New York Times Embroiled in Anti-Semitism Spat

The New York Times has become embroiled in a row over the use of anti-Semitic tropes following a column by Maureen Dowd focused on the role of neo-conservatives in the Republican election campaign. Dowd wrote (emphasis added):

Ryan was moving his mouth, but the voice was the neocon puppet master Dan Senor. The hawkish Romney adviser has been secunded to manage the running mate and graft a Manichaean worldview onto the foreign affairs neophyte.

The Politico website reports:

Dowd fairly observed that neither Mitt Romney nor Paul Ryan are experts in the field of foreign policy, but asserted their strategy was orchestrated by a “neocon puppet master” who was leading the neocon effort to “slither back” into power.

Such language, to say nothing of the questionable legitimacy of her claims, struck experts on American-Israeli relations as an inappropriate (though perhaps unintentional) appeal to anti-Semitic stereotypes, and especially offensive ahead of the first night of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.

“Dowd’s use of anti-Semitic imagery is awful,” Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote on Twitter.

“Maureen may not know this, but she is peddling an old stereotype, that gentile leaders are dolts unable to resist the machinations and manipulations of clever and snake-like Jews,” Jeffrey Goldberg, the Atlantic columnist and leading journalist on Israeli issues, wrote.

“[A]mazing that apparently nobody sat her down and said, this is not OK,” Blake Hounshell, the managing editor of Foreign Policy magazine, tweeted.

On the right, The Weekly Standard’s Daniel Halper called it “outrageous,” while Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin described it as “particularly creepy.”

“Dowd’s column marks yet another step down into the pit of hate-mongering that has become all too common at the Times,” Tobin wrote. “This is a tipping point that should alarm even the most stalwart liberal Jewish supporters of the president.”

It is irrelevant whether one sympathizes with Republicans or Democrats – the use of anti-Semitic tropes is unacceptable whatever one’s political beliefs. It is entirely possible and indeed probable that Maureen Dowd did not intend her comments to be viewed as anti-Semitic. Nonetheless, it is a disturbing sign, both that such language has entered the body politic and that the New York Times did not recognize the problem before Dowd was published.