John Podhoretz, Jane Eisner and the brouhaha at the 92Y


Tempest in an Upper East Side teapot: What happened last night at the 92Y that prompted Commentary editor John Podhoretz to storm off the stage in a stormy session about Israel that included Forward editor Jane Eisner, J Street leader Jeremy Ben-Ami and American Jewish Committee head David Harris?

The morning after we’ve got several different accounts:


It’s a bit of a blur, but this is what I remember — [Podhoretz] started wagging his finger at Ben-Ami in a manner at once threatening and condescending. That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down. Instead, Podhoretz angrily said that I raised my hand at him and stormed off the stage. Whoa.


Whatever I did, it was, to be sure, no more “threatening” than Eisner’s response, which was to put her hand up close to  me for the purposes of quieting me down. Eisner seems to think that when I spoke in objection to this gesture, which I did angrily, I was perhaps fearful she was going to attack me physically—which is the height of silliness. I was annoyed by the hostility of the crowd, one of whose number had shrieked at me, and I was troubled by Eisner’s effort to shush me.Bottom line: I’d had a long day and I didn’t see the point in spending more of it getting booed and shushed. So I left. So sue me.

Haaretz reporter Chemi Shalev, who was in the audience:

Based on the course of the debate, “being pro-Israel in America” means ideological chasms, professional rivalries, frayed nerves, inflamed tempers, one of the participants storming out in a huff and then exchanging barbs and insults on the internet with the moderator.

Even Gawker and The New York Times have weighed in.

Gawker: John Podhoretz Got Into Silly Fight About Whether He’s Scared of Girls

NYT: After an audience member asked the panelists’ opinions of the [American Studies Association] boycott vote, things went beyond the merely testy.

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