Update: Clyde Haberman has responded that my report is a “falsehood.” I have filled out the beginning of his quote from the official taperecording of the event, published in January 2018. It shows that my report was accurate. See original version of his quote at the base of this report for the very minor discrepancies in my own recording.
Clyde Haberman is a long time former New York Times reporter, now 73, who still does a column for the newspaper. Last night he moderated a panel on Jews in politics at the Center for Jewish History in New York and casually smeared three Democratic congressional candidates as possible anti-Semites.
Haberman brought up “growing anti-Semitism” in the U.S. and then said:
From which side, or is it both sides to be simplistic about left and right, should one worry? Trump is now calling himself a nationalist rather firmly the other day at a campaign rally. Experience shows that nationalism is usually bad for the Jews, plain and simple. And you had the Charlottesville march, of course, last year, and “Jews will not replace us” — I didn’t even know what the hell that meant but there was the chant. On the other hand, on the left we’ve seen the rise of particularly Democratic candidates like here in New York City, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress… we’ve had Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis, also running for Congress, ditto Rashida Tlaib in Detroit – at the least these folks would be considered hostile toward Israel and maybe in some cases toward Jews in general.
No one defended the three congressional candidates from the charge, though there were two liberal Zionists on the panel, Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah, the human rights organization, and Halie Sofier of the Jewish Democratic Council of America. Sofier said that the three candidates hold “views on Israel my organization has publicly denounced.” Jeff Jacoby, a columnist for the Boston Globe and the conservative member of the panel, affirmed that the candidates were “hostile” toward Israel.
There is no evidence in the public record that the three candidates are hostile to Jews, though all have been critical of Israel. Rashida Tlaib, a Muslim and Palestinian-American, has supported a one-state outcome with equal rights for everyone in Israel and Palestine. For that reason, J Street withdrew its endorsement of her.
Ilhan Omar, also a Muslim, has called Israel an “apartheid regime” and in 2012 tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” Lately she assured a Twin Cities synagogue audience, per a report in TC Jewfolk, that she does not support the boycott campaign against Israel because it “stops the dialogue” and “It is going to be important for us to recognize Israel’s place in the Middle East and the Jewish people’s rightful place within that region.” She also said, “It’s true anti-Semitism is alive and well. I look forward to joining with the Jewish community in allyship to fight bigotry that is fostering in the community so we are stronger together. With unity, we have the strength to push back.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called Israel’s killings of 60 unarmed protesters on the Gaza border in May a “massacre,” but has hedged her criticisms of Israel since winning the primary election in a shocker last June. She has said she’s a firm believer in the two-state solution and said she needs to “learn and evolve” on the issues involving Israel, even seemed to back away from the word occupation: “I may not use the right words.”
Also last night, Jeff Jacoby described Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine as “anti-semitic” organizations.
Anti-semitism on many college campuses is terrible, and it’s worse than it’s been certainly in my lifetime. When you have professors who are refusing to write letters of recommendation for their students because the student wants to go to a program in Israel, when you have pro Israel student groups that have their signs torn up and their displays knocked over by Jewish Voices for Peace or Students for Justice in Palestine or any of these other anti-semitic organizations, it’s outrageous.
Julian Zelizer, a Princeton history professor, pushed back against Jacoby saying that it was important to have criticism of Israel on campuses, and not all such criticism is anti-Semitic. “My fear is that we freeze healthy debate on campus,” Zelizer said, but he did not defend JVP or SJP specifically.
I’m a member of Jewish Voice for Peace and find that claim absurd. I’ve covered countless SJP events and have seen that its chapters are dedicated to distinguishing anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism and the national body condemns bigotry of all forms (though I can think of one instance in which an SJP chapter published an anti-Semitic image).
P.S. Jacoby dominated the panel to a rude degree, telling journalistic war stories and family history stories ad nauseam (though in fairness the story of his father’s escape from the Holocaust was riveting), to the point that toward the end of the panel some audience members began to protest his taking the microphone. They like me wanted to hear more from the women panelists, who were so polite that they didn’t get much of a chance to speak. Haberman should have exerted more control.
When I published this post in November, Haberman said on twitter that we had misquoted him and our assertion was false. In January 2018 the Center for Jewish History finally posted video from the event and it shows that I was right, and Haberman was wrong. Though my recording was not perfect; being at the back of the hall the taperecorder slurred a couple of phrases. You can compare my original version of his commments, below, with what appears above, and you will see that my reporting of his “hostile” charge was accurate and if anything, softer than what the CJH recording shows.
From which side, or is it both sides to be simplistic about left and right, should one worry? Trump is now calling himself a nationalist… History shows that nationalism is usually bad for the Jews. And we had the Charlottesville march, of course, last year, and “Jews will not replace us” was the chant. On the other hand, on the left we’ve seen the rise of Democratic candidates like here in New York City, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress, we’ve had Ilhan Omar in Minneapolis, also running for Congress, ditto Rashida Tlaib in Detroit – at the least people who’ve been considered hostile toward Israel and maybe in that case toward Jews in general.