I have written columns where 95 percent of the column was criticizing progressives and five percent was criticizing Donald Trump. In response, my critics, in their Letters to the Editor, totally ignored my attacks on progressives and criticized me for my comments about Trump. Thus, it came as no surprise that the right-wing Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV) bashed CNN for their anti-Semitism special (“CNN Anti-Semitism Special a Deliberate Whitewash, Rabbis Say”). I do not want to respond to their comments in detail, but I recommend that you watch the program and come to your own conclusions.
Nevertheless, there is one clear, glaring, false claim that must be addressed, namely that CNN failed to provide concrete examples of left-wing anti-Semitism. An extensive portion of the program involved a Jewish student in SUNY New Paltz who was forced out of a student organization she helped create, and was otherwise ostracized by left-wing students because of her pro-Israel views. CNN also focused on the school administration’s lack of response to how the Jewish student was being mistreated. As mentioned in the program, this was an example of the attacks on Jews in college campuses throughout the country by left-wing students. As part of addressing the problem, CNN interviewed the leader of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, which helps Jewish college students who are targets of anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. CJV also omitted that Jason Greenblatt, a Trump supporter who was in the Trump administration, was also interviewed.
I have criticized CNN in the past for some of their programing. I can also see why some may disagree with a few of the choices made by CNN as to what should be emphasized and what to leave out. However, the program was an hour long, including commercials. Choices had to be made. You cannot put everything in. Reasonable people can disagree with what was chosen. However, even if you might disagree with some of the choices made by CNN, it does not justify trashing the program. The irony is that CJV comments are giving fodder to those on the right who do not want to admit anti-Semitism, while claiming that CNN is engaging in such conduct.
It’s unfortunate that CJV’s hatred for CNN and any organization that they perceive as leftist resulted in this attack on the program. Instead, CJV could have praised CNN for presenting a program solely devoted to the issue of anti-Semitism. I am not aware of any other major media outlet that has had such a program.
CNN also had a program a few days later, “Never Again: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum: A Tour with Wolf Blitzer.” This is another reason to praise CNN. Both programs were hosted by Jews who have shows on CNN: Wolf Blitzer and Dana Bash. CNN’s website also published an opinion piece by Ms. Bash about her son who, when he was 12, wanted a Star of David necklace for a Chanukah present. He wanted to wear it to show Jewish pride. After initial doubts about publicly displaying his religion and repeated requests from her son, Ms. Bash thought maybe the best way to combat anti-Semitism is by not being afraid to show that we are Jewish.
CJV also claims, without providing statistics, that “the overwhelming majority of anti-Semitic attacks in recent years have been committed by individuals motivated by leftist views and who could not be called “white supremacist” for obvious reasons.” They gave an example of such an attack on Orthodox Jews by a gang of Black teens, who could not be called “white supremacist for obvious reasons.” CJV’s assumption is that if they are Black, they must be leftist. Senator Tim Scott and other Black Republicans and moderate Black Democrats may disagree with the conclusion that all Black people are leftist. It is like the stereotype that all Jews are Democrats, which CJV proves is false.
It is also possible that these gangs are just a bunch of thugs who have no political agenda but just want to beat Jews up. Just because the Proud Boys and other right-wing militia who came to the Capitol on January 6 to overturn the election have a political agenda does not mean that a Black gang also cares about politics. CJV’s claim that since they are Black they must be leftist – and if they are leftist, their attack on Jews must be because of their leftist beliefs – is sophistry.
CJV complained that many organizations, including them, were not asked by CNN to address the situation. They have a point about the Simon Wiesenthal Center. SWC has a reputation for being apolitical. However, CJV, by making unfounded attacks on CNN, gives credence to those who want to ignore them. An organization’s credibility, just like an individual’s, depends on the belief that they are fair to all sides, whether it is those who normally they would agree with or with those on the other side.
I look forward to a response from Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld, the President of CJV.
RABBI YAAKOV MENKEN, MANAGING DIRECTOR OF THE CJV, RESPONDS:
Your correspondent exhibits a noticeable blind spot. He neglected to address the fact that the 42-minute documentary spent at least one quarter of its length – and the first quarter at that – attempting to tie the rise of anti-Semitism to the Trump presidency. Jason Dov Greenblatt was interviewed only to defend the former President from this ridiculous slander. Is the writer himself so blinded by hatred for Trump that he thinks it appropriate to blame Trump for things that Trump only fought against throughout his career? Because unless that is the case, it is impossible to miss the glaring, partisan bias that permeates the CNN report.
Again, they spent over a quarter of the program talking about anti-Semitism in the political sphere. From the first moment, where they showed video of Trump and Greene when talking about anti-Semitism in politics, until the last moment, it was all about Trump and Republicans. Not one second was devoted to the “Squad” or any Democrat inciting anti-Semitic hatred: no Tlaib, no Omar, no AOC, no Johnson, no Bush. Not a second. He cannot rationally argue that this was not a whitewash.
He also incorrectly claims that the SUNY New Paltz example was used by CNN as an example of a Jewish student being “ostracized by left-wing students.” He is the only one to call those students left-wing. CNN never did. CNN, as above, did not even mention that the same “Palestinian” rhetoric is used by the “Squad” in Congress.
Alyza Lewin was, similarly, not quoted on anything political. And then they quoted “Rabbi” Jill Jacobs, an anti-Semitic leftist, explaining that anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitic.
Yes, CNN said the Palestinian cause is big among progressives, but then they went straight to Jacobs comparing the hatred of Israel and Jews with protesting for Tibet, a genuine and entirely positive human rights cause, and explicitly denying that anti-Semitism is the primary element of the “Palestine” movement – and even saying that she’s more afraid of the right, when it’s the left that is becoming accepted in society.
At the end of the segment on anti-Semitism in universities, they quote only Jacobs and Greenblatt, and Greenblatt saying “the temperature is slowly rising.” New Paltz wasn’t “slowly rising,” so either Greenblatt is delusional or he’s saying the left isn’t responsible for the “Palestinian” anti-Semitism. Even the girl in question had to choose between being a survivor of violence or a Jew – the word “progressive” shows up nowhere.
Interviewing Jacobs on anti-Semitism would, even without the bizarre material on Trump, already be proof that this program was entirely wrong-headed. When literally the only other rabbis on the program are showing the synagogues where violence took place, meaning no observant rabbi was quoted as an expert on anti-Semitism, opposite Jacobs, calling it a “whitewash” is generous at best.
I have to suggest that your correspondent go watch the special again and pay greater attention to who is interviewed, and in what context.
RABBI YOEL SCHONFELD ADDS:
CNN also failed to mention that the overwhelming percentage of violence against the Jews in the streets and college campuses is committed by minorities and Muslims, not exactly followers of Donald Trump or right-wing supremacists.