The New York Times is blaming the Jews for Donald Trump.
That’s what I took away from two pieces in the newspaper over the weekend.
The first was a news article from Jerusalem, headlined, “As Trump Offers Neo-Nazis Muted Criticism, Netanyahu Is Largely Silent.”
The article faulted the Israeli prime minister for failing to condemn President Trump in a manner that the Times judged to be sufficiently speedy and specific.
This is strange on two fronts. First, it’s a double standard. When Netanyahu publicly faulted former President Barack Obama for the Iran nuclear deal, the Times complained he was meddling in US politics and making an enemy out of an American president. Now that Netanyahu is doing his best to avoid a public fight with an American president, he gets criticized for that, too.
Second, the Charlottesville marchers weren’t just antisemites, they were also, at least reportedly, racists. It was a Confederate statue that triggered the whole thing, not any Jewish symbol. But the only country whose leader got put on the spot in a full-length Times news article, at least so far as I can tell, was Israel. There was no full-length Times news article I saw about any majority black African or Caribbean countries or majority Asian countries (other than Israel) and their prime ministers’ or presidents’ reactions or non-reactions to Trump’s response to the Charlottesville events. Maybe there were some such Times articles that I missed. But I usually read the paper pretty carefully, and I sure did not spot any.
In the same Saturday issue of the Times came a column by Bret Stephens headlined “President Jabberwock and the Jewish Right,” critical of “right-of-center Jews who voted for Donald Trump in the election.” This is such a small group in proportion to Trump’s overall support that it’s hard to see why it merits an entire column. Not a single one of these “right-of-center Jews who voted for Donald Trump in the election” is actually named in the column, which claims that such Jews are now subject to “moral embarrassment.”
The column says Jews should have known not to vote for Trump because of “the denunciations of ‘globalism’ and ‘international banks’ and the ‘enemy of the American people’ news media.” Yet on July 3, 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt sent a message denouncing “the old fetishes of so-called international bankers.” Plenty of Jews nonetheless voted for FDR without any moral embarrassment. Likewise, Bernie Sanders attacks the press, including CNN and the New York Times, just about as vociferously and directly as Trump does. Plenty of Jews voted for Sanders, too, and Sanders’ attacks on the press haven’t been widely interpreted as antisemitic.
In my own view, the danger of antisemitism right now is less in the Oval Office and more in the Times comment section and editorial moderation. It was just days ago that the Times was assuring us that its decision to award a gold ribbon and “NYT Pick” stamp of approval to a reader comment describing Netanyahu as a “parasitic thug” was an inadvertent mistake. Yet in the comments on the Stephens column, the Times again awards a gold ribbon and “NYT Pick” label to a comment that reads in part, “It also remains to be seen whether American Zionists have learned to stop prioritizing ‘good for Israel’ over ‘good for America.’” That comment, which earned “thumbs up” upvotes from at least 410 Times readers, could have easily fit into the Times news article about the Charlottesville racists and antisemites “in their own words.” (It was also consistent with the Stephens column itself, which explicitly mentioned Israel as part of “the gist of the Jewish conservative’s case for Trump,” but omitted taxes, deregulation, or the Supreme Court.)
There was an extended discussion in the Times this weekend about bigoted commenters. That discussion came in a Times magazine article about the website Breitbart. The Times reported:
Breitbart functioned as a legitimizing tether for the most abhorrent currents of the right wing. Benkler referred to this as a ‘‘bridge’’ phenomenon, in which extremist websites linked to Breitbart for validation and those same fanatics could then gather in Breitbart’s comment section to hurl invectives… many of the writers and editors at Breitbart really were inclined to a pedestrian politics, but they were happy enough to welcome bigots if it meant increasing traffic. …he says he doubts that many of his former colleagues realize how deplorable their commenters can be. ‘‘They’re mostly just seen the way a lot of websites see their commenters, which is: ‘Oh, God, these idiots,’ ’’ he said. ‘‘I think there was a lot of opportunism going on. If they could get traffic from those people, then they got traffic from those people.’’
When a Times column blaming right-wing Jews for Trump generates a reader comment with 410 upvotes and a gold ribbon “NYT pick” for asserting that US Zionists prioritize Israel’s interests ahead of America’s, some people might start suspecting the Times itself of engaging in Breitbart-style reader-comment opportunism.
So long as the Times is on the topic of “moral embarrassment” — well, let’s just say, if not much of that seems on display among the paper’s own editors, it’s not because it’s entirely unwarranted.
(C) 2017 . The Algemeiner . Ira Stoll