Why Should We Give a Pass to Those Who Tweet Antisemitism?
Ours is a time when antisemitism is surging and the popularity of intersectional politics has given new credibility to radical groups that are keen to link the war on Israel to the culture wars being waged in the United States. At such a moment it is the duty of those who speak up against this prejudice to be ever more vigilant rather than to relax our efforts. Yet when a person who has associated herself with some of these smears and was an editor at a publication that habitually trafficked in them rises to a position of eminence at the country’s most important newspaper, the advice from some quarters is to not be too hasty in expressing alarm.
That is the conceit of a piece published by The Algemeiner that alleges that I have done an injustice to Charlotte Greensit, an incoming managing editor at The New York Times because I called her to account for tweets in which she promoted an antisemitic blood libel about Israel training American police to kill African-Americans.
Greensit scrubbed her Twitter account of this and other outrageous tweets that she posted during her time at The Intercept. We are now told that promoting such awful articles was just part of her job and, according to the author of The Algemeiner article, since jobs are hard to find in journalism, we shouldn’t judge her. Her half-hearted non-apology for her past actions notwithstanding, that is, of course, a very low standard. Nor do I think it is likely that she, or anyone else at the Times, would be as charitable to those who retweet hateful views that they opposed.
Instead, we are told we should listen to Greensit’s friends, who all vouch for her virtue and opposition to antisemitism. One such friend cited in The Algemeiner repeated the discredited argument that she is merely guilty of holding “an unauthorized view” about Israel even if those views aren’t legitimate criticism but actually in accord with smears promoted by antisemites.
The point here is that actions and associations that would result in a person being “canceled” if they testified to links to racism never seem to apply to antisemitism. Since Greensit is a member in good standing of the elite chattering classes, we are told to judge her kindly. Had she categorically renounced the content of the antisemitic story and other awful tweets, that would buttress her defenders’ arguments. But she has not done so.
Nor do I think it is likely that she will, given the atmosphere at the Times, where deviations from woke ideology are, as we have seen with the ousted James Bennet, harshly punished. The notion that the Times’ hiring of an editor from The Intercept has nothing to do with the newsroom revolt at the paper that caused Bennet’s humiliation is laughable. The same is true of any assurance that a person with Greensit’s credentials and who was hired under such circumstances will be a bulwark against more anti-Zionist and antisemitic smears being published on her watch.
The point of my column was to contrast Greensit’s hiring with the celerity with which Keir Starmer, the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party, dealt with a similar case of a tweet endorsing an antisemitic blood libel. In the case of Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, her retweet of an article in which actress Maxine Peake promoted a similar accusation, was enough to get her fired from her party’s shadow cabinet.
Both Long-Bailey and Peake were ardent supporters of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Each subsequently denied that they were antisemitic, a stand that Corbyn also maintains. Like Greensit, no doubt, their friends also vouch for their good intentions and lack of malice.
But Starmer understands that if his party is to get out from under the shadow of Corbyn’s antisemitism, a clean sweep was necessary.
The publishers of the Times are not so fastidious.
Nor are they interested in disassociating their newspaper from radical attacks on Israel, as evidenced by their hiring someone from The Intercept. Given the history of the Times, that is hardly surprising. But that someone who claims to be a leading critic of the Times’ coverage of Israel and Jewish issues would endorse their attitude is puzzling.
The left’s cancel culture and its chilling effect on free speech are odious. It has led to people being hounded out of jobs and the public square for holding views that are not racist but merely dissent from the Black Lives Matter movement’s false narrative about America. But neither the Times nor most of Greensit’s supporters have spoken up against cancel culture when it concerns those who do not genuflect to the BLM catechism.
Friends of Israel are now cautioned to be wary of being too harsh to those who spread libels of the Jewish state lest we be guilty of acting unfairly. They say an exception to the harsh treatment dealt to others who have tweeted out hate should be carved out for Greensit because she is highly regarded by fellow elites. That falls flat as a standard that any reasonable person, no matter their ideology or faith, should be obliged to respect.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS-Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter @jonathans_tobin.