Few columnists in modern day America are more prone to snark and superficiality than the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank. It is no surprise then that Milbank approached a deadly serious topic—antisemitism—with the searing partisanship that often characterizes his work.
In an Aug. 6, 2021, column, entitled “Rashida Tlaib’s bigotry comes from the MAGA handbook,” Milbank tried to remove any semblance of independent agency from the Michigan congresswoman. Instead, Milbank attempted to blame former President Donald Trump for Tlaib’s long history of antisemitic actions and statements.
“Few have been victimized by Donald Trump’s hateful tactics more than Rashida Tlaib,” Milbank asserted before proceeding to correctly highlight the “bigotry” of recent statements by Tlaib.
As Milbank noted, on Aug. 1, 2021 Tlaib told the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) that “Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land ‘really interacts’ with the treatment of Black Americans.” The Congresswoman then asserted that “Cutting people off from water is violence. And they do it from Gaza to Detroit.” Striking a conspiratorial tone, Tlaib added: “the structure [that] we’ve been living under right now is designed by those who exploit the rest of us, for their own profit.” Then, Milbank noted, Tlaib made a “drapes-parting gesture with her hands” before telling DSA: “If you open the curtain and look behind the curtain, it’s the same people that make money—and yes they do—off of racism.”
The Post columnist correctly noted that Tlaib’s remarks were “antisemitic tropes that have been used against Jews for generations.” Indeed, both the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, among others, condemned Tlaib’s comments. Milbank also correctly observed that “Democrats and those on the left should call this what it is: bigotry.”
In fact, as Milbank noted, “we’re seeing an upsurge in antisemitic violence inspired by such words.”
The columnist also highlighted some of Tlaib’s long history of previous antisemitic remarks, noting that Tlaib has called Israel “racist” and “apartheid” and was “equivocal” on “Israel’s right to exist.” The Congresswoman, Milbank informed readers, “embraces” the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which “has provoked a wave of antisemitic incidents on U.S. campuses.”
While Milbank was right to call Tlaib out for her antisemitism, he nonetheless erred by absurdly implying that former President Donald Trump is somehow responsible for the Congresswoman’s vile Jew hatred. Milbank’s need to view everything through a partisan lens undoes his analysis and does his readers a profound disservice. It removes independent agency from Rashida Tlaib and misunderstands left-wing antisemitism. Indeed, if unintentionally, it provides cover for Tlaib.
Contrary to Milbank’s assertion, antisemitic violence was rising in the United States long before Donald Trump was elected President. The problem, as CAMERA noted at the time, was that many major media outlets—the Washington Post foremost among them—weren’t covering it.
A 2015 Tel Aviv University report, for example, noted that violent antisemitic attacks had 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 and The Washington Times, among other U.S. newspapers, covered the Kantor Center study and informed their readers about the rising threat. The Washington Post, however, did not. Similarly, as CAMERA documented, when Tlaib and her fellow squad member, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) tried to go on a trip to Israel in 2019, the Post was one of several media outlets that failed to initially report that the trip itself was sponsored by an organization, Miftah, which has praised suicide bombers and claimed that Jews consume Christian blood. Instead of reporting this salient fact, the Post published several op-eds lambasting Israel for initially denying Tlaib entry.
Indeed, if Milbank is looking for someone or something to blame for growing antisemitism, he should start with his employer—and himself.
As recently as Aug. 26, 2021 the Post published an op-ed by Noura Erakat, a BDS activist and Tlaib defender, entitled “Israel’s prime minister is not seeking a reset. He just wants more cover for colonization and apartheid.” This language, the discerning Post reader will note, is precisely the same as that which the Milbank rightfully lambasted Tlaib for using. The decision to publish Erakat, who has called the convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh a “sister” and a “beloved leader” also speaks volumes about the newspaper’s stance on antisemitism.
The Post, as CAMERA has documented, has covered up antisemitism. For example, in 2019, the newspaper published a lengthy, glowing puff piece on then-Congressional candidate Valerie Plame—omitting her history of sharing antisemitic material, including an article entitled “America’s Jews are Driving America’s Wars”—which she called “very provocative, but thoughtful.”
Indeed, while Milbank is justifiably concerned about rising antisemitism on college campuses, when then-President Donald Trump signed an executive order to protect Jewish students, it was his newspaper that ran an editorial opposing, on scurrilous grounds, the decision.
Other Post columnists, like Ishaan Tharoor, have a long history of disproportionately fixating on the Jewish state, often portraying Israel as uniquely evil or unjust.
Nor is Milbank himself blameless. The writer’s penchant for overheated rhetoric and disregard for facts was on full display in a May 14, 2018 column entitled “Nothing says ‘peace’ like 58 dead Palestinians.” At the time, Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist group, was organizing operations at the Israel-Gaza border, using human shields to provide cover for armed terror operatives who, in their own words, hoped to cross into Israel and “tear out the hearts of Israelis.” The operation, dubbed the Great March of Return, was overseen by Hamas and involved the participation of numerous terrorist groups, all of which hoped that the deaths of human shields would give them a propaganda victory. As CAMERA highlighted in several op-eds, the media, the Post foremost among them, was happy to oblige.
Yet, an analysis by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center showed that a majority of the casualties—up to 80 percent—were linked to terror groups. Despite the overwhelming evidence showing Hamas involvement and aims, Milbank was content to blood libel the Jewish state, presenting Israel as maliciously slaughtering mere “protesters.”
It is a remarkable display of chutzpah to lament antisemitism while having authored a column that, by its tone and omissions, propagates that deadly virus. Milbank is correct to call out Tlaib’s antisemitism, but if he’s looking to point fingers he should start closer to home.