New York Times: Hebrew ‘Symbolizes Far-right Israeli Militarism’

Hebrew Pentateuch (from 900-1188) written in typical Hebrew oriental book hand (Getty)

The New York Times published an op-ed on Saturday in which the author described Hebrew as a symbol of “far-right Israeli militarism,” smearing an entire language and the people who speak it.

The op-ed is not itself antisemitic. It is titled “Yiddish Is Having a Moment,” and is written by Ilan Stavans, a professor at Amherst who describes himself as having been born and raised in the Mexican Jewish community.

Still, the sweeping portrayal of Hebrew — the language of the Bible, revived over a century ago in a modern context — as the language of extremists suggests a deep prejudice, whose source may be decades-old sectarian splits in the Jewish community.

For centuries, Yiddish — typically, a Germanic language written in Hebrew characters — was the daily language of Jewish communities throughout Central and Eastern Europe, and fostered a rich secular literature and culture. With the rise of the Zionist movement in the late 19th century, some Jews began speaking and writing in Hebrew. They were opposed by religious Jews who felt Hebrew should remain confined to holy purposes, and by some on the political left who believed that Jews should work for the liberation of the world’s proletariat, not their own state.

The split was ended, tragically and decisively, by the Holocaust, which wiped out millions of Jews across Europe. However, it has been revived in recent years by left-wing anti-Zionists, who see Yiddish as an alternative to what they decry as the hegemonic cultural influence of Hebrew within a Jewish community deeply attached to Israel.

In describing Hebrew as a language that “symbolizes far-right Israeli militarism,” even if just for some, the Times is taking sides in an obscure academic and cultural debate and propagating a crude and absurd stereotype in doing so.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.


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