If I had a dollar for every commenter here who quoted the Jerusalem Post and with a straight face tried to fob it off as a serious, centrist, non-partisan newspaper, I’d probably be able to buy myself dinner at a very nice Seattle restaurant. And the shock and consternation that greeted my claims that the Post was little more than a right-wing scandal sheet was indignant. How dare I criticize the Post because it didn’t share my “leftist” views.
One of the high points of this was my attack on the Post and Aussie Dave for their hosting of the left-rein Jewish and Israeli Blog Awards a few years back. I was critical in writing here of the fact that the Awards either overlooked or deliberately ignored almost every blogger who was left of Bibi Netanyahu on the Israeli political scale. My oh my the pro-Israel blogosphere, including Aussie Dave and David Abitbol among them, was up in arms. The very idea that there was no ideological parity in those nominated offended them no end.
And then we shouldn’t forget the Post’s attempt, without even interviewing me, to paint me as someone who rationalized the murder of the Mumbai Chabad Jews by denying an anti-Semitic motivation to the assault.
Thanks to Phil Weiss and Bruce Wolman for amplifying in the Jewish blogosphere the deserved shame befalling the Post for the incredible Norwegian anti-Semitism hoax. It appears that one of its reporters accepted the bona fides of an informant who claimed to be a Norwegian Jew and an officer in the Norwegian army. Despite the fact that the reporter exhibited reprehensible journalistic standards, I do have to say that another Israeli living in Norway did vouch for the impostor making it harder to smell the rat.
Returning to the hoaxster, naturally he complained of rampant Norwegian anti-Semitism and the reporter used him as a significant witness to the supposed scourge within Norwegian society.
Luckily, local newspapers did their job and began trying to find “David Weiss” and could not do so. The army had no record of an officer by that name. It turns out that David Weiss does not exist. And the hoaxster is not only not an officer, he isn’t a member of the Norwegian army. Amazing that the pro-Israel right feels it has to wrap itself in a military uniform in order to bolster its bona fides.
And all the other claims of anti-Semitism, including one that the country’s finance minister shouted “death to Jews” at an anti-Gaza war rally? Also a fraud. The Post itself finally had to admit that life for Jews in Norway is about the same as it is in any typical western democracy:
In general, they [real Norwegian Jews the Post finally found and interviewed] say, Norway does not suffer from widespread anti-Semitism. Norwegian Jews are an accepted and respected part of the country. But, they add, there are rare incidents of tension over their Jewishness, usually with children being teased in school or with Muslim immigrants bringing their politics into their day-to-day meetings with Jews.
Simply amazing that it took them multiple stories, retractions and apologies and a few thousand words to end up finally where they were before they published the “expose”–in other words, there is no serious anti-Semitism in Norway. Also amazing is the final sentence in which the Post attempts to do a “yes, but.” Yes, we have egg on our face and embarrassed ourselves before the entire world journalistic community; but, there is teasing of Jews in schools and Muslims actually have the temerity to speak their mind about their views when in the presence of Jews. It’s almost as good as a government minister shouting “death to Jews,” isn’t it–the Post seems to be saying.
The most important lesson from this incident, that further shines a light on the ideological pro-Israel straightjacket in which the Post has placed itself, comes from the editor of the local Norwegian paper which helped uncover the hoax:
Once upon a time The Jerusalem Post was an important newspaper. For all of us who had worked on-and-off in Israel, it was indispensable. The Post solidly and analytically reported all about Israeli society.
But that was long ago. It has since been overtaken by owners and staff who are firmly positioned far out on the Israeli right, and it has been a long time since one could find reliable information there…
This has been dramatic, and there is no doubt that Norway is one of the western countries with the strongest engagement in the Mideast and clearest critiques of Israel. The reasons are complicated, but one of the many important elements is the fate of the Oslo-accords.
But there is a long distance from an active Israeli critique to something comparatively as nasty and as dangerous as anti-Semitism.
…The extreme Israeli Right [represented by the Post]…considers nearly all criticism of Israel as synonymous with hatred of Jews…For if they can succeed in placing the criticisms within the stinking stall of anti-Semitism, then they have also neutered the criticism. Hence, it becomes very important for them to widen the concept of anti-Semitism itself – and to make use of it.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.