Commentary Magazine


Topic: Charles Jacobs

Why Does the New York Times Only Cover Some Kinds of Anti-Semitism?

Here’s a pop quiz that I’m sure nobody will have a hard time passing: Which of the following two stories made it into the New York Times?

1. One of the top leaders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, a man who has been written about on hundreds of occasions in the Times, responded to the dedication of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem by delivering a viciously anti-Semitic rant in which he promised the annihilation of Israel and said that the Jews “killed and murdered your prophets” and “have always dealt in loan-sharking” and are “destined to be destroyed.”

2. A Vatican preacher compared condemnation of the Church over its sex-abuse scandal to the persecution of Jews, remarks from which Church officials immediately distanced themselves.

The first story, of course, was not covered. The second was not just covered, but given above-the-fold, front page treatment. Why is this?

Is it because this is Easter weekend? This fact probably elevates media interest a little bit — but enough to land the story on the front page? Maybe it’s because Jewish groups complained about the sermon? Sure, but Jewish groups routinely complain about anti-Semitism and incitement and are routinely greeted with yawns from the press. So why the different treatment?

The reason, I think, is because the Times is a left-wing paper and adheres to one of the central tenets of enlightened progressivism: people who can be identified as Third World, or who are not members of the Judeo-Christian/European world, must not be held to the same standards to which white, First World people are held. This double-standard — it is the racism of the enlightened — pervades the treatment of different cultures and religions in the strongholds of Western liberalism, that is, in the media, academia, and the “human rights” community.

The fact of the matter is that the most violent and genocidal kinds of anti-Semitic (and anti-Christian, and anti-American) hate speech are commonplace in the Muslim Middle East, yet are covered in the West only by boutique outlets such as MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. But when a white, Christian, European makes a statement that really is far more insensitive and dumb than it is anti-Semitic, not only does it land on the front page of the New York Times, but it is given sensational media coverage throughout the western world. The key factor is not the offense itself — it is the religious or cultural identity of the person who has committed the offense.

As Charles Jacobs one wrote,

To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor. Imagine the media coverage and the rights groups’ reaction if it were “whites” enslaving blacks in Sudan. Having the “right” oppressor would change everything.

This is because, as Pascal Bruckner points out in his magnificent new book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, progressivism is obsessed with a belief in the hypocrisy and guilt of Western Civilization, and therefore with the need for repentance. “The duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed. Our only right is to remain silent.”

We can see the truth of this thesis before our eyes today: the mildly offensive words of a Vatican preacher get front-page scrutiny. The genocidal hatred of a Hamas leader doesn’t even make it into the paper.

Here’s a pop quiz that I’m sure nobody will have a hard time passing: Which of the following two stories made it into the New York Times?

1. One of the top leaders of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar, a man who has been written about on hundreds of occasions in the Times, responded to the dedication of a synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem by delivering a viciously anti-Semitic rant in which he promised the annihilation of Israel and said that the Jews “killed and murdered your prophets” and “have always dealt in loan-sharking” and are “destined to be destroyed.”

2. A Vatican preacher compared condemnation of the Church over its sex-abuse scandal to the persecution of Jews, remarks from which Church officials immediately distanced themselves.

The first story, of course, was not covered. The second was not just covered, but given above-the-fold, front page treatment. Why is this?

Is it because this is Easter weekend? This fact probably elevates media interest a little bit — but enough to land the story on the front page? Maybe it’s because Jewish groups complained about the sermon? Sure, but Jewish groups routinely complain about anti-Semitism and incitement and are routinely greeted with yawns from the press. So why the different treatment?

The reason, I think, is because the Times is a left-wing paper and adheres to one of the central tenets of enlightened progressivism: people who can be identified as Third World, or who are not members of the Judeo-Christian/European world, must not be held to the same standards to which white, First World people are held. This double-standard — it is the racism of the enlightened — pervades the treatment of different cultures and religions in the strongholds of Western liberalism, that is, in the media, academia, and the “human rights” community.

The fact of the matter is that the most violent and genocidal kinds of anti-Semitic (and anti-Christian, and anti-American) hate speech are commonplace in the Muslim Middle East, yet are covered in the West only by boutique outlets such as MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. But when a white, Christian, European makes a statement that really is far more insensitive and dumb than it is anti-Semitic, not only does it land on the front page of the New York Times, but it is given sensational media coverage throughout the western world. The key factor is not the offense itself — it is the religious or cultural identity of the person who has committed the offense.

As Charles Jacobs one wrote,

To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor. Imagine the media coverage and the rights groups’ reaction if it were “whites” enslaving blacks in Sudan. Having the “right” oppressor would change everything.

This is because, as Pascal Bruckner points out in his magnificent new book, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism, progressivism is obsessed with a belief in the hypocrisy and guilt of Western Civilization, and therefore with the need for repentance. “The duty to repent forbids the Western bloc, which is eternally guilty, to judge or combat other systems, other states, other religions. Our past crimes command us to keep our mouths closed. Our only right is to remain silent.”

We can see the truth of this thesis before our eyes today: the mildly offensive words of a Vatican preacher get front-page scrutiny. The genocidal hatred of a Hamas leader doesn’t even make it into the paper.

Read Less

No, Goldstone Is Not a Threat to the Democracies

Peter Berkowitz, a commentator I admire greatly, has a piece at NRO that criticizes the “astonishing attempt to shift power from sovereign states to international institutions” being undertaken by the NGO/international-law community. It’s an excellent analysis, and Berkowitz has been doing important work on the subject, but I have one quibble:

It would be a mistake to think that Israel’s lawyerly self-defense is of purely legal interest. This battle reflects a continuation of war and politics by other means. Indeed, the battle is fraught with weighty implications for all liberal democracies struggling against transnational terrorists.

This point has been made by many people, including the Israeli government itself, and it is a form of the old adage that “first they came for Israel, and I did not speak out because I am not an Israeli.” But I don’t think it’s true in this case. If “lawfare,” as it’s known, were truly a danger to powerful democratic nations, there would be more done to push back against it. Instead, what we see today is democratic nations that pay lip service to its tenets, safe in the knowledge that, while carrying few downsides, endorsing the abstract concepts of international law wins approval from the self-appointed arbiters of international virtue.

This is a war that probably will never spread to the great powers or even to the medium powers. For lawfare to work, several conditions have to be met. The target of lawfare must be: 1) a small and diplomatically weak nation; 2) a democracy whose citizens desire international acceptance; 3) a country surrounded by enemies that force it to fight frequent and indecisive wars, providing a constant supply of fresh “evidence” of criminality.

There is really only one country that meets these conditions — Israel. The U.S. is far too powerful to allow a Richard Goldstone to even bite at its ankles. Indeed, the U.S. has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost a decade, and nothing close to a Goldstone Report has been produced. The Russians and Chinese could care less about “international humanitarian law” (Grozny, anyone?), and more important, the IHL fetishists have never been passionate about campaigning against non-Western nations. As Charles Jacobs pointed out several years ago, “To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor.”

Lawfare, as I’ve been saying lately, is not about law or ethics. If it were, its proponents would be vastly more scrupulous and reputable than they are. Lawfare is about power, specifically the attempt by a group of political radicals who have very little power to gain it in the only way they can — by negating sovereignty and pursuing a Gulliver strategy that only has a chance of working against small, embattled countries. The United States probably won’t pay that much attention to this fight, because the United States doesn’t have much to fear from it.

Peter Berkowitz, a commentator I admire greatly, has a piece at NRO that criticizes the “astonishing attempt to shift power from sovereign states to international institutions” being undertaken by the NGO/international-law community. It’s an excellent analysis, and Berkowitz has been doing important work on the subject, but I have one quibble:

It would be a mistake to think that Israel’s lawyerly self-defense is of purely legal interest. This battle reflects a continuation of war and politics by other means. Indeed, the battle is fraught with weighty implications for all liberal democracies struggling against transnational terrorists.

This point has been made by many people, including the Israeli government itself, and it is a form of the old adage that “first they came for Israel, and I did not speak out because I am not an Israeli.” But I don’t think it’s true in this case. If “lawfare,” as it’s known, were truly a danger to powerful democratic nations, there would be more done to push back against it. Instead, what we see today is democratic nations that pay lip service to its tenets, safe in the knowledge that, while carrying few downsides, endorsing the abstract concepts of international law wins approval from the self-appointed arbiters of international virtue.

This is a war that probably will never spread to the great powers or even to the medium powers. For lawfare to work, several conditions have to be met. The target of lawfare must be: 1) a small and diplomatically weak nation; 2) a democracy whose citizens desire international acceptance; 3) a country surrounded by enemies that force it to fight frequent and indecisive wars, providing a constant supply of fresh “evidence” of criminality.

There is really only one country that meets these conditions — Israel. The U.S. is far too powerful to allow a Richard Goldstone to even bite at its ankles. Indeed, the U.S. has been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for almost a decade, and nothing close to a Goldstone Report has been produced. The Russians and Chinese could care less about “international humanitarian law” (Grozny, anyone?), and more important, the IHL fetishists have never been passionate about campaigning against non-Western nations. As Charles Jacobs pointed out several years ago, “To predict what the human rights community (and the media) focus on, look not at the oppressed; look instead at the party seen as the oppressor.”

Lawfare, as I’ve been saying lately, is not about law or ethics. If it were, its proponents would be vastly more scrupulous and reputable than they are. Lawfare is about power, specifically the attempt by a group of political radicals who have very little power to gain it in the only way they can — by negating sovereignty and pursuing a Gulliver strategy that only has a chance of working against small, embattled countries. The United States probably won’t pay that much attention to this fight, because the United States doesn’t have much to fear from it.

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.