If you’ve read either the Tablet or my accounts of it, you’ll know it’s a piece of garbage media outlet supported by the most right-wing Likudist American Jewish foundations out there. It’s a smooth media package stuffed full of rancid content. Its writers are, like the site itself, all exterior flash with an interior that is vapid. Liel Leibovitz, who I profiled here, is a perfect example of this.
But yesterday, Tablet (who Dan Sieradski once memorably called “Tabloid”) outdid itself. Its editor at large, Mark Oppenheimer, penned a short account of Harvey Weinstein’s recent trials and tribulations under the shocking title, The Specifically Jewy Perviness of Harvey Weinstein. Publication of this garbage wasn’t just an act of hubris, it was an travesty against Jews, women, and journalism.
The title alone should alert you to the blatantly anti-Semitic nature of the piece. In it, he tried to make a distinction between powerful male sexual predators like Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly and Weinstein by claiming that the former are goyische perv while Weinstein is our very own “Jewy perv” (and yes, he or a copy editor did use this phrase). To substantiate his claim, he resorted to a 50 year-old classic account of Jewish male misogyny, Portnoy’s Complaint.
The problem is that Oppenheimer’s not a literary critic or even an especially good reader. He didn’t bother to place this novel in any sort of historical context and accepted some of its most virulent woman-hating rhetoric at face value when Roth clearly intends for to establish a moral distance between the character and the reader. Tablet’s contributing editor appeared to have missed this nuance. The result is an out-and-out anti-Semitic rant against Weinstein, making him appear to be an avatar of a certain breed of Jewish maleness.
The truth is that there is nothing “Jewish” about Harvey Weinstein’s sins against women (and humanity). He is nothing but a garden variety sexual predator. No one knows what turned him into this: whether it was something in his background or childhood; or whether he came to this monstrousness on his own. It hardly matters to anyone except Harvey or his future therapists. But one thing is for sure, Harvey didn’t rape women as a Jew. There is nothing Jewish about rape. And nothing that separates rape by a Jewish perpetrator and a non-Jewish one. And the very notion is itself monstrous.
Oppenheim has now published a short apology which is profoundly unsatisfying and shallow. I’m not sure why Tablet has left the original piece on the site other than to be able to say it wants to leave it there to promote discussion of its flaws. But the very existence of this story online and its accessibility is an insult not just to Tablet, but to its readers and Jews everywhere.
Publication of this piece shows horrible judgment not just from its author, but from Alana Newhouse, Tablet’s managing editor. The publication has lost its way if it ever knew its way to begin with. It should be shunned by any self-respecting Jewish reader or writer.
Just to give you a taste of who likes this piece–Richard Spencer tweeted about it approvingly. When a Jewish publication earns plaudits from the likes of him you know something is terribly, awfully wrong.
Tablet … or The Daily Stormer? Regardless, powerful easy. https://t.co/og0gZyssfw
— Richard ☝🏻Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) October 10, 2017
As bad as Tablet is, there are other Jewish institutions which have responded equally poorly to the Weinstein scandal. In 2015, the Wiesenthal Center and its right-wing chief, Marvin Hier, bestowed its Humanitarian of the Year Award on Weinstein after he depositing a cool $100K in its accounts. When JTA asked Wiesenthal whether it would rescind the award the answer came back loud and clear: hell no! Why would they? Their view is that whatever sins Harvey committed they purified them as white as driven snow when they took the money and used it to do “good” (as they define the word).
So what good has the Center done with the money? Built a Museum of [In]Tolerance on a Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem, in the process bulldozing centuries-old Arab bones and disposing of them by dumping them in landfill. Or circulating outright lies claiming that Iran forces its Jewish population to wear Jewish stars. Or promoting Bahraini princes as beacons of religious tolerance, after they massacre the majority Shiite population in their own country.
There are other Jewish organizations which wear blinders when their own powerful male allies are outed as sexual predators. StandWithUs is yet another example of this. As I wrote, it awarded then-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray its own humanitarian award last May in the midst of his own sex abuse scandal (after several male victims came forward accusing him of rape and prostitution, he resigned his position). Despite, my warning to them that their refusal to cancel the award left them morally complicit in Murray’s behavior, they went forward with the event.
One of the local political figures who stood by Murray to the bitter end was Jenny Durkan, the corporate establishment candidate running to take Murray’s place. She is a former U.S. attorney known for her close ties to major developers and the Downtown corporate elite.
Durkan also received a $10,000 campaign donation from NY district attorney, Cyrus Vance. He is the figure who overruled NYPD and refused to prosecute Harvey Weinstei, after the latter was caught on tape admitting he’d groped an Italian model. Vance received major campaign donations from Weinstein’s lawyer, David Boies, after agreeing to drop the charges.
Returning to the Wiesenthal Center, there is something deeply repugnant in Israel Lobby groups like this believing that they may ride the gravy train of power and financial largesse along with morally-tainted figures like Weinstein or Murray. It’s as if they’re saying: the good we do for Israel or the Jewish people redeems us and our allies from blame. This is moral obtuseness of a deep and profound kind. And it is common not just to SWU or Wiesenthal, but to Israel itself as it justifies its massacres, assassinations and apartheid by pointing to the great overarching principle of “Zion.” The Zionist project, as currently defined, is a supreme value; and the means to the end of ensuring its survival justify any and all acts done in its name.
This is an approach that Jews must renounce if they have any hope of living up to the values espoused by Biblical prophets like Amos, Jeremiah and Isaiah. Israel as seen in these Zionist terms is a golden calf, an object of idolatrous worship. We must not offer up our Jewish patrimony/matrimony for a bowl of lentil stew, as Isaac did when he inadvertently sold out his son, Esau, on his death-bed.
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.