In the media, where heads now roll for failure to anticipate the impact of an argument on minority groups, anti-Semitism remains what it has always been: an enduring and acceptable hatred.
It’s been more than two days now since the New York Times opinion page, policed closely by the paper’s readers and employees for evidence of bigotry, published an op-ed that approvingly cites the black anti-Semitism explained away in a 50-year-old essay by the writer James Baldwin.
We’ve been waiting for the reference to spark some sort of backlash and outcry from the paper’s reporters, for the Twitter hashtag decrying the insensitivity, for the internal finger pointing about who dropped the ball and allowed the publication of a piece that could make American Jews feel so unsafe.
Are you surprised to hear it never came?
The piece, by Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi, asked why a Minnesota convenience store called the police on George Floyd. Midway through, Bayoumi casually invoked the historical tensions between blacks and Jews.
“In Harlem in the 1960s, most such stores were Jewish-owned,” Bayoumi writes, offering as evidence James Baldwin’s 1967 essay, also published in the Times, titled “Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They’re Anti-White.” In that essay, Baldwin writes, “It is bitter to watch the Jewish storekeeper locking up his store for the night, and going home.”
“Today, many of these stores in major cities around the country are run by Arab-American and South-Asian-American merchants,” Bayoumi writes, “but the justifiable resentments remain the same.”
The argument: The resentment of Jews was justifiable then and the sordid legacy persists. “In the American context,” Baldwin wrote, “the most ironical thing about Negro anti-Semitism is that the Negro is really condemning the Jew for having become an American white man—for having become, in effect, a Christian.
The Jew profits from his status in America, and he must expect Negroes to distrust him for it. The Jew does not realize that the credential he offers, the fact that he has been despised and slaughtered, does not increase the Negro’s understanding. It increases the Negro’s rage.”
And while Jews no longer own many of the corner stores about which Bayoumi and Baldwin wrote, anti-Semitism among African Americans persists. A 2013 survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League, the most recent that tracked the views of African Americans, found that 12 percent of Americans—but 20 percent of African Americans—hold “strongly anti-Semitic views.”
MSNBC’s employees and viewers aren’t any more concerned than the Times about offending Jewish sensibilities. There has been no public outcry since a seven-minute diatribe on Wednesday from Joe Scarborough, who — channeling his best Colonel Jessup — railed about the greed and malice of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg. Scarborough accused the pair, both Jews, of making “billions of dollars off of spreading lies.”
“Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are only interested in protecting their billions,” Scarborough said.
There are only so many times in a single breath a person can accuse two executives with Jewish surnames of betraying their country for cash. But it was just a day’s worth of commentary of the sort that, leveled against members of another ethnic group, would not be tolerated by the liberals who staff America’s newsrooms.
“Not every criticism of individuals who may be Jewish constitutes anti-Semitism,” Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, told the Washington Free Beacon. “However, we have seen in recent years many instances in the media, on the left and on the right, in which Jews have been stereotypically portrayed, singularly targeted, and in a few cases outrightly demonized.”
We chalk up the incidents to the progressive elite’s selective blindness towards anti-Semitism. Look no further than Bill de Blasio’s willingness to single out for condemnation a Jewish funeral. Or to the conduct of educators at one of the city’s top progressive private schools, who begin sorting children into ethnic and racial “affinity groups” at an early age, but added one for Jewish students only after years of protest.
Baldwin justified black anti-Semitism even as he condemned it — a familiar pose to anybody who has observed the leaders of the Women’s March and Democrats’ response to Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) in recent years. In the media, where heads now roll for failure to anticipate the impact of an argument on minority groups, anti-Semitism remains what it has always been: an enduring and acceptable hatred.