O'Reilly on the Jewish Far Left:

The left-wing blogosphere is abuzz over a clip from Bill O'Reilly's radio show Tuesday night where he has some rather harsh, and hyperbolic, words about the Jewish left, basically stating that the Jewish left (first he says "liberals", then "far left") supports, or at least are apologists for, anti-American and anti-Israel terrorism. I've gotten some emails asking me to condemn O'Reilly. Well, the site that started the buzz provides zero context for O'Reilly's remarks; they have the audio clip of the specific remarks they are publicizing, but don't show what was said right before or right after. The lack of context makes me suspicious--if the remark is so outrageous in context, why not provide the context?

Lexis does have a transcript of his t.v. show from that night, in which he had a Jewish guest who led a protest in San Francisco against Israel's actions in Lebanon. We can at least be pretty confiden that O'Reilly's remarks were not an out of the blue attack on Jews, as one could potentially conclude from the Media Matters website circulating the clip.

[Here's the statement circulating on the internet: "You have a very big split in the Jewish-American community. You got a lot of Jewish liberals, a lot of Jewish far-left people, who basically feel that, you know, you don't have a right to go after terrorists because it's our fault, the United States' fault. And some say it's Israel's fault because we've been mean to them, therefore they have a right to do whatever they want -- behead people on camera, all this terrible stuff. OK? That's a far-left position."]

I'll withhold final judgment until someone gets me the complete transcript, and not just one paragraph taken out of context. It seems absurd to suggest that "Jewish liberals" are apologists for terrorism. But it seems to me that while O'Reilly first refers to "Jewish liberals", he then corrects himself and refers to the Jewish "far left." And while he paints with too broad a brush, it's undeniable that there are a few Jews [like their non-Jewish counterparts] on the far left who support anti-American and anti-Israel terrorism, and a greater number who are apologists for it. [Just look at Indymedia or some time.]

UPDATE: Thinking about this more, O'Reilly likely deserves criticism for hyperbole (to some extent, that is his schtick, no? and you can't expect every extemporaneous statement to be perfectly phrased), and he could have done a much better job at limiting his criticism explicitly to the far left. But, assuming this remark was in the context of a discussion of Jews who are protesting against Israel, it's hard to see this as an attack on "the Jewish left," as such, as opposed to left-wingers who are Jewish and are adopting the far left position on the Israel-Party of God War, when O'Reilly is supporting Israel. And this post has been edited to provide the text of O'Reilly's controversial remark, for clarity, and to avoid a side-debate over particular links.

Pitman (mail) (www):
I have no idea if this is the rally to which he is referring in SF, but my cousin who lives there sent me a link to this site which shows a little bit about one of the demonstrations there.
7.20.2006 10:22pm
But it seems to me that while O'Reilly first refers to "Jewish liberals", he then corrects himself and refers to the Jewish "far left."

What is the point you are trying to make with that sentence? I don't understand how the difference between "liberals" and "far left" changes whether O'Reilly's statement is anti-semitic.

When I wake up tomorrow, will this website be called the Bernstein Conspiracy?
7.20.2006 10:36pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
To say that mainstream "Jewish liberals" support terrorist groups is so far removed from reality that you'd have to question the motives of whoever says it. To say that Jews on the "far left" support terrorism is too broad, but there are plenty of Jews, like non-Jews, on the far left who do, so if the context is specifically a discussion of Jews who are anti-Israel, it would not be good evidence of anti-Semitism on O'Reilly's part to point out that Jews on the far left support terrorism.
7.20.2006 10:45pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Are you sure you got it right? There is something rather odd the way you linked Brit Tzedek v'Shalom with the International Solidarity Movement in this sentence:

"'s undeniable that there are Jews on the far left who support terrorism."

(links deleted here -- but readers should follow them in Prof. B's post.)

Are you suggesting -- it sure seems like it -- that BTS supports terrorism? Is that indeed what you are saying? Of course the link you offer doesn't suggest that at all. Did you link to the correct story?


For the record, I am not a BTS supporter. I went to one of their meetings once and found them to be well-meaning and, I thought, naive. But your statement is so incendiary (and also so confusing) that I thought to ask you to make sure you have not made a clerical mistake in linking or simply mis-read the story etc etc
7.20.2006 10:48pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Brit tzedek v'shalom's website hosts an article about an organization, with Jewish leadership, that supports Palestinian "resistance", and has the chutzpah to picket a synagogue weekly during Shabbat services.
7.20.2006 10:50pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
So in case that wasn't 100% clear, the link is to the organization discussed in the story, not BT&S.
7.20.2006 10:51pm
To say that mainstream "Jewish liberals" support terrorist groups is so far removed from reality that you'd have to question the motives of whoever says it.

So, if I'm understanding this post correctly, your complaint here is that the right sometimes mistakes the "far left" for the position of more mainstream liberals. I concur completely. I believe that such this broad-brush strategy (from both sides) is used to discredit people who don't actually hold the fringe view, but are simply on the other side of the political aisle.

I have no idea how that relates to anti-semitism.
7.20.2006 10:58pm
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Professor, I find it hard to believe, lawyers are known for excellent reading comprehension, that you read the article before posting. So let me ask you directly. Did you actually read the article at the BTS site before you wrote the post?

As well, I see that you have not modified your post to correct the impression that it leaves about BTS. I hope that you will do so soon as until you clarify the wording in the post itself, this post is a tainted one.
7.21.2006 12:16am
O'Reilly is not an anti-Semite.
7.21.2006 12:20am
DavidBernstein (mail):
I still don't see anything wrong with the original link, but just for you, David, I changed it to one that is even clearer about what organization I'm referring to.
7.21.2006 12:46am
Prof. Bernstein, The article on does not suggest that Jewish Witnesses for Peace is an organization that supports terrorism. (They didn't even mention "resistance", as you said in your 9:50pm comment.) They say only that they oppose Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Are you saying that the latter implies the former?
7.21.2006 12:49am
DB: Do you agree with the new link's contention that Arafat is comparable to Hitler? From my perspective, that comparison makes the linked article lose all credibility, because that assertion is so idiotic that I cannot trust anything else in the link.
7.21.2006 1:08am
Maurice Sonnenwirth (mail):
Tonight, O'Reilly sounded as much a supporter of Israel as anyone, and I thought he also hit the nail on the head: He summed up the entire conflict in 4 short words: "They just want to kill the Jews", speaking about Hamas, Hizbollah and all the other fine members of the terrorist class of 2006.

Read his talking point tonight "The case against Israel"

He had Newt Gingrich on, and Mr. Gingrich started his comments, after O'Reilly had finished, by saying "Bill, you aren't gonna like this much...but I agree wholeheartedly with every word you said". Mr. Gingrich launched into the same line of reasoning, that Hezbollah, Hamas et al are about destroying Israel and killing Jews.

It was a very clear viewpoint, tonight, from Mr. O'Reilly. He stood up for Israel.
7.21.2006 1:11am
David Sucher (mail) (www):
Nope, still doesn't work for me.

The guy in the article -- Herskovitz -- sounds like a fool with some sort of guilt complex. But there is a big difference between a fool who calls for disinvestment from Israel and a supporter of terrorism.

Look, Professor, the law is based on fine gradations and distinctions and I can't believe that they escape you. So let me just suggest that they also don't escape a lot of people. Arguments in support of Israel -- from anyone -- are undermined by exaggeration and mis-representation. Reality is bad enough that one does not need to embellish it. They are indeed well-meaning fools who will cause great grief even if not intentionally. But the source of the ill they do must be identified precisely. If you want to argue against Green Party people like Herskovitz by revealing the stupidity of their policies, fine. But I don't think it helps to claim that they support terrorism unless you have the goods.
7.21.2006 1:43am
Mitchell Freedman (mail) (www):

I don't know what context you're looking for, but O'Reilly's comment that "liberal" and "far left" Jews welcome terrorist acts against Israel and the US is over the top no matter how you parse it. Your own links to a single guy who renounced his Judaism and lives in Ramallah with Palestinians doesn't justify the remark. And the link to the Green Party guy, someone I've not seen on t.v. or radio or who has any significant following, doesn't make it either.

Not even Chomsky says what O'Reilly claims and we know how much folks here at the VC dislike Chomsky.

O'Reilly's remarks are an effort to delegitimize those who are critical of certain aspects of Israel's actions over the past few months and its deep attacks into Lebanon.
7.21.2006 2:15am
dw (mail):
Is Neturei Karta "far left"?
7.21.2006 8:24am
Mitchell Freedman, you are misquoting O'Reilly. He didn't say that the Jewish far left "welcomes terrorist acts"; he said that the Jewish far left doesn't support "going after terrorists." As an analogy, it would be perfectly fair to say that the United States Senate doesn't support the Kyoto treaty; it would be a total fabrication to say that the United States Senate welcomes global warming.

I don't quite understand the complaint about O'Reilly. He isn't saying anything that you couldn't find in Commentary; is that an anti-Semitic magazine?
7.21.2006 9:35am
Steven Lauridsen (mail):

I didn't hear O'Reilly, whose radio show does not air in my market, but it might be worth pointing out that Dennis Prager spent much of his show on 7/20 addressing the same topic in essentially the same way. Also, on Hannity's radio show the same day David Horowitz was strenuously arguing with some other Jewish guest to the effect that Jews ought to know better than to romanticize Hizbollah or in any way to denigrate Israel's current efforts, and that Jews on the far left do exactly that. I don't think O'Reilly saying the same thing is remarkable at all.

Just like the good ol' Ziv days,
Steven Lauridsen
7.21.2006 9:35am
Michael B (mail):
Hyperbole? Forfend. O'Reilly's comment can perhaps be read in much the same vein as Orwell's "pacifism is objectively pro-fascist". If so that would seem not at all hyperbolic but rather a reasonable opinion to hold.

Of "the far Left" vs. "liberals," in terms of drawing distinctions, sure, though it depends upon both the issue being addressed and the degree to which the apathy or neglect of a "liberal" is, practically understood, tantamount to the active involvement of someone on the "hard Left". Steven Spielberg, applauding and lavishing praise upon Fidel, doesn't make him a full-bore, Marxian, Castro clone, but it does lend some popular appeal and in terms of any single, specific issue, could, conceivably, be decisive.
7.21.2006 9:35am
anonyomousss (mail):
professor - like others, i see absolutely no evidence in the first article you linked to in your previous post that the group discussed supports terrorism or terrorists. they are obviously opponents of israeli policy, but it's a serious mistake to say that opposing one party in a conflict means supporting the other.

to use an imperfect analogy that will make the point clearer, if the u.s. were supporting iran in a war between iran and north korea, somebody might reasonably oppose iran's military policies and u.s. policy re iran without supporting north korean aggression or wanting the north koreans to win. they might, for example, want both parties to stop fighting and agree to what they think is a reasonable compromise. or you or, as others have mentioned, you can oppose the kyoto treaty without supporting global warming.

to be clear, i dont think israel is equivalent to iran, or to the kyoto treaty. i only think they are analogous in that one can refuse to support one (or even oppose one) without supporting the opposition.

there is a big difference between supporting X and supporting policy P that has the effect of promoting X. you might, for example, incorrectly believe that P will NOT promote X. you might also believe that P will promote X, but see this as a regrettable side effect whose badness is overridden by the other features of P. for example, capitalism seems to create sharp inequality. this doesn't mean supporting capitalism means thinking inequality is a good thing. you might well think inequality is neutral or bad, but think the benefits of capitalism justify its existence.
7.21.2006 11:01am
how has it been ignored that not only did he correct himself from jewish liberals to jewish far left, but that he also restricted it to a SUBSET of them. "a lot of..." it's not anti-X to say that "a lot of" Xs "on the far left/right" think such-and-such. please.
7.21.2006 11:27am
Richard Bellamy (mail):

And while he paints with too broad a brush, it's undeniable that there are a few Jews [like their non-Jewish counterparts] on the far left who support anti-American and anti-Israel terrorism, and a greater number who are apologists for it. [Just look at Indymedia or some time.]

While there are many of us on the "non-far" left who are embarrassed by the excesses of our lefter Indymedia-esque brethen, we absolutely refuse to take the blame for which -- while clearly antiwar -- is either a right-wing antiwar site (e.g., Pat Buchanan), or simply a racist/antisemitic one (Justin Raimondo) depending on which article you read.

While many on the left are opposed to the war, and may side against Israel, that does not by definition make anyone who is anti-war and anti-Israel a left-winger.

We on the left have to deal with our own garbage, and would appreciate it if you dealth with your David-Duke-style rantings on your own side of the aisle, without tossing your garbage over the fence to our side.
7.21.2006 11:34am
frankcross (mail):
Well, it's the political fray. There will be lots of hyperbole and stereotyping. You can find lots of unfair stuff from both sides.

From the left, we just need somebody to point out that the Bush Administration has helped install a pro-Hezbollah government in Iraq, thus suggesting that he is anti-Israel and pro-terrorist
7.21.2006 12:08pm
Rod Phares:
Context is everything. I actually saw the segment live on O'Reilly, albeit while giving a bottle to a fussy 5-month old.

I was not paying close enough attention to perfectly characterize the nature of the interviewee's protest, but O'Reilly's comment was to express his incredulity that Jewish-Americans were not supporting Israel in the conflict. O'Reilly asked a follow up question (very loosely recollected by me), "The IDF is going after a group that has the slaughter of Jews as their main goal. How can you be against an operation that targets such a group?"

I am a sometimes O'Reilly watcher and nuanced positions often escape him. However, IMHO his remarks are clearly not anti-semitic. To him this looks likes the Cowboys fighting the Indians. If Israel is the Indians, he cannot fathom why the Indians (Jews) in the U.S. are not supporting the overseas Indians in a shooting war.
7.21.2006 12:15pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"Far left" or what used to be rightly called "socialist" Jews EQUALLY to their gentile counterparts can be accused of being anti-Israel anti-American and pro- (revolution/insurgency/terrorist/whatever)

How can I accuse the "far-left" of these things?

1. I was raised among it all, I have been to the protests, I have read the books, I have been them. I'm not Jewish but I'm from NYC and 90% of my friends who were just as left-wing were all Jewish.

2. Its all over the internet, in bookstores and magazines. Pick up a copy of The Nation; read some David Horowitz; go to one of these protests; you have to cover your eyes and ears to miss the evidence. The "far-left" are fully in support of Palestinian "resistance", Iraqi "resistance", any enemy of America and Israel (and other capitalist countries) "resistance." Today this amounts to being pro-terrorism.

From the front page of Indymedia today:
"Opinion polls suggest that majorities of US and Israeli citizens oppose the attacks [by Israel]. On 18 June, several hundred people demonstrated in Parliament Square in London. UK-wide demonstrations have been called for July 22nd by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and various Muslim organisations. "

From the Jewsih Socialists of the UK website timeline of actions taken:
"1988 Holds two public meetings with Jewish and PLO Palestinian speakers in solidarity with Israelis and Palestinians fighting against Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. Supports the launch of Friends of Yesh Gvul. JSG delegates active in the Joint Committee for Palestine. "

I could find you a hundred such quotes. The "far-left" support Palestine - both in Jewish groups and in secular groups.

O'Reilly is not anti-semitic, he's just pointing out a plain fact; and hypersensitive PC folk and leftists are unwilling to listen.
7.21.2006 12:16pm
big jim (mail):
Mr. Cross says "From the left, we just need somebody to point out that the Bush Administration has helped install a pro-Hezbollah government in Iraq, thus suggesting that he is anti-Israel and pro-terrorist." Actually, we have replaced the best friend of Hamas in the Middle East with a democratically elected government of Kurds, Sunni and Shia, which no longer sends cash payments to the families of suicide killers in Palestine. Whether any group of Arabs outside of Palestine is particularly supportive of Irnn's terrorist tool is highly doubtful.
7.21.2006 1:48pm
williamandmaryalum (mail):
I wanted to note my agreement with the those who cite O'Reilly's support for Israel as proof that he is not making anti-semetic comments. Media Matters - the organization that put forward the video - is a far left group that disagrees with Mr. O'Reilly's politics. Thus, this is simply another attempt at undermining his policy positions through ad hominem attacks.
7.21.2006 2:40pm
anonyomousss (mail):
of course nobody who supports israel is anti-semitic. to take an unfounded, purely hypothetical example with absolutely no basis in reality at all, say they want a bunch of jews living there so they can be slaughtered at the battle of armageddon after the rapture. obviously no such people exist.
7.21.2006 2:49pm
frankcross (mail):
bigjim, I was just suggesting rhetoric.

Now I would note we replaced the best friend of Hamas with a new best friend of Hezbollah. Read the papers, the Iraqi government's very pro-Hezbollah.
7.21.2006 2:59pm
person (mail):
the "far left" is an amorphous meaningless over-generalization used to attack anyone with whom you disagree. it is merely an insulting label. it is a substitute for rational argumentation. E.g. "Opinion polls suggest that majorities of US and Israeli citizens oppose the attacks [by Israel]. On 18 June, several hundred people demonstrated in Parliament Square in London. UK-wide demonstrations have been called for July 22nd by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Stop the War Coalition and various Muslim organisations. " since the writer is in disagreement, those views are those of the vile, traitorous, far left. this is effectively denounces the opposing view without the need to actually present a persuasive counterargument.

why are you wasting everyone's time with this nonsense? the "far left" are no more anti-american, anti-israel, or pro-terrorist, than any other political grouping. you're playing a game of semantics. some would argue that the u.s. is in some senses pro-terrorist. e.g. the phoenix operation during the vietnam war was a secret program that explicitly targeted civilians. moreover, the u.s. has supported various groups that engage in politically motivated violence, a perfectly legitimate definition of terrorism. but terrorism is not as much a matter of violence directed towards civilians or politically motivated violence, it is rather a matter of violence that the u.s. disagrees with. this is all such a convenient way of ignoring real issues. i suppose i would be considered somewhat "far left." because i tend to believe that industrialism and capitalism are negative to people and the planet. now would anyone even want to know why? if you say, no. i cannot see how rational that is.
7.21.2006 3:03pm
Michael B (mail):
More industry and capital, properly used, could be a real boon in Gaza and southern Lebanon right now, especially so the former. Instead an influx of rockets, kidnappings and similar militaristic initiatives occurring and being funded by Iranian and Syrian controllers.

And btw, capital simply exists, it's a matter of who controls it, or, the other alternative is to let it lay in waste, unused, unproductively.
7.21.2006 3:39pm
LA (mail):
Let's stop the double speak, I grew up around it and know the game well, heck I went to commie summer camp. Go to the chat sites where real anti Semites abound and look at the quotes they pull out from Jews-US Jews and Israeli Jews who attack the Israeli government and it's policies. You can read many of these folks in Haaretz who revel in their righteous condescension regarding Israel and her policies. Thursday night in a counter protest I attended the loudest shouters on the other side of the street yelling bomb bomb bomb Tel Aviv; also holding up anti Israel signs where Jewish women from women in black answer and the pink group. How about Finkelstein, if he is not an example of Jew hatred no one is. These people are the enemies of the Jewish people and frankly the survival of the Jewish people would be better in O'Reilly's hands then any of there's.
7.21.2006 3:46pm
person (mail):
Michael B,
I was referring to capitalism not capital. By at least one definition capitalism is an organization of social relationships--class relationships. But I see you no point in further elucidation since none was requested.

Moreover, I find the view that natural resources are only valuable insofar as they can be used as capital for human consumption to be spiritually deadening.
7.21.2006 4:15pm
Michael B (mail):
But of course you're putting words and terms and meaning in my mouth, and failing to ask for elucidation yourself.
7.21.2006 4:29pm
liberty (mail) (www):
"since the writer is in disagreement, those views are those of the vile, traitorous, far left. this is effectively denounces the opposing view without the need to actually present a persuasive counterargument. " - Person

Or it could be that I know those groups and know that they are on the far left of the political spectrum.

Is socialism not far left? I quoted from a Jewish socialist organization. Also, Indymedia on the whole is made up of socialist news. The Stop the War Coalition works with trade unions and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and is clearly left-wing. Many other groups are listed in that indymedia article that are all left-wing - I find it strange that anyone should even try to debate this point.

However, if you think I am avoiding a debate of the real topic - please tell me what it is. I thought this thread was about whether or not O'Reilly mischaracterized the far-left Jewish communist when he said they were pro-terrorist. So, I pointed out that the far-left, both Jewish and gentile, are indeed pro-terrorist in that they support the insurgencies in their solidarity campaigns.
7.21.2006 4:41pm
liberty (mail) (www):

Which commie summer camp? I went to the same one as David Horowitz (much later) which was renamed Camp Kinderland when I went.
7.21.2006 4:44pm
liberty (mail) (www):

I will gladly debate capitalism vs. socialism with you all day; however this is probably not the thread for it.
7.21.2006 4:46pm
plunge (mail):
Why would you even condemn him as using hyperbole given that you use it all the time. Or are you now saying that the left isn't a bunch of religion hating nuts who support terrorists but would immediately be put in a bind once they realized that the terrorists weren't religious?
7.21.2006 6:40pm
plunge (mail):
(sorry, "were", not weren't. I edited my sentance structure but didn't change all the words)
7.21.2006 6:40pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):

Wrong. I expect you know it. You probably don't know everybody else knows it.

Phoenix was explicitly designed to capture or kill cadre--not civilians.

See, among others, Seabury and Codevilla, "War: Ends and Means" for a discussion of Phoenix. Their conclusion is pretty much conventional wisdom. Phoenix killed a lot of cadre, which meant progress for our side and didn't provide sufficient dead civilians for the left's use. Hence it had to be evil. Later on, it got corrupted, but never was explicitly aimed at civilians.

As you know and hope we don't.

Better luck next time.
7.24.2006 11:34am
Ari (mail):
As an American Jew myself, I can say quite unequivocally that not only do I not have a problem with what Bill O'Reilly said, I applaud it wholeheartedly. First of all, it's no secret (at least within the Jewish community) that there are some really despicable Jews out there who are not only anti-Israel, but also romanticize terrorism against fellow Jews - by calling it "resistance" or "freedom-fighting" or something just as ridiculous. As a Jew, I have to deal with far-left, self-hating Jews all the time. I'm talking about the kind of Jews that obssess over Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein and keenly follow divestment campaigns (a phenomenon that, in and of itself, carries anti-semitic undertones).

For people (who probably aren't even Jewish) to have the chutzpah to get on this website to defend the indefensible is shocking. Real Jews don't want you to defend those Jews who are despicable enough to either support terrorists or act as apologists for them (which is just as bad). We want you to castigate them just like you would non-Jewish extreme leftists who support terrorists or act as apologists for them. So don't tell me that O'Reilly is an anti-semite. As a proud Jew - who comes from a long, long line of proud Jews - I find that absolutely ridiculous
7.25.2006 5:00pm
Ari (mail):
Just to clarify my above post, I want to distinguish between Jews who are dangerous and Jews who are either misguided, or simply have a different yet valid opinion not shared by Jews who are more right-wing. Dennis Ross is a liberal Jew who, while I may disagree with, I would certainly not characterize as anti-semitic. In fact, he's a strong supporter of Israel, albeit one who has an approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with which I disagree. Another example would be Alan Dershowitz. Mr. Dershowitz is often very critical of certain policies of the Israeli government, but is certainly one of the best friends that Israel has ever had. No one would dare suggest that these people are anti-semites.

Yet I would not shy from calilng Noam Chomsky and anti-semite. He most certainly is. Norman Finkelstein is another good example. Indeed, all one really needs to do to find Jews who honestly condone terrorism is look at the Israeli far-left.

One more point with regard to those who accuse O'Reilly of being anti-semitic: just as liberals often contend that not all criticism of Israel is anti-semitic, so too, liberals must accept that not all criticism of Jews is anti-semitic.
7.25.2006 5:28pm