You have seen it happen again and again: A member of the progressive left makes anti-Semitic comments; both conservatives and liberals condemn the remarks; individuals on the hard left rush to defend the remarks and pretend that any criticism is an incitement to violence. Wash, rinse, and repeat. But what happens when a leftist institution blatantly engages in an overt display of anti-Jewish sentiment?
Everyone knows that anti-Semitism exists on both sides of the political divide. But there is a stark distinction between how this type of bigotry is handled by each camp, and the recent controversy regarding The New York Times effectively illustrates this point.
Gray Lady Publishes Anti-Jewish Cartoon
Recently, The New York Times opinion section published a political cartoon attacking President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But this particular caricature went far beyond the usual comic elements; it included the type of flagrant anti-Semitic tropes one might expect to find in a piece of white supremacist propaganda.
The cartoon depicted Netanyahu as a guide dog wearing a collar tag in the shape of the Star of David leading Trump, who was wearing a yarmulke and a pair of sunglasses. It was a message mirroring the anti-Jewish rhetoric of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MN), former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and a host of others. It promoted the idea that the Jews secretly control the U.S. government and, by extension, the country.
The Times later issued a non-apologetic acknowledgment of its misstep. “The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it,” the newspaper tweeted. “It was provided by The New York Times News Service and Syndicate, which has since deleted it.”
Note that the words “we’re sorry” do not appear in the statement. There’s a reason for that. But this is not the first time the propaganda tool masquerading as a newspaper has published anti-Semitic material.
This Ain’t the First Time
The Gray Lady has a troubling history of publishing content that targets Jews. In 2015, it printed a list of lawmakers who voted against the Iran nuclear deal. One of the columns on the list was labeled “Jewish?” The list also included “State and estimated Jewish population.” Interestingly enough, there did not appear to be a list of lawmakers of Middle Eastern descent who voted for the deal, nor were there any attempts to quantify the Middle Eastern population of the states that had lawmakers who voted for the deal.
Just recently, The New York Times published an article in its opinion section lamenting the fact that Jesus is depicted usually as a white man with blue eyes when this is not how he would have looked as a person living in ancient Israel. “As I grew older, I learned that the fair-skinned, blue-eyed depiction of Jesus has for centuries adorned stained glass windows and altars in churches throughout the United States and Europe,” the author wrote. “But Jesus, born in Bethlehem, was most likely a Palestinian man with dark skin.”
Those familiar with history know that this statement is demonstrably false. While Jesus likely had darker skin, categorizing him as a Palestinian is a historically inaccurate way to make a political statement. At the time that Jesus lived in Israel, the Romans referred to it as Judea. It wasn’t until long after Christ died that the name was changed to Palestine.
After the inevitable backlash, The New York Times corrected the piece. But as with the offensive cartoon, the piece had to go through a stringent editing process — so why wasn’t it caught? Moreover, why didn’t the editors notice that they were about to publish a brazenly anti-Jewish cartoon?
It would be tempting to assume that these were simple mistakes. But Hanlon’s razor — which dictates to not attribute to malice what could be attributed to stupidity — is likely not applicable in this situation.
Difference Between Anti-Semitism on the Left and Right
The notion that The New York Times mistakenly makes anti-Semitic comments is absurd; it wouldn’t keep happening if the newspaper’s actions were truly unintentional and its apologies exhibited at least a modicum of sincerity. The more likely truth is that an anti-Semitic cartoon made it through the various layers of the editorial process because the editors do not care about the obvious bigotry.
Moreover, they know that if they are caught, they can remove the content, post a fake apology, then move on. The same things occurred after the publication of the piece claiming Jesus was a Palestinian. They made the correction, then moved on.
As far as anyone knows, nobody has been disciplined or fired for these actions. Why? Because The New York Times understands the climate in which it lives, meaning it knows nobody will take direct action against them.
Sure, it will get criticized by both the left and the right. But The Times is an integral component of the left-wing establishment media machine, which means that its compatriots — who pretend to fight bigotry — don’t truly care about anti-Semitism. To them, racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and the rest of the progressive lexicon are mere political tools, not actual causes.
One can only imagine the faux outrage that would erupt if The National Review published a similar cartoon, right? But on the conservative side, things are different. The right has marginalized the elements of anti-Jewish thought in its ranks.
When someone on the right makes anti-Semitic statements or commits an act of bigotry-fueled violence, he or she is roundly condemned and ostracized. But on the left, this does not occur to the same degree. Indeed, individuals like Omar and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) will defend such individuals with gusto, knowing that the press will back them up.
While most on the left oppose anti-Semitism, it will become a marginal issue only when more of their leaders become willing to call it out and forcefully condemn those who traffic in anti-Jewish bigotry. Unfortunately, it does not yet appear they are up to the task.
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