Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Jews, “Progressives,” and the New York Times

The New York Times took notice yesterday of a pamphlet-sized essay posted on the website of the American Jewish Committee. Written by Alvin Rosenfeld of Indiana University and titled “‘Progressive’ Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism,” the essay describes the mounting assault on Israel by Jews on the Left. Rosenfeld cites, among others, the two Tonys—Kushner and Judt—and Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, each of whom was in turn duly quoted in the Times story as protesting Rosenfeld’s characterization of them. The paper’s reporter, Patricia Cohen, seems to side with them in this dispute, slyly suggesting that the AJC has overstated the problem of anti-Semitism on the Jewish Left. Thereby, she neutralizes or buries the very problem the AJC was trying to expose.

No surprise there. In this matter, as it happens, the Times has long been not merely a reporting agency but a major player. For the past sixty years the newspaper has denied the Arab war against the Jewish state, just as in World War II it denied the German war against the Jewish people. Rather than telling its readers about Arab and Muslim anti-Semitism and describing how it shapes the societies in which it flourishes, rather than documenting the growing infiltration of Europe and America by this same poison, it speaks of anti-Semitism as if it were merely a figment, an occasion for fratricidal conflict among Jews themselves with no objective correlative in the real world. In this internal slugfest of accusation and counter-accusation, the offense itself disappears, and with it any serious discussion of its source, its gravity, or its spread.

Even more than those cited by Alvin Rosenfeld, it is the newspaper of record that has long displaced onto Israel’s moral ledger the misery that Arabs cause themselves. This morning’s edition carries a three-column story about a former Israeli government minister convicted of French-kissing a female soldier. This is evidently what the Times considers news. Not news, evidently, are the dozens of mutual kidnappings and murders committed by Fatah and Hamas. Dead Palestinians appear to interest the Times only insofar as their deaths can be laid at the feet of Israel.

Similarly, real existing anti-Semitism seems to interest the Times far less than does the drama of Jew-against-Jew in which the Times gets to name aggressors and victims. In this offhand, underhanded manner the paper’s editors and reporters abet the anti-Semitic lie that the existence of Israel “explains” the misery and rage of the people yelling for its destruction and for the destruction of all Jews everywhere.