While the New York Times was hypersensitive to any signs of racial prejudice among the massive, peaceful Tea Party protests, reporter Joseph Berger raised and dismissed the idea of anti-Semitism at Occupy Wall Street, in Saturday’s “Cries of Anti-Semitism, But Not at Zuccotti Park.”
Just two of many references: Reporter David Herszenhorn assumed racism was a force in the movement in an April 1, 2010 podcast: “One is clearly there’s a racial component. Some members of Congress you know, had epithets hurled at them as protesters marched around the Capitol on the day of the big House vote.” Those claims have never been substantiated. On July 18, 2010 Matt Bai reported about hypothetical “hateful 25-year-olds” at Tea Party rallies.
By contrast, reporter Berger played strong defense for OWS against the anti-Semitism allegations.
Among the hodgepodge of signs that have sprouted in Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, one man in jeans and a baseball cap has been carrying placards that shout their suggestions: “Google: Jewish Billionaires” and “Google: Zionists control Wall St.”
At the same time, among the sea of tarps under which protesters have been sleeping, a sukkah, a makeshift hut, was erected to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
While Berger’s story was accompanied by three positive photos of Jews at OWS, it didn’t have room for the widely available shot of the “Google Jewish Billionaires” sign (above).
The Occupy Wall Street protests, now in their second month, have increasingly been criticized by a variety of groups, most of them politically conservative, for flashes of anti-Semitism. Among those calling attention to the issue have been the Republican National Committee, Rush Limbaugh and the columnist William Kristol.
But the protests have also, on occasion, had a distinctly Jewish flavor: The encampment has coincided with the busy Jewish holiday season and has witnessed, in its midst or on its edges, a crowded Kol Nidre service on Yom Kippur, festive dancing with a scroll on Simchat Torah on Thursday night, and the sukkah.
The protesters, clustered together in a kind of ad hoc Athenian democracy in the canyons of Lower Manhattan, firmly deny that their demonstrations against corporate greed and the political power of banks exhibit antagonism that singles out Jews.
“You’re going to get a few wackos,” said Aaron Moses Miller, 25, a slender, unemployed man from Ridgewood, Queens, who had been in the park for 16 days. “You can’t help it in a population of this size.”
Mr. Miller, who is Jewish, said that he had not seen the man holding the anti-Semitic signs, but said: “If I had seen him, I would have said something to him. My name is Aaron Moses Miller.”
Jeff Smith, 41, part of the press team for Occupy Wall Street, assailed those who he said ascribed the views of one sign-holder to the entire movement.
That bolded sentence above is ironic, given the media’s treatment of random signs and outbursts by Tea Party protesters as emblematic of the entire movement.
But much as the Tea Party movement initially grappled with accusations of racism, Occupy Wall Street has been consistently confronted with accusations of anti-Semitism. Several conservative Web sites and television programs have shown video of the sign-holder, as well as of a woman at an allied demonstration in Los Angeles who identified herself as a public school teacher and decried “Zionist Jews who are running the big banks and the Federal Reserve.”
These conservative critics have urged President Obama and Representative Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, to retract their expressions of support for the Wall Street protests.
“Democrats were quick to single out any instances of perceived extremism among Tea Party supporters,” Sean Spicer, the communications director of the Republican National Committee, said in a statement on Tuesday. “But with Occupy Wall Street, they turn a blind eye.”
An Oct. 13 article on the Web site of Commentary, a politically conservative magazine founded by the American Jewish Committee, though no longer affiliated with it, argued that “it isn’t just a few crackpots engaging in anti-Semitism.” The article said that the “main organizer behind the movement -- Adbusters editor Kalle Lasn -- has a history of anti-Jewish writing.”
Berger didn’t outline the specifics of Alana Goodman’s post: "Back in 2004, he wrote a highly controversial Adbusters article entitled 'Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?' which peddled some of the more feverish theories about American Jews, neoconservatism, and the Bush administration..."
Berger followed up:
Mr. Lasn did not return a message left on his Adbusters office voice mail in Vancouver, British Columbia. But Patrick Bruner, another member of the Occupy Wall Street press team, said the magazine Adbusters had helped prompt the protest movement with a call for action but otherwise had “not been active at all.” He said the Occupy Wall Street movement rejected any kind of racism or hatred, but also was “open source,” meaning that anyone could take part.
Odd, given that just last week a Times reporter credited Adbusters with launching the movement!
More defense: Berger then claimed that “Jewish groups that have sensitive antennas for eruptions of bigotry have not criticized the protesters,” making reference to Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, who said there were some “manifestations in the movement of anti-Semitism, but they are not expressing or representing a larger view.”