Michael Oren: American Jewish Journalists Lead Media’s anti-Israeli Assault

In new book, former envoy Michael Oren claims antagonism towards Benjamin Netanyahu akin to historic hatred of Jews.

Michael Oren AIPAC
Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren addressing an AIPAC conference in early March. AFP

Israel’s former ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, claims that Jewish journalists are largely responsible for American media’s anti-Israel coverage and the “double standard” it applies in its coverage of the Jewish state. Oren also writes that the antagonism towards Netanyahu shown by Jewish journalists such as Thomas Friedman and Leon Wieseltier resembles historic hatred of Jews.

Oren’s new book, “Ally" is due to be released early next week but is already garnering headlines for its harsh condemnation of President Obama and his policies towards Israel. But Obama isn’t Oren’s only target: he is also critical of American Jewish liberals and their “religion” of Tikkun Olam, and turns devastating when it comes to American journalists who are also Jews.

Oren dismisses the claim that “Jews control the media” as an anti-Semitic canard, but then proceeds to lend it credence by writing that it “reflects the disproportionate number – relative to their share of the U.S. population – of Jewish journalists.” He goes on to say that “the presence of so many Jews in print and on screen rarely translates into support for Israel. The opposite is often the case, as some American Jewish journalists flag their Jewishness as a credential for criticizing Israel. ‘I’m Jewish,’ some even seem to say, ‘but I’m not one of those Jews – the settlers, the rabbis, Israeli leaders, or the soldiers of the IDF.’”

Because of Jewish journalists, Oren claims, Israel is subjected to higher standards than any other foreign country. He singles out the “malicious” op-ed page of the New York Times “once revered as an interface of ideas, now sadly reduced to a sounding board for only one, which often excluded Israel’s legitimacy”, but says the paper is not alone. “The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books, both Jewish-edited, rarely ran nonincriminating reports on Israeli affairs.”

Oren says that he was particularly pained by articles critical of Israel in which “the bylines were Jewish”.  Pondering what could drive Jews to “nitpick” at what he describes as their own “nation-state”, Oren claims that some “saw assailing Israel as a career enhancer – the equivalent of Jewish man bites Jewish dog – that saved several struggling pundits from obscurity.” Others he compares to “upper class American Jews of German ancestry” and their historic scorn for Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe “the Yiddish speaking rabble who allegedly made all Jews look bad.” Still others, he writes, “largely assimilated, resented Israel for further complicating their already conflicted identity.”

Oren then goes on to speculate whether the criticism of Israel by Jewish journalists does not derive from feelings of insecurity and fear of anti-Semitism – which is why “so many of them supported Obama, with his preference for soft power.” Oren pooh-poohs the concept of Obama being the “first Jewish president”, writing “that was true if being Jewish in America means recoiling from military power territorialism, nationalism and a sense of tribe.”

At the same time, Oren expresses wonder at the fact that American Jewish journalists are not “impressed” by Benjamin Netanyahu’s resume which “reads more glowingly than even the most sterling of the Obama administration’s CV’s.” He recounts a conversation in which he accused Wieseltier of harboring “pathological hatred” towards Netanyahu – and Wieseltier agreeing with him. “The antagonism sparked by Netanyahu,” he continues, “resembled that traditionally triggered by Jews. We were always the ultimate Other – communists in the view of capitalists and capitalists in communist eyes, nationalists for the cosmopolitans and, for jingoists, the International Jew. So too was Netanyahu declaimed as “reckless” by White House sources, branded intransigent by the New York Times, yet Haaretz faulted him for never taking a stand.”