Antisemitism By Any Other Name

A lifetime ago, when I was still in medical school, a fellow student reassured me that I wouldn’t have any problem finding a residency, because I’m Jewish and Jews run the medical establishment. My friend was not Jewish and the comment was actually delivered with a tinge of admiration and even envy, but it sent a chill up my spine. Positive racism is still racism and I did my best to explain why the preponderance of Jewish doctors didn’t mean that I would have some sort of leg up on the competition.

As it happens, I dropped out of medical school three years into the MD to pursue a career in film. My work has to date dealt mainly with the controversial issues of male circumcision and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the most part, the activists that I’ve encountered around these issues have been good people who are not racist and have a deep commitment to human rights. Nevertheless, on occasion I do run into antisemites. Imagine my shock when I clicked on a link to a Times of Israel article with the provocative title “Jews DO Control the Media”.

Published in the Ops&Blogs section under the pseudonym of “Manny Friedman,” this article was ostensibly written by a Jewish person, but whether this individual is Jewish or not matters little when we judge the content of what they are saying.

“The truth is, the anti-Semites got it right. We Jews have something planted in each one of us that makes us completely different from every group in the world. We’re talking about a group of people that just got put in death camps, endured pogroms, their whole families decimated. And then they came to America, the one place that ever really let them have as much power as they wanted, and suddenly they’re taking over. Please don’t tell me that any other group in the world has ever done that. Only the Jews. And we’ve done it before. That’s why the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. We were too successful. Go look at the Torah — it’s right there. And we did it in Germany too.”

And right there, just like my friend from medical school, The Times of Israel is allowing a contributor to affirm antisemitic canards. The essentialist notion that a particular people group has an inborn advantage over other people groups is as racist as the notion that they have an inborn disadvantage. Moreover, the idea that there is some sort of coordinated Jewish effort to obtain power and “take over” resonates with the worst lies that people have told about us for millennia. It is shocking to me that The Times of Israel agreed to publish this article.

To put things into perspective, a few months ago I was shopping around a book review that I wrote of Gilad Atzmon’s “The Wandering Who?”. Atzmon, for those unfamiliar, is a controversial expat Israeli Jazz musician who has publicly made borderline antisemitic statements. My purpose in reviewing his book was to foreclose the easy riposte that none of his critics were actually responding to his ideas. In any event, my review was rejected by the Electronic Intifada, because they didn’t want to give any kind of air to a person who espoused antisemitic views (it was eventually published here). Think about that for a second. The Electronic Intifada is more sensitive to antisemitism than The Times of Israel.

The Times has come a long way in a short time. They have attracted some serious talent to contribute to their pages and are becoming an important destination for quality journalism on Israel-related issues. But if they want to continue to attract writers and readers, they will need to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to this kind of content.