Is Antisemitism Exempt from the Media’s Demand for Civility?

By Matthew M. Hausman

The shooting of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 others by a deranged assailant was tragic and unforeseen. While the public’s first impulse was to mourn the dead and pray for the injured, the government’s job should have been to determine how to protect against such acts in the future. Unfortunately, partisan politicians and pundits seized the opportunity to blame their ideological opponents for allegedly facilitating the tragedy through verbal incitement. Despite much finger-pointing at conservative commentators and media outlets, however, nobody could link a single “reactionary” statement to the shootings. On the contrary, it seems that the shooter, Jason Lee Loughner, was a registered independent who appeared to have no particular political bent. But the absence of any correlation between his actions and conservative speech was hardly the point. Rather, the situation provided a convenient soapbox for tendentious reporters to disparage those who hold different beliefs and to advocate restrictions on speech and expression.

Syndicated columnists have been busy pontificating on an environment of fear and hate supposedly fueled by the likes of Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sarah Palin, although editorial critics from Paul Krugman to Frank Rich have failed to identify any rhetoric from the mainstream media’s list of usual suspects calling for violent acts like the Arizona shootings. Moreover, while liberal commentators have lambasted conservative speech at every turn, they have ignored their own history of inflammatory ranting, as exemplified by the opprobrious commentary routinely published in traditional progressive papers like the Washington Post and the New York Times, and by cable and internet upstarts like MSNBC and the Huffington Post. The mainstream press made similar hysterical charges after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, until the public outcry against the cynical exploitation of that calamity proved to be a political liability. Although he initially jumped on the anti-conservative bandwagon, even then President Clinton seemed to back off as the public swiftly rejected the sophistic attempts to impute a causal connection between conservative speech and the Oklahoma City bombing.

The reality is that the typical response of political extremists to ideologies with which they disagree is to demonize the opposition. The right-wing certainly does this when it condemns all Democrats as incipient communists, while the political left does so whenever it excoriates Republicans and conservatives as latent Nazis and employs the term “fascist” as an adjective to describe any divergent philosophy. However, what seems to distinguish leftist ideologues these days is the rabid orthodoxy that compels them to paint all dissenting speech with a criminal brush.

If the liberal elites today are truly vexed by a lack of civility in public discourse, and if they are sincerely troubled by speech they claim is provocative, their failure to condemn the excesses of the left is curious and troubling. Where was the outrage when the left regularly described former President Bush as a war criminal and a Nazi, or when Bush was made the subject of leftist assassination fantasies in the film “Death of a President”? Where was their ire when President Obama during the 2008 election campaign stated regarding his Republican opponents: “if they being a knife to the fight, we bring a gun”? And where is their indignation as the political left subjects Israel and her defenders to scurrilous antisemitic attacks under the guise of political discourse? The selective outrage of the mainstream media evidences a moral hypocrisy that compromises the objectivity of its criticism. The supreme irony is that while many on the left see conservative thought and policy as evil, they ignore intellectual corruption and dilettantism within their own ranks, which is evidenced in particular by their tolerance for antisemitic expression masquerading as political criticism.

The same journalists who condemn so-called conservative hate speech refused for years to identify Helen Thomas’s malevolent editorial excesses as antisemitism. Likewise, they fail to question why it’s acceptable to defend contemptible boycotts against Israel or to rationalize the concerted efforts to delegitimize her, but not to question the mythology and blatant rejectionism underlying Palestinian national claims. Perhaps most egregiously, they fail to condemn – or even to acknowledge – a pervasive left-wing antisemitism that vilifies Israel as a Jewish nation, promotes the myth of global Jewish conspiracies, engages in historical revisionism in order to validate the Palestinian narrative, and seeks alignment with those who advocate the destruction of Israel and genocide against her people.

The media’s unbalanced criticism of Israel – and the tendency to cast her supporters as zealots or reactionaries simply for supporting her right to exist without qualification – is characteristic of its tolerance of the antisemitic impulse. The press routinely chides Israel for impeding peace by, among other things, building “settlements,” debating the imposition of loyalty oaths (which most other democracies have in one form or another), and permitting Jewish construction in her own capital. However, the same press ignores all the concessions Israel has made despite the persistence of Arab-Muslim rejectionism, and in its Mideast reportage ignores or diminishes the Jews’ historical connection to their ancient homeland. In its desire to promote the fabled two-state solution as the panacea for stability in the Mideast, the mainstream media pretends away the extremism of the so-called moderate Palestinian Authority and refuses to chastise the religiously-mandated refusal to recognize a Jewish state. In liberal circles, Mahmoud Abbas’s rejection of direct negotiations is generally blamed on Israel, while Palestinian incitement is rationalized as a reaction to Israeli provocations – despite the PA’s publicly stated commitment to the phased destruction of the Jewish State.

Consistent with its pervasive editorial bias, the western media gave minimal notice to the Fatah Revolutionary Council’s recent affirmation of principles rejecting Israel’s right to exist, and all but ignored the significance of Abbas’s official pronouncement that the PA would never recognize Israel as a Jewish State. Nor does the media express real outrage at the incitement that occurs daily throughout the Muslim-Arab world, where antisemitism flourishes and is given religious validation and academic credibility. Rather, the media demonstrates its partiality time and again when it eschews the word “terrorism” to describe acts of Islamist violence directed toward Israeli and Jewish civilians, but freely mischaracterizes any acts of self-defense by Israel as “disproportionate.” Not surprisingly, the media expresses little shame and exhibits no critical self-awareness when the bias in its coverage of Israel is exposed.

One must question the integrity of a media environment in which Reuters was caught using computer-altered photographs during the Lebanon war in 2006, and yet felt comfortable enough to run doctored photos of Israel’s interdiction of the Gaza Flotilla last year, including pictures in which the weapons of the so-called protestors were edited out. Or of a media that refuses to condemn the duplicity of a French television network for its role in promoting the Mohammed al-Dura hoax, which involved film falsely showing an Arab boy being shot dead by the IDF, even after French media analyst Philippe Karsenty exposed the fraud by proving that the event was staged and nobody was killed.

Even more surreal was the recent storm over Sarah Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to describe partisan attempts to blame her for the Arizona shootings. While Palin’s use of the term may have indicated a lack of understanding regarding its place in Jewish history, her detractors’ efforts to imply that it trivialized Jewish suffering or somehow betrayed a latent antisemitism were simply absurd. Imputing bad faith to Palin’s choice of terminology was a transparent attempt by her critics to highlight her supposed bigotry and ignorance while overlooking their own failure to condemn the very real Jew-hatred of some of their political allies and pet causes. Among other things, liberal commentators and politicians have consistently failed to challenge Arab media sources for reporting the blood libel as fact and for disseminating antisemitic propaganda as news. They rarely acknowledge antisemitic content that appears in Egyptian papers such as Al-Ahram and al-Goumhuriyya, the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh, the Jordanian paper Al-Arab al-Yaum, the Syrian Arab News Agency, and other similar venues. Likewise, they assiduously avoid exposing how the blood libel myth is taught in Muslim schools throughout the Mideast – and by the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority – and how this baleful and pathological fixation bodes ill for peace.

Perhaps more insidious is the role of the left-wing press in actively promoting the blood libel myth, albeit in an updated format for the 21st Century. The left-wing Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, for example, has run inflammatory articles based on questionable sources alleging that the IDF has illegally harvested the organs of dead Arabs. Similar news outlets have run stories claiming that the IDF intentionally preys on innocent Arab civilians, or presenting the debunked Mohammed al-Dura hoax as truth. Thus, despite the knee-jerk condemnations over Palin’s cries of “blood libel,” mainstream reporters and analysts cannot claim any moral high ground regarding her questionable turn of phrase, particularly as they willfully ignore the profusion of antisemitic propaganda from the Arab-Muslim world and from the left-wing press they so often portray as objective.

The compulsion to impute insensitivity and antisemitism to Palin, and by extension to all conservatives, is evocative of the tendency of many liberals to accuse all conservatives of being right-wing extremists. Ironically, however, many classical conservatives reject the extreme right for the same reason they reject the left; which is that both extremes believe in governmental intrusion to enforce ideological agendas and dictate the exercise of personal liberties. Although right-wing ideologues and dictatorial regimes certainly have been guilty of antisemitism in the past, the historical track record of left-wing political movements and governments has been no less shameful. Rising above such history, however, American conservatives have acknowledged the evils of antisemitism and have made thoughtful efforts to purge it from their ideological ranks, as was eloquently articulated by the late William F. Buckley in his crucial book on the subject, “In Search of Anti-Semitism.” Nobody on the left has produced a similarly introspective work, and none seems likely at this time.

The propensity to demonize opposing philosophies is not the exclusive province of either political extreme. There can be little doubt, however, that the American media tilts much further to the left than to the right. Consequently, there is far greater risk that mainstream conservatives and moderates will be misrepresented as right-wing extremists, and that left-wing excesses will be denied, downplayed, or portrayed as temperate. This is particularly apparent from the media’s biased coverage of Israel and its failure to address left-wing antisemitism or Arab-Muslim rejectionism in any meaningful way. Although editorial opinion can certainly reflect the subjective views of the author, even pundits have an obligation to represent historical facts accurately when they form the basis of commentary. Unfortunately, when dealing with Israel, the media often shows little regard for objective facts that interfere with its firmly held predilections and preordained conclusions. And unless this dynamic changes, the media’s pleas for civility will continue to ring hollow.
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February 10, 2011 | 22 Comments »

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22 Comments / 22 Comments

  1. Underzog. Hitler wasn’t elected, but was chosen by the man who had been. Stalin had no military acumen
    at all, Hitler at least had been a decorated corporal in WWI. Stalin had murdered almost his entire officer staff that crippled his army for years. He was blessed with a few great generals during WWII. He also didn’t care one whit how many of his men were killed
    in battle as long as he could win. Not unlike Hitler in the Russian campaign.

  2. The Messiah was elected by the very reason that Americans DID NOT vote with their brains, but from their greed. Here was this handsome, black,
    smooth talking dude, who said the right things that the majority of dufuss’s thought was the answer to their dreams. He was going to give everyone what they wanted. To the blacks a chance for free homes and cars and the opportunity to show whitey. For the anti war libs, a closing of Guantanamo, an exit from the war, a guy who thought like they did. For the Jews, a fellow liberal who also said great things about Israel, but also that he had an in with muslims and so would end the Palestinian problem. For all, (after 8 years of listening to a really bad public speaker) someone who looked and spoke like an actor emoting on stage after winning the Oscar for his role in I AM ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE. For all, an end to the Bush financial mess and health care for everyone. To those, undecided, the lessor of evils. He made the Republicans unfortunately chosen candidate McCain look like a bumbling fool in the debates. But to those who voted against him…who looked at his past record and associates, he was a slick liar who would ruin this country if given a chance….and he was, and he did.

  3. You don’t believe the Messiah will be re elected? The Messiah should not have been elected in the first place!

    The Germans did not elect Hitler; the Russians did not elect Lenin or Stalin; but we elected the Messiah and he lacks the C in C ability of Hitler and would certainly lack the military acumen of Stalin in Stalingrad. I feel our country is populated by mindless idiots. They would have never elected the Messiah in the first place if they had any brains!

  4. Yonaton: You make good points, and I know that you don’t speak for just me, but for all American Jews. You talk about the end of days and
    that eventually we will all be there. Underzog talks about America turning against the Jews caused by our “Muslim President”. We are not Germany in the 1930’s. I don’t believe Obama will be re-elected, and if he is he will be faced with a Republican Congress who will effectively
    castrate him. Yonaton, I applaud you for your move and the fact that after almost 2 years you are happy with your choice. I am in a different
    situation at age 85 with 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren. This is no time for this old man to become a pioneer and leave his family behind. I lived, if only vicariously, through the beginning of the new Israel. I did what I could financially for that wonderful country in its infancy, when that was what was needed from us disaspora Jews. I reveled in our victorys, and cried at our losses. I know what it feels like to fight for your life, and my heart has always been with Israel. I think that If Israel died, I would certainly die inside and know that I would never recover.
    So…I guess that still makes me an American first, a Jew and an Israel lover (inextricably tied together in my case) a very close second. My politics are a far distant third.

  5. As for anti-Semites being intelligent, there are exceptions to the rule. This hell hath no fury syndrome (Wagner with Mayerbeer) is just so common that there will be exceptions. Incidentally, among the anti-Semites one could say was smart was Lutheran Karl Marx; however, while intelligent, Marx was an economic illiterate.

    And as for America turning against the Jews, if the Messiah is re elected and the economy continues to collapse along with Weimer/Zimbabwe style inflation, the Messiah will need a distraction from his Leninesque inspired failure. What better scapegoat is there than the age old hatred of anti-Semitism/judenhass? One doesn’t have to write “Das Kapital” to make people hate the rich and laudibly it doesn’t work on Americans anyway.

    Maybe, with such a future here, Jews can look at property in Ramat Beit Shemish or Jerusalem now.

  6. Jomit – I appreciate your comments about being an American first and a Jew second. I moved my family here 1.5 years ago after having lived in the US for my entire life. Even though I have no realistic expectations of changing your mind with our online conversation, I will write this in the hopes that it will seed itself in your mind for the times that are rapidly approaching.

    I could tell you all the standard arguments about how no matter how you view yourself, you will be viewed as a Jew first when the shit hits the fan. I could tell you about the German Jews that felt the same way and how that worked out for them, or Spanish Jews, or…you get the picture. But I think the best reason is what G-d wants from you. Do you think that G-d allowed us to survive as a people after all the terrible things we have been through, gave us our homeland back after 2000 years just to have us stay in the diaspora until a magic carpet was provided for you? If the gameplan is for all Jews to be here eventually anyhow, sure that will happen (you’ll get here, not the magic carpet ride). But, whether you are “forced” out of a country to come here or you come on your own is your decision. Which do you think will be better for you in the long and short run. You will become an Israeli faster than you think. Its great!

  7. “I also heard that Wagner was hurt by the rejection of the Jewish composer Mayerbeer and took it out on the Jews ever hereafter.”
    Whatever was the “reason”, Wagner is a counter-example to your thesis: He is an otherwise intelligent person who is antisemitic.

  8. This man has done more to harm America and to promulgate hatred and distain for our country
    than any previous President (including uggghhh..Carter). But I, personally do not think that
    he is trying to islamize America or the world. I think that because of his early training
    that he will subconciously think like, and side with the muslim world…it is just more comfortable for him and
    comes natually to him. But, he will always do and say whatever his particular audience wants to hear….remember his lying speech
    his lying speech at AIPAC during his runup for the office. Check any speech he has made in front of a partison
    group. What he says and does behind their back, afterward, is another trick he learned from the Quran.
    It’s OK to lie and cheat if you are talking to unbelievers.

  9. Underzog says:
    February 13, 2011 at 1:02 am

    I disagree, Jomit. American Jews are Liberals and Democrats first; Jews second; and support for the survival of Israel and its 5.5 million Jews a distant third.

    There is no excuse for any Jew to vote for the Muslim, Barack Hussein Obama. Anyone with two eyes can see that the Messiah is midwifing the Iranian nuclear bomb and building a solid mass of Islamic revolution across the Middle East (see Mordechai Nissan’s article in Arutz Sheva).

    Here is the link to Nissan’s article

    It is Obama’s radical liberalism and political leftism that bamboozle an appreciation of his Islamic agenda. After all, his support or sympathy for homosexuality and gay marriage, certainly abortion, is incongruent with Islamic law and custom. Yet President Obama stands simultaneously for Islamand liberalism, and the radical rupturing of traditional America can dialectically advance the process over the long-run for the victory of Islam. A morally fractured and spiritually distraught America will lead more of its young people, as is already happening, to embrace Islam. So too, Obama’s call for liberty and democracy in the Arab world, as in Egypt, can enable the revolution by Islam.

    See latest poll:

  10. UNDERZOG: I am an American Jew, and I am conservative. I did not vote for that “empty suit” in the
    White House. I will admit that he got most of the Jewish vote. But, he will get far less this
    next time around. I don’t speak for all Jews…just myself. You don’t either, so I can only reiterate
    that I am an American 1st (I will never change that), a Jew second (I will never change that), and
    a conservative a distant third (I can always change that, but at this late date cannot see anything better on the
    horizon). I do agree that he is a total disappointment and a bull in the china shop. Shows you what
    a smile and a wonderful delivery off of a telepromter can do for a politician. I just hope that we can
    put all of those broken plates and teapots back together again when he goes off into the sunset and joins Hosni.

  11. I disagree, Jomit. American Jews are Liberals and Democrats first; Jews second; and support for the survival of Israel and its 5.5 million Jews a distant third.

    There is no excuse for any Jew to vote for the Muslim, Barack Hussein Obama. Anyone with two eyes can see that the Messiah is midwifing the Iranian nuclear bomb and building a solid mass of Islamic revolution across the Middle East (see Mordechai Nissan’s article in Arutz Sheva).

  12. The difference Yonoton is that Israelis are Jews and Jews living there are Israelis. They are both
    the same…you are not one or the other, you are automatically both. Americans are Americans first
    and Jews second. That doesn’t mean that they don’t love Israelis and especially love Israel. They
    are Jews, and when they go to Israel they feel like it is home, but a different home than they feel
    in America. I wish I could explain it better, but I know that every day I worry about Israel, I know
    that I am attached in many ways to her, but I am still an American Jew, and that is different and
    always will be than an Israeli Jew.

  13. Mer, I will take that one step further. I challenge ALL Jews – it is time to come home. No more excuses, you’ve been given plenty of logical reasons to make the jump already. Ask yourself, realistically, what kind of event are you waiting for before you take the plunge?

  14. America, like Europe is slowly…very slowly, learning that kissing up to
    muslims is akin to “stepping on the rake”. Their ultimate goal clearer
    to even the dumbest of us.

  15. I heard Nietzshe actually was not an anti-Semite. The Nazis could quote him with relish, but not because of what he said about the Jews.

    I also heard that Wagner was hurt by the rejection of the Jewish composer Mayerbeer and took it out on the Jews ever hereafter.

    It can be argued that Gore Vidal is not a stupid man, but he is a crazy one.

    It seems that August Biebel’s crack about anti-Semitism and socialism of the fools seems more appropos today than in the past with the general ignorance and record of failure of the Left.

  16. Unfortunately antisemitism is not limited to unintelligent individuals.
    It is equally present among highly intelligent and unintelligent.
    Antisemitism is an emotional disease, not just an intellectual errancy.
    Voltaire, Martin Luther, Nietzsche, Wagner, Heidegger are examples of some very highly intelligent antisemites.

  17. We are responsible for the lost propaganda war.
    We lost it when our leaders said: “We are willing to make painful sacrifices and give away Judea and Samaria”.

  18. -August Biebel (not Jewsih btw…) called anti-Semitism the “Socialism of the Fools.” Mary McCarthy described anti-Semitism as the intellectualism of stupid people. With intelligence levels among American students among the lowest on record, it is no wonder there is so much anti-Semitism amongst are so called intelligensia who are derived from such students.

    Also, as Socialism has failed everywhere — including the United States under the Messiah, — since the Collectivist don’t want to abandon Socialism/Communism, they must find a distraction and there is no better distraction than the circus of persecuting Jews. This age old hatred is sure fire to get an audience and maybe one can rise to a position of power by not offering anything constructive, but by giving vent to hatred albeit as unjust a hatred anti-Semitism happens to be.

  19. Jews have been the scapegoats for nearly every religion at one time or another.
    How convenient it has been to have a “disgusting group of people” upon whom to
    get rid of your misplaced wrath. For over 5000 years (with few exceptions)
    we acted our part and hunkered down till the killing and destruction passed.
    My Mother God bless her soul, came to America as a 9 year old from Russia
    after her village was destroyed by Cossacks.
    But NEVER AGAIN is not just a phrase….it is a battle cry, and Jews around the
    world today can raise their heads proudly at Israel’s accomplishments.