Friday, September 11, 2015

What the New York Times might be telling Jews

Some say The New York Times is one of the best newspapers in the world (Blake Fleetwood, “Why The New York Times Is the Best Newspaper in the World”, Huffington Post, February 5, 2014). Others call it one of the world’s greatest newspapers (“The New York Times, the American newspaper”, britannica. com, no date).

This week, the Times shows us what kind of newspaper it really is. It’s created a ‘Jew Tracker’.

Does that tell you something?

The ‘Jew-Tracker’ is a chart. This chart allows you to see which Jews in Congress do not back the Obama Iran deal (Steven Hayward, “NY Times Launches Its Jew-Tracker”, powerline blog, September 10, 2015).  The inference is, a lot of Jews in Congress oppose the Iran deal. Why else would you need a ‘Jew Tracker’?

Remember that question. We’ll come back to it.

Perhaps you’ve seen reports about this chart. It’s quite simple. It tells you, by name, which Democrats oppose the President. It tells you who among them are Jewish. Presumably, there are a lot of such Jews. Otherwise, why would one need a chart?

To make sure you understand what you’re looking at, the chart includes a yellow ‘highlighter’ component, to focus your attention on ‘Jews’. You know, so that you’ll not forget the purpose of the chart.

For the US Senate, the chart looks something like this:                                                          

Senator Name--Jewish?State & est. Jewish pop.

C. Schumer --------Yes---------New York, 9.1 per cent Jewish

B. Cardin------------Yes--------Maryland, 4.2 per cent Jewish

R. Menendez------No--------New Jersey, 5.8 per cent Jewish

J. Manchin the 3rd--No------West Virginia, O.1 per cent Jewish


All references to ‘Jewish’ are highlighted in yellow.

You should look up the chart for yourself. My brief representation doesn’t capture the quality of the original. Also, in the original chart, you’ll see the names of Democratic Jewish House Members who don’t back the deal.

Do a google-search for ‘New York Times Jew Tracker’. You’ll find the chart.

One can make two observations about this chart. First, the chart itself reveals a disturbing calculus: under the ‘Jewish?’ column, the chart states that ten per cent of the US Senate is Jewish. That means, with 100 Senators total, there are 10 Jews in the Senate.

Perhaps this is why one needs a ‘Jew Tracker’. Ten Jewish Senators could be hard to track without a chart, right?

But the chart reveals that, in fact, only two Jewish Senators do not back the deal—just two. In addition, the chart also reveals that, of the four Democratic Senators who don’t back the deal, two are not Jewish.

Why create a ‘Jew-Tracker’ for two names? In fact, why do we need to track Jews at all? The Nazis in 1930’s Germany did that. They did it as part of their anti-Jew ideology. Why is the New York Times behaving the same way?

The second observation is that the Times did make a change to the chart--after it had been accused of creating an anti-Semitic device (Terresa Monroe-Hamilton, “Not Cool: The New York Times Goes Anti-Semitic With Congressional ‘Jew Tracker’”, rightwingnews, September 10, 2015).  The Times deleted the ‘Jewish?’ Column.

But the chart still shows plenty of ‘Jewish’ content.

This online ‘Jew Tracker’ is offensive. It strikes me as open bigotry.

The New York Times explained the chart this way: “Though more Jewish members of Congress support the deal than oppose it, the Democrats against the deal are more likely to be Jewish or represent Jewish constituencies [emphasis mine]” (Adam Kredo, “New York Times Launches Congress ‘Jew Tracker’”, Washington Free Beacon, September 10, 2015).

This is an outrageously absurd statement. It’s pure anti-Semitism. Here’s why: first, according to the chart, only two of four Democrats who do not back the deal were Jewish. Two of four doesn’t make anything ‘more likely’, yet that’s the Times’ claim.

To conclude from ‘two-of-four’ that opponents were ‘more likely’ Jewish is patently false. It’s a false accusation against Jews.

That’s pure anti-Semitism. It’s a kind of statement that would have fit right into Nazi-influenced German newspapers of the early 1930’s.

Then there’s the issue of suggesting that an Iran opponent was ‘more likely’ to represent a Jewish constituency (see the Times quote, above). The chart doesn’t entirely support that assertion. First of all, the chart shows that Manchin of West Virginia, a non-Jew who doesn’t back the deal, has a Jewish constituency of 0.1 per cent of his state’s total population. Since when is 0.1 per cent of a population ‘a constituency’?

Then there’s the question of constituency influence.  For example, the fact that the Jewish Senator Cardin works with a 4.2 per cent Jewish constituency in his state suggests that, if anything, his Jewish constituency could be too small to influence him. The Times doesn’t prove otherwise. Without supporting evidence, that size constituency could be meaningless.

More important, on what basis does the Times assume that Senator Cardin’s Jewish constituency was anti-deal, and had influenced him to oppose it? (That’s the Times’ suggestion). In fact, American Jews have been very ambivalent about this deal. Until very, very recently, most Jews in the US favoured the deal (“Poll: US Jews more likely to back Iran deal than non-Jews”, Jerusalem Post, July 25, 2015); only recently have American Jews started to turn against it. Therefore, without hard numbers, the most likely assumption one could make about Cardin’s Jewish constituency is that it would probably pressure him both ways—to back the deal and to oppose it, reflecting the ambivalence of the general US Jewish population. The Times offers no evidence that Cardin was acting because of pressure from his Jewish constituency.

It offers no proof its anti-Jewish suggestion is correct.

Then, there’s the recent head-count on where all the Jews in Congress stand on this deal (“Final tally: 19 of 28 Jewish lawmakers back the Iran nuclear deal”, Times of Israel, September 10, 2015). In case you’ve forgotten your arithmetic, 19 of 28 is 67.85 per cent (these numbers suggest that the Times may have actually misrepresented where Jewish lawmakers stand).

According to my math, more Jews in Congress, percentage-wise, back the deal than non-Jews. So why do we need a ‘Jew-Tracker’? Why are Jews being singled-out?

I don’t know what your reaction is to this chart. But I see it as shouting, ‘it’s the JEWS, the JEWS, the JEWS who oppose Obama!’

Right now, more Jews, percentage-wise, support Obama than non-Jews. More Jews in Congress, percentage-wise, support this deal than non-Jews. Therefore, we need a ‘Jew Tracker’ because…?

The New York Times has crossed a line. Jews have long felt comfortable in American precisely because this kind of anti-Jew behaviour has been kept out of the newspapers.  

Does the appearance of this chart in the prestigious New York Times tell us something? Is it a sign that America has changed how it thinks about Jews?

What do you think?




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