Why should we give a pass to those who tweet anti-Semitism?

July 7, 2020 by Jonathan S. Tobin - JNS.org
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Ours is a time when anti-Semitism is surging, and the popularity of intersectional politics has given new credibility to radical groups that are keen to link the war on Israel to the culture wars being waged in the United States.

Jonathan S. Tobin/JNS

At such a moment, it is the duty of those who speak up against this prejudice to be ever more vigilant rather than to relax our efforts. Yet when a person who has associated herself with some of these smears and who worked as an editor at a publication that habitually trafficked in them rises to a position of eminence at the country’s most important newspaper, the advice from some quarters is not to be too hasty in expressing alarm.

That is the conceit of an article published in The Algemeiner by media columnist Ira Stoll. He alleges that I have done an injustice to Charlotte Greensit, an incoming managing editor at The New York Times because I called her to account for tweets in which she promoted an anti-Semitic blood libel about Israel training American police to kill African-Americans.

Greensit scrubbed her Twitter account of this and other outrageous tweets that she posted during her time at The Intercept, a far-left publication that specializes in attacking Israel and floating conspiracy theories about the Jewish state and its alliance with the United States. Greensit, a native of the United Kingdom, was managing editor since it debuted in 2015 and was a major player in directing its efforts.

According to Stoll, we’re supposed to give her a pass for her tweets promoting The Intercept’s smears because doing so was just part of her job. What’s more, he says, since jobs are hard to find in journalism, we shouldn’t judge her. Apparently, she was only following orders.

Greensit now says that her tweets didn’t constitute an endorsement of The Intercept’s content; however, that makes no sense given that she was one of its top editors.

Such a half-hearted non-apology lacked credibility. Nor do I think it is an alibi that she or anyone else at the Times would accept if those who retweeted hateful views that they opposed put such ideas forward?

Instead, we are told that we should listen to Greensit’s friends, who apparently vouch for her virtue and opposition to anti-Semitism. Stoll seems to think that the fact that Greensit was a welcome guest at a Shabbat dinner should be weighed against her role at a publication known for its bias against the Jewish state. He doesn’t actually use the phrase, “some of her best friends are Jewish,” but you get the idea.

One such friend cited in the Algemeiner actually undermined that claim. Though speaking highly of Greensit, he said that she was merely guilty of holding “an unauthorized view” about Israel. By that, he refers to views that aren’t legitimate criticism, but in accord with smears promoted by anti-Semites and those who wish to destroy the Jewish state.

Actions and associations that would result in a person being “cancelled” if they testified to links to racism never seem to apply to anti-Semitism. Since Greensit is a member in good standing of the elite chattering classes, we are told to judge her kindly, and that it is bad manners to hold her accountable. Had she categorically renounced the content of the blood-libel story and other awful tweets, such as her endorsement of Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar’s anti-Semitic smears against supporters of Israel, it would have buttressed her defenders’ argument. But she has not done so.

Nor do I think it’s likely that she will, given the atmosphere at the Times where deviations from woke ideology are—as we have seen with the ousted James Bennet—harshly punished. The notion that, as Stoll asserts, the Times’ hiring of an editor from The Intercept has nothing to do with the newsroom revolt at the same paper that caused Bennet’s humiliation is laughable. The same is true of any assurance that a person with Greensit’s credentials and who was hired under such circumstances will be a bulwark against more anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic smears to be published on her watch.

The point of my column was to contrast Greensit’s hiring with the celerity with which Keith Starmer, the new leader of Britain’s Labour Party, dealt with a similar case of a tweet endorsing an anti-Semitic blood libel. In the case of Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, her retweet of an article in which actress Maxine Peake promoted a similar accusation was enough to get her fired from her party’s shadow cabinet.

Both Long-Bailey and Peake were ardent supporters of former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Each subsequently denied that they were anti-Semitic—a stand Corbyn also maintains. Like Greensit, no doubt, their friends—some of whom are likely Jewish—also vouch for their good intentions and lack of malice.

Starmer understands that if his party is to get out from under the shadow of Corbyn’s anti-Semitism, a clean sweep was—and is—necessary.

The publishers of the Times are not so fastidious.

Nor are they interested in disassociating their newspaper from radical attacks on Israel, as evidenced by their hiring a senior editor from The Intercept. Given the history of the Times, that is hardly surprising. That someone like Stoll, who claims to be a leading critic of the coverage of Israel and Jewish issues by the nation’s largest newspaper, would endorse their attitude remains puzzling.

The left’s cancel culture and its chilling effect on free speech are odious. It has led to people being hounded out of jobs and the public square for holding views that are not racist, but merely dissent from the Black Lives Matter movement’s false narrative about America. Neither the Times nor most of Greensit’s supporters have spoken up against cancel culture when it concerns those who do not genuflect to the BLM catechism or who are stalwart supporters of Israel.

Friends of Israel are cautioned to be wary of being too harsh to those who spread libels of the Jewish state, lest we be accused of acting unfairly. They say an exception to the harsh treatment dealt to others who have tweeted out hate should be carved out for Greensit because she is highly regarded by fellow elites. That is not a standard that any reasonable person, no matter their ideology or faith, should be obliged to respect.

Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.

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