Last week, in its international edition, The New York Times ran a blatantly anti-Semitic political cartoon that depicted a blind President Trump being led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was depicted as a dog wearing a collar with a star of David. This was not trading in tropes. This was old-school, nauseating bigotry that would not be out of place on neo-Nazi websites or the deepest, darkest corners of Reddit.
The Times has apologized (disclosure, I have written for the Times) but for many New Yorkers that just wasn’t good enough. Monday evening, they staged a protest outside the lavish offices of the Gray Lady and demanded the firing of those involved with publishing the offensive cartoon.
At a time when anti-Semitism is growing around the world, synagogues in the United States are the subject of terrorist shootings, and Jews in New York are being violently attacked at an alarming rate, the response from the Times to its outrageous decision to run the cartoon is underwhelming and unacceptable.
According to Hillary Barr, one of the organizers of the protest, who works with Mothers Against Terrorism, “whoever was involved with the decision to publish this cartoon must be fired immediately.” She went on to say that “if it were any other race or religion it would never have been published.”
Robert Rogoff, wearing Trump 2020 garb, went even further. He and his wife are planning to move this year to Israel, and for Rogoff, this cartoon was evidence that America is becoming increasingly hostile to Jews. Rogoff told me that “The Democratic Party makes us feel unwelcome as Jews.” He fears that if Trump loses the 2020 election, this situation will become even worse.
The first speaker, Jeffrey Weisenfeld, asked a fair question: “Would the New York Times run a caricature of any other race of people?” The answer is, almost certainly, no. So why did the paper feel comfortable portraying Jews as literal dogs? The speaker said this harkened back to the bigoted media representations of Jews in pre-Nazi Germany. He called for an independent investigation, arguing that the Times could not be trusted to police itself on this issue.
Former New York Assemblyman Dove Hikind rallied the crowd with the chant, “Shame on the New York Times.” He recalled the ways the paper denied the Holocaust as it was happening. He said that from 1939 to 1945, the Times ran 23,000 headlines. Of them, only 26 stories were about the Holocaust. This is not a fantastic record for a paper of record. Hikind said that he is a Democrat, but a very embarrassed one.
During Hikind’s remarks, the crowd began shouting, “Where is Schumer?” Well, the Senate minority leader, a Democrat from New York, wasn’t there today. What his reaction is to this controversy is not entirely clear. Schumer has had no press conference regarding the incident and might fairly be said to be hiding. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler also came under attack for his lack of outrage over the cartoon.
The next speaker was professor Alan Dershowitz, who described himself as a formerly strong supporter of The New York Times who does not understand how this could have happened: “The New York Times has been wrong so often when it comes to Israel and when it comes to the Jewish people.” He suggested that because The New York Times is owned by Jews, they bend over backwards to not be seen as pro-Jewish.
Dershowitz particularly called out the Times for editorializing in its reporting, calling their “news analysis” pieces little more than opinion posing as news. He’s absolutely right.
Ultimately, the biggest question is: How did open and offensive anti-Semitism become something that professional journalists are unable to recognize? Have Jews so completely become white people in the eyes of progressives that they may now be treated, like white people, as a problem in society that has to be fought? If so — and it increasingly seems to be so — can’t that be achieved without literally depicting Jews as dogs?
The New York Times has much to be ashamed about here, and their response has been extremely weak. The good news is that American Jews have taken notice and are prepared to respond.