Shooting the Messenger on Huwaida Arraf
A longtime Palestinian activist is running for Congress in Michigan. Somebody had to report this news.
Last week, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) ran a feature story I wrote on Huwaida Arraf, a longtime Palestinian activist who is running for Congress in suburban Detroit. As you can imagine, this has a number of Jewish groups in Michigan a bit worried.
As a result, I received hate mail from Jews and antisemites, alike. My Jewish critic said this:
Another Ghetto Jew KAPO admiring Jew Killers because surely the Jew Haters won't harm nice Jews like Howard and the rest of the Forward as-a-Jews.
He was referring to the fact that The Forward ran my story. JTA is kind of like the Associated Press of the Jewish world. Jewish media outlets all over the world subscribe to the service. It’s a great organization. In fact, I was managing editor at JTA back in the late '90s and early '00s.
And, for those who aren’t aware, a “Kapo” was a Jewish concentration camp supervisor who sometimes treated his fellow Jews with brutality in exchange for special treatment by the Nazis. Apparently, because I reported on the existence of Huwaida Arraf, I am a Kapo. My great-grandmother and many other relatives perished in Auschwitz, by the way, so the “Kapo” accusation particularly got under my skin.
An “as-a-Jew” is a Jew on social media who begins a statement with “As a Jew,” and then says something with which most Jews would disagree. “As-a-Jews” are often held up as tokens by antisemites.
OK. So, I am all these things because I was a reporter on this story. The Huwaida Arraf story was actually about three months in the making and I had done extensive work on it. Back in November, the editor of the Detroit Jewish News had received word about Arraf’s candidacy and there was some concern in the local Jewish community. She asked me if I was interested in writing a story. I’m primarily a book editor these days, but I like to work on select Jewish-related journalism projects and I was happy to take this on.
To my surprise, Arraf was more than willing to give me an interview. We had a wide-ranging discussion in which I played the part of “every-Jew” and challenged her on a variety of issues regarding alleged Israeli “genocide” and when criticism of Israel spills over into antisemitism. I filed a Q&A-style interview, waited a few weeks, and then got the word that the Detroit Jewish News would not be running the story after all. It was too controversial, apparently.
I hate doing work for nothing, so I approached JTA with the story. The editors there said they’d be happy to run it if I ditched the Q&A format and wrote a traditional feature story. So, I convinced Arraf to give me one more interview and, after a couple of months of back-and-forth, the story finally saw the light of day.
Well before I began doing “hot takes” on Twitter, I was a journalist. I spent the first half of my career working for newspapers and I’m pleased every time I get to exercise my reporter’s muscles. As far as I can tell, though, the Detroit Jewish News has not run my JTA story even though Arraf’s candidacy has the most-direct impact on their coverage area. Oh well.