The New York Times is pointedly ignoring an important news story: the rise of Jewish anti-Zionism. A battle is taking place among Jews over the dead end that Jewish nationalism represents, but the paper of record is doing all it can to pretend that battle isn’t happening, or that only lunatics are engaged, and thereby suffocate an explosive discussion.
Two days ago Haaretz ran two stunning op-eds by American Jewish historians Hasia Diner and Marjorie Feld titled, “We’re American Jewish Historians. This Is Why We’ve Left Zionism Behind,” saying that they cannot go comfortably into Jewish spaces that deny the Nakba any more. Diner, a professor at New York University, related a struggle that will resonate in the hearts of many other American Jews:
The Israel that I loved, the one my parents embraced as the closest approximation to Eden on earth, itself had depended well before 1967 upon the expropriation of Arab lands and the expulsion of Arab populations. The Law of Return can no longer look to me as anything other than racism. I abhor violence, bombings, stabbings, or whatever hurtful means oppressed individuals resort to out of anger and frustration. And yet, I am not surprised when they do so, after so many decades of occupation, with no evidence of progress.I feel a sense of repulsion when I enter a synagogue in front of which the congregation has planted a sign reading, “We Stand With Israel.” I just do not go and avoid many Jewish settings where I know Israel will loom large as an icon of identity.
Then yesterday Haaretz ran a great piece by Gideon Levy titled, “Stop living in denial, Israel is an evil state,” which cited the detention of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour and the cruel imprisonment/detention of the Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed as examples of “evil.”
Levy quoted Eva Illouz, a Hebrew University professor who has also used the term “evil” for Israeli practices and who described the occupation as “slavery.”
Two days ago, Haaretz ran a piece by Yitchak Laor characterizing Israeli society as fascist: “the volk has come to overshadow all other institutions – democracy, the law, the army. Not to mention Palestinian blood.”
Not all the coverage is happening in Israel. Last year the Washington Post ran an op-ed by two Jewish scholars at Harvard and Yale explaining that though they love Israel they must support boycott of Israel in order to end the “permanent subjugation of Palestinians” — even if that boycott brings about a single state.
This list of outright Jewish dissidents grows longer and longer by the moment. But none of them gets a platform in the New York Times. That’s because the leading American newspaper is pointedly refusing to cover Jewish anti-Zionism.
And not just refusing: but actively stigmatizing. Today the Times has a long piece by Linda K. Wertheimer about the Middle East conflict on campus that casts Palestinian solidarity activists, including Students for Justice in Palestine, as anti-Semitic.
Many universities are grappling with how to balance students’ right to protest with Jewish students’ fears that their culture is under attack…. S.J.P. members insist they are anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic — a debatable distinction to those who cannot separate the state of Israel from their Jewish identity.
The article fails to acknowledge that many SJP members are Jewish, and that these Jewish students do separate the state of Israel from their Jewish identity. It fails to state that many Jews are pro-Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). It fails to acknowledge a statistic that Jeffrey Goldberg, the dean of US Jewish journalists, stated to Haim Saban, the dean of Jewish donors, last year:
Our oldest daughter is a freshman at a liberal arts college in New England, a pretty well-known school. And she reports to us that J Street at that street represents the Zionist right [and] that the largest Jewish organization — 25 percent of this campus is Jewish — the largest Jewish organization is a group called Jewish Voice for Peace, which is an Orwellian name for a group that opposes Israeli’s existence.
In the Times article, Jewish Voice for Peace and Open Hillel are only mentioned in a parenthesis. That’s blatant marginalization.
And though Wertheimer cites a poll showing that Jewish undergraduates face anti-Semitism, if you look the survey up you will see that the pollees were young people “who applied to go on a ten-day educational Israel experience with Taglit- Birthright Israel.” That’s not all Jewish students, that’s Zionist-oriented students.
The Times is contemptuous of any news event that features Jewish opposition to Zionism. It behaves like an ostrich; it wants to believe this can’t be happening.
A few months ago Gideon Levy was in the United States. A journalist who has gotten death threats from his fellow Jewish Israelis, he gave an impassioned speech in Washington; and there was a line of journalists seeking to interview him afterward.
Not the New York Times. The New York Times does not care that Gideon Levy, leading Israeli journalist, has had death threats. Jodi Rudoren never wrote about Levy when she was the New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief (outside of quoting him once or twice). Instead she touted rightwing Zionist Yossi Klein Halevi, whom she extolled as a guide to Israeli life during her Zionist victory lap last winter.
One of the journalists who interviewed Levy in Washington was Max Blumenthal. Blumenthal first went to Israel on the Zionist propaganda journey, Birthright; ten years later, he wrote a book called Goliath that anticipated the crackup we are seeing today in Israeli political life, by boldly outlining the fascistic currents in that society. But Blumenthal is an anti-Zionist, and his important book has been completely ignored by the paper of record. Just as the Times has done everything it can to pretend that Israeli leadership is not splitting right now over “fascist” trends in the society.
The New York Times has several Zionist columnists, including Roger Cohen and David Brooks. Brooks is one of four Times staffers whose children have served in the Israeli Defense Forces. It goes without saying that it does not have an anti-Zionist columnist.
Yes, the New York Times lately praised Ben Ehrenreich’s new book, The Way to the Spring. But Ehrenreich’s Jewishness isn’t mentioned. You’d think that the Times would want to interview him about his book and ask him the Jewish question. Nope. Not interested. (Only Bob Herbst mentioned that on our site: “Ehrenreich… was compelled to document [the occupation] as a way of standing up against injustice that is a strong part of his identity as a Jew.”)
Earlier this year the Times ran a forum on whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. It included an excellent piece by Lisa Goldman saying, No way. But Lisa Goldman was pointedly non-Zionist in her assertions; that is to say, she did not take a position on whether Israel should be a Jewish state. Both anti-Zionist pieces– i.e., we don’t think Israel should be a Jewish state– were by writers in an Arab-American tradition. (Sherene Seikaly of Jadaliyyah and Omar Zahzah). Publishing a critique of Zionism from a Jew is just too loaded for the Times.
Three years ago the Times ran this important op-ed by Ian Lustick, who is Jewish, titled the Two-State Illusion, saying that Israel and Palestine need to be liberated from a failed paradigm that has only encouraged expansion and corruption; but Lustick’s p-o-v was decidedly Realist. He was silent as to the discrimination inherent in Zionism.
And while the Times ran pieces critical of Israel by the late Tony Judt, it always slighted Judt’s assertion that Zionism is an anachronism; it simply could not give airtime to a central accomplishment of that intellectual leader’s career.
Two years ago the Times did run this piece on anti-Zionist Jews (among them Chip Manekin, Alissa Wise and Corey Robin); but it is the exception that proves the rule. And it was in the Beliefs column, a long time ago.
The Times is simply incapable of covering this important news. It knows what will happen if it treats this story honestly: the discussion is explosive. After the American Jewish professors wrote in Haaretz that they were putting Zionism behind them, Jeffrey Goldberg was quick to go on the attack. He said he was giving up on Haaretz because the newspaper’s “cartoonish… anti-Semitism can be grating.” His tweets got wide coverage in the Jewish world. The New York Times is worried about exposing itself to that kind of criticism from its principal readers, and advertisers too. The Times grants Goldberg tremendous power; it fell over itself to respond recently when Goldberg claimed he was misrepresented by half a sentence in a magazine article.
“It is no exaggeration to say that for a century [the NYT] has served, in effect, as the hometown paper of American Jewry,” former Timesman Neil Lewis wrote. That’s a big responsibility now that the Jewish establishment is being rocked by assaults on Zionism. Sadly, it has required the Times to serve as Pravda, actively suppressing discussion of important news.
Thanks to Yakov Hirsch and Adam Horowitz and James North.