Commentary Magazine


Man Bites Dog: Frank Talk About Islamist Hate in the Times

So much is wrong about the New York Times’s coverage of Jewish issues and Israel in particular. As John points out, this morning’s broadside against the funding of Jewish charities in the West Bank is an especially egregious example of the way this newspaper’s editorial agenda on Israel is allowed to distort the news pages.

But along with the avalanche of the bad, there is, every now and then, some good, such as Edward Rothstein’s column in today’s Arts section. Given the way things usually go at the Times, one might expect his essay reviewing two new books on anti-Semitism to stick to deploring the anti-Semites of the past while leaving out of the argument contemporary Jew-haters, especially those in the Muslim world and others who single Israel out for special treatment. But to Rothstein’s great credit, he hones in on the way criticisms of the state of Israel veer into traditional anti-Semitism: “There is a wildly exaggerated scale of condemnation, in which extremes of contempt confront a country caricatured as the world’s worst enemy of peace; such attacks (and the use of Nazi analogies) are beyond evidence and beyond pragmatic political debate or protest. Israel’s autonomy — its very presence — is the problem.”

Even better, after rightly analogizing the upsurge in anti-Semitism in the Islamic world to the history of the Nazis, Rothstein goes after Hannah Rosenthal, President Obama’s special envoy to combat anti-Semitism. Last week in a speech in Kazakhstan, Rosenthal claimed that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia were similar straits of hatred. But, as Rothstein points out, not only are they not the same thing, the latter is a concept invented to defend Islamists against the consequences of the hatred that they have propagated:

Islamophobia is a concept developed within the last two decades by those who wish to elevate Islam’s reputation in the West; anti-Semitism was a concept eagerly embraced and expanded by haters of Jews. One was constructed by a group’s supporters, the other by a group’s enemies. Moreover, much of what is characterized as Islamophobia today arises out of taking seriously the impassioned claims of doctrinal allegiance made by Islamic terrorist groups and their supporters. Anti-Semitism, though, has nothing to do with any claims at all.

Wisdom and frank talk about Islamist hate are rare these days. They are even more so at the Times.