The Old York Times
The city of York in England was the site of one of the grisliest mass murders of Jews in medieval times. Antisemitism was being stoked throughout Europe in the 12th century due in large part to the Crusades. Then, on March 16, 1190, the entire Jewish community of York was massacred in a tower where they had attempted to escape. William of Newburgh depicted the annihilation and those who carried it out as indulging in slaughter “without any scruple of Christian conscientiousness.”
It was hoped that New York, a new city in the new world, though named after the old one, would be a city of great refuge for the Jews and indeed it would go on to become the city with the largest Jewish population in history. But the city’s leading publication, and the newspaper of record, seems to have decided that it’s time to claw back to the spirit of Old York.
On Friday, The New York Times‘ international edition published a disgusting antisemitic cartoon of a blind President Donald Trump wearing a yarmulke, being walked by a dog with the face of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a Star of David collar. Here was the near-perfect constellation of Jew hatred: The giant nose and menacing facial features superimposed on Netanyahu who was himself superimposed on a dog. The hated Trump suddenly Jewified. The Jew, wearing his Magen David as a dog collar, almost like a yellow arm band, manipulating the blind, gullible world leader as he slowly tries to take over the world (did someone say “Protocols”?) All that was missing was a bar of gold in the dog’s mouth and the trope would have been complete.
Two days later, a murderer attacked the Chabad synagogue in California and killed a precious woman who came to say mourning prayers for her recently deceased mother, blew the fingers off the rabbi, injured a heroic visiting Israeli, and inflicted shrapnel wounds on an eight-year-old girl.
The Times cartoon was published in its international edition, so I would not attribute the murderous actions of the Chabad killer to the paper’s visual attack on the Jews. What this despicable example of antisemitism in the “Paper of Record” did do, however, is continue the process of normalizing antisemitism and bringing us closer to Old York.
The cartoon would have fit nicely in 1930’s Germany in, say, Der Sturmer. How could it have made its way into The New York Times? Well, the publication of repeated attacks against Israel by columnists such as Roger Cohen, Thomas Friedman, Nicholas Kristof, and the latest addition to the stable of anti-Israel commentators, Michelle Goldberg, has made an attitude of hostility to the Jewish people and their homeland commonplace. The fact that so many of Israel’s detractors are Jews reflects an apparent determination to seek out the minority of writers with these views. It follows the old journalism adage that dog bites man isn’t news, but man bites dog is. Jews who love Israel aren’t news, those who disparage it are news because they are so rare.
You would have thought that the Times would feel an obligation to atone for its failures to give the persecution and murder of the Jews during the Holocaust the attention it deserved. The Jewish-owned paper, however, has always seemed determined to bend over backwards to demonstrate it will show no favoritism toward the Jewish people or their homeland.
And don’t try to tell me this bias is restricted to the opinion section. We have seen it time after time in the news coverage as the Times focuses on the plight of the Palestinians and typically ignores or minimizes the terror they direct toward Israelis.
How many times have we seen articles where the Times refused to refer to the murderers of Jews as terrorists?
How many times have we seen them give the mothers of the killers more sympathy than their victims?
How many times have we seen the paper parrot the views of Hamas, Hezbollah, and the PLO?
How many times have they manipulated photographs, captions, and headlines to demonize Israel?
Sadly, I’m not surprised by the upsurge of antisemitism in Europe, where it is so deeply ingrained in societies that for centuries persecuted Jews, instigated pogroms and blood libels, and ultimately, collaborated or stood by while six million Jews were slaughtered.
But to see such hatred of the Jews in the United States?
Recently, as President Trump has emerged as Israel’s greatest friend to ever occupy the Oval Office, we have seen the legislative branch become a haven for antisemites and detractors of Israel. When Rep. Ilhan Omar made a series of antisemitic remarks, her colleagues could not muster the political courage to unequivocally condemn her and inexplicably left her on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where her animus could impact US-Israel relations.
By giving Omar a pass, the Democratic Party has sent a message that using antisemitic language will be tolerated at the highest level of American politics. It did not help when 22 Senate Democrats, including five presidential candidates, voted against legislation aimed at curbing the antisemitic boycott movement.
Some of the Democratic candidates have been even worse on the campaign trail. Bernie Sanders, of course, is a long-time critic of Israel. Even so, his recent accusation that Israel’s government is racist was loathsome and disgusting, and it was equally disturbing to hear Beto O’Rourke call Israel’s prime minister “a racist.”
Given that antisemitism is being normalized at the highest levels of government, is it surprising that it has also seeped into academia, where thousands of professors support the antisemitic boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign? More than 1,000 have signed a petition supporting a professor who refused to write a letter of recommendation when he found out the student was planning to study in Israel. More than 1,000 professors signed a petition saying they would do the same thing. Last week, anti-Israel students tried to ram a divestment resolution through the University of Maryland student government during Passover knowing many Jewish students would not be around to protest. Fortunately, it was still defeated.
None of this is a surprise anymore.
The Internet and social media has become a cesspool filled with antisemitic websites, posts, and comments that reinforce, encourage, and publicize Jew-hatred.
What is inexcusable, however, is for the mainstream press, in particular The New York Times, to contribute to the normalization of antisemitism and the demonization of Israel. The silly excuses the Times gave for the publication of the antisemitic cartoon — that it came about through a low-level single editor — will not cut it. Nor will its forced apology, which came only after the publication faced widespread condemnation. The Times needs a complete overhaul.
It is more than 70 years overdue to have responsible journalists and editors overseeing the news and editorials, who will put an end to the anti-Israel bias, which often has antisemitic undertones, and present the unfiltered facts. This does not mean Israel cannot be criticized, but it does mean that it should be covered with the same level of objectivity as other countries and that its actions be placed in historical and contemporaneous context. Anything like the cartoon that contains antisemitic tropes has no business in the newspaper.
Let’s hope that Old York stays firmly out of The New York Times.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international best-selling author of 32 books including The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.