The Riverdale Press, the community newspaper in the heavily-Jewish Riverdale area of the Bronx, continues to prominently feature anti-Israel columns by a writer whose overriding long-term theme extends beyond criticism of particular Israeli governments or specific Israeli actions, to a rejection of the entire Jewish-state enterprise.
The writer, a local Jewish resident obsessed with his loathing of Israel, is dismissive of the notion that demonizing the Jewish state may fairly be interpreted as an expression of antisemitism (a term he defines as “hostility to Jewish people for just being Jewish”).
“There is antisemitism in this country, but it is almost exclusively on the right,” Peter Wolf writes. “The murderers of Jews are almost exclusively right-wing white supremacists.”
“As for the left,” Wolf continues, “there is an underlying reason why it is not antisemitic. The foundational value on the left is a basic humanism — the equal worth of all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, etc. Reducing inequality and suffering, especially among those suffering the most.“ (Really?)
Those who publish Jew-hatred are not themselves necessarily antisemitic — certainly the editors of The Riverdale Press are not antisemitic — they simply may not fully understand the implications or underlying meaning of some of the content they post.
• • •
Letter to Gary Larkin, editor, and Michael Hinman, executive editor, of The Riverdale Press:
Maybe Peter Wolf (“Just who are you calling an antisemite in all this?,” Sept. 14 Riverdale Press) hates Jews, maybe not.
What is certain is this: His years-long campaign in The Riverdale Press spreads lies about Jews and the Jewish state. It hides the endgame of those who seek to annihilate the Jewish state and destroy Jewish national identity (and not simply purify a particular Israeli government).
It would be unexceptional if Wolf’s poison was floating in the flotsam and jetsam of the online cesspool where such thoughts are too common. But given prominent placement in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Riverdale Press, his slander carries unmerited credulity.
If Wolf targeted another marginalized group — for instance, people who are Black, LGBTQIA+, AANHPI, Latino, or others — perhaps someone at The Riverdale Press would have thought better of platforming his disinformation and group-directed hate rather than continuing to promote it over many years.
Given the widely reported spike in expressions of antisemitism and accompanying antisemitic violence, we expect that mainstream media, including our hometown newspaper, would have gotten the message and avoid unnecessarily platforming such hate.
• • •
What is Zionism? It is the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.
The pursuit of national liberation and the settlement of a historic homeland is often applauded for others (including Palestinians). But not for Jews! Thus, to repudiate Zionism — to reject the Jewish nation’s right to its home while approving this right for others — may properly be viewed as an expression of antisemitism.
The widely-accepted definition of antisemitism by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) states that “manifestations [of antisemitism] might include the targeting of the state of Israel” when Israel alone is criticized for actions commonly taken by other nation-states.
And that such manifestations include:
“•Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
“•Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
“•Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
“•Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
“•Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.”
• • •
To be a Zionist does NOT require agreement with a particular Israeli government. And to oppose an Israeli government or its actions is NOT the same thing as opposing Zionism (proof of point: the hundreds of thousands of ZIONISTS in Israel who have been marching against the Netanyahu regime).
I wish everyone, including Peter Wolf, increased wisdom — along with good health, happiness and peace — in the new year.
The Jewish Star and Riverdale Press are both owned by Richner Communications, publisher of Long Island’s Herald newspapers. The Jewish Star shares a NYC office with the Riverdale Press.
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