Last week Bari Weiss of the New York Times published a book arguing that the left is rife with anti-Semitism in its criticism of Israel, and an amusing story line has emerged: Bari Weiss says it’s career suicide for anyone to embrace Zionism nowadays. But Bari Weiss’s career is awesome, thank you very much.
According to Weiss, if you are a Zionist, you have to closet yourself or you’ll be ostracized and vilified. Even saying you’re Jewish is dangerous. Because anti-Semitism “infests” the left, according to the laudatory review of Weiss’s book in The New York Times:
Bari Weiss has written what must be judged a brave book…
Should someone like Weiss, an editor and opinion writer at The New York Times, have to expect brickbats from her colleagues for observing that a vicious demonization of Israel and its supporters has become routine in much of the American left and endemic on college and university campuses? …
Should she have to fear ostracism or damage to her journalistic reputation for pointing out that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, while theoretically distinguishable, have long merged into a single ugly phenomenon?
Weiss says “others who share her feelings have been forced to deny who they are”:
“I meet such people in every Jewish community I speak to,” she relates. “They tend to wait until late in the evening, after the crowd has thinned out or after they’ve had a few glasses of wine, to make their confession. But the confession is always the same: I’m in the closet. It’s not their sexuality or gender expression they are closeting. It is their Jewishness and their Zionism.”…
This is so crazy it’s funny. Last night I attended a gathering of Jewish Voice for Peace to congratulate Rebecca Vilkomerson on her achievements as executive director. Jewishness was one of themes. A rabbi told a story of the Jewish response to genocide in Egypt from the Torah. Vilkomerson was overcome with emotion describing the prayers JVP led for the hundreds of Palestinians (including 500 children) killed in the last Israeli onslaught in 2014. The Jews in that room yesterday were almost all anti-Zionist, some not. No one was hiding the fact they’re Jewish.
And what about the career suicide? Bari Weiss is a person of uncommon rhetorical talent and poise, I acknowledge. Yet she has also had a gilded career, going from attacking professors at Columbia as an undergraduate to getting hired by the Wall Street Journal and then the New York Times op-ed page– joining a half dozen other columnists at the paper who are Zionists. Other authors can only dream of the treatment Weiss has gotten in the last week. She got a gushing review in the New York Times on the day her book dropped. She went on the Bill Maher show. Last night she was interviewed at the 92d Street Y by Jake Tapper of CNN ($36 admission). Last week she was given a fancy party attended by media powers: Viacom’s Shari Redstone, former HBO head Richard Plepler, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner, New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger. Dang!
One of the refrains at the party as reported by New York Magazine was how mean and awful the social-media left is toward big-media folks who support Israel.
That is actually the issue here, and Bari Weiss is right: The left is now opposed to Zionism, sometimes angrily. Why? Because Zionism undermines or destroys the civil and human rights of Palestinians wherever it encounters them. It is that simple. The left finds that bigotry insupportable in an American ally; and the left’s power is in social media, not in the New York Times.
P.S. It’s a reflection of the very sad and special politics of Zionism that a, Weiss and Tapper appeared last night on a stage that excludes Palestinians, and b, the New York Times protected Weiss from her targets by assigning a sympatico rightwinger, Hillel Halkin, to review/praise her book, and then Halkin used the platform to attack LGBT rights and endorse fundamentalism:
Judaism fiercely opposed such an acceptance of sexual diversity, against which it championed the procreative family, the taming of anarchic passions, and the cosmically ordained nature of normative gender distinctions that goes back to the first chapter of Genesis: “So God created man in his own image. … Male and female created he them.”
What an endorsement…
Thanks to Adam Horowitz, Dave Reed, Donald Johnson, Annie Robbins, Peter Feld, Peter Voskamp, and James North.