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January 18, 2018 11:12 am

Antisemitism Rears Its Ugly Head in Puerto Rican Newspaper

avatar by Marcelo Wio

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Buildings damaged by Hurricane Maria are seen in Lares, Puerto Rico, Oct. 6, 2017. Photo: Reuters / Lucas Jackson.

Puerto Rico is going through a deep economic crisis, mainly due to heavy public debt. This subject has been addressed in numerous articles that explore causes and solutions to the crisis.

Last Monday, Puerto Rico’s largest daily newspaper, El Nuevo Día, published one more of these pieces. Actually, it wasn’t just one more. Penned by Wilda Rodríguez, it stated that “behind closed doors the most enlightened politicians speak of US power as a parallel government organized by the forces of wealth and violence (war machinery) from Wall Street.”

But these “forces of wealth and violence” to which Ms. Rodriguez referred, weren’t merely abstract figures. Ultimately, she singled out a specific culprit, asserting that “the US Congress will finally do what ‘the Jew’ — as the prototype of the real power is vulgarly called — wants.” And “the Jew,” according to Ms. Rodriguez, couldn’t care less about the situation in Puerto Rico, as “he” is “laden with his heavy itinerary of wars and profits.”

To justify and substantiate these charges, the writer resorted to citing the view of an individual in an opinion column published “more than twenty years ago” by the Israeli newspaper Maariv. Although it is a newspaper well-known in Israel, Maariv is not known abroad. Notably, a translation of the article appears on websites such as the one run by David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and a notorious antisemite.

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The original column related that the then-US administration included numerous Jews, a fact that was said to underscore positive change from the past. The tenor of the column was essentially ethnic pride on the part of Jews — a group that had often, including in America, been outside the corridors of power. The antisemitic sites that posted the column twisted it, and claimed that it was proof of malevolent Jewish dominance.

After a series of protests from readers and organizations pointing out that the El Nuevo Día article was antisemitic, the newspaper felt compelled to publish an explanatory note apologizing to the Jewish community, as well as stating that the newspaper does “not promote content that can be interpreted as antisemitic, just as [it does] not promote content that sponsors hatred or discrimination on the basis of gender, religion or racial ethnicity.”

Ms. Rodriguez also published a succinct explanatory note, in which she asserted, basically, that as she never had any racial or religious prejudice or hostility, the piece therefore can’t be antisemitic.

An op-ed by ReVista — CAMERA’s Spanish Department — addressing this subject was published last Saturday in the same Puerto Rican newspaper, pointing out why — effectively — Ms. Rodriguez’s text was antisemitic, and, in fact, it could serve as an example of the definition of it.

But perhaps more important than this particular incident is appreciating the repercussions of news and commentary published in the Israeli media, and specifically how even marginal claims can enjoy a pernicious longevity. A personal opinion expressed in an Israeli media outlet can be used to characterize and damn Israel and the Jewish people as a whole, when it is quoted or distorted in some publication abroad.

Marcelo Wio is a research analyst in the Spanish-language department of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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