Sunday, April 28, 2019

Normalizing antisemitism in American life

Today was a pretty good day for me personally, but a rotten day for me as a Jew in America.

Three reasons:

1) The attack on the Chabad synagogue today, in Poway, California, by a murderous white nationalist who spewed the same ideology as the murderer of 50 Muslims in New Zealand a month ago. He also claims to have committed arson at a California mosque, so he is clearly a hater of anyone he thinks threatens white supremacy. If you look at his manifesto (not something I recommend if you'd like to be cheerful the rest of the day), you'll see that he espouses the Nazi ideology that blames Jews for all the ills of the world, including immigration by brown people to the United States (legal or undocumented); he's very much like the man who attacked the Pittsburgh synagogue exactly six months ago, who was motivated by the fantastical belief that Jews are responsible for migrants from central American (and other parts of the world) seeking asylum in the US. His manifesto is also full of hate for African Americans and Arabs (not going to repeat the slurs he uses).

2) Learning about the antisemitic cartoon published on Thursday in the international edition of the New York Times. Of the New York Times! Have they fired all their editors? Or decided to hire only antisemitic ones? How did this cartoon even get printed?

The cartoon shows a blind Donald Trump, wearing thick eyeglasses (with black lenses), wearing a black yarmulke, with Benjamin Netanyahu as his seeing-eye dog, with a blue star of David around his neck - with the obvious message that Bibi the Jew controls Trump. I think the yarmulke on Trump's head is meant to convey the idea that he has surrendered to the Jews and even identifies with them. Or perhaps it's meant to refer to the fact that his daughter Ivanka is Jewish and that he has Jewish grandchildren - in any case, it's antisemitic.

As the following commenter responds on Twitter:

The same commenter also wrote, "The cartoon doesn't even have anything to do with the article below. It's as if the editors went, "interesting article, but we need more anti Semitism."

How did the Times respond?

Not an apology, or even a statement of "regret" - just an "error of judgement." Whose error of judgement? Who drew this cartoon, and which editor approved its placement in the international edition? At least the statement acknowledges that the cartoon "included anti-Semitic tropes." I will be interested to read what Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens have to say about the cartoon, since they are both eager to decry antisemitism when it occurs in other places.

3) There is a Facebook page called "Rise Up Ocean County," set up by someone who is upset that ultra-Orthodox Jews who live in Lakewood, New Jersey, are moving out of Lakewood and buying houses in nearby towns (because the population of Lakewood is growing quickly and people are seeking somewhat less expensive housing). About 11,000 follow the page, and there are posts both by the admin and by followers. Some are about real issues of overdevelopment, but there are frequent antisemitic posts and comments.

The admin of the page posted earlier today about the antisemitic cartoon in the Times.

A number of people in the subsequent comment thread wrote that they did think the cartoon was in bad taste or antisemitic, but there were a number of antisemitic remarks.

One woman wrote, "Antisemitic and in poor taste," to which the page admin replied, "Help me here. How is that anti Semitic?"

Another response was an antisemitic cartoon:

Just browsing quickly, I found a couple of other antisemitic posts by followers of the page (names of the posters not included - my purpose is not to target any individual, but to indicate that this page has no trouble publishing obvious antisemitism while claiming really to be concerned about overdevelopment and corruption).

Another post was a complaint about ultra-Orthodox Jews going to nearby beaches. Complaining about people littering on beaches is not antisemitic. But calling them "gods chosen people" is.

A couple of years ago published a series about Lakewood and issues with housing, overdevelopment, busing of Orthodox students to private Jewish schools, and corruption - without stooping to the antisemitism frequently found in this Facebook group. For the first article, and links to subsequent ones, go to

What are the lessons to learn from this evidence of antisemitism in a variety of American venues: 1) at this moment, the most violent and dangerous form of antisemitism is to be found among white nationalists; but 2) antisemitism is not restricted to people on the extreme right, although that may be the most murderous version of it; 3) even well-respected American institutions like the New York Times can be blind to the very antisemitic tropes that they publish; 4) ordinary Americans who don't belong to the white nationalist right or the anti-Zionist far left are also prey to antisemitic stereotypes, and employ them when encountering visible Jews doing things they don't like.

White nationalist terrorism is obviously the most immediate threat to Jews - we've now had two murderous attacks in six months. How many other killers are now planning to attack synagogues or other Jewish places? These killers are part of the same racist white nationalist movement that attacks LGBT people, Muslims, Sikhs, African American churches, and Latinx people, and it offers distinctive threats to members of each group. The killer in Poway hated many of these groups, and claims to have attacked a mosque as well as the synagogue. 

The kind of antisemitism espoused by the Times cartoon could come from either the right or the left, and belongs to the conspiratorial antisemitism that believes "the Jews" run the world and are responsible for everything evil in the world. It's also dangerous, because it underlies murderous white nationalist antisemitism (as well as far left antisemitism that blames Jews and Israel as "imperialists" in league with the US and other western powers).

The antisemitism displayed in Rise Up Ocean County seems to be composed of various stereotypes of ultra-Orthodox Jews combined with classic denunciations of Jews being clannish and sticking with their own exclusively, as well as bitter remarks about how rich they must also be, and snide antisemitic remarks like the one about the "chosen people." In my opinion, this is the kind of antisemitism that is more likely to result in Jews being discriminated against in housing or employment, not in violent reactions (but I could be wrong - there have been a number of anti-Jewish hate crimes reported in Lakewood). There is a real conflict going on over scarce resources - housing and tax dollars - but some people express this in antisemitic terms.

It's exhausting to have to deal with all of this, and I'm quite apprehensive about the future in America.

Some additional articles on the New York Times cartoon:

Apology from New York Times Opinion:

Criticism from CNN's Brian Stelter:

NYT staffers are alarmed and dismayed by this anti-Semitic cartoon AND by the paper's initial response. 
It started on Thursday when print editions of the international edition of The New York Times ran an anti-Semitic cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog on a leash held by a blind POTUS. Most US staffers knew nothing about it until they read about this editor's note on Saturday. The note admitted that the cartoon was an "error in judgment," but didn't go into any detail about what went wrong. Some news outlets inaccurately called the note an "apology," which it wasn't, which led people to wonder why the NYT hadn't actually apologized. 
Jake Tapper commented on Sunday morning that the cartoon "could just have easily appeared in ISIS or neo-Nazi propaganda." 
Per three plugged-in sources at the NYT, staffers were alarmed to see the image in the first place -- and dismayed that the initial response was so feeble. They told me that they wanted a more detailed explanation... 
Awaiting more info... 
After a barrage of criticism,The Times issued a statement on Sunday afternoon saying "we are deeply sorry" for the cartoon, and "we are committed to making sure nothing like this happens again."
The NYT said the decision to run the syndicated cartoon was made by a single editor working without adequate oversight. "The matter remains under review, and we are evaluating our internal processes and training," the statement said. "We anticipate significant changes."
The paper is out with its own news story about the situation... And Bret Stephens, one of the paper's op-ed columnists, has a clear-eyed column titled "A Despicable Cartoon in The Times."
Stephens said he is certain that the Times is not guilty of institutional anti-Semitism, but he said the cartoon was a sign of the Times' ongoing criticism of Zionism and the Israeli government. Here is his column... And our news story...

See also:

New York Times article about the cartoon:

Sunday, April 21, 2019

"He should resign and be tried for his crimes" - our traitor President

From Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo:
The simple takeaway from the Mueller Report is the President betrayed his country and spent two years lying and breaking the law to try to hide that fact. He should resign and be tried for his crimes.

Monday, April 15, 2019

"Our hearts are with the ... legends of Notre Dame, real and fictional"

Photo is from the AP (Thibault Camus), April 15, 2019

Reuven Rivlin, President of Israel, on Twitter: 
@notredameparis is one of the most beautiful symbols of #Paris and of #France, and also one of its most important cultural symbols. In January, I looked over the skyline of the city and the spires of the cathedral made it even more beautiful.  Our hearts are with the people of #France and the legends of @notredameparis, real and fictional, and we pray it will stand in eternity.
4 hours ago

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Beresheet - Israeli spacecraft, crashes on the Moon

Beresheet got very close to the moon, but didn't succeed with a controlled landing. These are a couple of photos from it - the first one is a "selfie" with the moon in the background, the second is another photo of the moon from the spacecraft.

The last photo Beresheet took before it crashed.
It was 22 km above the surface of the Moon.