Rupert Murdoch's Jewish problem. And his Egyptian one.
What the media baron's twitter feed says about his worldview.
One of the pleasures of following Rupert Murdoch's account on Twitter is that the brief notes left there seem to have been written by the man himself.
Unlike hundreds of political and celebrity twitter feeds that maintain only the thinnest pretenses of being written by their supposed owner (either that or Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the greatest multitaskers of all time), you're really getting Mr. Murdoch, unfiltered.
Unlike say, with Israel's ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, whose Twitter account last night deleted a tweet in which the ambassador had said Israel was willing to sit down with Hamas if rocket fire stopped from Gaza, explaining: "The earlier tweet about my CNN interview was sent erroneously by a staffer."
No, Murdoch is Murdoch, which is what makes two tweets of his from last night so interesting. The first: "Can't Obama stop his friends in Egypt shelling Israel?" And the second: "Why Is Jewish owned press so consistently anti-Israel in every crisis?"
I'm not sure what great friends Obama has in Egypt. It's true that the US didn't stand in the way of the Egyptian uprising that saw longstanding dictator Hosni Mubarak driven from power in 2011. And the Obama administration has been seeking to craft a workable relationship with the new civilian government of President Mohamed Morsi, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood, since.
But A. US influence is limited in Egypt, given the hostility of a large swath of President Morsi's constituency to the US and its strong military support for Israel; And, B. (And this is the important bit.) Egypt is not firing anything at Israel.
Israel is taking missile and mortar fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, of course. But that's much as has been happening since 2001, with all but one of those years occurring when Mr. Mubarak was in power in Egypt. Though Egypt then, as now, has some influence over events in Gaza (it hosted failed talks on a failed cease-fire attempt overnight) Hamas very much marches to its own drummer. Hopefully someone at Fox News will fill Murdoch in.
The second quote from Murdoch up above is equal parts troubling and illuminating. He seems to believe that the owners of media outlets should require their reporting to conform to their owners political preferences and world-views, rather than reflect observed reality. It's fair to assume that's what happens at his sprawling press holdings, particularly his US-based flag-ship Fox News.
That's the illuminating part. The troubling part is his apparent belief that Jewishness should be synonymous with support for the current Israeli government, even for Jewish-Americans. It's long been an anti-Semitic trope in US and European life that Jews are not truly loyal to the countries of their birth and citizenship, that for them Israel comes first. Such false claims are rightly pushed back on. Then there's the frequently made anti-Semitic claim that the "Jews control the media," usually made within various conspiracy theories.
Imagine if Murdoch's sentence was turned around, but used the same logic: What if he had asked: "Why is Jewish owned press so consistently pro-Israel in every crisis?" That statement would rightly be decried as anti-Semitic.
Murdoch apologized, sort of, today: " 'Jewish owned press' have been sternly criticised, suggesting link to Jewish reporters. Don't see this, but apologise unreservedly."
There is of course a lively debate among Jewish Americans, and Jews in Israel, about the rightness and wrongness of Israeli government behavior. In the pages of the Jerusalem Post you will find an editorial-line closer to Mr. Murdoch's heart, and in the pages of Haaretz a general approach that he would disapprove of.
But no matter. Murdoch forthrightly speaks his mind and that's refreshing and unusual. It's a useful data-point to consider when consuming news produced by his employees.