Top Jewish Historian on Glenn Beck's Jewish Problem

On Saturday night, CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked someone on the scene in Tucson if anti-Semitism played any role in Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' shooting. His response was "no." It is well known that Giffords is Jewish, but anti-Semitism per se did not seem to be a contributing factor in the shooting of Giffords and 17 other victims in front of a Tucson shopping center.

That seems right, although all weekend I received emails from Jews indicating a special fear that, on some level, anti-Semitism played a part in Saturday's events. This is probably nothing more than the natural response of any minority group to an attack on a very prominent member of the community.

JFK was clearly not killed because he was Roman Catholic, but most Catholics I knew back then believed that there was something particularly unsettling about the murder of the first Catholic president.

Muslims also were particularly unsettled by the Tucson shooting. They are aware that when incidents of this kind occur, they are invariably the first people to come under suspicion. (Remember when terrorism "investigator" Steve Emerson blamed Muslims for the Oklahoma bombing within hours of the explosion, before learning it was perpetrated by a right-wing extremist?)

Muslims are also upset that the word "terrorism" is not being used about the Tucson massacre when it certainly would be applied if the "lone" shooter was named Ahmed and not Jared.

Also, Jews and Muslims are both very nervous about the increasing prevalence of religious, racial and ethnic prejudice in this country. For instance, Think Progress reported in December about efforts by far-right elements in the Texas Republican Party to prevent a Jewish Republican, Joe Straus, from continuing on as speaker of the Texas House of Representatives.

...the Texas Observer's Abby Rapoport reported that she had obtained an email exchange between two members of the Texas State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) — Rebecca Williamson and John Cook. "We elected a house with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it," Cook said in one of the emails.

In the end Joe Straus got the job, but Jewish Texans were shaken up by the effort to make his faith an issue, which seems like a throwback to the days when the KKK was such a potent force in Texas politics.

The anti-Semitism of a few GOP officials in Texas is, of course, small potatoes compared to the creepy anti-Jewish spewing of Fox News' Glenn Beck, whose audience numbers in the many millions on television and radio.

I have written about my concern that the Jewish community was not paying enough attention to Beck because he cleverly covers his tracks by professing his "love" for Israel. (Virtually all anti-Semites these days understand that expressing "love" for the Jewish state gives them a relatively free pass to bash Jews and even to use Nazi themes against them.)

But Beck's pass is about to be shredded.

On January 7, Deborah Lipstadt, the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies at Emory, wrote a piece in London's Jewish Chronicle calling for British officials to consider the attitudes of Beck and Fox News President Roger Ailes toward Jews before they permit Rupert Murdoch, the president of Fox, to expand his media holdings in the United Kingdom.

Excuse me for printing this long excerpt from Lipstadt but she is uniquely credible on this issue.

Lipstadt is best known because of her 2005 legal victory against Holocaust denier and Hitler apologist David Irving. Irving, a prominent British historian, sued Lipstadt under the libel laws for calling him a Holocaust denier in her book, Holocaust Denial.

Against the advice of lawyers who told her that it was near impossible to defend against a libel suit in the UK, Lipstadt fought back hard. She moved to London, prepared for a trial where she would have to back up every one of her assertions against a prominent historian, stared down neo-fascists who followed her everywhere, and won.

The presiding judge produced a 334-page judgment declaring that nothing Lipstadt said was libelous and, in fact, Irving was a Holocaust denier and a distorter of history. His career went down in flames and, ever since, the Holocaust-denial industry has struggled under the burden laid on by Lipstadt and the trial that vindicated her. (Lipstadt's memoir of the trial is here.)

Today, the fearless Lipstadt is a leading expert on what constitutes anti-Semitism and what doesn't. She is also, for the record, staunchly pro-Israel.

Here is Lipstadt on Beck and Fox:

Beck regularly professes his deep love for Israel and has a history of using Holocaust analogies to attack those with whom he disagrees — anyone to the left of him. He accuses his opponents of laying the groundwork for a fascist state. Last summer, Jewish Funds for Justice, a progressive group, criticised Beck's opposition to the campaign for social justice. The head of the organisation, Simon Greer, argued that "to put God first is to put humankind first, and to put humankind first is to put the common good first." Beck responded that this world-view "leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany. Put humankind and the common good first."

But this was surpassed by Beck a few months later when he ran a three-part series on George Soros, entitled The Puppet Master. Complete with images of demonic-looking Jewish stars, Beck attacked Soros for supposedly trying to take over the world. Soros, Beck claimed, "makes predictions, and his loyal followers make sure they come true." Soros's goal, Beck charged, was a "one-world government, the end of America's status as the prevailing world power." He excoriated Soros's efforts to change the governmental systems in Hungary, Georgia, Czechoslovakia and Ukraine, failing to point out that, in each country, Soros was trying to help democratic government gain a foothold.

Many people found Beck's reference to Soros's experiences during the Holocaust particularly egregious. Soros's parents had hidden him with a non-Jew who worked for the Hungarian ministry of agriculture.

On one occasion, the man took Soros with him when he made an inventory of the contents of a home of wealthy Jews who had been deported. Apparently, Soros spent the time riding a horse on the property. This is how Beck described it: "And George Soros used to go around with this anti-Semite and deliver papers to the Jews and confiscate their property and then ship them off. He would help confiscate the stuff. It was frightening...

"Here's a Jewish boy," Beck concluded, "helping send the Jews to the death camps." This charge echoes a classic anti-Semitic motif: Jews will oppress their own if it is to their advantage to do so. J. J. Goldberg of Forward described it as the closest thing he had heard to fascism on mainstream television.

Lipstadt ends her piece by noting that Rupert Murdoch recently made a "stirring pro-Israel speech to the Anti-Defamation League" (and also is generous to "pro-Israel" causes). But, Lipstadt argues, one thing has nothing to do with the other. Before the Brits approve any more Murdoch attempts to buy up media outlets, she wants them to keep Beck's and Ailes' attitudes toward Jews in mind.

The same should apply to anyone who considers advertising on Fox or even watching it. So long as it employs Ailes and Beck, it is not kosher. Period.