Last night, Rupert Murdoch tweeted, “Why Is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?” Factually, the allegation is absurd. If you define “anti-Israel” as hostility not merely to one particular Israeli policy or leader, but to Israel itself, then there’s zero evidence that, say, The New York Times has been “anti-Israel” even in its coverage of the current Gaza War, let alone “every crisis” Israel has ever been involved in.
But Murdoch’s tweet is more than just dumb. It’s also offensive, both to journalists and Jews.
It’s offensive to journalists, because it implies that institutions of the “press” should reflect the ideological biases of their owners. Reading Murdoch’s tweet, it would be logical to conclude that he believes that any newspaper he owns should reflect his right-wing views, even in its news coverage. The Federal Communications Commission might want to consider that when evaluating Murdoch’s reported bid to buy the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.
Murdoch’s tweet is offensive to Jews, because he’s suggesting that when it comes to Israel, media owners who are Jews should let their Jewishness guide their journalism. In the last couple of years, some on the left have gotten into trouble for using the phrase “Israel firster,” thus implying that some American Jews place loyalty to Israel above individual conscience or loyalty to the United States. Murdoch seems upset that Jewish media owners are not Israel firsters. He wants their tribal loyalty to a Jewish state to trump their professional obligation to oversee fair-minded, unbiased journalism.
As a smart friend points out, Murdoch’s tweet is the equivalent of saying “Why don’t Jewish bankers loan more money to Jews?” What’s offensive is the suggestion that Jewish bankers should make professional decisions not as bankers, but as Jews.
The twist, of course, is that Murdoch is upset at Jewish media owners for not favoring Israel. It’s possible, therefore, to read his tweet as a backhanded acknowledgment that Jewish media owners do act according to professional obligation, not tribal loyalty. That, however, would be too charitable. Had Murdoch merely observed that the “Jewish owned press” isn’t “consistently” pro-Israel, the implication might be that, true to journalistic obligation, Jewish media owners let their reporters follow the facts wherever they lead.
But Murdoch said something different: that the “Jewish owned press” is “consistently” anti-Israel. The implication is that Jewish media owners do indeed let their Jewishness define their Israel coverage. That’s why the coverage is “consistently” anti-Israel in “in every crisis.” It’s just that, journalistically, their Jewishness expresses itself as hostility toward Israel.
Why? Murdoch doesn’t say, but given that he has publicly equated hostility toward Israel with anti-Semitism, the best guess is that he’s implying that these “anti-Israel” media owners are Jewish anti-Semites. In other words, self-hating Jews.
Give Murdoch credit: He’s packed a remarkable amount of idiocy and nastiness into 140 characters. It will take a lot more space than that to dig himself out.