[MAJOR UPDATE: The Coordinating Forum for Countering Antisemitism has apparently decided that Ira Stoll is not an anti-Semite, since the information has been removed from its Web site. Still, in the interest of focusing attention on the "How does such a thing happen?" question, please read on.]
Ira Stoll — formerly of the Lipsky-era Forward, N.Y. Sun, Jerusalem Post — is a journalistic pitbull. I’ve heard fans describe him as an unrelenting defender of the Jews, Israel, etc. I’ve heard critics dismiss him as just another neocon who cries anti-Semitism too much. And then there’s the people who think both descriptions are true.
But one thing you don’t expect is to hear someone accuse Stoll of being an anti-Semite. Yet there Stoll is, sitting in the rogues gallery at the Web site of The Coordinating Forum for Countering Antisemitism, which bills itself as a state forum whose members include several Israeli ministries, the Prime Minister’s Office, Jewish Agency, World Jewish Congress, B’nai B’rith and the Anti-Defamation League.
At issue is a post that Stoll put up at his new blog FutureOfCapitalism.com, suggesting that the reason Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain are having such bad financial troubles right now is a shortage of Jews:
This is only a half-serious explanation, prompted in part by the idea that observant Jews don’t eat PIGS, anyway. There are historically contingent explanations of the paucity of Jews in each country — most famously, Spain expelled its Jews in 1492, while the Jewish population of Greece was almost entirely wiped out in the Holocaust. I’m not saying it’s the only explanation, or that, if these countries had more Jews, they wouldn’t still be in trouble. But it’s the sort of thing that could stand some further research and analysis, no? …
Apparently the post raised alarms with someone at the anti-Semitism forum, who proceeded to red flag Stoll on the Web site.
Stoll subsequently sent a letter to the forum, which he also posted to his new blog:
Dear Sir or Madam:
It has come to my attention that you have listed an article I wrote as an "anti-Semitic event."
I am an observant Jew and a lover of Jews and Israel. You may check me out with Abe Foxman or Natan Sharansky or Malcolm Hoenlein or any number of other prominent American Jews or Israelis.
What I was trying to suggest in the article is that Jews are good for a country’s economy, as is creating conditions in which Jews and other minorities feel welcome. I don’t think that’s anti-Semitic. If you do, I’d be happy to discuss it with you. If you have questions please feel free to contact me in Brooklyn at 718 XXX XXXX or by email at the address above.
Please remove the article and my photograph from the list of anti-Semitic incidents, as I think it’s unfair to lump me together with genuine violent anti-Semites. In fact, it only hurts a serious effort to fight anti-Semitism, which is a real problem, to lump an article like mine in with genuine Jew haters.
Compounding the weirdness/irony of all this is the column Stoll wrote back in April 2009 about the possibility that the U.S. economic crisis would fuel anti-Semitism.
A final piece of advice: I know it’s not up there with Iranian nukes, the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, Goldstone report, but maybe someone over in Israel might want to straighten this out.
First off, it’s beyond ludicrous, and rather alarming that an arm of the Israeli government goes around arbitrarily branding people as engaging in anti-Semitism -without a word of warning or opportunity for one to defend himself. On a more pragmatic level: The last thing you need is a journalist like Stoll clued into the fact that tax-payer money is being wasted on such ludicrousness.
UPDATE: Being unfairly accused of engaging in anti-Semitism entitles you to a book plug. In addition to his journalistic credits, Stoll is also the author of "Samuel Adams: A Life."