Op-ed: Why Matzav’s attack on Jewish journalist Jake Turx is misguided and wrong

[JP capture via Youtube / AP]
Jake Turx stands up to ask his question before being told to sit down by President Donald Trump [JP capture via Youtube / AP]
In an op-ed Thursday, the Jewish news site Matzav lashed out at Jake Turx, a reporter for Ami magazine, for having the audacity to ask President Donald Trump a question during a press conference.

Turx, who happens to be visibly Orthodox based on his clothing, asked Trump a fairly innocuous question about the well-documented uptick in anti-Semitism, which has taken place post-election, as well as a wave of bomb threats directed against Jewish Community Centers throughout the country.

To be clear, Turx was no Jorge Ramos, the Univision anchor who asked a question without being called on during a press conference, a question that began with “You cannot deport 11 million people.”  Instead, Turx went out of his way to assure the president of his good will and saluted Trump’s Jewish ties. He even began by joining Trump in some media bashing:

“Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting, I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren–you are their zayde. However, what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it.”

This, apparently, was not good enough for Trump, who cut Turx off soon afterward and instantly went on the defensive, describing himself as “the least anti-Semitic person you have ever seen in your entire life.” The president then tore into Turx as an example of the dishonest media for not asking what Trump deemed to be a simple or sufficiently “straightforward” question. (It should also be noted that, although Trump said “I understand the rest of your question” while shushing Turx, he clearly did not, as Turx’s question was not about the president or his staff being anti-Semitic.)

Turx’s question also provoked the ire of Matzav’s editorial staff, who, rather than siding with the journalist, lambasted him as “foolish” and guilty of committing a chillul Hashem (desecration of G-d’s Name).

“People who are easily identified as religious Jews have added responsibilities,” the article stated. “They represent us. They represent Yiddishkeit. They represent Torah. They represent Hashem. And when they tick off the leader of the free world, the president of the United States, they don’t only earn enmity for themselves, but jeopardize the relationship with a new president who wants to do the right thing for Jews and for Israel.”

This is, needless to say, no light charge, and it is one I feel compelled to respond to. Simply put, the article is overwrought and downright incorrect on all fronts, including its presumption that Trump has the best interests of Jews in mind, a presumption that no politician of any party or personal history deserves, especially not one whose full-throated denunciation of anti-Semitism has been so slow to arrive.

Matzav’s criticism also does not hold water because Turx was in no way disrespectful. Unlike the ostensible leader of the free world, who dodged what should have been an easy question, he was not boorish, crass, belligerent, or unprofessional. To the contrary, he was merely carrying out his responsibility as a journalist, which is to ask questions, to provide the public with answers and information it needs to know.

As journalists, it is our duty to hold the powerful accountable for their actions. That is something neither Donald Trump, nor the editorial staff of Matzav, appear to appreciate or understand.

As Jews, we share a similar responsibility to confront injustice, to defend the truth when it comes under assault. The pasuk in Devorim (Deuteronomy) 16:20 states “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof (lit. “Justice, justice, you shall pursue).”

These words were not delivered lightly. Though the passage in question refers to judges, it is hard to imagine a more fitting expression of the responsibility of both Jews and journalists in our time.

It is a message Matzav would do well to take to heart. Perhaps, in the future, they should remember another critical Jewish value–Ahavas Yisroel, love of one’s fellow Jew– and stand up in defense of other Jews.

02/16/2017 5:54 PM by Menachem Rephun

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