Why do I keep buying and reading the New York Times?
Let me see...
- I like the op-ed page, particularly David Brooks. Once a week, Brooks writes something of great spiritual depth, and I look forward to reading and growing from that.
- I read the obituaries. Seriously. Every so often, and all too often, I will see the name of someone I know, or the relative of someone I know. I then reach out to the loved ones.
- On Sunday, I read the Week in Review, cover to cover; the Book Review; the Styles section (mostly to see who is getting married, and who is performing the weddings); and the Magazine, mostly for the crossword puzzle.
Have I found the Times' editorial policy to be overtly critical of Israel? Yes, at times.
Still, I cannot imagine life without the newspaper of record.
If I have ever given any serious consideration to simply giving up on the Times, it would have been in the past week.
I am talking about those two notorious cartoons.
The first cartoon: the one that appeared in the International New York Times. That was the one that showed Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dog, wearing a Star of David, leading a blind, yarmulke-wearing President Donald Trump.
The implication? The "dog" Netanyahu is leading a blind American president around.
The symbolism of Trump's yarmulke?
Take your pick. Trump is either now a Jew (!), or is wearing the traditional Jewish head covering in order to pander to Jews.
Either way, the cartoon is extremely offensive.
It is also a political Rorschach.
Coming from the liberal New York Times (albeit the international edition), we would assume that it is a leftist critique -- of Israel's out-sized power and influence.
However, another set of eyes might have also interpreted it as coming from a right-wing critique -- not of Netanyahu, though that is certainly there -- but of Trump, blinded and "converted" by a foreign country.
That was certainly how Pat Buchanan saw the relationship: that Israel has an "amen corner" in the United States.
While it is true that the New York Times has apologized for the poor judgement in running that cartoon, it might go a little deeper and ask itself, and therefore clarify for itself and for its readers: Do we believe the sentiment that this cartoon illustrates?
If the Times, in fact, does not believe in that sentiment -- then it needs to vociferously condemn it. In no uncertain terms.
Memo to my friends who dislike both Bibi and Trump, and who therefore find nothing particularly antisemitic about this cartoon:
To quote Bret Stephens:
Imagine, for instance, if the dog on a leash in the image hadn’t been the Israeli prime minister but instead a prominent woman such as Nancy Pelosi, a person of color such as John Lewis, or a Muslim such as Ilhan Omar....
Don't deceive yourselves. Don't say: Well, I don't like Netanyahu, so it is OK to portray him as a dog.
Look up "Der Sturmer," and then we can talk.
The second cartoon: a blind Netanyahu, descending from Mount Sinai, with a single tablet with the Star of David on it, holding a selfie stick.
Interpretation? Take your pick. Netanyahu thinks that he is Moses, and in a narcissistic move, is taking a selfie of himself.
Except, he is not bearing the tablets of the Commandments. Rather, it is a tablet -- of what? The State of Israel? Zionism? Judaism, itself?
What do both cartoons have in common?
One major element: the leaders are blind.
Why is this important?
It is an image that comes with a history.
Consider the medieval artistic motif -- Ecclesia et Synagoga.
They are a pair of figures personifying the Church and the Synagogue -- Christianity and Judaism. This pair of figures adorns the front of many European cathedrals, including at Strasbourg and Notre Dame.
- The Church/Christianity: A beautiful, tall, erect, confident, forward-looking woman.
- The Synagogue/Judaism: A forlorn, blindfolded woman, carrying a broken lance, with the tablets or a Torah scroll at her feet.
The visual lesson is clear: The Jews are blind to the truth of Christianity. As a result, they are a broken, destroyed people, with their sacred texts discarded at their feet.
The Christians, of course, have seen the light -- and they are the future.
Do you think that this mythology has disappeared?
Except, this time -- the blindfolded woman is Israel, and Zionism, and those who agree with it and support it. Israel has blinded the world, and the United States, and, in the world view of radical leftist Jews, even Jews and Judaism itself.
In an amazing new book, The Lions' Den: Zionism and the Left from Hannah Arendt to Noam Chomsky, Susie Linfeld writes about how the Left has betrayed Israel and the Jews.
She focuses one chapter on Maxime Rodinson, a French thinker.
Israel was bad for the Jews. It had yanked them away from their universalist traditions, especially that of the Biblical prophets, whom Rodinson seemed to view as premature anti-Zionists. Whereas Hannah Arendt thought that universalism had failed the Jews, Rodinson believed that the Jews had failed universalism. Whereas the Zionist founders envisioned an Israel that would embody the prophetic tradition, Rodinson believed that Jewish sovereignty negated it.
There you have it. The Jew hatred comes from the left, and from the right.
- From the right -- the Jew hatred is violent and murderous. That this cartoon appeared, coincident with the horror in Poway, was more than most American Jews could bear. On the right, the enemy carries guns.
- From the left -- it is intellectual and ponderous. The enemy uses an IPad or an artists' pen.
What do both fronts have in common?
Ideas. The Jew hatred emerges from ideas.
You might say: the hatred from the left is "only" intellectual.
You do know, don't you, that ideas inevitably lead to actions?
The shooter in Poway did not act alone. He acted with a white supremacist, Jew-hating army behind him.
It is ideas that motivate that army.
The cartoonists in the Times did not draw alone.
They drew with leftist, anti-Israel, Jew-hating legions looking over their shoulders, and dipping their pens in the ink.
It is ideas that motivate those legions.
These are very difficult times for the Jews, and for Judaism.
I am not feeling good about these times.
Not at all.