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The creepy Mr. Weiss

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Philip Weiss is creepy.

I mean, folks I know who know him say he’s pleasant enough in person, but that aside has never meant much to me; how he runs his publication (and Mondoweiss is a publication of influence) is utterly bereft of any ethical referent.

He makes the Jewish lives of reporters with whom he doesn’t agree/wants to damage fodder without explaining exactly what it has to do with, well, anything. I’ve outlined my own brush with his Stalinist techniques.

Now Lisa Goldman has taken him on in a twitter-war over his sliming of the redoubtable Isabel Kershner. Phil, something of a stalker, won’t let Lisa go. (He goads her into calling his post on Kershner anti-Semitic because he likes to wear that as a badge.) Not only that, he’s pissed that Kershner won’t respond to his billets-doux. (Lucky I’m not a woman, I guess, my Weiss-by might have been that much worse.)

His claim is that because Kershner and Ethan Bronner are Jewish and Israeli or married to an Israeli, and because they constitute the sum total of the Times’ conflict coverage (which might come as a surprise to Taghreed el-Khodary), and that because his blog has proven that the Times coverage is not balanced, two and two and two make five.

He challenges Goldman to review his past critiques of Kershner in response to her claim that he makes more of her ethnicity and nationality than he does of her writing.

I’ve reviewed a few of these, and it’s clear that Weiss is either a) deliberately malicious or b) clueless about what it means to, you know, report. (Yes, There’s always c), both.)

A lot of his past Kershner filings have to do with his obsessions about whom she’s married to, what passport she carries, and kind of make Goldman’s point. When he does address her work, he makes much of her use of language. Like I said, this is either dumb or malicious (or c!) and his questionable claims are beside the point.  No New York Times writer is able to resist the copy desk and style book, especially a local hire. (I’ve spoken to the paper’s stars, and even they are helpless before the language mavens.) The choices Weiss derides are those of the desk in New York, made by the editors or by Isabel in anticipation of edits.

So, yes, his problem with Isabel is definitely in her last name, and what she allowed a guy with a beard to do to her son on his eighth day of life.

But the tweet I find kind of amazing is this:

@lisang How so?Is it not relevant that both Times reporters have close ties to Israel?Can you imagine the response if they were Palestinian?

Well, I can, and I’ve witnessed it, and it’s disgusting and I’ve rebuked those who make the case that Palestinians are inherently biased, in public, most recently at the Jewish Federations General Assembly, on a panel I moderated. 

And major news organizations, like the Times, like AP, like Reuters, like AFP, to their credit, are oblivious to the imprecations of the likes of, well, Weiss and continue to employ Palestinians and Jews.

I would have ignored this except I attended a profoundly moving talk today by two coordinators of the Parents Circle, the  group that brings together Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members to the conflict. The talk was hosted by Americans for Peace Now.

I’ll have more to say about what speakers Robi Damelin and Mazen Faraj had to say; suffice for now to say that Damelin, whose son was shot to death by a sniper in 2002, and Faraj, whose father was shot to death by Israeli soldiers the same year, were the embodiment of dugma ishit*, the principle of making an example of oneself. Their very commitment to dialogue is a rebuke to the likes of Weiss and other Monday morning bloodletting quaterbacks.

But there was one story Damelin related that I must share: She spoke of going to Britain with Faraj, and making their case at the House of Lords. Prior to the session, they were handed a sheet noting the Lords who would be attending: "Friends of Israel" on one side and "Friends of Palestine" on the other, with "pictures, noch." (I have missed this Yiddish emphatic, and it was nice to hear.)

So in marched the Lords and sure enough they sat separately — the Palestine lovers on one side, the Israel-lovers on the other.

She abandoned her prepared talk and instead rebuked them: "If you can’t get along, don’t be part of the problem," she said.

"Do you think 7 million Jews are going to disappear in a puff of smoke?" she asked the Palestine lovers. "Do you think that 3 and a half million Palestinians are going to disappear in a puff of smoke?" she asked the Israel lovers.

And what worried her most — and Faraj nodded at this — was less the impact of these bozos on the Israel-Palestine conflict than how their obtuseness poisoned relations between British Jews and Muslims.

Some of us take this conflict very seriously indeed. Some of us very much want people to stop dying. Because we know and love people on both sides and sometimes stay awake wondering if they’re okay.

This is trying enough. To those with an onanistic obsession with identity, I’d like to echo Damelin: Don’t be part of the problem.

*Tweeter Jews Sans Frontiere happily caught this.

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