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Several days ago, National Review ran a news item about the rise in anti-Semitism in the tri-state area. It had this bizarre quality of trying to give both sides of the situation, but here’s the problem: on one side of the “issue” are Jews getting massacred and on the other, people who call those same Jews “locusts.” The piece intended to give “context” to the rise in tensions, but it operated under a false pretense: there is no excuse for anti-Semitism, Jews are not to blame for Jew-hatred. The writer, Zachary Evans wrote,
The ultra-Orthodox population is also a heavy user of government resources such as Medicaid and food stamps. This is due to the perception that many of the men either don’t work or make low salaries, choosing instead to devote their time to studying religious texts.
“Many in the community look at the Hasidim as locusts, who go from community to community . . . just stripping all the resources out of it,” said a Jewish, but not ultra-Orthodox, resident of upstate New York. The resident, who vociferously objects to ultra-Orthodox development and asked not to be named for fear of retribution by the ultra-Orthodox community, added that “nobody here doesn’t like them because they’re Jews. People don’t like them because of what they do. Rural, hardworking people also want to live our lives too.”
The entire premise was moot considering the assailants in Jersey City and Monsey; they weren’t neighbors of Jews concerned about “overdevelopment” or any other issue bigots across the tri-state area have clung to in order to explain their anti-Semitism against Hasidic Jews. The attackers in both the Jersey City and Monsey attacks drove from out of town to perpetrate their crimes; they weren’t motivated by anything but hate.
In this bizarre news item, the victims of these attacks are portrayed as crooks, moochers and “locusts” and the bigot using this kind of language is protected because he’s afraid of retribution.
It was victim-blaming and incendiary at a time where Hasidic Jews are under attack daily across the New York and New Jersey area.
Online, conservatives and liberals lit the piece on fire. Editors at NR got calls, emails and even an in-person visit from Jews concerned about how the publication allowed the victims of a spike in hate crimes to be portrayed. In response to this outrage, NR ran a bizarre follow-up note on the piece with the original author explaining,
This quote has attracted controversy. My decision to include it obviously does not constitute an endorsement of its language or its argument. Throughout the article, I quote multiple other people who label similar rhetoric, and the attitudes underlying it, as anti-Semitic. My intention in this article was to present a picture of what is happening in the counties surrounding New York and to convey the feelings of all residents of the area, amid a housing boom and the thankfully growing awareness of New York’s anti-Semitism problem (which I have covered before).
This is a complicated subject that can veer into exceptionable territory. It is extremely vital to understand what people in the area are feeling in order to defuse any misunderstandings or ill-will among observant Jews and their neighbors. It is my hope that the reader will come away from the article with a little more knowledge of those attitudes.
Here’s the issue with the quote, spelled out: Jews are not responsible for Jew-hatred. Let me repeat that. Jews. Are. Not. Responsible. For. Jew. Hatred. This kind of exercise, trying to use logic to explain it, only excuses it. The attacks aren’t about overdevelopment in Monsey, Jersey City or Brooklyn. They are about hate. When those saying it are black, conservatives don’t seem to have a hard time understanding that. But the same reasoning applies to a writer for National Review, yes, even if he served in the IDF.
In response to all of the outrage, Kevin Williamson decided to weigh in. And here’s when NR really, really steps in it. He writes,
I don’t think most people who read the news are too stupid to understand the news. I think they are too dishonest.
I am frankly embarrassed that we’ve found it necessary to append a note to Zachary Evans’s report on anti-Semitism to emphasize that quoting a person to illuminate his sentiments does not constitute an endorsement of those sentiments. That’s obvious. Every mentally functional adult is able to understand as much. But because there are people who want to smear National Review for political purposes, they pretend that an article about anti-Semitism written by a veteran of the Israeli military is itself an exercise in anti-Semitism. I have a hard time believing that is an honest error, because people dumb enough to make an error like that, and make it honestly, can’t read.
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to agree with my original assessment that the piece never should have run. But the fact is there were plenty of Jewish conservatives (and a few non-Jewish ones too) who expressed horror at the way Hasidic Jews were characterized. That doesn’t make them stupid. It doesn’t make them dishonest. It doesn’t mean they were motivated to “smear National Review for political purposes.” They saw a piece that attacked the victims of a wave of hatred and they expressed their anger at it.
It’s times like these it’s interesting to see who really means it when they decry anti-Semitism. When attacks happen or when the New York Times or the Washington Post write something stupid about Jews, there are plenty of conservatives ready to pounce. But when it’s one of our own, like National Review, calling Jews concerned about how Jews are portrayed dishonest and acting in bad faith, there’s an awful lot of silence. And that silence speaks volumes.Published in