Forward Thinking

On the Abunimah Story: It's Called Journalism

By Jane Eisner

  • Print
  • Share Share

Jonathan Tobin, senior online editor of Commentary magazine, writes. A lot. At least a lot of short, sharp blog posts on his magazine’s website in the unabashedly conservative style that has defined Commentary for decades. It’s an ideological publication, which holds to a point of view that certainly has its place in the firmament of Jewish media and ideas.

But it’s commentary, like its name. It’s not straight journalism.

I fear that the distinction may sometimes be lost on Tobin.

That’s the only explanation I can offer for his diatribe against my colleague J.J. Goldberg over his latest column, and his criticism of our profile of Ali Abunimah, published in the same issue of the Forward.

J.J. is a brilliant, seasoned journalist, who knows more about the history and dynamics of the American Jewish community than probably anyone in our profession, and I feel no need to dignify Tobin’s unfair criticisms with a response. But Tobin pointedly denigrates the Forward’s decision to profile Abunimah, and since that was my decision, I have to respond.

He calls the story a “puff piece” which is not only insulting, it’s wrong. Sharp criticism of Abunimah, the leading proponent of the “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was voiced early and often in that story, by credible leaders familiar with his work. It was a balanced and fine piece of story-telling.

But I don’t think that’s what really bothered Tobin. What bothered him was that we published the story at all and in doing so, paid attention to Abunimah and the boycott, sanction and divestment movement that he advocates.

As the kids would say — well, hello! For week we heard a sometimes-hysterical chorus of Jewish leaders who fussed and fussed before Abunimah’s speech at a conference in February at the University of Pennsylvania (which turned out to be a dud), and who have exaggerated the scope and importance of the BDS movement on college campuses around the country. We didn’t make this guy news.

You can’t have it both ways: If the BDS movement is so dangerous that it’s worth lots of time and money to combat, then journalists have a responsibility to cover it, critically but fairly. That’s what the Forward did, on our news pages. Our editorials, which I write, are unstintingly critical of BDS (contrary to Tobin’s characterization.) But we try mightily to present news stories in as fair and balanced a way as possible.

And the other way we are journalists is to seek out and publish opinion of differing points of view. In lambasting the Forward’s latest issue, Tobin picks on the Abunimah story and J.J.’s column. He neglects to mention an opinion piece published in that same issue by Alan Dershowitz (no BDS supporter he) that presented a view at odds with J.J.’s.

Perhaps he hadn’t yet turned the page.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: j.j. goldberg, commentary, ali abunimah, jonathan tobin

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.