NRA dog whistles? Israeli paper's charges have impacted American Jewish debate on guns

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The recent Florida school shooting has propelled the gun issue to the forefront of the American political drama. It's also grabbed considerable attention in Israel -- providing a lesson in how news outlets with international followings can quickly influence distant debates in our online age.

It also casts light on how a diaspora population -- in this case American Jews -- can be moved by media opinion originating in a nation, despite its distance, with which they have an historical religious or ethnic bond.

So just how did Israeli media become part of the American gun control debate?

Electrifying charges have been appearing in Israeli news media claiming that the National Rifle Association, and its Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre in particular, has subtlety employed anti-Semitic code language to rally pro-gun partisans.

Israel’s leading liberal newspaper Haaretz has led the way.

Two of its columnists, as of this writing, have bluntly asserted that LaPierre used subtle anti-Semitic language -- “dog whistles” is the common term -- in his speech at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference gathering.

Let me stress: No such charges of NRA anti-Semitism has shown up in mainstream American media reports on LaPierre’s speech.

That's understandable. Mainstream American media are loath to cast such dispersions unless it's blatantly obvious, which in this case cannot be stated unequivocally. Here, for example, is how The New York Times played the story.

American Jewish media are another matter. They display the same sensitivity toward hints of anti-Semitism as their Israeli counterparts. Within a news cycle or two after the Haaretz columns appeared, similar pieces started to appear in liberal American Jewish media.

Some background.

It's easy for many Jews to detect even subtle anti-Semitism after centuries of overt Jew-blaming and killing. Plus, American Jews, are general liberal on domestic issues, vote Democratic, and overwhelmingly favor tougher gun controls.

Also, it's not as if fervent pro-gun activists haven't previously accused Jews of driving the gun control side of the debate. White nationalist websites -- while not speaking for the NRA -- have repeated blamed Jews for wanting to limit Second Amendment gun rights.

There's also this 2010 tweet sent by NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch that hints at her own -- let's call them questionable -- feelings toward Jews. Yes, 2010.

 Haaretz published this, too, and apparently before anyone else did this go round. 

National Rifle Association spokeswoman Dana Loesch came under fire on Twitter after a 2010 tweet of hers began to resurface on the social media platform. The October 2010 tweet from Loesch read, "I bet Rick Sanchez was fired by a Jew." Loesch was responding to CNN's firing of the daytime anchor a day after telling a radio interviewer that Jon Stewart was a bigot and that “everybody that runs CNN is a lot like Stewart.”
"Her context is to minimize firing of a bigot to a revenge act ... and to post an antisemitic libel about Jews having power," one twitter user replied Monday to the original tweet. While another user wrote in response, "Why do you care if someone is Jewish or not?" and another asked in all seriousness, "Wait, this is a satire profile, right?"

Haaretz publishes in Hebrew and English and Its website is a must read for Jewish elites in the United States and around the world. That means the opinions it airs are shared broadly.

I should note that it also staunchly opposes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and that it sees his closeness with President Donald Trump as a threat to the Jewish state and any future accommodation leading to peace with the Palestinians.

Liberal though it may be, however, it’s first and foremost a Jewish Israeli outlet, and as virtually all such outlets do, it endeavors to call out anti-Semitism wherever it thinks it exists. This is particularly so in a time of rising anti-Semitism in some European nations, in the Muslim world, and even the U.S.

So even before LaPierre’s speech, one Haaretz  writer labeled the Florida shooting itself an anti-Semitic act.

The writer based her opinion on shooter Nickolas Cruz’ past anti-Semitic social media statements and the large Jewish student population (about 40%, according to reports) at Stoneman Douglas High School, where the shooting took place.

Haaretz published two more op-eds calling out the NRA for alleged anti-Semitism. Click here and then click here.

Here are the facts being discussed. The writers based their assertions, among other things, in LaPierre’s directly naming only Jews who back gun control -- including Sens. Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer, ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, financier George Soros -- in his CPAC speech.

They also pointed to his mentioning community organizer Saul Alinsky and Karl Marx, the early socialist and communist ideologue. Marx was born a Jew but converted to Christianity, along with the rest of his family for economic reasons, while still a child.

Please click on the links above for a deeper understanding of their assertions. You can also find a video of LaPierre talking at the CPAC at the NRA website; access it by clicking here.

Finally, here are two pieces on the anti-Semitism charge published in American Jewish media.

This first one, from the leading liberal American Jewish outlet, the Forward, supports the allegation. The second, from the right-leaning Jewish News Service -- funded in large part by American Jewish casino magnate and Netanyahu and Trump backer Sheldon Adelson -- dismisses the charge as unfounded and misguided. (The latter piece was also published by Haaretz.)

As for my own feelings on the NRA’s alleged anti-Semitism, suffice it to say I just wonder why LaPierre also didn't mention the American Roman Catholic bishops' long and vocal support for tougher gun control laws.

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