An unbelievably invidious op-ed in the NYT: Americans shouldn’t physically attack Jews because it inhibits our ability to criticize Israel

May 30, 2021 • 11:30 am

The two screenshots below are to the same op-ed at the New York Times by Michelle Goldberg, but the title obviously got changed somewhere along the way.  And no surprise, either, for the subject of the article, well summarized by the article’s first title below, is an admonition so horribly bigoted and unempathic that I couldn’t believe it. The editors obviously changed the title to make it look less horrible. (Goldberg describes herself as both a “progressive” and a “secular Jew”.)

I read this article four or five times, trying to convince myself that it didn’t say what it seemed to say, but I couldn’t dissuade myself, and now others have agreed with me. This is what her message seems to be:

People should stop physically assaulting Jews in America for being Jewish, because that makes it harder for us to criticize Israel and its “apartheid” government.

In other words, what should help deter physical attacks on American Jews is not just empathy for other people, or a resistance to religious-based bigotry, but also the notion that the sympathy engendered by the anti-Semitic attacks in America make it less likely for people to criticize Israel for its clear “apartheid” and “anti-Palestinian” policies. How craven can somebody be?

To be fair, Goldberg does at least admit that the anti-Jewish attacks in America are horrible (by Gad! She’d better!)

In the article with the new title, I’ll give some quotes below defending my interpretation of what she says:

Quotes from this article:

But this [American anti-Semitic] violence also threatens to undermine progress that’s been made in getting American politicians to take Palestinian rights more seriously. Right-wing Zionists and anti-Semitic anti-Zionists have something fundamental in common: Both conflate the Jewish people with the Israeli state. Israel’s government and its American allies benefit when they can shut down criticism of the country as anti-Semitic.

Many progressives, particularly progressive Jews, have worked hard to break this automatic identification and to open up space in the Democratic Party to denounce Israel’s entrenched occupation and human rights abuses. This wave of anti-Semitic violence will increase the difficulty of that work. The Zionist right claims that to assail Israel is to assail all Jews. Those who terrorize Jews out of rage at Israel seem to make their point for them.

Goldberg then segues into the familiar (but, to my mind, largely unfounded) claims that Israel is an oppressor state and is rife with institutionalized apartheid. One would expect that someone like Goldberg might point out that of all the states in the the Middle East, including the Palestinian Territories, Israel is the state least likely to be accused of apartheid, and those repeated accusations ignore not only the reality of Arab participation as citizens in Israeli life, but the fact that in Israel there is far more equality for gays, women, apostates, and non-majority religionists (like Muslims) than there is in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and similar places. Were Goldberg to given a choice to live her life as a woman in Gaza versus Israel, wouldn’t she flee to Israel ASAP? The repeated declarations of Israeli apartheid, like the one from Human Rights Watch below, are, in my view, simple manifestations of anti-Semitism. What other reasons are there for singling out Israel for demonization and palpably ignoring the far worse treatment of its citizens by Palestine? It can’t be “whataboutism” because Palestine is never singled out by the Western press.

Nor does Goldberg mention the rockets fired into Israel by Hamas in an attempt to kill Israeli civilians, while the IDF attempts to avoid killing civilians. Is that willy-nilly targeting of civilians not a war crime? Isn’t Palestinians’ refusal to allow gays to be openly gay, for women to be fully free, and for Jews to even live in Palestine a better example of apartheid? If not, why not? Explain to me, please, how Israel is more of an “apartheid” state than is Palestine.

But then comes the familiar litany, which is wrong given that Israelis desire peace with Palestine, and have offered them peace multiple times, only to be rejected. Hamas will not be satisfied until Israel is wiped off the map, and “Palestine is free, from the river to the sea.” Goldberg:

Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is often so shocking that just describing it neutrally seems defamatory; when Human Rights Watch decided, last month, to accuse Israel of the crime of apartheid, it was because the facts on the ground left it little choice. As Eric Goldstein, acting executive director of H.R.W.’s Middle East and North Africa division, wrote in The Forward last month, it’s not just that Palestinians live under relentless Israeli oppression.

“What’s gone is the possibility of saying, with a straight face, that it is temporary,” he wrote. “Israeli authorities today clearly intend to maintain this system of severe discrimination into the future — an intent that constitutes the third prong of the crime of apartheid.”

And once again, Goldberg emphasizes that attacks on Jews in the U.S., who are not Israeli citizens, make it harder to criticize Israeli apartheid:

It’s awful irony, but anti-Semitic violence helps shore up this system by strengthening the taboo against calling it what it is. I get the sense that some people on the left find talking about violence by Palestinian sympathizers embarrassing; it certainly doesn’t receive the same sort of attention as white nationalist attacks. But it should be treated as a crisis, both as a matter of basic human solidarity and because it’s a political danger.

And, at the end, Goldberg again pays lip service by decrying American assaults on Jews, which doesn’t take much courage. But as far as I can see, the “political danger” she mentions above is that this violence mutes the voices of those who would criticize Israel. It shouldn’t, though, for Israelis are a querulous lot and not loath to criticize their own government. But every bit of evidence shows that it is Israel, far more than Palestine or Hamas, which wants peace. To ignore this is to show a willful ignorance of history in the service of a misguided and woke ideology.

At any rate, to write a column arguing that attacking American Jews is bad in part because it makes it harder for the world to criticize Israel represents to me the height of woke hypocrisy—coupled with a reprehensible lack of empathy. You shouldn’t attack Jews in America, or any place else, simply because they’re Jews and that’s simply bigoted violence. War is a different issue, but it’s hard to call Hamas’s deliberate firing of rockets at civilians anything but a war crime. The IDF tries to avoid killing civilians, but that’s hard because Hamas places rockets near civilians, as if they want civilian casualties.  Hamas deliberately tries to kill civilians, which of course is what suicide bombing is about.

Lest you think my interpretation of Goldberg’s piece is wonky, at least one other person agrees with me: Jonathan Tobin writing at the Jewish News Syndicate. (An article like his, of course, could never be printed in the NYT, which, except for some columns by Bret Stephens, specializes in anti-Semitism these days.) Click on the screenshot to read:

One quote from Tobin:

In a gobsmackingly tone-deaf column that was published in print with one of the most egregious Times headlines in recent memory—“Attacks on Jews Are a Gift to the Right”—Goldberg did write that she didn’t approve of Jews being attacked in the streets. Her main complaint, though, was that those who victimized Jews in the name of “free Palestine” were giving a bad name to the anti-Zionist cause of which she is one of the most prominent Jewish advocates.

Goldberg, who has a large following on Twitter under her @Michelleinbklyn handle, has used her prominent perch on the Times’ opinion pages to promote the idea that denying the right of Jews to a state in their ancient homeland is the sort of idea that fashionable Brooklyn “progressives,” including Jews, should embrace.

. . .If there is violence against Jews either here or in Europe, Goldberg prefers to blame it on supporters of Israel who, not unnaturally, consider it their duty to speak up for the embattled Jewish state. She thinks they share common ground with anti-Semites because they “conflate the Jewish people with the Israeli state.” But while Jews elsewhere shouldn’t be blamed for what Israelis do, her linking of those who rightly understand that Israel is integral to Jewish identity and peoplehood to hatemongers is itself a crude calumny. Progressives like herself, who want to eliminate Israel, actually have far more in common with anti-Semites who share that objective.

Criticism of Israel isn’t the issue. Israel isn’t perfect, but people like Omar and other supporters of the anti-Semitic BDS movement don’t attack Israel for what it does, but for what it is. More to the point, if you think the only country in the world that needs to be eliminated is the sole Jewish state on the planet, then clearly you do have a problem with Jews.

That last paragraph pretty much summarizes the “progressive” Left’s actions and beliefs about Israel. I have little doubt that people like Omar, Tlaib, and Ocasio-Cortez favor the elimination of Israel, even if it be by the untenable “one state solution” that would mean genocide for the Jews.

21 thoughts on “An unbelievably invidious op-ed in the NYT: Americans shouldn’t physically attack Jews because it inhibits our ability to criticize Israel

  1. When TransJordan took over the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1948 war, it avoided any possibility of apartheid in these territories by a simple expedient: every last Jew was expelled from these areas, while some of those in Gush Etzion were simply killed. Until 1967, no Jews (whether
    Israeli or not) were allowed to set foot in East Jerusalem or elsewhere in the region controlled by
    the Kingdom of TransJordan. Happily for Progressive thinkers, this eliminated any criticism of TransJordan’s mistreatment of Jewish inhabitants, since there were none to mistreat.

  2. People like Goldberg and her anti-Semitic friends in the faux-progressive wing of the Democratic party are making it painfully clear to the rest of us exactly why a strong, prepared Israel is so critical. There’s an obvious irony here: the murderous bigotry of those who seek to destroy Israel make them the most eloquent pieces of evidence that only a place backed by the steel of the IDF/IAF is going to keep a significant chunk of the world’s Jews safe.

  3. “Israel isn’t perfect, but people like Omar and other supporters of the anti-Semitic BDS movement don’t attack Israel for what it does, but for what it is. More to the point, if you think the only country in the world that needs to be eliminated is the sole Jewish state on the planet, then clearly you do have a problem with Jews.”

    Indeed. I still await the day when all those supporters of BDS demand that we divest from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, oppose giving hundreds of millions of dollars to Iran to fund terrorism through the nuclear deal, etc. Saudi Arabia and its coalition, in it’s campaign to kill the “wrong” Yemenis, kills more Yemenis and displaces hundreds of thousands more in a year than Israel could ever in self-defense in 100 years. There literally aren’t even enough people in Palestine to match the number of people displaced (in or from) or starving in Yemen.

    But we know the difference between all of those countries that took part at one point or another in the Saudi-led coalition (UAE, Qatar, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, Egypt, Bahrain) and Israel. Those countries are Muslim countries (most of them so regressive that they torture and kill apostates, LGBT people, journalists, and treat women as second-class citizens) and Israel is…well, you know the difference, beyond the fact that it’s a democracy that treats its citizens equally regardless of religion, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, etc., and carries out military actions only in self defense or, in the case of pulling out of Gaza in 2005, to evict Jews from their homes in the hopes of keeping the Oslo Accords alive.

    I also await BDS supporters demanding the same actions taken against countries like China, Russia…Screw it. I’m tired of listing all the countries that deserve far more criticism and are asking for far more action taken against them than Israel.

    1. Yes carbon, you said it better than I could.
      Now it is great that Goldberg opposes attacks against Jews in the US and other countries. Maybe she is just sly and tries to play the anti-Isreal crew? I dunno.

      Living in South Africa, which was a real apartheid state, the contention, nay, accusation that Israel, where the Israeli arabs (palestinians) have full voting rights and are hence represented in the Knesset (just as an illustration) appears completely ludicrous.

  4. I agree with the analysis of this piece.

    But in leaping to the BDS, Tlaib and company is itself a sort of straw man. Israel is not without blame in losing the possibility of a two state system, given the strength of the right wing government that rose with Bibi, and the government support for expansion of settlements on the West Bank driven by the ultra-religious and ultra-right. Declaring Jerusalem the capital twisted the knife.

    So if we’re going to demand “honesty” from supporters of Palestinian rights in recognizing that Hamas is a plain terrorist organization and that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself, then let’s demand of ourselves recognition that Israel does not treat Palestinians in Israel as equal citizens despite being a democracy (not that I’m sure how it could), and that Israel is not blameless in getting to where we are today.

    (This of course has no bearing on the Antisemitic hate crimes in the U.S. Jews are 2.7 times as likely to be victims of hate crimes as blacks, and 1.8 times as likely as Muslims, and that’s before this surge.)

    1. I would also add, there is absolutely no evidence that Goldberg wants to eliminate Israel. (Not so for Tlaib et al, though). Other pieces by her make this explicit. It’s this kind of breathless overreach that damages the arguments of people whose general views I agree with, and it makes me mad.

    2. So, having a right wing government is enough to justify 4340 rockets hurled on its citizens and being forbidden to launched a counteroffensive? But how to explain at the same time permission for the most far-right organization in the world (with the cult of Hitler, swastikas, Hitler salute, no right to women, killing homosexuals, no freedom of speech, etc.) to launch all those rockets and missiles? After all, Netanyahu’s government is much, much less to the right than Hamas.

      About settlements much was written also in WEIT. Just check that settlements are not taking much greater area today than they took in 1990 (under 5% of total area of the West Bank (renamed so by Jordan after illegal annexation from the name used always, even in UN’s official documents until 1950, i.e. Judea and Samaria) which is a disputed territory with two people claiming rights to it. This was supposed to be solved in negotiations with Palestinians but Palestinians refused first refused all offers and then simply refused to negotiate.

      Arab citizens of Israel have exactly the same rights as Jewish citizens of Israel. Palestinian citizens of Palestinian Authority and Palestinian citizens of Gaza do not of the simple reason that they are not Israeli citizens. I presume that Mexican citizens do not have the same rights as U.S. citizens.

      And what all this has to do with attacks on Jews all over the world? Quite a lot. By demonizing and smearing with lies (by politicians, legacy media, social media) the Jewish State antisemites of all hues feel encouraged and empowered.

    3. You are aware, right, that most of the rejections of the two-state solution by Palestinians have nothing to do with Netanyahu? Surely you aren’t maintaining that it was Netanyahu who killed the two-state solution?

      Here are the times that the two state solution was proposed by Israel and rejected by Palestinians. The Israeli governments included liberal and socialist ones

      1937: Peel Commission two-state solution, rejected by the Arabs
      1947: Formation of Israel, two states suggested by UN under partition plan, Resolution 181, approved by UN and accepted by Israel, rejected by Arabs who promptly attacked Israel.
      Olmert: 2006-2008
      Bharak: 2000-2001
      and our own Barak Obama’s proposal, in conjunction with, yes, Netanyahus.

      So where do you come off saying that it’s only Netanyahu’s right-wing government that’s prevented the two state solution? Only one group has ever scuppered the two state solution, and that is the Arabs and Palestinians.

    4. I would really like to challenge this idea that Bibi represents a “right-wing government”. 1/3 of the country is way to the right of Bibi (they call for a one state solution with expulsion of Palestinians who will not swear a loyalty oath), another 1/3 way to the left who are willing to give half of Israel to the Palestinians for a (supposed) peace. Bibi is centrist.

      1. This narrative of Netanyahu being “right-wing” seems to have come up in conjunction with the rise of Trump. It’s an easy way for “progressive” people to associate the government of Israel with people like Trump, just as people like Bernie Sanders saying “Palestinian lives matter” is an easy way to associate the cause of supporting Palestine at all costs and opposing Israel with the cause of “anti-racism.” Once these associations are unconsciously made in “progressive” people’s minds, they feel like supporting Palestine and opposing Israel is something they absolutely must do if they’re to be considered a proper “progressive” and “anti-racist,” not just outwardly, but inwardly as well. These two associations are very clever propaganda that works on an unconscious level. Most people don’t think these things out and propagandists know this.

        1. Netanyahu is right wing, but mainly compared to Western European standards. I would fully agree that compared to those governing his neighbors he is positively not extreme.
          Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot to criticize, but he is definitely not a RWNJ.

          1. You think western Europeans would accede to the wishes of terrorist organizations? I would argue there is not another nation on Earth which has shown the restraint of Bibi’s Israel to the challenges of extremism.

          2. The biggest problem here is even trying to fit Israeli politics into the stupid, binary Western framework of “right” and “left.”. The exercise itself is absurd and betrays an extreme ignorance of Israeli politics from people who compare Netanyahu with “right-wingers” like Trump. (don’t worry, I’m not talking about you. You seem to understand this) So often, those ignorant people are screaming the loudest…

  5. A few days ago Megyn Kelly hosted this excellent (and courteous) conversation. The talking is overwhelmingly done by the guests.

    “Megyn Kelly is joined by Alan Dershowitz, Professor Emeritus at Harvard University and host of The Dershow podcast, and Shadi Hamid, of the Brookings Institution and co-host of the Wisdom Of Crowds podcast, to talk about all the angles to what’s happening in Israel and Gaza, today and throughout history, including the history of Israelis and Palestinians, what led to the violence in Israel and Gaza happening now, what happened with the Palestinians after 1967, how Hamas came into power, how life can be made easier for Palestinians in Gaza, the proportionality of Israel’s response to Hamas, and more…”

  6. Yes, I’ve seen comments about this type of language, pointing out that the reason not to attack Jews is that YOU SHOULDN’T ATTACK PEOPLE. If the standard for attacking people is whether it is useful politically or not, then we’re no longer humanists or democrats.

  7. Good grief – no wonder even the NYT realised that the original headline needed to be changed! It’s hard (impossible?) to imagine any substitutions for “Jews/Israel” that would have been deemed acceptable enough to have appeared in that way, however briefly.

    It looks like Netanyahu might finally be replaced after four elections in two years, although what prospects for peace that might entail are beyond my understanding. As far as I can see, coalitions with pretty extreme parties are par for the course in order to achieve a majority in the Knesset nowadays, although I’m very happy to admit my ignorance on these matters and to be corrected.

    1. D’oh – once again I forgot to refresh the page between reading the post and commenting below the line!

  8. It seems amoral. Attacking Jews, burning and looting people’s businesses, are not opposed because they are horrible and wrong, but because those acts might be used by political opponents.

    I suppose it is strategic. They don’t want people to notice the direction things are going until it is too late to resist.

  9. The New York Times is a racist endeavour.

    You see the same rancid mindset over at Pharyngula and Friendly Atheist, these days.

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