Stripping the veil away

Who in their right mind 30 years ago would have imagined The New York Times running a cartoon that could have been lifted from the archives of Der Sturmer.

April 29, 2019 23:42
4 minute read.
Antisemitic cartoon in New York Times

Antisemitic cartoon in New York Times. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

This was an unmistakable sign. One will miss it or ignore it at his peril.

The despicable cartoon just published by The New York Times in its International Edition stands as one of those existential gut checks, those moments where the veil of complexity is stripped away and we are brought face-to-face with a reality in all its ugly clarity.

Who in their right mind 30 years ago would have imagined The New York Times running a cartoon that could have been lifted from the archives of Der Sturmer, or from the appendices of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion?

After all, this is the newspaper of record, the Grey Lady: objective, impartial, factual and eminently trustworthy. Such a cartoon would be printed only as a way of lambasting the hateful discourse that is out there, not as an expression of the libidinous instincts of the Times itself.

But that is not the way it is. To make it worse, The Times’ explanation basically boiled down to “duly noted.”

Jewish history is a trope largely dominated by denial. Like the proverbially passive frog in the increasingly hot pot of water who never figures out how to jump out, Jews have always harnessed our considerable collective intelligence to contextualize, rationalize and basically wish away the patently obvious that we do not wish to confront.

The drumbeat of antagonism towards Israel and Judaism itself is becoming louder and clearer all the time, and the intervals are getting shorter.

What started as a solitary timpani bang is now accelerating into a Buddy Rich solo.

Sadly, there is a toxic symbiosis between the antisemitism emanating from right-wing madmen and left-wing closet totalitarians. The latter provide ideological cover for the murderous acts of the former. They provide a climate of hate and rejection, which provides the context and – increasingly – the justification for murder.

The fact that the left-wing and right-wing extremists hate each other is irrelevant, because, as folksinger Tom Lehrer noted, “Everybody hates the Jews.”

To my American Jewish brethren: what will it take for you to revisit and revise your cherished nostrums and assumptions about who is on the side of the angels and who is out to get you?

There were and have always been sophisticated, educated and cultured haters of the Jewish people. The fact we as a people respect these attributes must not prevent us from identifying those whose agenda is basically to oppose, denigrate and demonize us.

WHAT IS most frightening about the recent drumbeats of antisemitic pronouncements is how deftly they get parried or excused in the wake of completely insincere and tactical “apologies.”

But let’s face the likelihood that this was no error, no oversight. The placement in the International Section was very likely deliberate to avoid a wider spotlight, while making a point that was bound to resonate with many of the Times’ readers overseas.

What happened to “Never Again?” What happened to a mindset of calling out the hints, indirect shots and oblique references to antisemitism, so as to nip it in the bud by calling widespread attention to unacceptable and reprehensible behavior?

Those who would have rolled their eyes 10 years ago at early stage demonizations of Israel now have to face the reality of where all of those early “but it’s only Israel” slanders and calumnies have led, and are leading to.

Is it too late to stop the train? Has it already left the station?

The appropriate response to The New York Times should be widespread revulsion, a campaign to cancel subscriptions and to boycott its advertisers. The Times must be seen to be in the same league as the vandals and shooters who attack Jews.

If this sounds hysterical, I would ask, what should be done instead? Will there be mandatory sensitivity training sessions for recalcitrant staffers? Of course not, they are far too enlightened. Or rather, will there be the reflexive acceptance of an obligatory apology, which serves only as a wink and a nod to the fellow travelers that this is all just three steps forward and two steps back?

I fear that absent the widespread revulsion I am calling for, we will just mark this as a yet another way-station to a situation that is likely to become far worse.

The ball is in the court of those who demand decency and accountability, and are unwilling to tolerate a slippery slope to a worsening persecution of the Jewish people. If we are sincere about protecting decency and the vulnerability of the Jewish People, this is the moment to say,” Enough!”

The writer is the chairman of the board of Im Tirtzu and a director of the Israel Independence Fund. He can be reached at

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