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Spanish P.M. Accused of anti-Semitism:

It's the first I've heard of this, but so says this article in ynetnews:

The first signal came on Monday, 5 December, when during a dinner with the Benarroch family, Zapatero and wife began claiming what Vidal Quadras, member of the European Parliament, described on the radio as "a tirade of anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism". By the moment the Benarroch couple had left the table to express their regrets, Zapatero was explaining his lack of surprise about the Holocaust: according to the people present, Zapatero claimed to understand the Nazis.

Beyond that, the article is rather short on details; Zapatero has a typical European leftist strong antipathy toward Israel (and the U.S.), but provides no other specific evidence that he's an anti-Semite. But the article is certainly right about Jews in Spain feeling anxious; my parents were in Spain in May, and they heard all about it at the synagogue they attended (guarded by a small army, reservations-only, with warnings not to wear kippot on the streets).

UPDATE: According to this story, the Spanish opposition leader has accused Zapatero of anti-Semitism, though again we are short on specifics.

Per Son:
That was how High Holiday services in London in 2003 were too. It was sad.
7.20.2006 12:10pm
Frank Drackman (mail):
Hmm think I'll Head-Butt the bastard.
7.20.2006 1:09pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Might be better to change the title unless you can provide at least some specifics to substantiate the accusation. Perhaps "Spanish P.M. accused of being an anti-Semite" would be more accurate.
7.20.2006 1:28pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
T.W., how is the way you put it different from the way I put it, with a question mark? And the report of the dinner party is a specific accusation, though not enough go beyond the question mark.
7.20.2006 1:36pm
D.T.:
Sir Bernstein,

These NYT anti-semitism accusations of yours are silly and insulting. (See your quote below for a reminder.) The Times undoubtedly has the highest Jewish readership of any daily in the world outside of Israel. I don't see many complaints (although I know you do -- but you can find anything if you look hard enough). You may not want to believe it, but some Jews (this writer included, I like to think) actually go to lengths to take a balanced, resoned, even objective (look it up, in the "o"s) reckoning of Middle East politics, without lapsing into an identity-based stream of dogma at the sight of the words "Israel" or "Palestine."

I challenge you to post a single article that has appeared in any section of the Times over the past week that is "hostile" to Israel.


N.Y. Times and Israel: Supporters of Israel are often accused of paranoia when they claim that the New York Times tends to be hostile to Israel. Hmm. Check out this piece, written by Chris Hedges, who was New York Times Middle East bureau chief from the late 90s to the early 2000s.
7.20.2006 1:53pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
When did I ever accuse the N.Y. Times of anti-Semitism? You are, however, making my exact point: "Supporters of Israel are often accused of paranoia when they claim that the New York Times tends to be hostile to Israel." If you want documentation that supporters of Israel consider the Times to be hostile to Israel, look no further than Honestreporting.com, and do a search on that website for "New York Times."

And get off that "I'm objective, you're biased" schtick. It's about the most self-serving, assinine argument you can make.
7.20.2006 2:13pm
D.T.:
Nice. That is non-responsive to the point of admission. But congrats on memorizing the one bulletproof defense of the paranoiac: "See? Told you!" Pretty helpful.

The point is, you've made a sweeping claim against the Times -- of hostility to Israel, which must mean to Jews, which for some is anti-Semitism. You can't support the claim. You should retract it.
7.20.2006 2:20pm
D.T.:
Asinine.
7.20.2006 2:22pm
jackietreehorn:
D.T. - While anti-Semitism and hostility to Israel can be seen as related, they are clearly distinct concepts. Prof. Bernstein accused the NYT of the latter and not the former. I don't see what's so hard to understand.
7.20.2006 2:25pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Someone's reading comprehension skills are not up to par, and it's not mine. My post stated that many friends of Israel think the Times has been hostile. That's true. It also stated that this is perceived by some as paranoia. That's also true, as your own post attests. Finally, I pointed out that the Times' Mid East bureau chief for many years (including the Second Intifada years, where the complaints against the Times were most numerous) has revealed himself to be a far leftist who thinks the terrorist Lebanese Party of God is morally superior to Israel, and indeed so ideologically committed that he refused to keep quiet about his opinions, at the cost of his juob. Documented. And I finally suggested that the fact that such an individual was in charge of the Times' Israel coverage lends weight to the charges of hostility made by friends of Israel. This is logically unassailable. In short, everything I said is absolutely correct, but you instead bring in the straw man that I accused the Times of anti-Semitism. You also asked for evidence of the Times's bias against Israel, and I provided you with evidence of what I actually wrote, that friends of Israel have perceived the Times of bias.

Now, I'm done with this thread.
7.20.2006 2:29pm
D.T.:
(Uh, someone need an editor, and it aren't me.)

Since we all love to make claims, I'll close with three: (1) The vast majority of friends of Israel think the Times is non-hostile to Israel. Verifiable. Do not question this assertion. (2) The hundreds of writers and editors currently working for the Times show nary a sign of hostility. Unassailable. Look it up: nytimes.com. (3) Everything I say is true, true, true. Clear as day. Look it up. Write it down.
7.20.2006 2:45pm
Steve:
Doesn't the fact that someone lost their job at the NYT for holding a certain view kind of cut AGAINST the argument that the NYT is sympathetic to that view?

"The NYT is anti-Israel. As proof of this, I offer the fact that they fired an anti-Israel employee."
7.20.2006 3:04pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
T.W., how is the way you put it different from the way I put it, with a question mark?


Because the way you've written it leads the reader to believe that the charges are true with the question mark as an after though. Writing it as "Spanish P.M. accused of being an anti-Semite" is more neutral in tone and leads the reader to weigh the evidence in a more objective fashion. IMO since neither of the sources you've cited provide much in the way of support for the charge, it would be more proper to put this in a more neutral fashion at least for now.

Also there doesn't appear to be any accusation to support the inclusion of "unabashed." If someone who supported the ABA's diversity policy were to write an article entitled "David Bernstein unabashed racist?" based not on your actual words but on how some commenter who disagreed with you decided to characterize your POV, that would IMO be just as disreputable.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying whether I think this fellow is or is not an anti-Semite (his actual quotes about Bush and Kerry are enough for me to decide that I probably don't like the fellow even if being a self-proclaimed Socialist wasn't enough reason to despise him) but for a charge like this, particularly so light in evidence, I'd tread carefully unless and until more foundation is provided. Keep in mind; you can always do an updated post that's more definitive when more facts are in.

And the report of the dinner party is a specific accusation, though not enough go beyond the question mark.


I don't agree with this. The characterization of this fellow's comment at the dinner may or may not be accurate. To me it sounds suspiciously like someone who already doesn't like or disagrees with the fellow has decided to take his comments out of context and/or put them in the most offensive light. I saw something similar happen to Professor Eric Pianka, a evolutionary biologist, who was subjected to a vicious smear campaign by a handful of creationists who distorted a speech he gave on why he though overpopulation would lead to a pandemic and tried to make it appear as if he was hoping for a pandemic (as opposed to warning people about it). People who actually attended the event and knew the man personally and that he delivered a similar speech every year luckily stood up vocally for the fellow but it created a minor stir in the blogosphere and the cable networks.

Given the seriousness of the charges and the lack of specifics and the fact that the internet provides you with ample opportunity to follow and update the story as more facts are known, I'd strongly suggest being more neutral unless and until more facts come in.

Just my $0.02.
7.20.2006 3:08pm
SeaLawyer:
This link says alot about the Spainish PM.
7.20.2006 3:21pm
SeaLawyer:
Sorry I forgot the link

Spanish PM
7.20.2006 3:23pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Steve,

Hedges wasn't fired for his anti-Israel views. He was fired after making a speech extremely critical of American policy in Iraq. But even then, he wasn't fired for his views. He was fired for refusing to promise that in the future he wouldn't state his views in public fora. This is SOP at the Times, which bans its reporters, who, e.g., cover reproductive issues, from publicly supporting pro-choice causes.
7.20.2006 3:48pm
zarevitz (mail) (www):
The anti-Semite claim has arisen from this picture, in which he is wearing a Palestinian 'kufiya'. Given the current situation, I think this is more a lack of political wisdom by him than actual anti-Semitism.
7.20.2006 3:52pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I don't know if that's all there is to it, as the dinner anecdote suggests. Back in 1984, the media reported that Jews thought Jesse Jackson was anti-Semitic because of his "Hymietown" remark. Actually, Jackson had a long history of anti-Semitic statements, but that was the first one to get the media's attention. The YNet story states that the P.M. is know to be anti-Semitic in Spanish political circles. It could just be a tempest in a teapot, however.
7.20.2006 3:56pm
frankcross (mail):

It's very hard to assess a bias without a baseline. Is it the NYT that is biased in its views or are you? Difficult question to answer. You can try to piece it out scientifically, as in the following study:

This study consists of a statistical examination of The New York Times' news coverage of the first year of the current Palestinian uprising, and of its coverage of that uprising in 2004. The categories examined are coverage in headlines or first paragraphs of conflict deaths and, as a subcategory, children's deaths. In addition, we studied coverage of deaths in complete articles for a sample month-long sub-study in 2004. Our findings indicate significantly distorted coverage by The New York Times of these topics. In the first study period The Times reported Israeli deaths at a rate 2.8 times higher than Palestinian deaths, and in 2004 this rate increased by almost 30%, to 3.6, widening still further the disparity in coverage. The Times' coverage of children's deaths was even more skewed. In the first year of the current uprising, Israeli children's deaths were reported at 6.8 times the rate of Palestinian children's deaths. In 2004 this differential also increased, with deaths of Israeli children covered at a rate 7.3 times greater than the deaths of Palestinian children.

Now, I don't think this necessarily evidences a great pro-Israeli bias but it's certainly not consistent with claims of NYT bias against Israel
7.20.2006 4:00pm
anon252 (mail):
Given that the Israeli children's deaths were all the result of horrific suicide bombings, and most of the adult deaths as well, what this study really shows, if it's accurate, is that the Times is more likely to report on Palestinian suicide bombings than on military actions by Israel. This is only meaningful if you think there is no "news" difference between deliberate murders and collateral deaths. Not to mention that it's a lot easier for Times reporters to get around Israel than to get around, say, Gaza.

Contrary to this study, anyone remember the notorious incident in which the Times published a chart showing Israeli vs. Palestinian deaths, without noting (a) that some of the Pal deaths were suicide bombers, and others were of terrorists killed by Israel,and (b) that the Pal deaths including Pals killed by other Pals as collaboraters; whereas almost all the Israeli deaths were of civilians murdered by suicide bombers? The editor of the Times, responding to complaints, said something like "dead is dead."
7.20.2006 4:15pm
Marcus1 (mail) (www):
Prof. Bernstein,

You also said that a person isn't paranoid if everybody is really out to get him. Clearly, you are accusing the NYTimes of being anti-Israel. Why do you hide from this accusation?
7.20.2006 4:30pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Professor Bernstein, thank you for changing the title.
7.20.2006 4:35pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
For the final time, I stated that critics have accused the Times of hostility toward Israel. I presented a piece of evidence that renders their claims more plausible than they would be without that piece of evidence. I'm not a shrinking violet, and if I wanted to accuse the Times of being "anti-Israel", I would have said so, quite directly.

My own view, if you must have it, is that the Times's coverage of Israel would generally fit in quite nicely with the Israeli left (Meretz, Peace Now), which makes the Times's coverage of Israel hostile to Israel from a mainstream pro-Israel perspective (especially given that all Israeli governments in my lifetime have been well to the right of Meretz), but pro-Israel from the perspective of, say, Hanan Ashrawi, much less Nasrallah.
7.20.2006 4:38pm
frankcross (mail):
I was about to post what David said. My impression is a little more mainstream than Meretz but generally on the left side of the Israeli politics. But you can't spin that into being anti-Israel. Anymore than you could spin support for any liberal party into being anti that nation. I don't think support for Kerry was anti-American, or even anti-mainstream American. And that's more of an editorial position than news.

anon, those are reasons for the disparity. Though you cannot answer stats with anecdotes. But an anti-Israel paper wouldn't have used those reasons.
7.20.2006 5:12pm
Hoosier:
As a point of clarification: I don't think the Times can be accused of being "anti-Israel," in limited sense in which I will use that phrase, viz., does not support Israel's right to exists as a (the, really) Jewish state. In debates about Israel and her neighbors, I always ask critics of Israel or her policies (and there's a big difference here)WHEN did the occupation begin? If they say 1948, they are anti-Israel. If they say 1967, then they are critical supporters of Israel's right to exist.

I'd put the Times in the second category, and thus cannot say that they are anti-Israel. I've known them to publish masthead editorials that I thought overly-critical of Israel. But I've never known them to support the erradication of Israel within the pre-1967 borders.

Do the Volokhites consider this is meaningful distinction? Or am I splitting ideological hairs?

Re: The Spanish Socialist in general, I have no evidence that Zapatero and co. are "anti-Israel." But, if further evidence reveals that a European leftist thinks Israel is a mistake that should go away, I won't be stunned.
7.20.2006 5:24pm
Hoosier:
Sorry:

"Spanish Socialists"


"-ist", Nigel. Ist-ist.
7.20.2006 5:31pm
MDJD2B (mail):
I always ask critics of Israel or her policies...WHEN did the occupation begin? If they say 1948, they are anti-Israel. If they say 1967, then they are critical supporters of Israel's right to exist...Do the Volokhites consider this is meaningful distinction? Or am I splitting ideological hairs?

No, you are not splitting hairs, and no reasonable person thinks that uncritical support for Israel is anti-Semitic or evil in any way. But some who acknowledge its right to exist would reject its right adequately to defend itself. I do not, BTW, put the NY Times in that category. Not do I conflate this with automatic support for all of Israel's decisions.

Dennis Prager looks for the 3 D's-- delegitimization, demonization, and double standard. Your litmus test is deligitimization. Demonization refers to rhetoric like comparing Israel to Nazis or apartheid, generally for activities that do not involve raciism, let alone mass murder. And the meaning of double standard is obvious. Someone who is mortally aghast at what is happening in Lebanon but looks the other way at jihadist bombings in Iraq or massacres in Darfur is exhibiting a double standard.

I would characterize any of these as being an unacceptable anti-Israel stance. They are also unacceptable when applied to any other country, of course.

Finally, there is the attitude of the French ambassador to the UK who said that this "shitty little country" causes too much trouble and implied that it would be best for the world if it disappeared. Recently, in a similar vein, John Derbyshire posted on National Review Online:

Does anyone else feel, as I do, an almighty weariness with the Levant and its intractable problems, its immemorial rancors, its savage rivalries, its unappeasable grievances?... If only we could be...indifferent to the Levant! I know, I know, we can't. Oil; nukes; Islam; terrorists; Russia and China — the Great Game of our time. We can't ignore the damn loathsome filthy accursed place... But Lord, how I wish we could!

http://author.nationalreview.com/latest/?q=MjIxNg==
7.20.2006 8:27pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
MDJD2B,
I wouldn't call weariness with the "immemorial rancors" and "savage rivalries" of the Levant (a geographic area that refers to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine as well as Israel; term used centuries before the modern state of Israel existed) to be in a similar vein as calling Israel a "shitty little country."
7.21.2006 2:38am
Observer (mail):
The standard analogy of Israel (or more precisely, Zionism) with racism, or apartheid, is not meant to focus on specific actions, but rather on a philosophical level. The notion of establishing a state that is rooted in the cultural and religious identity of one set of people who live in a particular piece of land, as opposed to a state founded on a national identity that fully reflects the diversity of the population, is seen as a race-based (race being a bit of an analogy here), and thus a racist basis for the state.

Its the ingroup-outgroup thing. Is it right, given our western values, for a state to be established which fails to recognize all of its potential citizens as being fully equal participants in the national identity? I realize that Arab Israelis have fully equal legal rights and standing, but it is still a non-arab, non-muslim, non-christian nation, by definition. And it is not in the American model of being blind to any such differences either. And of course it must also be recognized that the legal rights that are extended to Arabs are done so only on the condition that they remain a relatively small minority.

This of course has been coming into play these past few decades as the Likud movement has tried to colonize the occupied territories - with the explicit intent to incorporate them into Israel, and the obvious intent to not grant the Palestinians an equal vote in this greater israel. It still amazes me that they were able to adhere to this logically flawed policy for as long as they did without the demographic facts being acknowledged - they either had to make the Israeli state explicitly apartheid in nature, or they had to allow Pals the vote, and lose the Jewish nature of the state.

I am willing to write this off as incredible stupidity on the part of the Likud, but can one really blame some of the Pals, or other observers for thinking that it clearly indicated a racist attitude and intent? And would one necessarily need to be considered an anti-semite for following that logic?
7.21.2006 2:53am
godfodder (mail):
Observer:
Part of the problem has to do with the initial conception of Israel-- a "safe" homeland for Jews who survived the attempted extermination of Hitler. Israel has always been seen as a nation whose cultural identity is essentially jewish. But is this really all that strange? Doesn't every nation have a cultural identity that includes a significant identification with the prevailing religion? Look at all the other nations in the Middle East, and ask yourself when was the last time any of those were accused of religious bigotry? It seems to be a claim reserved exclusively for Israel.
7.21.2006 10:45am
AverageEuropean:

typical European leftist strong antipathy toward Israel (and the U.S.)


Prof. Bernstein,

With all due respect: As a European on the political left, I not only find this quite insulting but also simply misleading and untrue.

First of all, I can hardly think of any European leftist with antipathies toward "Israel." So I can only assume you refered to the current government or the policies adopted by Israel. Yet even then, while there are of course many European leftists with antipathies towards the US administration and foreign policy (and to a lesser extent, towards Israel's policies), however, there are just as many without.

What good does a generalization like this do?
7.21.2006 10:49am
LawProfCommentator (mail):
When those who criticize Israel for "racism" apply the same standard to other countries that have an official cultural/religious identity (Turkey, which in fact oppresses non-Turks, Poland, Ireland, much less Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian Authority, etc.), then we'll talk.
7.21.2006 11:26am
MDJD2B (mail):
MDJD2B,
I wouldn't call weariness with the "immemorial rancors" and "savage rivalries" of the Levant (a geographic area that refers to Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine as well as Israel; term used centuries before the modern state of Israel existed) to be in a similar vein as calling Israel a "shitty little country."



The point is that both the ambassador may wish Israel gone not becasue there is anything wrong with Israel, but because it is inconvenient to the ammbassador. I appreciate that Derbyshire may not feel this wayI don't know how he feels about Israel), but his "wearyness" remark, not to mention calling the Levant a "damn loathsome filthy accursed place," makes this passage an eloquent expression of a state of mind that might lead to such a viewpoint. Admittedly, the passage encompasses all nations in the area. But I would have a problem even if someone said "let Arabs and Israelis kill each other until there is nobody left on one side or the other-- I don't care which side."
7.21.2006 11:30am
MDJD2B (mail):
The standard analogy of Israel (or more precisely, Zionism) with racism, or apartheid, is not meant to focus on specific actions, but rather on a philosophical level. The notion of establishing a state that is rooted in the cultural and religious identity of one set of people who live in a particular piece of land, as opposed to a state founded on a national identity that fully reflects the diversity of the population, is seen as a race-based (race being a bit of an analogy here), and thus a racist basis for the state.

Observer,

I spoke of the "3 D's" of deligitimizaiton, demonization and double standard. When the "Zionism is racism" folks spend as much breath on the sins of Saudia Arabia, Iran, Quebec, Japan, Zimbabwe, and the East African countries that expelled their East Indian populatoins, then I will take them (and you) more seriously.

On the other hand, one could reasonably look at the Palestinian leadership not as a movement for national self-expression, but as a movement akin to the pre-WWII Sudeten Germans. The goal of the latter was to undermine the cultural and national aspirations of the majority Czechs among whom they lived, to the benefit of the much larger German national/cultural entity with which they identified.
7.21.2006 11:41am
AverageEuropean:
MDJD2B:

A more current example than the Sudeten Germans would be the Kosovo-Albanians in the FRY and now Serbia. Yet curiously enough, the US now suddently abandons the "standards before status"-policy and supports their wish to leave.
7.21.2006 11:55am
MDJD2B (mail):
IMO, All other things being equal, all national, linguistic and religious groups should enjoy autonomy. My problem with the Sudeten Germans is that they wished to change from a status quo in which there was a Germany and a Czechoslovakia (and they were a minority in the latter)-- and Czechs AND Germans could live as a majority in one if they chose-- to a situation in which Czechoslovakia would be abolished, the SG's would live in a larger Germany as a majority, and Czechs, perforce, would be a minority with nowhere to go if they did not like this.

Kosovo is differentiated in that there already was an Albania and a Serbia, and both Albanians and Serbs lived in Kosovo. The relative balance changed due to migration and differential birth rates, so that Albanians were now an overwhelming majority.

In the Middle East, Hamas would incorporate Israel into yet another Arab, Moslem state, leaving Hebrew-speaking Jews without autonomy. Set aside, as with Kosovo, the complex story of how the recent ancestors of the inhabitants of the Holy Land got there (there was a lot of both Jewish and Arab in-migration during the British Mandate, and a majority of Israeli Jews are descendants of refugees from Islamic countries; there also were quite a few Jews who had been there from time immemorial). The majority of living Israeli Jews are natives. They have no Grandma Sadie in Coney Island or Uncle Fritz in Munich to go home to. Their native language is a language that is spoken nowhere else, and enjoy a righ an unique culture.

Their right to live in a community based on this culture is no different from that of their neighbors. "Observer" may disagree, but I don't believe the desire for people of any culture to have autonomy to be illegitemate or racist.
7.21.2006 1:01pm
Tierce (mail):

Their right to live in a community based on this culture is no different from that of their neighbors. "Observer" may disagree, but I don't believe the desire for people of any culture to have autonomy to be illegitemate or racist.


MDJD2B,

But does that "right" supercede the demographic realities? This argument reminds me of the South Africans saying that "the blacks have all the other countries in Africa, so why don't we deserve one for ourselves?"

Also, as far as a double standard with respect to Israeli racism, I think Israel itself is partly to blame here, with all the claims about "the most moral army in the world", and "we're and democracy and treat our minorities soooo much better than the Arabs." If Israel wants to put itself on a pedestal, then it can't complain when it is shown to have no clothes :)
7.21.2006 2:35pm