On the morning of Oct. 21, a 40-year-old synagogue president in Detroit named Samantha Woll was found stabbed to death outside her home. It appeared she had been attacked inside, and stumbled outside before being discovered the next morning.
In the wake of the horrific Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack in Israel, it was inevitable that people would conclude antisemitism was at least a potential motivation. But the police chief knocked that down almost immediately.
In fact, the lack of evidence for it being a hate crime was the specific way the national press treated the story on the day after she was found. “No Evidence of Hate Crime Has Emerged in Killing of Synagogue Leader, Officials Say,” was The New York Times headline, but it was far from alone.
We also learned, by the following day, that police were “just short” of naming a person a suspect—an indication they knew a potential motive, and the reason they were able to swiftly rule a “hate crime” was out of the equation. The story then essentially disappeared from the headlines.
That was on Oct. 23. More than two weeks later, no suspect has been identified or arrested. Thanks to a local Detroit outlet that has stayed on the case while the national press has moved on, we know the police don’t appear to have any real leads, either—at least not that they’re discussing publicly.
In this article, it appears one of the pieces of evidence for it not being an anti-Jewish hate crime in the first place was that a “large Israeli flag in Woll’s home … was left untouched, which indicated to them that this likely wasn’t an antisemitic-driven attack”—a sentence that quite literally makes no sense to any rational observer of crime, “hate” or otherwise. (A great Commentary piece from Abe Greenwald put the story back on my radar last week.)
Perhaps Woll’s killing had nothing to do with her occupation or religion. But we certainly have not seen anything to prove that. And yet the story has evaporated. The Samantha Woll coverage—or lack of coverage—is just a single example of a disturbing trend I’ve witnessed in the month since Oct. 7.
I try to stay fairly emotionless when covering the media, and I’d like to think I generally succeed. I’m finding it more and more difficult to do that over the past month.
It’s not just that I’m Jewish—I’d like to think I’d feel the same way if I wasn’t. But the coverage has been so disappointing—and deleterious.
Sure, there’s the overt antisemitism from some on the Left and Right. That’s almost easy to dismiss. Then there are the more subtle examples that we see bubble up throughout the press.
And then there’s the almost willful ignorance on Israel, Hamas, Gaza, and our own American antisemitism problem. The Woll story fits that category. The national media disappeared it from the headlines. Having it occupy space in the national discourse would disrupt the preferred narrative. So, they took the police’s word—a common problem on all sorts of stories when it comes to the press—and moved on.
Or take the continued reliance by our corporate media on the “Gaza Health Ministry” to provide accurate data on how many have been killed in the fighting between Israel and Hamas. It’s a constant, from the way the press was spun in the “hospital bombing” story to more recent examples. Outlets like The Associated Press and The Washington Post have gone out of their way to try to justify their reliance on the Hamas propaganda.
Are they simply lying to themselves, or do they know better? And if they’re lying to themselves, isn’t it obvious to the public that they will lie to you, too? It’s a topic I addressed in a recent column for The Hill, centered on the woefully botched Gaza hospital story, and the continued fallout from so many in the press that want to continue the lie that Israel—and not Hamas—targets civilians.
But in this moment, I err on the side of knowing. I want to see all the antisemites in America reveal themselves, whether they work in media, in government, on college campuses. We shouldn’t censor them. As I wrote in another column for The Hill, let the antisemites speak freely, so we can adjust accordingly.
I’ve adjusted. I see the industry differently now—the cowardice, and the hypocrisy. We don’t have to get into an argument about whether it’s antisemitism or just simply anti-Israel sentiment to be instinctively distrustful of everything Israel says and immediately trusting of Hamas, or to see an Acela Media situated where antisemitism is quite obviously prevalent every time a bratty kid rips down another hostage poster barely cover the rise of this hatred in our country.
Whatever the motivations, or incentives, we have seen rationality abandoned by the press, in favor of placating those who wish Israel simply did not exist—in story after story over the past month.
A quick story. Billionaire George Soros is a political lightning rod, and I’d argue one of the more misunderstood figures by those who love and loathe him. And whenever he’s criticized for some progressive left-wing policy or action, the antisemitism charge ultimately is invoked.
In a fascinating, and disturbing, “60 Minutes” interview in 1998, Soros revealed how he hid his identity as someone who was raised as a “Hungarian Jew” by pretending to be a Christian in Nazi Germany, actually stealing from the Jews in order to keep up the facade. In that same interview, Soros was asked if he believed in God, and he answered no. “I believe God was created by man, not the other way around,” he said.
Soros is an atheist. He was raised Jewish, but he’s not Jewish. Similarly, imagine if you were raised as a vegetarian, and yet now, as an adult, you eat burgers and bacon and any other sorts of meat. No one would still call you a vegetarian. Being Jewish is not an immutable characteristic, like your race or ethnicity. (Some would argue against that being immutable, too.)
Well, I’m sure we’ve all heard the trope that Jews control the media. After this month? I guess not.
Reprinted with permission from Fourth Watch.
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