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Rick Sanchez, Helen Thomas, Octavia Nasr—Reverse Anti-Semitism?

Palestine Note / New America Media, Commentary, Ray Hanania

There was a time when Jews were hated more than any other people. They were targeted by anti-Semitism and they knew what it was like to be hated.

But these days, I wonder if Jews have forgotten what it is like to be the target of hatred and victimized by government, society and the media.

Why do I say that? Well, in the past six months I’ve watched as three high-profile journalists had their careers destroyed because of comments they made that were perceived as being critical of Jews.

Helen Thomas, the renowned journalist and dean of the White House Press corps, was fired by Hearst Newspapers when she responded with abrasive comments about Israel to an activist rabbi with a history of bigotry and racism.

Octavia Nasr, the esteemed former CNN Middle East specialist and anchor, who sent out a Twitter post expressing sadness at the death of Sheik Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, a founder of the Hezbollah movement.

And now, Rick Sanchez, who seemed to be joking about what he perceived was Jewish influence in the American media.

In each case, leaders of the American Jewish community and the Israeli press jumped all over the journalists, who  were fired almost immediately. All were accused of being anti-Semitic or of supporting anti-Israel causes.

Yet in each case, the circumstances of the alleged offenses were exaggerated, but the exaggerations were accepted as fact by the mainstream American media and public.

Thomas was accused of making anti-Semitic comments. It was inaccurately reported that Thomas had said that the “Jews” should go back to Germany. Of course, Germany is where 6 million Jews were murdered during the Nazi reign over Europe and World War II.

The truth was that the rabbi who asked the question, a notorious racist with an anti-Arab political agenda, had asked Thomas what she thought “Israel” should do. Thomas responded, “Get the hell out of Palestine.”

But to most Jews and Israelis, the word “Palestine” is a swear word. Just hearing it must have enraged the racist rabbi who pestered Thomas with more questions about “Israel.”

Thomas never used the word “Jew” or “Jews,” but in media reports and her public scolding, the word was inserted.

Criticizing Israel is political. Criticizing a race or religion is racism, and in the case of Jews, anti-Semitic. The difference was ignored as Jews around the world celebrated, danced and handed out candy in celebration of the demise of Thomas, who had insisted on asking every president she covered about the plight of the Palestinians.

Nasr, who is Lebanese Christian, is considered very conservative.—not particularly a fan of the Palestinians nor particularly a critic of Israel. Yet that didn’t matter. Her expression of sadness in a Twitter post of under 140 characters (about 25 words) reflected sympathy for a founder of Hezbollah. And Hezbollah is Israel’s arch-enemy, the only organization that responded to Israeli missile attacks against Lebanese civilians with missile attacks against Israeli civilians.

Israelis are not used to being mistreated the way they often mistreat the rest of the world. Israeli has killed more innocent civilians in the Middle East conflict than Jews have been killed by Arabs or Iranians.

But that doesn’t matter.

All that matters is that a high-profile American-Arab journalist who, despite her leanings towards Israel, was not pro-Israel enough. And in offering any kind of praise of Hezbollah, she crossed the Israeli demarcation line.

Now comes Rick Sanchez, the Cuban-American TV talk show host on CNN. Sanchez was commenting on Jon Stewart, who happens to be Jewish and lampoons everyone, including Arabs, mercilessly.

Playing Stewart’s game, Sanchez was being interviewed on a Sirius/XM satellite radio program hosted by Pete Dominick. They got to talking about Stewart, and Sanchez called him a “bigot,” but later backed down and said Stewart was just “prejudicial” and “uninformed.”

When asked if Stewart was the member of a privileged minority group, Sanchez laughed, scoffing at the idea that Jews are a minority. He then alluded to the fact that there are many Jews working in prominent positions in the mainstream American news media.

Had Sanchez been talking about blacks or Hispanics or Asians, or even Arabs, the remarks probably would have gone unnoticed. But Sanchez spoke about the Jews in the same context of media.

There is an old canard that “the Jews control the American media.”

IIt’s a false stereotype–just not true. But some minorities, especially Arabs, who have so few of their own in the American mainstream media, often explain the reason for the media’s excessively anti-Arab views as resulting from “Jewish influence” or control.

It’s especially frustrating, then, when the few high-profile mainstream journalists who can claim Middle-East ancestry are hounded out of their jobs over false accusations of anti-Semitism. Now it’s happening with journalists, like Sanchez, who aren’t Arab.

Bash Arabs all you want—it’s okay. Criticize blacks, even, and when blacks respond, it’s called “reverse racism.” Question the loyalty and citizenship status of Hispanics, and it is considered a powerful argument for immigration reform.

But make a joke about a Jewish comedian who makes jokes about everyone else, and well, that’s a career ender.

I’d be ashamed if I were Jewish that the lessons of once having been the victims of this kind of persecution is now the benchmark for how Jewish Americans and Israelis judge those they disagree with.

Sure, Helen Thomas went too far. But is she really anti-Semitic? It was her only such outburst in a journalism career that spanned more than 57 years?

Does Octavia Nasr really support Hezbollah, or was it a human reaction to the death of a man who mellowed in his later years and who had distanced himself from Hezbollah?

Poor Rick Sanchez, a Cuban-American journalist who fell into the hypocritical muddle of the reality of the Middle East conflict, singled out and fired for criticizing a Jewish journalist and referencing the journalist’s religion. Had he been Steve Martin serving as the co-emcee at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards this past May, making jokes about how Jews control the Hollywood movie industry, Sanchez probably would have been celebrated and promoted to succeed Larry King.

Anti-Semitism is wrong. But reverse anti-Semitism, well, that doesn’t have a convenient word that can describe what’s taking place in this country today.

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