James North and Philip Weiss write in Mondoweiss, February 10, 2019
Three weeks ago the New York Times ran a bombshell opinion piece off the front page of its Week in Review. Michelle Alexander, the professor and social activist who changed the paradigm on the wholesale incarceration of black men (the new Jim Crow), wrote that she was at last breaking her silence on Israel and Palestine, and risking the career consequences that have stopped many progressives from calling apartheid apartheid. The piece did more to animate the progressive discussion of Palestine than any other intervention in memory. It drew fiery attacks from the Israel lobby.
That piece followed Michelle Goldberg’s strong opinion piece of two months back saying that anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism, acknowledging that the two-state solution is over, and all but calling for equal rights for all in one state. Goldberg has since joined Alexander in describing a progressive “taboo” on documenting Palestinian persecution in the U.S. mainstream: “I feel like it’s very difficult to speak kind of rationally and forthrightly about real human rights abuses in the West Bank.”
Perhaps the Times hierarchy got scared by the huge response to Alexander and Goldberg. The editors surely feel that they have to give equal space to a rebuttal; and today Bret Stephens counters the two columnists in a long piece that aims to prevent mainstream progressives, the “not-so-far-left,” from adopting anti-Zionism because it is, he says, anti-Semitism.
Stephens’s article is an earnest attempt to diminish Palestinian demands and paint anyone who stands up for them as an anti-Semite. It is titled, “The Progressive Assault on Israel: A movement that can detect a racist dog-whistle from miles away is strangely deaf when it comes to some of the barking on its own side of the fence,” and it is riddled with erroneous framings. But while at first blush it looks like more pro-Israel propaganda, Stephens’s article is actually very good, because it will get more people talking about important issues.