A Passover synagogue shooting and a despicable NYT cartoon: the face of American antisemitism today

We emerged from Pesach only to hear the most dreadful news from Poway, near San Diego in California. A hate-filled antisemite, all of 19 years old, burst into the Chabad synagogue and opened fire, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injuring Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein and 2 members of an Israeli family who had come to America to get away from their rocket-battered hometown of Sderot, 8 year old Noya Dahan and her uncle Almog Peretz.

https://static.timesofisrael.com/www/uploads/2019/04/58430351_2197548236961213_8058166650903461888_n-e1556427915980-640x400.jpg

Lori Gilbert-Kaye Hy’d

There were acts of supreme heroism during the attack, particularly from Lori Gilbert-Kaye Hy’d who jumped in front of the Rabbi to protect him, and instead took the brunt of the bullets which killed her.

Three other people were injured, including Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 57, who was leading services at the time and was shot in both hands.

Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, injured in the attack on Poway Chabad synagogue

The other two were Noya Dahan, 8, a girl originally from Sderot in Israel who was hit by shrapnel in the face and leg, and her uncle Almog Peretz, 31, who was shot in the leg as he ushered children in a playroom to safety, according to media reports. Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the two were injured, adding that the consul in Los Angeles, Avner Saban, had spoken with the girl’s mother and offered help.

Her friend Audrey Jacobs, a community activist, said Gilbert-Kaye had jumped in front of Rabbi Mendel Goldstein — Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein’s son — “to take the bullet and save his life.”

“Lori you were a jewel of our community a true Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor,” Jacobs wrote on Facebook. “You were always running to do a mitzvah (good deed) and gave tzedaka (charity) to everyone. Your final good deed was taking the bullets for Rabbi Mendel Goldstein to save his life.

“Lori leaves behind a devastated husband and 22-year-old daughter,” she added.

No one was quite so thoughtful as Gilbert-Kaye, said Lisa Busalacchi, her friend since second grade. “It’s not like she gave a million dollars for a building, but if someone was sick or someone died, she was the first one there with food or asking what she could do,” Busalacchi told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in an interview.

Busalacchi said that Kaye was deeply committed to the congregation, and had recently traveled to New York to attend the wedding of Rabbi Goldstein’s daughter. “It made sense that she was [at Chabad]; it was her whole life,” she said.

Gilbert-Kaye was in synagogue to remember her late mother during Yizkor, a memorial service held on major Jewish festivals, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Her husband, a physician, was in synagogue with her. When he started to perform CPR on a victim and realized it was his wife, he fainted, according to the report.

“God picked her to die to send a message because she’s such an incredible person,” her friend, Dr. Roneet Lev, told the newspaper. “He took her for a higher purpose to send this message to fight anti-Semitism.”

Apropos of nothing, Gilbert-Kaye would drop off gifts at her friends’ homes, Busalacchi said. And she didn’t send one card for a birthday or anniversary, she sent three or four. “Literally it was no less than three cards for every occasion,” Busalacchi said.

Rare was the Friday night that the Kayes did not have Shabbat guests — often there were 10 or more people at the table. She would invite friends to the family’s sukkah on Sukkot, and host a break the fast after Yom Kippur. She made her own challah, and recently forwarded a Passover carrot kugel recipe to Busalacchi.

Truly the words “Eshet Chayil” – a woman of valor, apply to Lori Gilbert-Kaye. She gave her life to protect the Rabbi without thinking of her own safety. From the tributes from friends we learn that she was a wonderfully warm, giving and dedicated woman. What a tremendous loss to her family, her community and to Am Yisrael!

May her memory be for a blessing and may her family be comforted among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.

As mentioned above, the other victims were also heroic in their reactions:

Witnesses said the injured rabbi continued his speech calling for unity and peace despite suffering gunshot wounds to both index fingers.

“The rabbi said, ‘We are united,’” said congregation member Minoo Anvari, who said her husband witnessed the shooting.

“He prayed for peace,” she said, according to the Chabad website. “Even in spite of being injured he refused to go to the hospital until he spoke. And he finished his speech and he then left the synagogue.”

“We are strong; you can’t break us,” Anvari said.

Rabbi Goldstein also serves as a Jewish chaplain at the local San Diego police department.

He underwent surgery and would have to remain hospitalized for several days, according to Dr. Michael Katz, trauma chief at Palomar Medical Center, according to the San Diego Jewish World.

According to Jacobs’ Facebook post, the family of the injured Israeli girl and her uncle “moved to San Diego from the Israeli city of Sderot to get away from the terrorism and the constant attacks on their community.”

Sderot has been targeted by thousands of rockets fired by terror groups in the Gaza Strip over the last 15 years.

See Israeli activist Hen Mazzig‘s twitter timeline:

The Chabad Shul of Poway, California

The terror attack shocked visiting Israeli and veteran medic Shimon Abitbul who was in Poway for his grandson’s brit:

A deputy director for the Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance service, Abitbul has served as a paramedic in some of the country’s deadliest conflicts. Most notably, he was the rescue service’s station chief in Kiryat Shmona, his hometown on Israel’s northern border, which was battered by Hezbollah rockets during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Luckily, with his bitter experience of terrorism in Israel, he knew exactly what to do:

“At this moment, I put my grandson on the floor, and my body on him, and I shut his mouth. No screaming,” Abitbul said. “After seven shots, I heard the rabbi scream: ‘Don’t stand! Lay down!’”

And now he knows about antisemitism in the States too:

One day after the shooting, Abitbul said he was in a state of disorientation and shock. He had been unaware, he said, of the extent to which anti-Semitic violence was taking place in the United States — that it could infect a community such as Poway.

“I come here to visit my grandson and my child about every six months,” he said. “This is the first time that I learned about the anti-Semitism here.”

Abitbul went on, “You come here and you think: This is the greatest democracy in the world, and you see what’s happened in the synagogue. You can’t imagine it.”

May all the wounded have a speedy and full recovery, and may the bereaved know no more sorrow.

At more or less the same time as the antisemitic assault on the synagogue, the New York Times International Edition saw fit to publish a cartoon so heinous, bigoted an blatantly antisemitic that it would not have been out of place in the infamous Der Sturmer of the Nazis.

The antisemitic cartoon in the New York Times (Seth Frantzman)

Seth Frantzman writes furiously in the Jerusalem Post about the Time’s pathetic excuse:

You thought that Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s comments about foreign loyalty or “Benjamins” were problematic. The International Edition of the Times just said: “Let me show you what we can do,” with a cartoon of a yarmulke-wearing, blind US President Donald Trump being led by a dog with a Star of David collar and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s face for a head.

This is what The New York Times thinks of us Israelis. Even if they subsequently said it was an error, they thought it was okay to print a cartoon showing the US president being blindly led by the “Jewish dog”?

And not only that, those who watched as it went to print thought it was fine to put a Jewish skullcap on the US president. Dual loyalty? No need to even wrestle with that question.

It used to be that we were told that Trump was fostering “Trump antisemitism” and driving a new wave of antisemitism in the US. But the cartoon depicts him as a Jew. Well, which is it? Is he fostering antisemitism, or is he now a closet Jew being led by Israel, depicted as a Jewish dog? We used to say that images “conjured up memories” of 1930s antisemitism. This didn’t conjure it up; this showed us exactly what it looked like.

The Nazis also depicted us as animals. They also put Stars of David on us. Antisemites have compared us to dogs, pigs and monkeys before. It used to be that it was on the far-Right that Jews were depicted as controlling the world, like an octopus or a spider.

But now we see how mainstream it has become to blame the Jews and Israel for the world’s problems.

No other country or minority group is subjected to such unrelenting and systematic hatred by mainstream US newspapers. No one would dare to put an Islamic leader’s face on a dog, with Islamic symbols, leading the US president.

Of course not. The editor would stop that.

They’d be sensitive to this issue. They would err on the side of not being offensive. The night editor, the assistant editor or someone would say: “This doesn’t look right.”

Imagine the days when racists tried to depict US president Barack Obama as a closet Muslim. We know the tropes. So why put a yarmulke on Trump’s head? When it comes to Jews and Israel, there is no depth to which they will not sink.

And an apology after the fact isn’t enough.

This cartoon didn’t end up in the International Edition of The New York Times by mistake. It was chosen; it was put on a page by someone. It was checked and re-checked.

I know. I’m an Op-ed Editor. When I used to run cartoons in my section, no fewer than four people would see it before it went to print. At the International Edition of The New York Times, it should have been more than four. And they all thought it was fine? What that tells me is that there is a culture of antisemitism somewhere in the newsroom.

THERE ISN’T just one problem with this cartoon. There are numerous problems.

So this cartoon wasn’t just mildly antisemitic. It wasn’t like “whoops.” It was deeply antisemitic.

The New York Times acknowledged this in a kind of pathetic way. They admitted that the cartoon “included antisemitic tropes.” It then noted, “The image was offensive and it was an error of judgement to publish it.”

That’s not enough. An error of judgment would imply that it was just a kind of mistake. “Tropes” would imply that to some people it is antisemitic, but that it’s not clear as day.

But this is clear as day.

This isn’t like some story of unclear antisemitism. This isn’t a dog whistle. This is a dog. This is antisemitic on numerous levels. It’s time to say no more. It’s time to say “They shall not pass.”

Bret Stephens, formerly editor of the Jerusalem Post and now one of the editors of the New York Times himself, also published a blistering criticism of this despicable cartoon in his own paper:

As prejudices go, anti-Semitism can sometimes be hard to pin down, but on Thursday the opinion pages of The New York Times international editionprovided a textbook illustration of it.

Except that The Times wasn’t explaining anti-Semitism. It was purveying it.

It did so in the form of a cartoon, provided to the newspaper by a wire service and published directly above an unrelated column by Tom Friedman, in which a guide dog with a prideful countenance and the face of Benjamin Netanyahu leads a blind, fat Donald Trump wearing dark glasses and a black yarmulke. Lest there be any doubt as to the identity of the dog-man, it wears a collar from which hangs a Star of David.

Here was an image that, in another age, might have been published in the pages of Der Stürmer. The Jew in the form of a dog. The small but wily Jew leading the dumb and trusting American. The hated Trump being Judaized with a skullcap. The nominal servant acting as the true master. The cartoon checked so many anti-Semitic boxes that the only thing missing was a dollar sign.

The image also had an obvious political message: Namely, that in the current administration, the United States follows wherever Israel wants to go. This is false — consider Israel’s horrified reaction to Trump’s announcement last year that he intended to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria — but it’s beside the point. There are legitimate ways to criticize Trump’s approach to Israel, in pictures as well as words. But there was nothing legitimate about this cartoon.

So what was it doing in The Times?

The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t. The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism — and that, at a publication that is otherwise hyper-alert to nearly every conceivable expression of prejudice, from mansplaining to racial microaggressions to transphobia.

The question answers itself. And it raises a follow-on: How have even the most blatant expressions of anti-Semitism become almost undetectable to editors who think it’s part of their job to stand up to bigotry?

The reason is the almost torrential criticism of Israel and the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, including by this paper, which has become so common that people have been desensitized to its inherent bigotry. So long as anti-Semitic arguments or images are framed, however speciously, as commentary about Israel, there will be a tendency to view them as a form of political opinion, not ethnic prejudice. But as I noted in a Sunday Review essay in February, anti-Zionism is all but indistinguishable from anti-Semitism in practice and often in intent, however much progressives try to deny this.

Add to the mix the media’s routine demonization of Netanyahu, and it is easy to see how the cartoon came to be drawn and published: Already depicted as a malevolent Jewish leader, it’s just a short step to depict him as a malevolent Jew.

But the publication of the cartoon isn’t just an “error of judgment,” either. The paper owes the Israeli prime minister an apology. It owes itself some serious reflection as to how it came to publish that cartoon — and how its publication came, to many longtime readers, as a shock but not a surprise.

I’m still surprised at Stephens’ willingness to accept that the NYT is capable of self-reflection and capability to change. Its anti-Zionism and tolerance of antisemitism is well documented by many media watchdogs. I fear the time is long past when anything can be improved at the NYT or any of its media allies like the BBC or CNN.

And the danger is not just in souring relations between Israel and the US. The danger is that cartoons like that in the Times are what lend legitimacy to extremists like the terrorist who carried out the assault on the Poway synagogue. One thing definitely leads to the other.

In the Seder service we say “in every generation they rise up to destroy us” – and it’s not only in every generation, but in every place: whether in Europe, Britain, America and of course in Israel surrounded by implacable enemies.

But we must not forget the last half of that passage: “And Hashem the Almighty saves us from their hands”.

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7 Responses to A Passover synagogue shooting and a despicable NYT cartoon: the face of American antisemitism today

  1. Pingback: A Passover synagogue shooting and a despicable NYT cartoon: the face of American antisemitism today – 24/6 Magazine

  2. Reality says:

    It’s become “normal”in newspaper and intelligentsia circles to be openly antisemitic.What’s worrying too is that the Democrats are demonizing Trump ,saying he is the cause of all this.They seem to have conveniently forgotton how openly anti semitic, Obama was.The shooter was as much anti Trump,as anti semitic.
    The Europeans,and the U.S should do some deep soul searching.And the Liberal Jews around the world,especially in the US should wake up

    • anneinpt says:

      The left in particular like to forget or ignore the facts that are inconvenient to them, or that do not fit their narrative. One of those facts is that Jews are not white in the conventional sense. Jews are hated by the white supremacists AND the left universalists.

      It fits their narrative to blame Trump whereas – even ignoring Obama – they themselves are to blame for so much of the current antisemitism. As Brett Stephens says, Israel-bashing and Bibi-bashing and Jew-blaming have become so normalized (as you noted) that they don’t even see the antisemitism that they themselves are spouting and causing, let alone what they are promoting.

      I can’t see how it will ever end.

  3. DP-PT says:

    The minimum that should satisfy the Jewish Community is that the Cartoonist be fired and the Editor of the NYT resign. Anything less than that should result in a full advertising boycott and subscription cancellation campaign.
    BOYCOTT NYT!!!

    • anneinpt says:

      You are absolutely right. However the cartoonist was not employed by the NYT. The cartoon was used via a wire service.

      So the cartoonist should be boycotted. But as you rightly demand, the editor and any sub-editors involved should be summarily fired.

      As for boycotting the NYT, I’ve been doing that for a long time. The article was behind a paywall and I couldn’t access it properly. But I could read it via facebook which is how I managed to quote from it in my post.

  4. Jeff Polaski says:

    Thank you for publishing Stephens’ op-ed, because I refuse to pay the NYT a single cent to access and read printed lies.

    Stephens’ wrote that “The problem with the cartoon isn’t that its publication was a willful act of anti-Semitism. It wasn’t. The problem is that its publication was an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism ”

    He is wrong. Publishing that poison was clearly a graphic statement of hatred for Jews.

    The NYT editors were probably surprised that they did not get away with their first attempt at faking an apology. Their second attempt also fails, although they took care to appear remorseful and to promise to correct their heinous behavior. They have clever writing skills, but few scruples. They would likely have gone on to blaming some poor low-level staff, such as a typesetter, for this heinous act. Now they will try to find ways to simulate remorse and put on a show of self-criticism.

    • anneinpt says:

      I agree with you. I think Stephens was going relatively easy on them because he is their editor, or one of the editors anyway. I can’t understand what a quality journalist like him (formerly of the Jerusalem Post) is doing at a slimepit like the NYT.

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