Glenn Beck’s Jewish ob­ses­sion

The Washington Post Sunday - - SUNDAY OPINION - danamil­bank@wash­post.com

Af­ter MSNBC let go Keith Ol­ber­mann last week, Glenn Beck couldn’t re­sist cel­e­brat­ing. “Keith Ol­ber­mann is the biggest pain in the ass in the world,” he judged.

But Ol­ber­mann’s de­par­ture re­ally should give Beck pause: With po­lit­i­cal speech com­ing un­der new scru­tiny, how much longer can Beck’s bru­tal rou­tine con­tinue at FoxNews?

The lat­est omen of Beck’s end times came on Thurs­day — Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Day — when 400 rab­bis rep­re­sent­ing all four branches of Amer­i­can Ju­daism took out an ad de­mand­ing that Beck be sanc­tioned for “mon­strous” and “ be­yond repug­nant” use of “anti-Semitic im­agery” in go­ing af­ter Holo­caust sur­vivor Ge­orge Soros.

A Fox News spokesman brushed off the com­plaint in the usual fashion, at­tribut­ing it to a “Soros-backed left-wing po­lit­i­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion.” But that’s not go­ing to fly: The state­ment’s sig­na­to­ries in­cluded the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the United Syn­a­gogue of Con­ser­va­tive Ju­daism and his pre­de­ces­sor, the dean of the con­ser­va­tive Jewish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary rab­bini­cal school and a num­ber of ortho­dox rab­bis.

Beck has out­lasted past com­plaints over his race bait­ing, his vi­o­lent words and his con­spir­acy the­o­ries. He’s not new to ques­tion­able talk about Jews (years ago he called Bar­bra Streisand a “ big-nosed cross-eyed freak”), and for the past cou­ple of years his Nazi ac­cu­sa­tions against op­po­nents have come by the hun­dreds.

But in June, he pro­moted on air the work of a Nazi sym­pa­thizer, El­iz­a­beth Dilling, who had re­ferred, in writ­ings Beck didn’t men­tion, to Eisen­hower as “Ike the kike” and Kennedy’s New Fron­tier as the “Jew Fron­tier.” A few days later, Beck re­ferred to Soros’s Jewish an­ces­try, ac­cused him of cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion and said “ he’s got dis­turb­ing hair in his nose.”

On July 13, Beck told his Fox News view­ers: “Je­sus con­quered death. He wasn’t vic­tim­ized. . . . If he was a vic­tim, and this the­ol­ogy was true, then Je­sus would have come­back from the dead and made the Jews pay for what they did.” (Af­ter com­plaints, Beck clar­i­fied that “the Ro­mans, not the Jews, put Je­sus to death.”)

Then came Nov. 9, which — by sheer co­in­ci­dence, no doubt— hap­pens to be the an­niver­sary of Kristall­nacht, a pre­cur­sor of the Holo­caust. Beck chose that day to launch a three-night se­ries at­tack­ing Soros as “the pup­pet mas­ter.”

“The prime min­is­ter of Malaysia called Soros an ‘un­scrupu­lous prof­i­teer,’ ” Beck re­ported. “In Thai­land, he was branded the ‘ eco­nomic war crim­i­nal.’ They also said that he sucks the blood from peo­ple.”

Pup­pet mas­ter. Un­scrupu­lous banker. Blood­sucker. These are hoary anti-Semitic stereo­types. The Malaysian leader’s words cited by Beck came from re­marks de­scrib­ing a Jewish con­spir­acy against Mus­lims.

And Beck wasn’t done. He called Soros “a col­lab­o­ra­tor” with Nazis who “saw peo­ple into the gas cham­bers,” and “a Jewish boy help­ing send the Jews to the death camps.” In fact, Soros’s fa­ther had hid­den the boy from the Nazis by plac­ing him with a Hun­gar­ian man as­signed to record be­long­ings of Jewish fam­i­lies that had fled.

“It is not ap­pro­pri­ate to ac­cuse a 14-year-old Jew hid­ing with a Chris­tian fam­ily in Nazioc­cu­pied Hun­gary of send­ing his peo­ple to death camps,” the 400 rab­bis said in their ad on Thurs­day.

Beck re­sponded on his ra­dio show by jok­ing with his side­kicks that “attacks are com­ing out at me now that I’m anti-Semitic.” Beck em­ployed a vari­a­tion of a de­fense he has used be­fore: that he’s not anti-Semitic be­cause he’s pro-Is­rael and is a fierce critic of Iran.

He is pro-Is­rael, but that’s ir­rel­e­vant: Many con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians sup­port Is­rael out of a be­lief that it will help bring about the Sec­ond Com­ing. Be­ing pro-Is­rael and pro-Je­waren’t the same.

Beck’s warm thoughts about Is­rael, for ex­am­ple, don’t ex­cuse what he did two weeks ago on FoxNews, when he iden­ti­fied nine men re­spon­si­ble for the “era of the big lie.” He spoke of them as pro­pa­gan­dists who saw them­selves as an “in­tel­li­gent mi­nor­ity” ma­nip­u­lat­ing the masses. Of the nine men Beck at­tacked, eight were Jews. “A clas­sic case of anti-Semitic dog-whistling,” al­leged Jeff Gold­berg of the At­lantic.

Seventy-five years ago, Fa­ther Charles Cough­lin, the cel­e­brated “ra­dio priest” of the Great De­pres­sion, lost his mass-me­dia plat­form as he moved from veiled ref­er­ences to “driv­ing the money chang­ers from the tem­ple” to overt an­tiSemitism. Now, Beck clings to Fox News’s sup­port as ev­i­dence that he has not crossed this line.

“Could I put on three hours of tele­vi­sion with noth­ing but lies and smear and keep my job against the most pow­er­ful man [Soros] and the most pow­er­ful groups in the world?” he asked one night.

It’s a ques­tion Ru­pert Murdoch has to con­front.

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