New York Times Focus on Soros and Antisemitism Welcome But Also Exasperating
The New York Times has been devoting a lot of column-inches lately to the idea that it’s unacceptably antisemitic to criticize George Soros.
A front-page news article by three Times reporters was headlined “How Vilification of George Soros Moved From the Fringes to the Mainstream.”
The Times business section had its own front-of-the-section column faulting publishers for issuing books that contained criticism of Soros or, as the Times headline put it, “hateful conspiracy theories.”
A front-page Times news article headlined “Growing Anti-Semitism Stuns American Jews” devoted four paragraphs to Soros.
A Times op-ed complained, “Anti-Semitism is being normalized in public life. As you read this, there are television ads being run by mainstream political candidates and parties that invoke the specter of the Jewish philanthropist George Soros to instill fear in voters’ hearts.”
Perhaps the newfound concern is justified by the pipe bomb reportedly sent to a home in Westchester County, New York owned by Soros, or by the attack on a synagogue in Pittsburgh. It’s worth noting, though, that when antisemitism-tinged anti-Soros venom emerged not from American or European right-wing elements, but rather from a prominent Muslim politician, the Times was all too ready to overlook it.
Back in May, when Malaysian voters reinstalled Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, a front-page Times news article made no mention of his record of antisemitism or his clash with Soros. A Times op-ed hailed the election as “the greatest show of democracy” in Malaysian history. I wrote about it for The Algemeiner at the time under the headline, “New York Times Exults Over Election of Malaysian Prime Minister With Sordid Anti-Semitic Record.”
In 2003, Times columnist Paul Krugman explained Mohamad’s remarks as “Anti-Semitism With A Purpose,” trying to blame Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush for provoking them.
As a New York Sun editorial pointed out, however, in 1997 Mohamad criticized Soros for destabilizing Malaysia’s currency, the ringgit. “We do not want to say that this is a plot by the Jews, but in reality it is a Jew who triggered the currency plunge, and coincidentally Soros is a Jew. It is also a coincidence that Malaysians are mostly Moslem. Indeed, the Jews are not happy to see Moslems progress. If it were Palestine, the Jews would rob Palestinians. Thus this is what they are doing to our country,” he said.
Before you write to object, let me be clear. I understand that the 1997 events happened a while ago and far away, while the pipe bombs and Pittsburgh and the US midterm elections are happening now and in this country, and are therefore more newsworthy. But you’d think that in the midst of a long front-page feature about Soros and antisemitism that reaches back to articles from 1987 and events from 1992, the Times would see fit at least to mention the Malaysia matter. Or that it would have been more concerned about it when it covered the election there earlier this year. The more the Times overlooks Muslim antisemitism and focuses instead on right-wing Republican antisemitism, the more one suspects that the Times‘ alarm and objection is less about antisemitism than it is about the Republicans. I suppose the Times‘ concern is welcome regardless of the motive. Readers who would prefer that New York Times coverage of Jewish issues come without a political tilt might be forgiven, however, if they greet the newspaper’s newfound vigilance with an exasperated chuckle.
Ira Stoll is the former managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.