(June 26, 2020 / JNS) It turns out The New York Times has lower standards when it comes to those who spread anti-Semitic canards than even Britain’s controversial Labour Party. Tweeting an anti-Semitic blood libel about Israel being responsible for teaching American cops the tactics that led to the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer led to the firing of a member of parliament from the opposition party’s leadership. Yet tweeting a similar lie about Israel training American cops to commit human-rights abuses was no bar to a journalist being hired this month to be one of the American newspaper of record’s top editors.
The fate of the two figures in question—Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey and Charlotte Greensit, the Times’s new managing editor of its Opinion section—does indicate that Britain’s opposition party may be serious about wanting to change course after becoming a home to Jew-hatred under its former leader, Jeremy Corbyn. But it also shows that the Times, which has a lamentable history when it comes to Jewish issues, is heading down a path in which it is being bullied into taking radical stands that are antithetical to liberal values.
Long-Bailey got into hot water this week when she retweeted an article about Maxine Peake, a British actress who is also a fervent opponent of Israel, as well as being one of Corbyn’s biggest fans. Peake is a respected actress, best known for roles in British films and television series like “Silk.” In her youth, she was a member of the Communist Party. In recent years, she has been a vocal public supporter of Corbyn, the leftist anti-Semite who led Labour to a catastrophic election defeat in December.
In an interview with Britain’s Independent newspaper, Peake, who says that she was “in Palestine, liaising with activists” before having to go home because of the coronavirus pandemic, claimed that “the tactics used by the police in America, kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, that was learnt from seminars with Israeli secret services.”
The notion that Israelis teach Americans tactics used to kill blacks is a big lie that has been championed in recent years by BDS supporters like Jewish Voice for Peace and other anti-Semites. American cops and first responders get training in Israel that teaches them better community policing tactics, as well as how best to deal with medical emergencies, natural disasters and terrorist attacks—not how to kill people.
The idea of blaming Jews for terrible things that have nothing to do with them is not new. Such blood libels have been a staple of anti-Semitic propaganda since the Middle Ages. Anti-Zionists like Peake are reviving the trope to help delegitimize the right of the one Jewish state on the planet to exist.
Long-Bailey retweeted the article with the lie about Israel and Floyd’s death with the comment, “Maxine Peake is an absolute diamond.”
Labour’s former leader might have joined her in that sentiment. But Corbyn’s successor, Keith Starmer, is trying to rid the party of the anti-Semitic extremists that had flocked to it under his predecessor. A spokesperson rightly denounced Peake’s comment as “an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.” The statement went on to say that “restoring trust with the Jewish community is a number one priority. Anti-Semitism takes many different forms and it is important that we all are vigilant against it.”
Starmer fired Long-Bailey as shadow education secretary, a post that would have ensured her membership in Britain’s cabinet if Labour were to win the next election. That was a message to Corbyn’s supporters that there would be no room in Labour for them or their inherent anti-Semitism in the future.
But while Labour was attempting to change course, the most important newspaper in the United States has been heading in a different direction.
Charlotte Greensit was hired as part of a changing of the guard at the Times after a staff revolt led to the resignation of James Bennet, the paper’s opinion-page editor. Bennet was committed to trying to promote ideological diversity at the paper, something he proved by hiring writers like Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss.
But Bennet got into trouble after he published an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that advocated the use of troops to quell riots after Floyd’s death if local authorities were unable to do so. This outraged woke Times staffers, who claimed that such an opinion “endangered” African-Americans. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, who spoke of the paper’s obligation to publish views contrary to its own, initially supported his decision. But Sulzberger was intimidated by Black Lives Matter advocates into backing down. That led to Bennet’s forced resignation.
Sulzberger then vowed to change the way the opinion section operated, and to do that, he has hired Greensit. Her previous post was at The Intercept, the radical left-wing outlet that is known, among other things, for its promotion of conspiracy theories aimed at the Jewish state.
Greensit has personally tweeted defenses of the anti-Semitic statements by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and argued that Hamas was justified in seeking to invade Israel. But in 2017, she also specifically tweeted that “Israeli security forces are training American cops despite history of rights abuses,” while promoting a conspiracy theory libel of Israel published by The Intercept.
After her hiring, Greensit deleted most of her past tweets, though enterprising reporters posted them before they disappeared. Yet there has been no hint from the Times that they have any second thoughts about bringing on someone who spreads anti-Semitic blood libels. To the contrary, the paper’s decision to tilt even farther left and to ensure that contrary opinions will be silenced appears to be popular with its readership and staff.
It says something that in an institution that had become as thoroughly infiltrated by anti-Semitism as Labour, there’s now a new commitment to ridding the party of such hate. At the Times, however, left-wing anti-Semitism isn’t merely tolerated; it’s the sort of thing that can help you to rise to the top.
Jonathan S. Tobin is editor in chief of JNS—Jewish News Syndicate. Follow him on Twitter at: @jonathans_tobin.