Singling Out Jews in Yellow

Shortly before the Senate vote on the nuclear deal with Iran was supposed to take place (but was filibustered by Democratic supporters of the deal), The New York Times *helpfully* provided a list letting everyone know which Jewish lawmakers were against the deal, with the names highlighted in yellow.

New york times congressional jew tracker iran deal senate

The New York Times, after the expected (and deserved) outrage, removed the “Religion” column from the list but acknowledged no wrongdoing, “[under] Times standards, the religion or ethnicity of someone in the news can be noted if that fact is relevant and the relevance is clear to readers.” Nonetheless due to readers’ outrage, it adjusted the list.

As far as the yellow highlighting, the editor in charge of drawing up the list said, “It is an informative graphic & I’m stunned by response. Chill out, people. You’ve never used a yellow highlighter?”

Given the not-so-ancient history of Jews being singled out with yellow, why not use cyan?

The name of the editor who thought that critics of the Times out to be more chilled: Jonathan Weisman.

On the Receiving end

Recently, Weisman, an editor for the Washington bureau of The New York Times was on the other side of a Jew-baiting incident.

Weisman wrote in a column that he was recently engaged by a “horde” of anti-Semitic Trump supporters on Twitter. Weisman acknowledged that he wasn’t the first Jewish journalist to be so targeted and used the column to provide context for the Twitter attacks against him.

He noted that after recently explaining to a teenager that anti-Semitism did indeed still exist, “[just] weeks later, I found myself staring down a social-media timeline filled with the raw hate and anti-Semitic tropes that for centuries fueled expulsion, persecution, pogroms and finally genocide.”

Since that first contact, Weisman writes:

The anti-Semitic hate, much of it from self-identified Donald J. Trump supporters, hasn’t stopped since. Trump God Emperor sent me the Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew. I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz, the famous words “Arbeit Macht Frei” replaced without irony with “Machen Amerika Great.” Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven, were followed by Holocaust denial. The Jew as leftist puppet master from @DonaldTrumpLA was joined by the Jew as conservative fifth columnist, orchestrating war for Israel. That one came from someone who tagged himself a proud future member of the Trump Deportation Squad.

The imaginings by my tormentors of me as an Orthodox Jew in wide-brimmed hat and Hasidic garb were, of course, laughable. The truth is, I have become largely disconnected from Jewish life and faith over the years, and like many American Jews I have been lulled into complacency. Our politics have dispersed between the parties. Our coreligionists grace our movie screens, lead the cities of Los Angeles and Chicago, help oversee the Senate Intelligence Committee, succeed without apology, but also struggle like everyone else.

Weisman has preserved virtually all of the tweets in his timeline, because “such hate needed airing, … Americans needed to see the darkest currents in the politics of exclusion animating the presidential election.” Weisman also notes that Trump has done little to disassociate himself from his openly racist supporters.

Other than a belated statement a few weeks ago saying “Antisemitism has no place [in] our society, which needs to be united, not divided,” Trump has done nothing to disassociate himself from his racist supporters. Even if I were convinced that he would govern like Reagan, I couldn’t vote for him myself because of this.

Towards the end of his column, Weisman writes that the history of of anti-Semitism once seemed like a thing of the past but:

All of that seemed like buried history until now. In Mr. Trump, many in the alt-right have found an imperfect vessel for their cause, but they have poured their rage into his campaign without impediment. Mr. Trump apparently takes all comers.

But it hasn’t been buried that long.

Consider what happened last year when Sen. Chuck Schumer said that he would vote against the nuclear deal with Iran. Schumer was hit with a Twitter storm accusing him disloyalty to the United States.

https://twitter.com/ClassWarfare123/status/629864681755295746

Daily Kos Cartoon Schumer Traitor Israeli Flag w border

I have no idea if Weisman or The New York Times offered any words of condemnation of this centuries-old anti-Semitic trope or if they offered support to Schumer commending him for sticking to his principles in the face of the hatred.

I don’t think they did. An editorial appearing shortly before Schumer’s decision raised the specter of disloyalty, The editorial blasted Republicans for “[the] unseemly spectacle of lawmakers siding with a foreign leader against their own commander in chief.”

The editorial was followed by the list mentioned above, for which Weisman was responsible.

My point here is not to minimize what happened to Weisman at the hands of the alt-right.  The truth is that for the most part we don’t know who the alt-right are who attacked Weisman. What we do know is that ugly anti-Semitic tropes have made their way to the mainstream. During last year’s legislative battle over the Iran nuclear deal there was plenty of anti-Semitic trolling going on, and it wasn’t coming from Trump supporters:

Here’s how Tablet Magazine put it:

What we increasingly can’t stomach—and feel obliged to speak out about right now—is the use of Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it. Accusing Sen. Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple. Accusing senators and congressmen whose misgivings about the Iran deal are shared by a majority of the U.S. electorate of being agents of a foreign power, or of selling their votes to shadowy lobbyists, or of acting contrary to the best interests of the United States is the kind of naked appeal to bigotry and prejudice that would be familiar in the politics of the pre-Civil Rights Era South.

This use of anti-Jewish incitement as a political tool is a sickening new development in American political discourse, and we have heard too much of it lately—some coming, ominously, from our own White House and its representatives. Let’s not mince words: Murmuring about “money” and “lobbying” and “foreign interests” who seek to drag America into war is a direct attempt to play the dual-loyalty card. It’s the kind of dark, nasty stuff we might expect to hear at a white power rally, not from the president of the United States—and it’s gotten so blatant that even many of us who are generally sympathetic to the administration, and even this deal, have been shaken by it.

There has been an increasing acceptability towards using anti-Semitic tropes in political discourse. We really saw an  increase in it last year in the battle to get support for the deal to legitimize the illicit nuclear program of a regime founded on anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.

Having read Weisman’s column there’s an air of unreality to his seeming discovery of online trolls who spout anti-Semitism at those they disagree with politically. Of course there were the reactions to the nuclear deal with Iran last year, which Weisman and the Times had a hand in perpetuating.

The Lieberman Precedent

But if one goes back further, to 2006, one finds the same sort of invective unleashed former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I – Conn.), in his campaign against Ned Lamont by the leftist, online “netroots” community. (After losing the Democratic primary to Lamont in August, Lieberman won the general election as an independent in November.)

Shortly before the primary, Lanny Davis, former special counsel to President Bill Clinton expressed his shock that “The far right does not have a monopoly on bigotry and hatred and sanctimony.” Davis cited the following examples before the primary, though he found a lot more:

  • Ned Lamont and his supporters need to [g]et real busy. Ned needs to beat Lieberman to a pulp in the debate and define what it means to be an AMerican who is NOT beholden to the Israeli Lobby” (by “rim,” posted on Huffington Post, July 6, 2006).
  • “Joe’s on the Senate floor now and he’s growing a beard. He has about a weeks growth on his face. . . . I hope he dyes his beard Blood red. It would be so appropriate” (by “ctkeith,” posted on Daily Kos, July 11 and 12, 2005).
  • On “Lieberman vs. Murtha”: “as everybody knows, jews ONLY care about the welfare of other jews; thanks ever so much for reminding everyone of this most salient fact, so that we might better ignore all that jewish propaganda [by Lieberman] about participating in the civil rights movement of the 60s and so on” (by “tomjones,” posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005).
  • “Good men, Daniel Webster and Faust would attest, sell their souls to the Devil. Is selling your soul to a god any worse? Leiberman cannot escape the religious bond he represents. Hell, his wife’s name is Haggadah or Muffeletta or Diaspora or something you eat at Passover” (by “gerrylong,” posted on the Huffington Post, July 8, 2006).
  • “Joe Lieberman is a racist and a religious bigot” (by “greenskeeper,” posted on Daily Kos, Dec. 7, 2005).

These were, what Davis called, the “nicer” examples of the invective directed at Lieberman.

Davis, distinguished between the netroots crowd and Lamont. He wrote that Lamont should not be blamed for the haters who supported him, but called on Lamont to denounce them, which he had not done. Davis concluded:

Mr. Lamont and all other liberal Democrats should remember the McCarthy era and not fall into the trap of the hypocrisy of the double standard — that it’s not OK when Ann Coulter dispenses her venomous hatred, but it is OK when our side’s versions of Ann Coulter do.

The New York Times featured at least four articles reporting on the netroots campaign against Lieberman. Not one of those 4 articles from 2006 mentioned the charges of dual loyalty, or Israel, or Lieberman’s Jewishness. The Times chose not to cover this aspect of the campaign against Lieberman.

Weisman should, of course, continue to expose the anti-Semitism and racism of Trump supporters. However this is not a new thing, and has been going on for a decade now. The record of The New York Times has been either to ignore charges of dual loyalty against Jews or actually play a role in amplifying them. Weisman’s expose of the Trump supporters is lacking any sense that he and his newspaper have played a role in making anti-Semitic tropes acceptable in political discourse.

Thanks to Twitter friends Mark Jacobs and Jubel Foster for pointing out Weisman’s role in the list of Jewish lawmakers.

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