The Jewish Forward handed the Republican Jewish Coalition a victory today in the latter’s ongoing campaign to sow seeds of hate within American Jews for Barack Obama. The RJC has published paid advertising in Haaretz, The Forward, JTA and Jewish Week calling the candidate “anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian, hostile to America.” I’ve critiqued the mendaciousness of the ads in posts here earlier.
I had hoped that at least Haaretz and The Forward might reconsider their decision so I wrote to the editorial and advertising staff of each publication. Today, Andrew Lavin, a PR consultant, e mailed me asking for my phone number. Later, he and David Drimer, associate publisher, called together to defend the Forward’s acceptance of the ads. The arguments were odd. I reminded them that even FOX News has refused ads smearing Obama during this election cycle from right-wing Republican groups. I couldn’t understand why the Forward wouldn’t perform its own due diligence on political ads.
Drimer replied that it was not the Forward’s role to referee whether an ad was true or not. He added that refusing an RJC ad would amount to censorship. To that I replied that refusing ALL RJC ads would be censorship, but rejecting ads that are out and out lies would actually be responsible journalism.
The Forward associate publisher claimed that as the Jewish arm of the Republican Party the RJC and its claims deserved to be heard without a filter. When I asked him whether that included publishing lies within the paper, Drimer said that the RJC’s claims were “opinion” and not necessarily lies.
Lavin defended the RJC’s calumnies by noting that political discourse in Israel is far more nasty than the content of the RJC ads. Besides this being America and not Israel, there is far more at stake here in this presidential election than there is when Avigdor Lieberman calls an Arab MK a cancerous growth.
Driver noted that others have complained about the Forward’s acceptance of the ads. Frankly, I was astonished that the Forward has hired a PR consultant to help them deal with this issue. It shows they’re running scared. I think their view is that if they reject the ad they’ll have the RJC screaming bloody murder at them; and if they accept it they’ll have people like me screaming at them. Who scares them more? That’s easy. Shelly Adelson has awfully longer reach than I do.
But maybe the liberal Jewish blogosphere and readers can cause enough of a stink to make Samuel Norich, the publisher reconsider.
Driver attempted to reassure me that my dissenting views of the matter would find a welcome within the pages of the Forward. I said I would like to publish them there as long as it was an opinion piece and not a letter to the editor. He urged me to contact Jane Eisner.
Guess what her reply was: we already published a column by Mel Levine on this general issue so your views would be best left to a letter to the editor. I told her that Levine had not addresses this specific ad in his column; and that his approach was much softer and more diffuse than mine would be.
She replied that while she remained unconvinced that my views deserved a column, I was welcome to write something on spec for Daniel Treiman to review. Treiman has already been on record in Bintel Brief with a disparaging remark about Tikun Olam. So I pretty much knew what to expect. As a writer, you just get tired of writing on spec especially when you’re relatively sure of the negative reception your work will get (despite publishing one short piece there, my work has previously been rejected numerous times).
So there you have it–one of the most liberal Jewish publications is giving a free pass to one of the most hateful Jewish political groups in the land. And the former doesn’t believe the specific issue of running this ad in their newspaper is newsworthy enough to be discussed in their own main pages.
It should be noted that neither Haaretz nor JTA have even responded to my complaint.