No Word to describe reverse anti-Semitism
By Ray Hanania — There was a time when Jews were hated more than any other people. They were targeted by anti-Semitism and they knew what it was like to be hated. But these days, I wonder if Jews have forgotten what it is like to be the target of hatred and victimized by government, society and the media. Why do I say that? Well, in the past six months I’ve watched as three high profile journalists had their careers destroyed because of comments they made that were perceived as being critical of Jews.
Helen Thomas, the renowned journalist and Dean of the White House Press corp, was fired from Hearst Newspapers when she responded with abrasive comments about Israel to an activist Rabbi with a history of bigotry and racism.
Octavia Nasr, the esteemed former CNN Middle East specialist and anchor, who sent out a Twitter post expressing sadness at the death of an Sheik Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a founder of the Hezbollah movement.
And now, Rick Sanchez, who seemed to be joking about what he perceived was Jewish influence in the American media.
In each case, leaders of the American Jewish community and the Israeli press jumped all over each and they were fired almost immediately upon making the remarks. All were accused of being anti-Semitic or supporting anti-Israel causes.
Yet, in each case, the circumstances of the alleged offenses were exaggerated, but the exaggerations were accepted as fact by the mainstream American media and public.
Thomas was accused of making anti-Semitic comments. It was inaccurately reported that Thomas had said that the “Jews” should go back to Germany. Of course, Germany is where 6 million Jews were murdered during the Nazi reign over Europe that ended in World War II.
The truth was the Rabbi who asked the question, a notorious racist with an anti-Arab political agenda, had asked Thomas what she thought “Israel” should do. Thomas responded, “Get the hell out of Palestine.”
But to most Jews and Israelis, the word “Palestine” is a swear word. Just hearing it must have enraged the racist rabbi who pestered Thomas with more questions about “Israel.”
Thomas never used the word “Jew” or “Jews,” but in the media reports and public scolding, the word was inserted.
Criticizing Israel is political. Criticizing a race or religion is racism and in the case of Jews, anti-Semitic. The difference was insignificant as Jews around the world celebrated, danced and handed out candy in celebration of the demise of Thomas who insisted on asking every president she covered about the plight of the Palestinians.
Nasr, who is Lebanese Christian, is considered very conservative. Not particularly a fan of the Palestinians nor particularly a critic of Israel. Yet, that didn’t matter. Her expression of sadness in a Twitter post of under 140 characters (about 25 words) reflected sympathy for a founder of Hezbollah. And Hezbollah is Israel’s arch-enemy, the only organization that responded to Israeli missile attacks against Lebanese civilians with missile attacks against Israeli civilians.
Israelis are not used to being mistreated the way they often mistreat the rest of the world. Israeli has killed more innocent civilians in the Middle East conflict than Jews have been killed by Arabs or Iranians.
But that doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that a high profile American Arab journalist who, despite her leanings towards Israel, was not pro-Israel enough. And she crossed the Israeli demarcation line on being friend, offering any kind of praise of Hezbollah.
Now comes Rick Sanchez, the Cuban American TV talk show host on CNN. Sanchez was commenting on Jon Stewart, who happens to be Jewish and lampoons everyone, including Arabs, mercilessly.
Playing Stewart’s game, Sanchez was being interviewed on a Sirius/XM satellite radio program hosted by Pete Dominick and they got to talking about Stewart. Sanchez called Stewart a “bigot,” but later backed down and said Stewart was just ” prejudicial” and “uninformed.”
When asked if Stewart was the member of a privileged minority group, Sanchez laughed, scoffing at the idea that Jews are a minority. He then alluded to the fact that there are many Jews working in prominent positions in the mainstream American news media.
Had Sanchez been talking about Blacks or Hispanics or Asians, or even Arabs, it probably would have meant nothing. But Sanchez spoke about the Jews in the same context of media.
There is an old canard that “the Jews control the American media.”
It’s not true. But some minorities, especially Arabs, who have so few of their own minority in the American mainstream media, often explain the reason for the media’s excessively anti-Arab views as resulting from “Jewish influence” or control. It’s a false stereotype. The Jews don’t control the media. The fact is there are so few Arabs in the media.
But that perception, once reserved only for the bashing of Arabs or anyone pro-Arab, has now become a bludgeon for anyone at all.
Bash Arabs all you want, it’s okay. Criticize Blacks, even, and when Blacks respond, it’s called “reverse racism.” Question the loyalty and citizenship status of Hispanics, and it is considered a powerful argument for immigration reform.
But make a joke about a Jewish comedian who makes jokes about everyone else, and well, that’s a career ender.
I’d be ashamed if I were Jewish that the lessons of once having been the victims of this kind of persecution is now the benchmark for how Jewish Americans and Israelis judge those they disagree with.
Sure, Helen Thomas went too far. But is she really anti-Semitic? It was her only such outburst in a journalism career that spanned more than 57 years?
Does Octavia Nasr really support Hezbollah, or was it a human reaction to the death of a man who mellowed in his later years and who had distanced himself from Hezbollah.
Poor Rick Sanchez, a Cuban journalist who fell into the hypocritical muddle of the reality of the Middle East conflict, singled out and fired for criticizing a Jewish journalist and referencing the journalist’s religion. Had he been Steve Martin serving as the co-emcee at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards this past May, making jokes about how Jews control the Hollywood movie industry, Sanchez probably would have been celebrated and promoted to succeed Larry King.
Anti-Semitism is wrong. But reverse anti-Semitism, well, that doesn’t have a convenient word that can describe what’s taking place in this country today.
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"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."
Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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