a poet, pacifist, educator, social activist, playwright and lifelong resister against what he called “American military imperialism.” Along with his late brother Phil, Dan Berrigan played an instrumental role in inspiring the antiwar and antidraft movement during the late 1960s, as well as the movement against nuclear weapons. Today we air Father Berrigan in his own words, including previously unaired sections of his 2006 interview on Democracy Now!”

      http://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/30/remembering_father_daniel_berrigan_a_prophet

      More than worth a listen or read. A keeper.

      Then: “From Attica to Assange, Attorney Michael Ratner Remembered as Social Justice Champion

      The world lost a legal giant earlier this month with the death of Michael Ratner at the age of 72. For over four decades, the trailblazing attorney defended and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. He sued presidents and dictators. In 2002, Ratner and the Center for Constitutional Rights brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Today, in this Memorial Day special, we hear Michael Ratner in his words.”

      http://www.democracynow.org/2016/5/30/from_attica_to_assange_attorney_michael

      It’s a gift.

    • annie
      annie
      May 31, 2016, 3:27 pm

      oh thank you just. i just saw your important post, will check out.

  2. sawah
    sawah
    May 29, 2016, 11:39 am

    On the other hand, the picture in the NYT at the top of the article, taken during the Cairo Gaza March clearly shows Hedy on a hunger strike for Gaza.

    NYT still needs to be taken to task, but interesting that they chose that picture.

  3. spokelse
    spokelse
    May 29, 2016, 1:21 pm

    I love Mondoweiss! I donate, I share, I know some of the founders but I have to agree with Annie Robbins here, I think they covered her I/P activism pretty well, she had a long life, did a lot of things, experienced a lot of things, they honored her well in my opinion.

  4. Blaine Coleman
    Blaine Coleman
    May 29, 2016, 3:42 pm

    I agree with Annie’s take on the obituary. Hedy pushed and shoved for Palestinian rights and finally broke down the walls of the New York Times. The result is an obit that is plenty good enough.

    I also agree with the subconscious orientation towards action, action, action — not whining all day about Zionist media bias. Zionist media bias is everywhere, but I say shut the hell up about it and push for boycotting Israel.

    If you push like hell for boycott, in the face of every media outlet, in your city councils, your grocery store, wherever you feel comfy — then you will be heard. Even the Zionist media will surrender and print the story, as they did for Hedy.

    For example, I keep pushing for boycotts against Israel in my City Council, and I know I’ll be heard. Even though my style lacks grace, lacks nuanced analysis, and (usually) lacks a roomful of enthusiastic youth to demand boycott with me. I will be heard and so will you.

    Just get out in front of the media and yell for boycott. Take this news program, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoFrHxvqS74

    — Start watching about 1 minute into the broadcast – you can push your own boycott campaign very far if you just won’t shut up.

    Good luck to you and me both.

  5. Parity
    Parity
    May 30, 2016, 1:15 pm

    The dramatic incident featured at the beginning of the Times obituary of Hedy Einstein was significant because of her age: 90. The photo above the article was enough to draw the reader into wanting to learn about her Palestinian activism as well.

    All New York Times readers should subscribe to Barbara Erickson’s excellent critiques of New York Times bias in her blog https://timeswarp.org/

  6. Greta
    Greta
    May 31, 2016, 2:09 pm

    I completely agree with Annie Robbins about the obituary in the New York Times. What they did not say is that the photo was taken by Mary Hughes Thompson, a co-founder of the Free Gaza movement, when she went to Cairo with Hedy. Hedy was a passionate advocate for the Free Gaza movement clear back in 2008 when she was scheduled to be on that first trip and became ill before we left.

    It’s ironic that she was not happy with Mondoweiss for coming after me four years ago and wanted nothing to do with your publication until Annie talked to her last winter and smoothed over her anger. She was, until the end of her life, an advocate for justice, and hated to see people demonized for what they read, watched or listened to. She clearly knew what those consequences meant when she was growing up.

    This paragraph is quite fitting for those of us who have been sending boats to Gaza for 8 years.

    “She became an impassioned supporter of the Free Gaza Movement and in 2011 was aboard the ship the Audacity of Hope in a flotilla attempting to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

    • annie
      annie
      May 31, 2016, 3:31 pm

      she was not happy with Mondoweiss for coming after me four years ago and wanted nothing to do with your publication until Annie talked to her last winter and smoothed over her anger –

      how remarkable considering i have no recollection of us discussing you or her being “angry” at mondoweiss or any expression indicating that. oh well, kathy was there maybe she can refresh my memory — which (admittedly) isn’t what it used to be.

      • Greta
        Greta
        June 1, 2016, 7:02 pm

        Hedy told me of her anger several times over the years. I was also there when you met Hedy, although I did not stay for the taping or interview. She asked me if I wanted her to bring up the subject of Mondoweiss coming after me, and I suggested she concentrate on the really great things that she had done.

      • annie
        annie
        June 2, 2016, 4:47 pm

        I was also there when you met Hedy

        that’s also remarkable greta, because i’d think i would have noticed you had you been there at my home when i met hedy. i wrote about the experience here: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/03/austrian-parliament-cancels-international-womens-day-event-following-attacks-on-hedy-epstein/

        Last December a good friend of mine, Kathy Sheetz, called to ask if she could use my living room to interview someone for the next few hours. Sheetz had interviewed people in my home before (great lighting) and I was happy to accommodate. “Of course” I responded and then ask who the person was. Her answer, “Hedy Esptein”.

        I was jolted; surprised and thrilled to meet this legend and have her in my home. 15 minutes later I opened my front door and there she stood

        at the most there was a 1/2 hr gap between kathy’s phone call and her showing up at my home w/hedy. it definitely was not an hour, i barely had time to tidy up a bit. given that swift timing i assumed you must have been w/kathy and hedy in the car — for how else would you have been there? and there’s no way hedy could have found out she was going to be interviewed at my home before i knew. kathy had explained to me on the phone when she called she had tried to book a library but that didn’t work out so this was very last minute. and when kathy arrived at janes to pick hedy up, not even hedy knew she was coming to my house (according to kathy).

        anyway, i just got off the phone w/kathy to find out if you were together either when she called me or afterwards and she said she wasn’t with you when she called or when she went to pick up hedy and as far as she knew you were not at jane’s house either at that time (jane was on the phone at the time kathy arrived to pick up hedy). it only takes about 15 minutes to get from jane’s house to my house, and kathy said at no time did hedy call you in the ride to my house or before she left jane’s.

        although I did not stay for the taping or interview.

        stay where? i find it quite baffling how you’d even found out hedy was going to be interviewed at my home in that brief amount of time between kathy calling me to see if it was possible to use my home and her and hedy arriving at my home. and hedy would have had to have been clairvoyant to know something neither kathy or i knew about 15 minutes prior.

        She asked me if I wanted her to bring up the subject of Mondoweiss coming after me

        fascinating.

  7. Mooser
    Mooser
    June 3, 2016, 4:30 pm

    “fascinating.”

    Yeah, you could say that. And you don’t need a planchette . Thanks, “Annie”

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