Rattling the Cage: Why ‘Time’ magazine isn’t anti-Semitic

My fellow Jews, what is your problem? To say that Israelis are more interested in making money than in the peace process, that’s anti-Semitism?

In April 1994, I wrote a story titled “The Bourgeoisification of Israel” for the American Jewish magazine Moment. Illustrated with photographs of Israelis lying on the beach, by the swimming pool and shopping at the mall, the story’s point was that this was no longer the austere, idealistic, hyper-politicized nation of legend, but a “booming, capitalistic one.”
Materialism, I wrote, was the new Israeli ideology, and the Oslo peace process appealed to many people here for just that reason. “There’s a lot of money to be made if this peace works out. And if most of the West Bank and Gaza are given up in the process, who goes there anyway?...It’s not that most Israelis have suddenly begun caring about the Palestinians; they just want to be left in peace, and they are too busy to be bothered.”
I raised a couple of other points, such as “Why should a bourgeois country be the world’s foremost recipient of foreign aid, with $3 billion a year from the United States?” and “Why [does] Israel keep schnorring money from Diaspora Jews, and why [do] Diaspora Jews keep handing it over?”
THE STORY was well received. Forgive me for bragging, but it won the American Jewish Press Association’s 1994 Boris Smolar Award for Excellence in International News or Feature Reporting. (In the Jewish journalism racket, we refer to this award simply as “a Smolar.”)
So imagine my surprise when I see that in September 2010, the American Jewish establishment, led by the ADL, AJC and ZOA, is screaming “anti-Semitism!” at Time magazine for writing that Israelis are too busy chasing the good life to care about peace.
“The insidious subtext of Israeli Jews being obsessed with money echoes the age-old anti-Semitic falsehood that Jews care about money above any other interest, in this case achieving peace with the Palestinians,” wrote Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, in a letter to Time.
Abe, Abe, Abe, Abe, Abe – I don’t know what to tell you, or all the people who made “calls and emails from around the country expressing outrage,” or the other Jewish machers and bloggers who agree with you. I read Time’s September 13 cover story, provocatively titled “Why Israel Doesn’t Care About Peace” and illustrated with people lying on the beach and sitting at cafes, and there isn’t a molecule of anti-Semitism in it. Not unless you think that telling the most basic, obvious truth about contemporary Israeli life, one I don’t think any real live, semi-conscious Israeli would challenge, is anti-Semitism.
“As three presidents, a king and their own prime minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israelis and the Palestinians, the truth is Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They’re otherwise engaged; they’re making money; they’re enjoying the rays of late summer,” wrote Time’s Karl Vick.
Shades of Der Sturmer, right? My fellow Jews, what is your problem? To say that Israelis are more interested in making money than in politics, than in the peace process – which, as the article repeatedly points out, Israelis have no faith in because they don’t trust the Palestinians – that’s anti-Semitism?
Yes, the article’s tone is critical of the current mood. It depicts people in this country as smug, as being zoned out on prosperity, security and sunshine, as living in a fool’s paradise.
You disagree? Fine. But to call it anti-Semitic? Because it makes the claim that Israelis like money?
Everyone likes money, everyone’s politics is colored by money. This is understood as a matter of course in the news media’s coverage of every nation in the world – but when they say it about Israel, about the Jewish nation, it’s bigotry, it’s hate speech.
“This anti-Semitic and misleading cover and article plumbs new depths in Time magazine’s long-running historic bigotry toward Israel,” said Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America.
Mort, Mort, Mort, Mort, Mort – when are you going to stop trying to scare people stupid? When it’s said that Americans “vote their pocketbook,” is that anti-Americanism? When someone writes that Americans oppose raising taxes for health care, is the point of the story that Americans value money above human life? When commentators deplore the annual American tradition of mobbing the department stores for the Memorial Day sales, does anyone call this commentary “insidious”?
No. Only when you suggest that Israelis are basically like everyone else, that they’re as self-absorbed and materialistic and politically nearsighted as any other nation, and that they may not be doing everything humanly possible in the pursuit of peace and brotherhood, then you’re in trouble with the ADL, the ZOA and so on. Then you are up to your neck in American Jewish alphabet soup.
Sorry Abe, sorry Mort, it’s 2010. It’s a little late to pretend that Israelis are a nation of altruists. Time magazine didn’t tell anyone who knows Israel anything new; the story it told was the story of this generation. So stop crying wolf already. There are anti- Semitic lies, but there are no anti- Semitic truths.