Author and former Observer blogger Philip Weiss has taken to the pages of The American Conservative to detail how he felt he was forced out by Observer owner Jared Kushner and his former Harvard friend, Observer editor Peter Kaplan, for writing incorrectly about Israel. (Also, we find out that Weiss did the blog for free! Uh, what?) Weiss claims that as he got increasingly strident about his feelings about Israel, Kushner and Kaplan's quiet discomfort with his blog grew, and it didn't help that the paper was being totally besieged by complaints. Kushner comes from an Orthodox Jewish family, and his family has also long donated to Jewish and pro-Israel causes. And from Weiss's account, it sounds like this is Kaplan's lone Achilles heel that he might have for any Kushner editorial thoughts. Definitely Weiss made Kushner uncomfortable, if not unhappy.
When Weiss approached Kaplan about starting to get paid for the blog (he asked for $25,000—a year), Kaplan turned him down, but offered him a bi-weekly print column.
Closing the door, Peter said, "We're going to have a grown-up conversation." He told me that the owner believed in Israel, and so did he. Israel may do a lot of bad things, but it was still a force for good. I interrupted, "My wife said to me the other night, you can't expect a guy who doesn't believe in anything you're saying to give you $25,000 a year to put it out." Peter nodded, "That's right."
But Peter felt committed to me as a writer. He didn't want to lose me from the paper and offered me a biweekly column. Kushner had "winced" at the prospect, but Peter was the editor, and he wanted me in print. I could write about American politics, Obama and Hillary. I could go around the country during the campaign and have fun.
Yes, but what about my hard-earned views? Israel and the Mideast were crucial pieces in American foreign policy. Jewish giving was the largest factor in Democratic campaign financing. Peter had never squelched my views, but how free would I be as a writer, knowing what I knew about the bosses' feelings?
So now Weiss is blogging on his own website, and Kushner and Kaplan are, presumably, happy. And hey, now maybe Phil Weiss is the only one talking to Isaiah Wilner for his New York magazine profile of Jared Kushner, because no one else is!