CAMERA Op-Ed: The Media are Helping to Normalize Antisemitism

The only thing necessary for the triumph of antisemitism is for journalists to do nothing, to say nothing – unless its politically convenient. Regrettably, many major Western news outlets are doing precisely that.

Take, for example, The Washington Post. On December 1, 2019, the newspaper ran a glowing 2,849-word profile of Valerie Plame, a former CIA employee who is now running for a congressional seat in New Mexico. Plame, the Post tells readers, was but a “soccer mom who volunteered for local nonprofits” before being implored to run for office. She had a “national name” thanks to her being accidentally outed by Richard Armitage, George W. Bush’s first deputy secretary of state, as a CIA employee after her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, opposed the second Iraq War – an occurrence which inspired a 2010 movie, Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

The Post’s article, complete with several photographs of Plame hobnobbing with Hollywood celebrities and testifying before the US Congress, reads and looks more like a campaign advertisement. Indeed, it even features photographs from a campaign ad of her driving a car backward on a dirt road.

Valerie Plame may be a glamorous “soccer mom,” but she also thinks “America’s Jews are Driving America’s Wars.” That was the title of an Unz Review article that she shared on Twitter on September 21, 2017. Plame initially defended the article, calling it “very provocative, but thoughtful.” After mounting criticism, she changed her story, apologizing and claiming that she hadn’t read the article and, as a result, missed the “gross undercurrents” of a piece whose very title makes its antisemitism clear.

As the Anti-Defamation League documented in an October 4, 2018 report that the Unz Review publishes “racist and antisemitic content” and its founder, Ron Unz, “has denied the Holocaust, endorsed the claim that Jews consume the blood of non-Jews, and has claimed that Jews control the media, hate non-Jews, and worship Satan.” Plame was obviously a fan, having shared several other articles from the website on a number of occasions.

Indeed, she might still be a fan. We don’t know. The Washington Post’s puff piece didn’t even mention the controversy, much less ask the congressional candidate if she’s still reading and sharing antisemitic material.

In a nearly 3,000-word piece, the newspaper certainly had the room to address Plame’s history of propagating antisemitic material. Nor can the newspaper claim that it was unaware; on September 22, 2017 – before Plame chose to run as a Democrat for national office – the Post published an article titled “Why people care about Valerie Plame and her antisemitic tweet.”

Regrettably, this isn’t the only recent instance of the Post covering for left-leaning antisemites. A November 26, 2019, Post report on British Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mervis calling out UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn for his failure to address growing rank antisemitism in his political party included the misleading description of Corbyn and as being a “strong supporter of Palestinian rights and a fierce critic of Israel’s right-wing government,” along with “many in the left-wing of his party.”

This is demonstrably false. As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis (CAMERA), among others, has documented, UK Labour Party members and activists have praised terrorists, engaged in Holocaust denial, compared Israelis to Nazis and stated that Israel shouldn’t exist.

A recently leaked report by the Jewish Labor Movement to the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the official regulatory body devoted to promoting equality and human rights, included sworn statements by 70 current and former members of the party. They charge Corbyn with “making the party a welcoming refuge for antisemites.” The report noted that there is “an acute problem of abuse directed at Jewish members, simply because they are Jewish.”

As of this writing, The Washington Post has yet to note the leaked EHRC report. Indeed, the tweet accompanying the Post’s November 26 story initially asserted that the British Labour Party has “been hit by claims of antisemitism because of strong statements on Palestinian rights.” Following contact from CAMERA, the Post issued a correction, noting, “Labour members have been accused of making anti-Jewish statements, which should not have been conflated with statements on Palestinian rights.”

The Post has also seen fit to mischaracterize efforts to fight antisemitism.

On Dec. 11, 2019, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to protect Americans from antisemitic discrimination on college campuses. The order was largely based on the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, according to co-chairs of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) and adheres to guidelines first implemented by the Obama administration.

The order instructs all departments and agencies of the U.S. executive branch to apply the same prohibitions “against…forms of discrimination rooted in anti-Semitism” as it does to discrimination based on race, color or national origin, as stated in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It also instructs the executive branch to consider “Contemporary Examples of Antisemitism” from the internationally accepted IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism when determining antisemitism. The executive order contains no language defining Judaism as a “national origin.”

The newspaper inaccurately asserted that “The order signed Wednesday by the president specifically targets colleges and universities by classifying Judaism not only as a religion but also as a race or nationality.” But as Jonathan Tobin noted in a JNS column the previous day, “Trump’s antisemitism order is a Rorschach test for Jews”:

“The notion that Trump was trying to redefine Judaism is just nonsense. As even the left-wing magazine Slate pointed out, Trump’s order was in line with past rulings by the George W. Bush Department of Education and Barack Obama Justice Department (in an opinion written by then Assistant Attorney General and current Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez) about extending Title VI protections. The original language of the act did not extend protection against discrimination to members of religious groups when based on shared ancestry or religion. That means that when groups of people are discriminated against on the ‘perception of shared race, ethnicity or national origin’—as is the case with Jews as well as Muslims and Sikhs—the law offered them no help. Both the Bush and Obama administrations agreed that was wrong.”

Both the Post’s editorial, as well as a Dec. 12, 2019 article by reporter Anne Gearan and an op-ed by far left Rabbi Jill Jacobs, omitted this precedence. And neither the editorial nor Gearan’s report noted that numerous countries and governmental agencies, including the U.S. State Department, have adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Indeed, as the left-leaning ADL noted in a press release supporting the order:

“The Executive Order includes Jews in Title VI protections, something ADL and previous administrations, both Democratic and Republican, have supported for years.

In so doing, the order is very similar to the proposed Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which ADL has endorsed and supported. It directs the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to consider the IHRA definition in determining whether an investigation of an incident of anti-Semitism is warranted under Title VI.”

In contrast to the Post’s claim that the order “deals with campus incidents too broadly by threatening to suppress speech that may be reflexively labeled as bigoted if, for instance, it attacks Israel,” the ADL notes that “under the order, criticism of Israel may be considered protected speech, but the line must be drawn when such expression becomes intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment.”

Tellingly, neither the paper’s editorial or its reporting spend any bit of time detailing the hostility that Jewish students face on campus. As ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents has documented, in only two years there has been an 86 percent increase in reported antisemitic incidents at colleges and universities – from 108 incidents in 2016 to 201 incidents in 2018. 

This, the ADL points out, accounts for a total of ten percent of the reported antisemitic incidents. Yet, the Post chooses to misleadingly depict the order as misguided because it only deals with “academia when so many hateful occurrences have occurred at synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and elsewhere.”

The logical fallacy in such an argument should be readily apparent—even to The Washington Post.

Instead of detailing the antisemitism crisis on our nation’s campuses, or the history and precedence for the order, the Post opposes it because Trump is, they argue, not the right person to sign it. Partisanship, it seems, comes before an honest characterization of efforts to fight antisemitism and protect Jewish students. For shame.

Regrettably, the newspaper isn’t alone—either in opposing efforts to combat antisemitism or in whitewashing it when it emanates from the left.

Many media outlets devoted considerable coverage to Israel’s decision to bar entry to US congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Michigan). Both members of Congress support the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which, per its co-founder Omar Barghouti, seeks the destruction of the Jewish state. BDS links to terrorist groups have been noted in April 19, 2016 Congressional testimony and elsewhere.

Yet, most major news outlets, including the Post, USA Today and Politico.com, failed to note that Miftah, an organization that has praised suicide bombers and accused Jews of consuming Christian blood, sponsored Omar and Tlaib’s planned trip. USA Today was even provided with documents from NGO Monitor, an organization that tracks non-profits, revealing Miftah’s sordid history – but declined to include that information in an update to an August 15, 2019 dispatch on Omar and Tlaib’s planned trip.

The Washington Post, which filed a report, an op-ed and an editorial opposing efforts to fight antisemitism on campus, couldn’t spare a word about two members of Congress planning to go on a trip sponsored by an organization that traffics in blood libels.

When it comes to antisemitism, what “qualifies” as newsworthy is being selectively defined by a fourth estate that is unwilling to detail, much less confront, a virus that has, in living memory, murdered millions.

History will long remember what they’re covering up. And it won’t be forgiving.

(Note: A slightly different version of this op-ed appeared on Dec. 9, 2019 in The Jerusalem Post)