April 26, 2018

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One reason Americans are often wrong about Jews and Israel

http://abuyehuda.com/2018/03/one-reason-americans-are-often-wrong-about-jews-and-israel/

In 2014, the media watchdog organization CAMERA put up a billboard on Times Square accusing the NY Times of “slanting the news.”

Nothing has changed; in fact, today the Times is listing so severely to port that I’m surprised to see it still afloat. I have picked a couple of articles, both by Times staffers, to prove my point.

One is a “News Analysis” article by Jonathan Weisman*, an editor in the Times’ Washington bureau, called “Anti-Semitism Is Rising. Why Aren’t American Jews Speaking Up?”

Weisman is rightly concerned. Jew-hatred is becoming increasingly popular and moving closer to the mainstream in the US. Extremists on both the Right and the Left are finding it easier to speak in ways that would have been taboo only a few years ago. Anti-Jewish hate crimes have increased sharply in recent years as well. So you would think Weisman would have plenty of material.

But in 1052 words, all he is able to talk about is the so-called “alt-right,” as exemplified by a couple of right-wing conspiracy theorists, Mike Cernovich and Jack Posobiec.

I am sure Weisman isn’t making up stories about the hate mail he is getting, and that much of it has anti-Jewish themes. But can you write about antisemitism without mentioning the Imams who have called for the murder of Jews from their pulpits? Can you write about it without mentioning the harassment of Jewish students on college campuses by members of organizations like Students for Justice in Palestine, some of whom openly express admiration for Hitler? Without discussing the prevalence of Jew-hatred in the black community, and the “intersectional” embrace of Jew-hater Louis Farrakhan by the progressive movement?

Weisman and the Times couldn’t, or didn’t want to. Instead, he praises the discredited Southern Poverty Law Center (which, like him, is blind to left-wing and Muslim Jew-hatred) and attacks Jewish organizations for being – get ready – “focused on Israel!”

If the vinyl banners proclaiming “Remember Darfur” that once graced the front of many American synagogues could give way in a wave to “We Stand With Israel,” why can’t they now give way en masse to “We Stand Against Hate”?

I don’t see a lot of liberal synagogues standing with Israel these days, but that is another topic. Weisman closes with a suggestion for American Jews: they should “[embrace] Judaism as a vital part of America pluralism — and [find] the spiritual meaning in the religion,”  which seems to mean that they should replace Judaism with political progressivism, a trend that has been underway for some time among liberal American Jews.

* David Gerstman informs me that Weisman is also the genius responsible for the Times chart that highlighted in yellow those lawmakers who opposed the Iran deal who were Jewish.

***

Now let’s to turn to another Times staffer, the venerable Isabel Kershner, the Times’ Jerusalem correspondent. In a “news” article in the Middle East section of the paper, she tries to explain why “In Israel’s Poorer Periphery, Legal Woes Don’t Dent Netanyahu’s Appeal.” Recent polls are showing PM Netanyahu’s Likud surging ahead, despite his unpopularity in the trendy parts of Tel Aviv. So Kershner goes to the not-so-trendy Kiryat Malachi (city of angels) where the mostly mizrachi [Jews who immigrated to Israel from the Middle East and North Africa] population supports him. How can it be that they simply don’t care about the corruption investigations underway against “Bibi, as he is lovingly nicknamed?”

One explanation would be that people who remember, or whose parents remember, the treatment Jews received at the hands of the Muslims among whom they lived don’t trust the Israeli Left, which keeps trying to give away parts of the country to the Arabs in the name of “peace,” which the Arabs will never provide. In other words, it is a disagreement over policy, and Bibi (even those who do not love him call him “Bibi”) has managed to stand firm against pressure from the US and Europe to commit suicide. It also doesn’t hurt that he is taking a tough line against Iran, that on his watch the economy has boomed, he has made some major diplomatic gains for the “isolated” Jewish state, and that he has kept us out of major wars.

The corruption investigations, the details of which have been leaked on a daily basis to the media, have a smell of contrivance about them. It may turn out that some of the accusations are at least in part true, but most supporters feel that these are small matters, no politician is perfect, and his overall performance on the most important issues has been excellent.

That would be the simple answer. It explains  why Bibi is popular everywhere in Israel, except among the bitter left-wing politicians that used to run the state and their academic, cultural and media partners. The real mystery Kershner should explore is not why he has so much support in the periphery, but rather, why they hate him so much in North Tel Aviv.

But Kershner misses the obvious, and implies that the answer is to be found in identity politics, the historical grievance of the mizrachim against the Ashkenazi establishment, and perhaps in quaint North African religious beliefs. After describing her visit to the tomb of the Baba Sali (a mystical rabbi revered by the Moroccan Jewish community) and talking about amulets, she might as well have echoed Barack Obama’s 2008 remark that working-class voters “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them…”

But the words of her (very articulate, by the way) interviewees refute this implication:

Like Mr. Begin, Mr. Netanyahu is Ashkenazi, while the current leader of the center-left Labor Party, Avi Gabbay, is the child of Moroccan immigrants. But Netanyahu supporters deride Mr. Gabbay as a political novice and disregard his ethnic origins.

“We are not racists,” Mr. Ayyash [Yehuda Ayyash, 58, a greengrocer in the blue-collar town of Kiryat Malachi in southern Israel] said. “We are rightists.”

And the police investigations of Netanyahu?

“We are all Bibi,” said Erez Madar, 33, a hairdresser in Kiryat Malachi. “Let him have a cigar. He deserves an airplane.”

Indeed, most of us agree, which is why we keep voting for him.

***

Sometimes people ask me why liberal Americans are often so wrong about anything connected to Jews or Israel, despite the fact that they are seemingly obsessed with these subjects.

Maybe the answer is that so many of them read the NY Times.

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