In a recent editorial, Tablet, the 11-year-old online magazine that calls itself “a new read on Jewish life,” warned that Louis Farrakhan, the poisonously anti-Semitic head of the Nation of Islam, was being normalized by “irresponsible actors across the political spectrum,” including Donald Trump, Barack Obama, and the editors of the New York Times. Tablet‘s evidence for Trump’s participation in this nefarious activity was that he is “now partnering with rapper and Farrakhan fan Ice Cube.” Its evidence for Obama’s involvement was his “headlining an event with the discredited Women’s March leader and Farrakhan acolyte Tamika Mallory.” As for the Times, it “ran a fawning op-ed about the women behind Farrakhan’s Million Man March without so much as a nod to his overt and vile bigotry.”
Simply put, one of these things is not like the others. Yes, the Times whitewashed Farrakhan’s anti-Semitism in that op-ed. But that’s nothing: for years it has been it routinely whitewashing the anti-Semitism of many a leftist or Muslim whom it has chosen to lionize. In 2015, for example, the Gray Lady devoted one of its trademark cozy profiles to the Muslim “feminist” leader Linda Sarsour, who was described in the headline as “a Brooklyn Homegirl in a Hijab”; dropped down the memory hole were her virulent anti-Semitism and her longtime chumminess with Farrakhan. Then there’s Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), whose multiple anti-Semitic remarks led House members last year to introduce a resolution of condemnation, and also won her the coveted title “anti-Semite of the year.” Yet despite her manifest bigotry, the Times has run interference for her again and again, profiling her most recently, in September, in a splashy Times Magazine article entitled “Ilhan Omar Is Not Here to Put You at Ease.” Of course, the readiness of Times reporters and editors to overlook their heroes’ virulent Jew-hatred is hardly a surprise, given that the newspaper’s culture is awash in anti-Semitism, as the Jewish writer Bari Weiss noted when she quit the paper earlier this year.
As for Obama, let’s not forget that Jeremiah Wright, his longtime pastor and spiritual advisor, is a passionate anti-Semite who, among much else, was involved, alongside Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, in the 2012 Global March to Jerusalem. Wright’s church actually presented Farrakhan with an honor named for the pastor – the Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award. Curiously, Tablet chose not to mention in its editorial that Obama himself had taken part in Farrakhan’s 1995 Million Man March, had met with Farrakhan personally on at least two occasions, and had had frequent contact with Farrakhan both before and during his presidency. Farrakhan has said that the Nation of Islam supported Obama “when he was a community organizer” and contributed money to at least one of his election campaigns. A photograph of Obama and Farrakhan together was taken in 2005, but the Nation of Islam and the photographer, Askia Muhammad, complied with Obama’s request to keep it secret to avoid damaging his political career; there also exists a photo, taken on another occasion, of Michelle Obama with Farrakhan’s wife.
Yes, Trump has accepted the support of Ice Cube. Overwhelmingly, the mainstream media have responded to this fact not by criticizing Trump for associating with an anti-Semite and Farrakhan fan but by criticizing Ice Cube for associating with Trump. In any event, Ice Cube’s support for Trump aside, Trump’s record on Jews, unlike those of Obama and the Times, is nothing less than stellar. Long before he became president, he broke the ban on Jewish membership in Palm Beach clubs. As president, he’s been, to quote Netanyahu, “the best friend Israel has ever had in the White House.” His daughter is a Jewish convert and her children are Jewish. For Tablet to suggest that Trump’s extremely tenuous connection to Farrakhan is comparable to Obama’s long-term association with him – and with other prominent anti-Semites – is ridiculous. It’s especially ridiculous considering that Farrakhan himself has made no secret of his hostility to Trump. “If America elects Donald Trump,” Farrakhan said before the 2016 election, “it will head into the abyss of hell.” In a speech given last February, Farrakhan called Trump a “thug,” a “beast,” and a “terrorist.”
But then, this is Tablet. To be sure, as Jewish periodicals go, it’s not as consistently and outrageously leftist as, say, the Forward. But it does have a record of defending Obama and bashing Trump – even though the former has been the most anti-Jewish American president in history, and the latter the most philosemitic. Recall that Obama repeatedly presented Israel and the Palestinian Authority as morally equivalent; signed the Iran deal; sought “to thwart an Israeli operation to liquidate Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani”; and abstained on a December 2016 UN resolution against Israel. It was Obama whose first Secretary of State, John Kerry, thundered that Israel’s “pernicious” settlement policy made Mideast peace impossible.
In short, Obama gave any magazine about Jewish life plenty to criticize. And yet the criticism from Tablet was rare, and the apologias plentiful:
- After Obama, early in his presidency, was widely criticized for giving a speech in Cairo that shamelessly sugarcoated Islam, the Tablet ran a piece in his defense.
- Writing for Tablet in 2012, Matthew Ackerman acknowledged that Obama’s stance on Israel was imperfect, but Ackerman did so within the context of an article urging readers not to push this point with pro-Obama friends for fear of alienating them. Who is Matthew Ackerman? Well, at the time anyway, he was, according to his contributor’s note, “the media relations manager for The David Project, a nonprofit that positively shapes campus opinion on Israel.” Hence even a professional Israel-booster was, in effect, giving Obama a pass on his Israel policy.
- On November 21, 2012, noting pre-election predictions that Obama would “throw Israel under the bus” after his re-election, Tablet writer Adam Chandler declared, on scant evidence, that Obama had proved those forecasts wrong.
- In 2015, Tablet ‘s Yair Rosenberg praised Obama for an interview in which he not only joined other world leaders in defining “anti-Zionism… as anti-Semitism,” but also offered what Rosenberg characterized as a “far more eloquent and rich” articulation of this view than anyone else. Never mind that Obama’s deeds didn’t match his words.
These efforts by Tablet writers to vindicate Obama were pathetically feeble, especially given the dramatic contrast between his Israel policies and those of his successor, who moved the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, acknowledged the Golan Heights as part of Israel, and oversaw the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. To its credit, Tablet did run a piece last month calling the Abraham Accords “the most significant development in the Arab-Israeli conflict in the last 25 years.” Yet four months into Trump’s presidency, Tablet ran a piece by Yair Rosenberg complaining that he hadn’t yet moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. After Trump did move the Embassy, Rosenberg wrote another article on the subject. Did he celebrate the move? No, he warned that Trump, by moving the Embassy, had “opened the door” for a U.S. Embassy to Palestine.
But that’s not the worst of Tablet’s Trump coverage. During the run-up to the 2016 election, the publication ran a regular feature entitled TrumpWatch, which offered “the daily low-lights of Donald Trump’s attempt to use the dark forces of bigotry to become President.” Chillingly, the typeface of the TrumpWatch logo bore a strong resemblance to the typeface used to display the film title in the opening credits of Leni Riefenstahl’s Hitler homage Triumph des Willens. To be sure, one contributor to TrumpWatch made a point of saying that Trump is not Hitler: rather, he’s “more like the leader of the German American Bund.” Another sought to link him to the KKK. Before the 2016 election, Rosenberg wrote a piece entitled “Why a Vote for Trump Is a Vote for Mainstreaming Anti-Semites”; after Trump’s victory, Rosenberg wrote that the best-case scenario for the Trump presidency was that he’d delegate governing to “semi-competent people,” ignore his domestic promises, and stick with Obama’s foreign policy; the worst-case scenario would involve violent pro-Trump mobs and a shattered economy.
Admittedly, there’s nothing new or surprising about Tablet’s preference for an Israel-loathing Democrat over a Republic philo-Semite. Most Jewish Americans, after all, plan to vote for Biden, even though he’s plainly a puppet of Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and other anti-Semites in his party’s top ranks. But it’s just plain dishonest for Tablet , in an editorial about Farrakhan, to ignore the fact that it’s overwhelmingly on the left, not the right, that you can find friends, allies, and supporters of Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. For Tablet, one can only conclude, it’s simply too much to call out Obama for his extensive Farrakhan connections without coming up with some way to bash Trump, too – despite the fact that he and Farrakhan quite obviously abhor each other.