New York Times Airs a Grievance Against the Pesach Seder

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By Ira Stoll

Of all the many strange and egregious things the New York Times has done since October 7, 2023—rehiring an openly Hitler-praising Gaza stringermisquoting Israel’s defense minister and prime minister in a way that falsely portrayed their intentions, falsely claiming the war is the deadliest in 40 yearsadvising the president of the United States to “lose it” with Prime Minister Netanyahu—one of the oddest of all is attacking the Pesach Seder.

Times magazine article falsely claiming the old Black-Jewish alliance for Civil Rights has transformed into one against Israel includes about 1,400 words about a single far-left activist named Nicole Carty. It included this paragraph:

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“I’ve been to a lot of Pesach celebrations,” she added, “and it’s so weird that the story is only of Jewish subjugation, even though subjugation is still so present for other people.” She went on: “Black people still haven’t had their histories honored. We are still gaslit about the impact of slavery and the continued impacts of white supremacy.”

The passage was widely mocked on social media. “The author complains that Pesach is too Jewish centric!” one commenter marveled.

Sure, there’s a distinction, as there often is, between the New York Times endorsing this attack on the particularism of Pesach and merely reporting on it as newsworthy. The overall framing by the Times, though, is not as an example of black antisemitism or individual silliness, but as a description of a kind of rational and inexorable demographic and historical response to Israeli actions. The Times is perfectly capable, in other contexts, of investigating extremist ideologies while carefully signaling to readers that those ideologies are extreme or not supported by evidence. Not so here.

Carty’s claim is so inaccurate in so many ways that it’s hard to know where to begin. One place might simply be with the characterization of the Pesach seder. To begin with, Pesach is not the story “only of Jewish subjugation,” it is the story of liberation, of freedom, of God’s bringing the Jewish people out of Egypt to the promised land. Many modern Pesach seders do universalize the story some by incorporating references to other liberation stories. In fact, at least one Pesach haggadah that is widely used by American Jews, A Different Night, includes the African-American spiritual “Let My People Go,” a discussion of “Black Moses” Harriet Tubman, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and the Civil Rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.” Maybe Carty’s been going to Pesach with the wrong crowd.

Nor is it accurate that Black people “haven’t had their histories honored.” The United States has two federal holidays, Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth, honoring Black history. In contrast, there are zero federal holidays honoring Jewish history. Maybe you can make a case for Saturday’s inclusion as part of the weekend, but that’s more Jewish religion or civilization than history.

The inaccuracy extends not only to the specific claims about Pesach but to the entire premise of the Times article, which is that the “Black-Jewish alliance within the civil rights movement” frayed and has now been replaced: “a new bond between Black and Jewish activists has emerged, catalyzed, in part, by the confluence of civil rights protests and attention to the Palestinian plight.”

That’s false, too. First, the “Black-Jewish alliance within the civil rights movement,” in its best days, while significant, powerful, and praiseworthy, was never universal. There were some Jews in both the North and the South who were reluctant to push for integration, especially if it involved their own neighborhood or schools. And there were some Blacks who were antisemites. The Times article misses that nuance, instead establishing a straw man.

Second, there’s a lot of black-Jewish cooperation happening—largely unreported by the New York Times—in defending Israel and American Jews after the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack. Democratic congressman Hakeem Jeffries spoke strongly in support of Israel and against Jew-hate at the pro-Israel rally in Washington DC on November 14. So did Van Jones. Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina has been a stalwart, as has the lieutenant governor of Virginia, Winsome Earle-Sears. The Yeshiva University, University of Notre Dame, and Brandeis “We Stand Together With Israel Against Hamas” statement was also signed by the United Negro College Fund and many historically Black colleges and universities.

Finally, plenty of young Jews are pro-Israel. A lot of them were at that November 14 rally in Washington. The Times prefers to focus on the young Jews who abhor Israel or who are activists for Palestinian causes, but that tells much more about the Times and its readership than it does about the reality of the American Jewish community.

To sum up: what’s really happening, big picture, is that lots of blacks and Jews, including young ones, are supporting Israel against Hamas. The Times chooses to ignore that news and focus instead on that there are some blacks and Jews who don’t like Israel and have minor differences among each other.

The online version of the Times article now carries a single small correction: “A correction was made on Jan. 23, 2024. An earlier version of this article misstated the number of people killed in Gaza as of mid-October. It was around 3,500, not many thousands.” If the Times had any integrity, it would correct the entire story: “This entire article was based on a false premise generalized wildly from a few unrepresentative anecdotes.”

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. 

(c) The Algemeiner Journal

Source: Matzav

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