CAMERA Op-Ed:The Washington Post’s Skewed Coverage of Antisemitism

(Note: A version of the following Op-Ed appeared in The Times of Israel on March 16, 2018)

Antisemitism is rising globally. And one of the world’s leading newspapers is failing to accurately report it

On Feb. 27, 2018 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)reported that antisemitic incidents in 2017 were “nearly 60 percent higher” than the previous year. The ADL’s “2017 Audit of anti-Semitic incidents,” found the “second highest number reported” since the organization began tracking incident data in the 1970s.

The increase in antisemitism is alarming. And so is The Washington Post’scoverage of it.

Antisemitism has been rising for years. A 2015 Tel Aviv University report noted that violent antisemitic attacks increased by nearly 40 percent. The report by the university’s Kantor Center concluded: “The overall feeling among many Jewish people is one of living in an intensifying anti-Jewish environment that has become not only insulting and threatening, but outright dangerous, and that they are facing an explosion of hatred toward them as individuals, their communities and Israel, as a Jewish state.”

USA Today, The Washington Times, among other major U.S. newspapers, covered the Kantor Center study and informed their readers about the rising threat. Yet, The Washington Post failed to do so, as the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA)detailed at the time.

The years since have witnessed little improvement in the paper’s coverage of antisemitism. Indeed, only in the election year of 2016 did the paper began to report on the “explosion of hatred,” and even then The Post—along with other prominent media outlets—portrayed the threat as emanating largely, if not exclusively, from the right.

In one recent example, Post World Views columnist Ishaan Tharoor highlighted the ADL’s report in a Feb. 28, 2018 column entitled “The inescapable anti-Semitism of Western nationalists.” Tharoor cited the ADL study as proof of “how the far right has gone mainstream over the past year.” He detailed the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia and the Polish government’s recent decision to criminalize discussions of its complicity in the Holocaust, among other instances of right-wing antisemitism.

The decision to finally report on antisemitism is welcome, if much belated. However, portraying it as solely the province of the right minimizes and politicizes the threat. It’s also inaccurate.

Robert Wistrich, a leading historian of antisemitism until his 2015 death,described antisemitism as a “highly mutable mental virus that infects cultures, movements, ideologies and religions.” And the evidence clearly shows that antisemitism is growing on both the left and the right.

Indeed, the ADL report cited by The Post listed numerous examples of antisemitic incidents perpetrated by those who can’t be categorized as “Western nationalists” or “far right.” For example, the report detailed several speeches by U.S.-based Imams, who, among other things, called for “Allah to destroy the Jewish people,” propagated “antisemitic conspiracy claims about Israel and Jews,” and incited anti-Jewish violence.

The ADL also noted “anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools and college campuses in 2017 nearly doubled.” These incidents also spanned the ideological spectrum and included, for example, a May 2017 event at University of California-Santa Cruz, in which an Israeli Independence Day event was disrupted, with Israeli flags being torn down and obscenities shouted by the Afrikan Black Student Alliance.

Indeed, the same day that Tharoor’s report appeared, four Arab teens beat a 14-year-old Jewish boy outside of the Paris synagogue where he was celebrating the Jewish holiday, Purim. As the European Union’s Agency for Fundamental Rights has detailed, a growing number of attacks against the continent’s Jews “are being carried out by people of Arab or Muslim background.”

The Post’s decision to selectively cover antisemitism is troubling. So is the paper’s decision to publish an Op-Ed entitled “How Benjamin Netanyahu Enables Antisemitism (Feb. 26, 2018).” The commentary, by Joshua Shanes, an associate professor at the College of Charleston, alleges that the democratically elected leader of the Jewish state is “increasingly allying with anti-Semites and promoting anti-Semitism, even as they cynically claim to be its chief victim.”

Blaming a Jewish leader and “his supporters” for spreading antisemitism is a serious charge. In more than 1200-words, Shanes is unable to substantiate it. He fails to point to a single remark by the Israeli Prime Minister, who himself has frequently condemned antisemitism. Instead he asserts that Netanyahu’s criticisms of the myriad of anti-Israel NGOs—many of which are funded by George Soros, a Hungarian-American Jewish billionaire—is evidence of antisemitism. It’s not.

As NGO Monitor, a non-profit watchdog organization, has documented, Soros’ Open Society Foundation engages in political campaigns that often single out the world’s sole Jewish state for opprobrium, “including BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) and legal attacks (‘lawfare’).” Numerous governments and organizations, including the ADL, have highlighted the discriminatory nature of BDS, a movement whose founders have called for Israel’s destruction.

As NGO-Monitor has documented, officials at Soros funded organizations, such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), have been recorded making antisemitic statements and jokes—a fact that Shanes omitted. Defending Israel from entities that seek its delegitimization and destruction is hardly antisemitic.

The Post’s decision to publish an Op-Ed blaming an Israeli Prime Minister for propagating antisemitism is remarkable when one considers that it perpetually underreports Palestinian antisemitism. In a Dec. 13, 2017 speech in Istanbul, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas said that Jews “are really excellent in faking and counterfeiting history.”The Post did notcover Abbas’ remarks, and the paper frequently ignores the PA’s efforts to promote anti-Jewish violence, including through indoctrinating Palestinian youth with antisemitic motifs approved by the authority’s education ministry.

Antisemitism is a rising threat that demands serious reporting. In key ways, The Washington Post is failing to provide it.

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