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Profile: James Besser

James Besser was a participant or observer in the following events:

Within hours of Fox News host Glenn Beck’s first broadcast during his three-day tirade against Jewish philanthropist and financier George Soros (see November 9-11, 2010 and After), Jewish organizations begin condemning his remarks. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) accuses Beck of anti-Semitism. ADL president Abraham Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, recalls living with a Catholic nanny during the Holocaust and says: “Look, I spit on Jews when I was six years old. Does that make me an anti-Semite?” The issue of the Holocaust, Foxman says, “is so sensitive that I’m not even sure Holocaust survivors themselves are willing to make such judgments. For a political commentator or entertainer to have the audacity to say, ‘There’s a Jewish boy sending Jews to death camps,’ that’s horrific. It’s totally off limits and over the top.” Beck is speaking “either out of total ignorance or total insensitivity,” Foxman says, and adds in a statement: “While I, too, may disagree with many of Soros’s views and analysis on the issues, to bring in this kind of innuendo about his past is unacceptable. To hold a young boy responsible for what was going on around him during the Holocaust as part of a larger effort to denigrate the man is repugnant. The Holocaust was a horrific time, and many people had to make excruciating choices to ensure their survival. George Soros has been forthright about his childhood experiences and his family’s history, and there the matter should rest.” Elan Steinberg of the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants calls the Beck accusations “monstrous; you don’t make such accusations without proof, and I have seen no such proof.” Beck’s accusations, Steinberg says, “go to the heart of the instrumentalization and trivialization of the Holocaust.” Simon Greer, president of the Jewish Funds for Justice, says that Beck’s comments “made a mockery of their professed understanding. In an effort to demonize a political opponent, Beck and Fox News scurrilously attacked George Soros, a prominent Jewish philanthropist and Holocaust survivor. No one who truly understands ‘the sensitivity and sacred nature’ of the Holocaust would deliberately and grotesquely mis-characterize the experience of a 13-year-old Jew in Nazi-occupied Hungary whose father hid him with a non-Jewish family to keep him alive.” Interfaith Alliance head C. Welton Gaddy says Beck’s “use of the Holocaust to discredit George Soros is beyond repugnant. The Holocaust is one of history’s most tragic events and those who survived it are owed our enduring respect.” [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010; Salon, 11/11/2010] The ADL’s Foxman has previously lauded Beck as a “strong… friend of Israel.” [KMIR, 11/13/2010] Jewish columnist J.J. Goldberg writes, “There’s a difference between first-degree murder and vehicular homicide, which is intentionality.” Goldberg isn’t convinced that Beck intended to attack Jews, but he calls Beck’s three-day attack on Soros “as close as I’ve heard on mainstream television to fascism.” [Daily Beast, 11/11/2010] Jewish columnist M.J. Rosenberg writes that Beck’s series on Soros is “so anti-Semitic” that it has convinced him a Holocaust could happen in the United States. “I am not saying Beck is anti-Semitic,” he says. “I think he is so utterly ignorant of Jewish history and the history of Germany 1933-1945 that he is unaware of what he is doing.” [Raw Story, 11/11/2010] Jonathan Tobin, the editor of the neoconservative Commentary magazine, has criticized Soros before. But Tobin now writes: “Beck is in no position to pontificate about the conduct of Holocaust survivors and should refrain from even commenting about this subject.… Such topics really must be off-limits, even in the take-no-prisoners world of contemporary punditry.… There is much to criticize about George Soros’s career, and his current political activities are troubling. But Beck’s denunciation of him is marred by ignorance and offensive innuendo. Instead of providing sharp insight into a shady character, all Beck has done is further muddy the waters and undermine his own credibility as a commentator.” [Christian Science Monitor, 11/13/2010]
Fox Defends Beck - Fox News stands by Beck’s attack on Soros, with senior vice president Joel Cheatwood saying in a statement that the “information regarding Mr. Soros’s experiences growing up were taken directly from his writings and from interviews given by him to the media, and no negative opinion was offered as to his actions as a child.” [New York Times, 11/11/2010]
Beck's References to Holocaust and Nazi Germany Source of Concern - Greer and two rabbis met with Fox News executives in July to discuss Beck’s “constant and often inappropriate invocation of the Holocaust and Nazi Germany on the air” (see July 26, 2010). [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010] Greer accuses Beck and Fox News of “mak[ing] a mockery of their commitment to me and two rabbis” by airing the attack on Soros, and defends Soros as committed to the Jewish faith. Greer writes that he will again complain to Fox News executives about Beck’s behavior. [Jewish Journal, 11/11/2010]
Beck Attempting to Tarnish Soros as a Democratic Contributor? - James Besser, writing for The Jewish Week, asks: “Why is Soros important to the far right? Could it be because he is a major contributor to Democratic causes, and because they are trying to make his money radioactive to their political adversaries?” [The Jewish Week, 11/11/2010]

Entity Tags: Glenn Beck, James Besser, Anti-Defamation League, C. Welton Gaddy, Fox News, Elan Steinberg, George Soros, Simon Greer, Joel Cheatwood, Abraham Foxman, Jonathan Tobin, J.J. Goldberg, M.J. Rosenberg

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

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