I just wrote a post about the shameful decision by the Jewish Forward’s managing editor, Jane Eisner, to censor a news report on the claim by Jenny Listman that Elie Wiesel groped her during a photo shoot at a Jewish charity event when she was a teenager. Yesterday, further news of a similar nature revealed that long-time Jewish cultural icon, Leon Wieseltier, had been charged with even more flagrant offenses by female staff at his former publication, The New Republic. The news caused Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, to pull the plug on his new publication, Idea, which was about to debut this coming week.
Wieseltier essentially ‘fessed up to his behavior. He did so in his typically florid, egomaniacal prose style:
“For my offenses against some of my colleagues in the past I offer a shaken apology and ask for their forgiveness,” he wrote. “The women with whom I worked are smart and good people. I am ashamed to know that I made any of them feel demeaned and disrespected. I assure them I will not waste this reckoning.”
He claims that he’s withdrawing from the professional media world for a time in order to address his behavior. But that seems to be the default position for such sexual predators. Harvey Weinstein announced he was going to Europe for an extended period in rehab. Instead he spent a week in rehab in Arizona. Not a very convincing act in my opinion.
We’ll have to see what happens in Wieseltier’s case. But begging the forgiveness of female victims in a press statement doesn’t seem the most convincing way to approach these very personal, intimate matters. I’d say that until he figures out where and how his behavior originated and tames it, he has no write to ask anything of his victims.
Avner Cohen just reminded me of another very similar case from last year which originated in a post here which identified the offender. A staff member for J Street revealed that Ari Shavit had made unwanted sexual advances toward her. She had been accompanying him during a visit to Washington DC he made on behalf of the organization. That news, borne out by another victim who stepped forward, led to Shavit’s forced resignation from Haaretz. It also led to HBO cancelling a documentary that was to be based on his best-selling, (and brazenly bad) book.
Though I strongly opposed the political-ideological views of Wiesel, Shavit and Wieseltier, especially regarding Israel, and believe theirs intolerant, abusive views toward Palestinians parallel similar attitudes they harbored in gender relations, it’s important to note that even liberals like Harvey Weinstein can be sexual bullies. The pattern of behavior of such predators is more influenced by gender-power social dynamics than it is by politics or religion.
But on the other hand, the Jewish community must not excuse the behavior of powerful men merely because they are cultural lions or moral avatars, as they’ve done in the case of Wiesel, Shavit and Wieseltier (his editors knew for years of his behavior).
It’s important not to tie political disagreements too closely to denunciation of such disgusting behavior. This is what faux Muslim “reformer” and Zuhdi Jasser acolyte, Asra Nomani has done in her odd NY Times column denouncing Tariq Ramadan, Is This the Harvey Weinstein of Conservative Islam. Ramadan has been charged by a single Muslim woman with sexual assault. In her piece, Nomani offers unsupported claims that Ramadan supports female genital mutilation and stoning. In fact, Ramadan does not support either. Apparently, the Times’ editors were asleep at the wheel and didn’t review this story before publication.
In her full frontal assault on Ramadan, Nomani commits a fatal error: she conflates her political-ideological prejudices with her analysis of gender relations. The result is a travesty committed against Islam and fairness. Similarly, in implying that Harvey Weinstein somehow represents Judaism or Jews in his own sexual behavior (a claim stupidly endorsed in Tablet Magazine), she and the Times have committed an offense against Judaism.
In fact, the Times disingenuously changed the headline of Nomani’s piece to: “An intellectual star faces an accuser.” It adds the new subtitle: “Women in the World changed the original heading to avoid a misreading.” The subtitle is just as outrageous as the original title because it implies that only the headline was offensive, when the entire article was. It simply ignores the fact that the entire conception of the piece was a mess undeserving of publication anywhere outside of Debka Files or Frontpagemagazine.
Hamid Dabashi carefully eviscerates Nomani’s piece in an analysis he wrote for Al Jazeera. In it, he aptly called the Times to task for publishing such a piece-of-crap Islamophobia:
The New York Times today is integral to a massive Islamophobic machinery that marks Islam and Muslim as the diabolic enemy of history, of humanity, and of all manners and claims to a civilized life. If something like the Harvey Weinstein scandal has absolutely nothing to do with Muslims and Islam, they will find a pernicious way to find one case of alleged Muslim sexual violence and pin it down not on him as a person, a Muslim, a scholar, but on the entirety of “Islam” itself.
The target of this vicious Islamophobia is not just individual Muslims. It is against Islam itself. It aims to rob Muslims of the very fabric of their humanity, debone their moral rectitude to nullity – either to die under Bush, Obama, and Trump bombs from one end of the Muslim world to another or else convert to a “Judeo-Christian” creed and be saved and civilised.
‘faux Muslim “reformer”’. ” odd NY Times column”. ” charged by a single Muslim woman”. “unsupported claims” that Ramadan supports female genital mutilation and stoning” . “Nomani commits a fatal error”.
Richard. You seem at pains to discredit Nomani and defend this guy. Why?
I read ” this guy’s” book ‘In the footsteps of the prophet’. It reminded me a lot of progressive Christians’ reading of the bible. When an unpleasant, intolerant reading of a certain passage in the scriptures at first sight seems evident (this happens in the ‘new testament’ as wel as in the ‘old testament’) context and alternatives in the translation are invoked to mitigate or explain what is written. In this way, the writers distance themselves from intolerant and violent views and explain and justify their own contemporary interpretations and positions. Progressive Jews do the same.
What is absent in Ramadan’s writing, is what happens more an more nowadays in Christianity as far as I see it here where I live, and that is that ministers openly reject parts of what is written, instead of trying to soften the reading. That is a next step in unorthodoxy. I completely recognize what Ramadan is doing, and sympathize with it, although I am myself more of the next step in unorthodoxy. To say that he is a conservative or a wolf in sheep’s clothing is complete nonsense.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Argonauts: Once again you misrepresent my views. I never said a word in defense of Tariq Ramadan. Nor did I comment on his accuser. In fact, I said the opposite of what you claim, making clear that none of us know the truth of the accusations.
As for Nomani, I don’t have to discredit her. She discredits herself. I only point to her own actions, statements & affiliations and the reader does the rest.
You keep trying for that ‘hasbara hit.’ Maybe you’ll get it one of these days. But not today.
You misquote and misrepresent Nomani when you attribute to her, “..Ramadan supports female genital mutilation and stoning”.
Nomani never said that.
Nomani said that Ramadan “..accepts female genital mutilation and stoning”, and she links cites that enable the reader to decide himself whether Ramadan accepts genital mutilation and stoning.
And BTW. Support and acceptance are two very different things.
“None of us knows the truth of the accusations”.
Richard. I don’t want to misrepresent your views. Are you saying that we don’t know whether Weisel, Wiesalter, Weinstein and Shavit are sexual predators? Or, are you saying that we just don’t know whether Tariq Ramadan is a sexual predator?
And you minimize the charges against Ramadan when you say that Ramadan has been, “charged by a single Muslim woman”.
When Weisel and Shavit were charged by a single woman you wrote two complete articles based on the charges by a single woman?
I think a double standard is being applied
I just read the accusation against Tariq Ramadan.The part where he says: “You didn’t know what a real man was like before. Well, now you do.” sounded like it came from a bad movie. But maybe he watches bad movies: I saw that a second (disabled) woman came forward…
Richard Silverstein says
The links enable the reader to decide only one thing: that Nomani is a bald-faced liar. Essentially, Ramadan says in those links that the punishments exist in Islam and that they can’t be disappeared from the tradition. But he says that no one in their right mind would enforce them in today’s world. That means that he believes that any Muslim who does so is not in his right mind.
BTW, you can explain to us how Biblical Judaism, which calls for stoning to death people who commit adultery or homosexual acts, is any different. In case you missed it, Judaism stopped such stonings many, many centuries ago. But can any rabbi honestly say the punishments don’t exist in Judaism? Of course not because they do.
Ramadan has been charged by one woman who went public and by a second woman who is maintaining her anonymity. BTW, no other women have come forward nor have any come forward to corroborate their stories with contemporaneous accounts, which is one important way to demonstrate that charges that go back in time are credible. Further, the public accuser has associated herself with people like Nomani & others in France who hold Islamophobic views. That is not dispositive but does tend to show that the accusers may have more than simple personal justice in mind in bringing the accusations.
I will not make any statement about Ramadan’s guilt or innocence till more information is known.
I’d venture to say that Wiesel, just like George HW Bush, molested many more women than just Jenny Listman. Other victims are even more intimidated than Harvey Weinstein’s victims since Wiesel was a Nobel Prize winner and a saint as far as the mainstream Jewish community is concerned. If you level charges against a saint you could get burned–burned at the stake.
As for Shavit, a number of women came forward to confirm the original charge against him with their own stories. Haaretz would not have sacked him unless they knew there would be a tsunami of claims if they didn’t.
Ass grabbing by a Jew is more than enough to label him as SEXUAL PREDATOR while multiple rape charges is not. Go figure.
Will that help to balance the attack article on Tariq’s alleged victim? https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/11/03/world/europe/henda-ayari-tariq-ramadan-oxford-muslim-scholar.html?referer=
Richard Silverstein says
@Eli: you’ve once again wandered off topic. Tariq Ramadan is an Islamophobic red herring.
Until last week there were no accusations or legal charges against Ramadan. And unlike other accused perpetrators, Ramadan has announced an intent to sue his only publuc accuser. Further, his accuser has more than enough political motivation to accuse him, perhaps falsely, since she’s fallen in with the Hirsi Ali-Asra Nomani-Zuhdi Nasser anti Muslim clique.
Do not wander off topic in order to score Iskamophobic points. You are done In this thread.
How is Ramadan off topic when the article has a whole passage about him?
And since you wrote the article, more women came forward.
The point wasn’t making a Muslim a sexual predator but to ask why would you rush to do so to Weisel bc of 1 allegation of ass grabbing.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Eli: No, one other woman has come forward anonymously to claim Ramadan raped her. She has not filed charges against him.
If Jenny Listman was your daughter or wife you would not call it “ass-grabbing.” You’d call it sexual assault. But it’s possible as an Israeli man you believe you have the right to do such things. So many Israeli men do.
But no man has the right to lay his hand that part of a woman’s anatomy without permission. That’s assault. And anyone worshipped as a saint by Jews when he really had feet of clay deserves to be exposed.
Thank you Richard for sharing part of the article by Hamid Dabashi, since Aljazeera site is blocked by the authority in Egypt.
Richard Silverstein says
Mostafa: If you have access to archive.is or Archive.today and paste the link to the article into the URL field you should be able to access the article directly.
Richard, you and Deir Yassin asked me about the Dutch journalist and her experiences with Lanzmann, but I did not see the original post to which I reacted so I will answer here. Here are some links and some translations:
This is the original column, that started out on a different but related matter.
The part where she writes about Lanzmann:
“Meanwhile people are asking if things are really that bad. Yes. It’s bad. I know because I experienced it. I was 29 and was going to interview Claude Lanzmann in Paris, the documentary maker who, through his phenomenal film Shoah (1985), was able to touch the essence of the Nazi extermination camps. A hero in other words, a great artist.
The conversation took place at his place, he went into detail on each question. And while he was talking about Auschwitz and the way he accosted camp guards with a hidden camera, he was feeling me up. Politely fending off his hands, I half and half let him have his way. I knew my place. He was the big filmmaker, I was no one. In addition, I had to do that interview, returning with unfinished business was impossible. The interesting thing is that he nor me said anything about his behavior.
When he was getting too scary, I got up and said I had to leave. He insisted on giving me a ride, and I even got into his car too. Why? I could’t say. Eventually I came to my senses and got out in front of a traffic light.
I wrote the article and told no-one. I stayed silent out of respect for his art. Later I heard I was not the only one. That helped.”
She was later interviewed by Jeroen Pauw. (She is the woman with the shorter, curly hair.)
She says that while it happened she felt deeply embarrassed and intimidated, by his fame, by the difference in power, and by the fact that he was a very big man. She felt she could not just leave without finishing the interview. Although at first she stayed silent, after about a year, she started to heard gossip, there were rumours about him: “These men all think they can do it unnoticed, but that’s not the case. Women do talk about it among ourselves. I already heard things from others. I’ve talked about it sometimes, but always as a kind of joke. While in reality, it was really very scary.”
She concludes that three journalists (so including her) from the same newspaper were all ‘pawed’ by Lanzmann.
In second column Roodnat describes some of the reactions she got after her original column.
“I felt that I could not stay out of it, and described in this paper how I was grabbed during an interview by the celebrated filmmaker Claude Lanzmann. I received messages from three colleagues (whom I did not know personally) that they also had had to deal with Lanzmann’s big hands and his massive body. And I received mail telling me that it was all my own fault. Several men thought it was a good idea to tell me about how they themselves had successfully fended off homosexual advances when they were young and accused me of lack of resilience. “I do not understand that you, an adult journalist, went with Lanzmann to his own house and even sat so close to him that he could feel you up.”