Dual Loyalties

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

CJR - AIPAC Attack? Steven Rosen Crushes Moderate Jemish Voices Jan?fed 1993

CJR - AIPAC Attack? by Daniel Eisenberg: "AIPAC ATTACK?

Charges of Pressure at a Jewish Weekly

by Daniel Eisenberg
Eisenberg is an intern at CJR.
Before the summer of 1992 Washington Jewish Week was best known for its keen political and investigative reporting. A highly regarded independent Jewish newspaper, it received four 1991 awards from the American Jewish Press Association, not to mention four Laurels in the past four years from CJR. Recently, however, the paper has faced allegations that political pressure played a significant role in the demotion and subsequent resignation of its editor.

This tale of politics and publishing began at a picnic one Sunday in May 1991, when Andrew Silow Carroll, managing editor and de facto editor-in-chief of Washington Jewish Week, was invited to address the area's "alternative" Jewish community. The picnic, sponsored by a number of groups on the left of the political spectrum, included a workshop on the relative power and political leanings of Jewish-American organizations, including the powerful pro-Israel lobby -- the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- about which WJW had run some tough pieces. In his speech, Carroll commented that in recent years, AIPAC had drifted to the right, while left-wing groups, for their part, "had been too strident in their criticism of Israel."

Carroll's remarks were summarized in a memo written by an AIPAC intern who attended the workshop. The memo cited Carroll's comments on AIPAC's power and his remark that "as long as we are meeting on park benches and the right is meeting in hotel ballrooms, the Jewish community must still be embracing the right." The memo called attention to Carroll's use of the word "we" to refer to the left. That summer, AIPAC's foreign policy director, Steven Rosen, brought the memo to the attention of The Washington Post's Lloyd Grove, who, in a series on AIPAC, reported that the lobby had asked Carroll to take his regular AIPAC reporter -- Larry Cohler -- off a certain story, and that Carroll had refused.

Then, in April 1992, Carroll was in effect demoted. Linda Gordon Kuzmack, an academic who had worked at the United States Holocaust Memorial Council but who had no professional newspaper experience, was brought in above him. Stripped of most of his responsibilities and offended by his publisher's choice, Carroll resigned on June 8. Two months later Kuzmack, who was having trouble running the paper, was asked to leave.

At about the same time, an article by Robert I. Friedman in the August 4 Village Voice reported that AIPAC's Rosen had leaked the memo to board members of WJW in an effort to get Carroll fired. The report sparked a rash of angry editorials within the Jewish press, which, like the labor press, the Catholic press, and others, can be sensitive to charges of interference from the organizations they cover. Most of the Jewish press is financially dependent on major Jewish institutions; Washington Jewish Week is independent.

Leonard Kapiloff, the publisher, disputes the claim that the memo had anything to do with Carroll's demotion: "My problem with Andy was falling circulation." He adds that he has consistently defended WJW's tough reporting an AIPAC.

Carroll acknowledges that circulation was a problem, but notes that he took over the paper at the beginning of a recession. He remains convinced that "AIPAC's pressure played a strong part" in his downfall.

One thing seems clear: AIPAC's Rosen did want to bring about change at the paper. He told the Baltimore Jewish Times that "keeping the paper in the hands of the 'alternative' crowd was unhealthy." And he has acknowledged to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he provided the information in the memo to a WJW board member as evidence that Carroll "sought to bring down the organized Jewish community."

The board member, Richard Schifter, a former assistant secretary of state for human rights, admits that Rosen mentioned the memo to him but denies ever discussing it with the weekly's publisher. AIPAC, for its part, claims that Rosen told Schifter about the memo only after Carroll had been demoted.

While the charges flew back and forth, trouble continued at Washington Jewish Week. For several weeks after Kuzmack's dismissal, a group of staff members -- including features editor Judith Sloan Deutsch and copy editor Carol Arenberg -- ran the paper. In early September, both were fired, told by publisher Kapiloff that he "could not tolerate divided loyalties on the staff" -- a reference to Deutsch and Arenberg's perceived loyalty to Carroll.

Larry Cohler, meanwhile, remains at Washington Jewish Week. In a letter to the Baltimore Jewish Times last August, he voiced concerns about his former editor's plight: "Do they [AIPAC] find it appropriate that a senior AIPAC official, whose efforts are supposedly devoted to fighting anti-Israel groups, should direct his considerable resources against the livelihood of mainstream Jews working at a local Jewish newspaper with which he disagrees?"

Kapiloff, for his part, claims that WJW is back on its feet again, with rising circulation and a renewed commitment to the local Jewish community. His new managing editor, meanwhile, if Eric Rozenman, formerly the editor of Near East Report, an AIPAC publication"

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