Legendary Jewish paper reduced to partisan attack dog, insiders say

May 10, 2012

The Forward newspaper, once one of the most respected voices in Jewish media, has under the stewardship of editor Jane Eisner devolved into little more than a liberal attack dog promulgating left-wing propaganda, insiders say.

One recent incident, in which Rabbi Shmuley Boteach threatened to sue the paper over a highly critical article, is the latest in a long line of shoddily assembled Forward hit pieces attacking conservative leaders, Orthodox Jews, and even the state of Israel, multiple observers told the Free Beacon.

"They’re so irrelevant to me I don’t even focus on them," said one Jewish media figure who declined to be named. "I never return the phone call. They’re not on my radar screen—as far as I know, nobody reads them, and they’re totally irrelevant."

The paper has a tendency to provide fawning coverage to some of Israel’s fiercest critics, leading to charges that the outlet is shirking its obligation to serve the Jewish community, sources said.

"The best way I can describe the Forward is it’s the equivalent of Haaretz," an Israeli newspaper routinely criticized for its liberal bias, said Morris Amitay, a former executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "I don’t read it anymore."

The paper "took a really far-left tilt" following the departure of founding editor Seth Lipsky, said Amitay, who described its news reports as political propaganda. "I’d be reading it and wince one too many times."

Operating under the status of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Forward has taken political potshots at prominent figures it deems too conservative or too religious for the paper’s liberal base, observers said.

It also has a tendency to provide Israel’s detractors with greater-than-warranted coverage, the sources said.

"It’s sad how far the Forward newspaper has gone," said one Jewish media operative who declined to speak on record. "I don’t think they’re a great newspaper. They’re lazy."

The paper sparked outrage in March when it published what critics described as a sycophantic profile of Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that contains a treasure trove of writings highly antagonistic toward the Jewish state.

Editorial space also has been allotted to articles spotlighting those who describe Israel as an apartheid state and allege that Israel is a bloodthirsty regime intent on dehumanizing Palestinians. The paper also faced a backlash for providing a forum to an American Jewish leader who met with Hamas.

Critics say that while the paper has a responsibility to cover Israel’s detractors, it "bends over backwards" to give voice to their fringe views.

"The Forward bends over backwards to accommodate liberal viewpoints when they should be concentrating on reporting the news," said the unnamed media operative. "We in the Jewish community don’t need our Jewish newspapers to be aiding and abetting causes like the divestment movement and supporting anti-Israel advocates such as Abunimah."

"There’s a bias against Israel in the mainstream media, and it’s strong enough without the help of Jewish publications like the Forward," added the source.

The paper’s bias is evident in its story selection, said the source, pointing to the articles mentioned above as well as several others attacking Orthodox and conservative advocates.

"Going outside of the Jewish community in search of the anti-Israel, one-state, pro-divestment point of view is not the kind of coverage I want from my Jewish newspapers," said the source.

A GOP media operative who has worked with the paper expressed shock upon learning that it operates as a nonprofit entity.

"It is rather shocking that they’re a 501(c)(3) under the cover of supposed journalism, but they’re advancing political attacks against conservatives and Republicans," the operative said.

One of the Forward’s most recent targets was Sholom Rubashkin, an Orthodox Jew who operated a kosher meat plant that was raided by federal authorities in 2008 for immigration violations. Rubashkin went to prison after being found guilty on 86 counts of bank fraud.

The Forward, through a series of sensational stories alleging that Rubashkin housed his workers and animals in subhuman conditions—a series of charges that those knowledgeable with the case say are flatly untrue—played a principal role in the Orthodox leader’s demise.

"I have no doubt about the fact that Rubashkin’s present dilemma has its origins in the Forward and what I thought were false and misleading articles," said Nathan Lewin, a renowned constitutional lawyer who served as Rubashkin’s defense attorney.

When the federal government raided the plant, it provided an affidavit that cited several of the Forward’s pieces, Lewin said.

"It’s astounding that the U.S. government was relying on stories from the Forward," he said. "I have no doubt the Forward’s stories—which I believe are untrue—contributed to the persecution of Sholom Rubashkin by the federal government."

Lewin, a longtime Washington media figure and well-known Jewish insider, also said, "From the time Seth Lipsky left it went downhill. I take [its articles] with a very substantial grain of salt."

An Orthodox Jew, Lewin added, "From the perspective of the Orthodox Jewish community, the Forward is a very hostile publication. It seems to be going after Orthodox people."

Another high-profile Orthodox leader on the Forward’s hit list was Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto, a figure the paper demonized in a series of highly inflammatory stories.

"What is the purpose of these stories other than to besmirch him?" Lewin said.

Morton Klein, the longtime leader of the pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America, has also been tarred and feathered in the pages of the Forward.

The paper published a piece in 2006 accusing Klein of unsavory workplace habits—an accusation that Klein maintains is "ugly" and false.

"I have to believe there are politics involved," said Klein, who has long positioned himself on the conservative end of the political spectrum. "You want to write something about me because I’m right of center?"

Klein, who resides in Philadelphia, also decried editor Eisner, who served as the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial pages for about 25 years.

"I’ve had nothing but trouble with her," said Klein, who pointed to a 1998 editorial in which Eisner accused him of waging a McCarthyite campaign against John Roth, a Holocaust museum appointee and historian who has compared Israeli treatment of Palestinians to that of Nazis.

"Jane Eisner was constantly criticized for being not fair to Israel and left wing when she was in Philly," he said, adding that the bias has continued during her tenure as the Forward’s top official.

The GOP media operative recommended that the paper should own its liberal bias rather than hide behind the false cover of objective journalism.

"They should reserve—only the ‘J’ wouldn’t stand for ‘Jerusalem’, it would stand for J Street," said the source. ""