Today, much of the Jewish media is more unreliable than ever and certainly displays only a fraction of the ethics or quality seen even five years ago. Enterprise journalism is almost gone from many pages. As one who has written for Jewish publications for almost half a century, I have seen the best editors quietly retire over the horizon, and some of the finest newspapers fold in a sudden poof as the techno-economic realities that buffet all newspapers globally also squeeze the life out of the Jewish media.
The ones remaining standing are too often arrogant with those they serve. Too often, they are highly-politicized, frequently taking the case against Israel and unconscionably filtering the news their readers receive, lest it disturb the adopted narrative undermining Israel and its true history. These publications are more than happy to abdicate the fuller story to the new crop of energized and excellent electronic Jewish outlets such as The Algemeiner and the Times of Israel, and the few printed ironmen left, such as the Long Island Jewish World. The more often you are emailed for donations claiming “we tell both sides” or “we report all sides,” the more quickly you should suspect the journalism — the dollar appeal.
The ethical lapse is all the more confounded by a lack of the type of deep historical knowledge that studious and devoted Jewish editors considered an indispensable qualification for the job. The Jews are products of history and always move forward glancing over their shoulders. History chases us all. We need to understand the present tense in the context of our past tense.
In this rising tide of journalistic mediocrity, I see a stalwart that continues a bold tradition that I have been personally associated with for decades. That stalwart is the Washington Jewish Week. This publication has never failed to show the moxie, the devotion to journalistic integrity, and clear thinking to accomplish the job of serving their community.
It was in WJW that I first wrote about IBM’s involvement in organizing the Holocaust, about GM’s motorization of the Third Reich, about the Ford Motor Co.’s pivotal support for Adolf Hitler, about the Rockefeller Foundation’s involvement with Mengele in Auschwitz, about the design of Iran’s nuclear warhead, about the Ford Foundation’s vast funding for anti-Jewish and anti-Israel groups, and more recently about the involvement of the New Israel Fund in financing BDS, and Palestinian terrorists receiving salaries.
WJW, now affiliated with a group of other leading Jewish publications, has also shown the savvy needed to grab onto the fast-moving digital revolution driving all communications. One look at its website reveals an effervescent publication that wants to captivate.
When I look at a Jewish newspaper, I look not only at our future, I look at our past. The constellation of threats and celebrations, the gamut of disconsolation and enjoyment that confronts the Jewish community — these topics will fade from sight unless consistently explored and reported by a publication that is committed to these stories even when the Washington Post or New York Times does not do that. The major newspapers serve all communities, not just the Jews. Our torch must be carried by our Jewish media. No one else will.
As a historian who has plumbed the role of Jewish publications throughout the 20th century, I know all too painfully that when that next emergency occurs, we will turn to our own to report, explain, and fight for truth. Make no mistake, the bad times are returning for Jews worldwide.
For those who think afflicting Jews and afflicting Israel are separable afflictions, just remember that more than half of all Jews worldwide live in Israel and some 70 percent of Jews have close ties to or relatives in Israel. Jews get it. Israel, the national expression of the Jewish people, is attacked as a political target first. Then Jews are attacked as individuals, identified solely by their faith, as they were earlier this year in South Africa, where BDS agitators demanded all Jews be expelled from their university, and a few months ago in Los Angeles, where a UCLA student body challenged and rejected an applicant for a juridical post solely because she was Jewish, a decision they later reversed.
We need strong Jewish publications that are honest, that are ethically driven by the noble calling of journalism — not just the incessant call for undeserved donations — and that banish their bias and politics, especially when it comes to Israel. And we need publications that understand that there will come a time when the protective light overhead may suddenly go out. When that moment arrives, Jews will strike a match, touch it to a candle, and look for information in a Jewish newspaper. That’s how it’s unfortunately been through modern history. For now, a few reliable ones remain, and the one closest to you is WJW.
The writer is a New York Times bestselling author and an award-winning journalist. His best-known book is IBM and the Holocaust.