New York Times Editor Says His Book Will Be ‘Very, Very Unpopular’ With Jews. So Far, He’s Right
A New York Times editor’s op-ed piece criticizing Jewish organizations for supposedly failing to speak out against antisemitism is being harshly criticized by Jewish leaders and journalists.
The article is by Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor of The New York Times and the author of the book (((Semitism))): Being Jewish In America In The Age Of Trump. It appeared under the online headline “Anti-Semitism Is Rising. Why Aren’t American Jews Speaking Up?”
“Inane” is how the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, Jeremy Burton, described the Times article.
“You’re kidding, right?” was the response to the Times article by the editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Andrew Silow-Carroll, who called the Times article “odd.”
“It’s just weird to conclude that Jewish organizations are ignoring or downplaying anti-Semitism,” Silow-Carroll wrote.
The editor-in-chief of JNS — the Jewish News Syndicate, Jonathan Tobin, faulted Weisman’s article for focusing on right-wing antisemitism while ignoring Louis Farrakhan, “left-wing anti-Semitism,” and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement against Israel.
“Those like Weisman and the Times, who are only alarmed about anti-Semitism when it can be attributed to the influence of Trump, are hijacking Jewish fears to further a partisan agenda,” Tobin wrote. “That’s something fair-minded people of all political stripes should reject.”
Not all Jewish leaders were negative about the Times article. The Anti-Defamation League was praised by Weisman as “one of the few major Jewish groups in the United States that is still not predominantly engaged in debate over Israel.” The group’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, tweeted thanks to Weisman “for speaking out, not just about the hate…but about the polarization that has scrambled our community & country.”
“Weird,” “odd,” or “partisan,” or “inane” as Jewish leaders and journalists may consider Weisman’s argument to be, the book’s sales skyrocketed after the appearance of the op-ed and on the strength of Weisman’s appearance on the NPR program “Fresh Air.”
In the NPR appearance, Weisman said he anticipated a negative reaction from Jews to at least some of his book:
I actually devoted an entire chapter to what I call the Israel obsession. And it will be very, very unpopular among American Jews. My view is that Jews in the United States have become singularly obsessed with the Jewish state. Jews, we love to argue. We love to argue with each other. We have J Street now. We have AIPAC. We have the American Jewish Committee. We have the New Israel Fund. They sit, and they argue about Israel. They don’t — it’s remarkable how American Jewry has lost sight of what’s happening actually in the United States. And I would argue that the reason that many American Jews, myself included, were so taken aback by the sudden — what looked like the sudden emergence of alt-right — was because all we’re sitting around doing is arguing over Israel. And I think that there was a lot of willful blindness to the white nationalist sentiments in the Trump campaign because of all he said about Israel.
More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.