Commentary Magazine


Topic: Tablet

Tablet Disgraces Itself Anew

A few days after publishing what I and others consider the most egregious piece of anti-Semitic filth in years, the editor of Tablet, Alana Newhouse, has published something or other intended to respond to its critics. It’s not an apology, exactly, even though the words “deeply sorry” appear. It’s more a…I can hardly believe I’m writing these words…tribute to Tablet. Her response is self-referential, self-aggrandizing, and ultimately self-infatuated.

She writes that she is “used to our pieces eliciting strong emotions. But the reactions to Anna Breslaw’s article have been exceptional.” Yes, exceptional, in the sense that most of us who read it were appalled and disgusted in a nearly unprecedented way. And then, in the cowardly fashion of media organizations caught in the midst of a disaster of their own making, she attempts the ludicrous claim that there are two sides to the response.

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A few days after publishing what I and others consider the most egregious piece of anti-Semitic filth in years, the editor of Tablet, Alana Newhouse, has published something or other intended to respond to its critics. It’s not an apology, exactly, even though the words “deeply sorry” appear. It’s more a…I can hardly believe I’m writing these words…tribute to Tablet. Her response is self-referential, self-aggrandizing, and ultimately self-infatuated.

She writes that she is “used to our pieces eliciting strong emotions. But the reactions to Anna Breslaw’s article have been exceptional.” Yes, exceptional, in the sense that most of us who read it were appalled and disgusted in a nearly unprecedented way. And then, in the cowardly fashion of media organizations caught in the midst of a disaster of their own making, she attempts the ludicrous claim that there are two sides to the response.

“For some readers, her piece explored the consequences of growing up in one specific family touched by an enormous Jewish tragedy, and publishing it asserted the message that young people needn’t express only safely held conventional wisdoms to be involved and engaged with Jewish life,” she writes.

Judging not only from the other discussions of the piece in the media besides mine and from the hundreds of comments on her own site, those “some readers” number maybe in the single digits, while everybody else reared in horror. So there is no controversy. What there is is a nearly universal condemnation.

She then goes on to characterize the response as follows: “Others saw in it a blanket condemnation of all Holocaust survivors—an impression that caused many to wonder why Tablet published it. Quite a few expressed extreme hurt.” Actually, no one expressed hurt; people expressed outrage, which is something entirely different. And not because the article was a “blanket condemnation of all Holocaust survivors.” The piece was an anti-Semitic outrage because it suggested that in the act of surviving the Holocaust, survivors had fulfilled the worst stereotypes of the Jews—Nazi stereotypes—as grasping, greedy, and selfish. That is not a condemnation. It is a slander. It is a libel. One might even go so far as to call it a blood libel.

Newhouse then praises herself for her deliberative delay in responding to the explosion of outrage by saying she thought it necessary to spend some time thinking about how Tablet came to publish the article, with some staffers saying it was good and other staffers saying it was blah blah blah. And then she commits herself and Tablet to a more thorough examination of…Tablet. Her staff decided they must commit themselves with even deeper seriousness to answer some deep questions:

What—if any—is the communal responsibility to the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors? Do we have a duty to hear them out, even when their thoughts are—as Breslaw described her own—“unappealing and didactic,” or worse? And what of other writers looking to explore other painful questions about their Jewish identities? What does the intense response to this piece say about what the rules here should be, about what precisely the red lines are in Jewish communal discourse. What we all did agree on is that it is our duty to more vigilantly and responsibly engage with all of these questions, and with our readers’ legitimate concerns.

How nice. So having published something that could have appeared in Der Sturmer, Newhouse now strokes her chin and wonders how she and her team might “responsibly engage” with questions of Jewish identity.

Anything Tablet has to say on “questions of Jewish identity” from now on will fail to take root, as it will wither and die in the black shadow of Anna Breslaw’s foul article—and in the appalling self-justifications of its editor.

 

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Defense of Declining “Forward” Not Doing Newspaper Any Favors

The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo went public yesterday about an increasingly pitched family feud in the Jewish world. In 1,100 words, Kredo cataloged the decline of the once-proud and now largely irrelevant Forward newspaper, which has gone from being one of America’s top Jewish outlets to publishing left-wing wishful thinking and agitprop. The responses from the Forward’s defenders have begun pouring in, including this frankly shrill outburst from Tablet’s Dan Klein.

Before getting to the substance of the debate: no one expects the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community to make good arguments. They’re cooking with bad ingredients. But is it too much to ask that they limit themselves to mumbling through pro-forma talking points rather than launching sneering attacks? The choice should be between terrible arguments or smug self-satisfaction. Not both.

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The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo went public yesterday about an increasingly pitched family feud in the Jewish world. In 1,100 words, Kredo cataloged the decline of the once-proud and now largely irrelevant Forward newspaper, which has gone from being one of America’s top Jewish outlets to publishing left-wing wishful thinking and agitprop. The responses from the Forward’s defenders have begun pouring in, including this frankly shrill outburst from Tablet’s Dan Klein.

Before getting to the substance of the debate: no one expects the anti-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community to make good arguments. They’re cooking with bad ingredients. But is it too much to ask that they limit themselves to mumbling through pro-forma talking points rather than launching sneering attacks? The choice should be between terrible arguments or smug self-satisfaction. Not both.

Kredo traced the Forward’s free fall to the tenure of editor Jane Eisner. Eisner has not been bashful about turning her paper into an oleaginous politicized echo chamber. To take a small example, last year she sneered at Contentions for once calling a Forward cartoon by Eli Valley–whom she was at the time installing as the paper’s artist in residence –“ferociously repugnant.” She didn’t link to our 2008 post, which she said Valley could consider a “compliment,” so that her readers could judge the controversy for themselves. It’s here.

You almost get the sense that at some point Kredo just had to stop listing scandals out of exhaustion. He talked about the Forward’s distressingly uncritical showcasing of “Israel apartheid” accusations, but not about its work on behalf of Peter Beinart’s colossal flop of a BDS campaign. He outlined many of the paper’s attacks on conservative funders and activists, but didn’t get to its pro-Obama water-carrying during the ADL/AJC’s “don’t criticize Obama” dustup, which Contentions by turns criticized and mocked. He noted the Forward’s glowing profile of Hamas supporter and one-stater Ali Abunimah, but not the paper’s equally execrable defense of M.J. Rosenberg’s anti-Semitic and anti-Israel ravings (Rosenberg and his Media Matters then-employers eventually parted ways, marking the left-wing think tank as more sensitive to anti-Jewish and anti-Israel incitement than the ostensibly pro-Jewish and pro-Israel Forward).

Klein’s Tablet defense of the Forward began with a bombastic headline announcing that yesterday was the “wrong day to attack the ‘Forward.'” Apparently just that morning a Forward writer had taken a victory lap after tracking down George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport and arranging to have it publicly displayed. To be clear and explicit: Klein dismissed how the Forward has transformed itself into a platform for “Israel apartheid” propaganda, anti-Semitic rhetoric, and terrorist apologism — because the paper helped find a late 18th-century letter by George Washington. Mordant analysis, that.

Klein even wrote that he was “not going to defend” the damning Forward articles exposed by the WFB. He might at least have tried. If the Jewish far left is going to circle its wagons on the basis of transparent bluster, they ought to do so with a little less smugness. George Washington’s letter. Come on.

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