John Podhoretz Got Into Silly Fight About Whether He's Scared of Girls

Tonight, Commentary editor and New York Post columnist John Podhoretz stormed off the stage of a genteel event after Forward editor Jane Eisner, acting as a moderator, gesticulated too much in his direction.

Both Podhoretz and Eisner have taken to their respective outlets to provide commentary on the evening.

Podhoretz "was on a panel at the 92nd Street Y in New York about what it means to be pro-Israel. The panelists were Jeremy Ben-Ami of JStreet [and] David Harris of the American Jewish Committee."

Eisner, acting as moderator, "expected a feisty evening."

And feisty it was. We could summarize what happened, but they've told it so well themselves.

Eisner (emphasis added):

But after saying he disagreed with the ASA vote, Ben-Ami segued into talking about Israeli government policies that, in his view, make it difficult for some Americans to believe Israel really does want peace with the Palestinians.

You’re blaming the victim, cried Podhoretz. Some members of the audience became enraged, and, mystifyingly, the Commentary editor encouraged them, challenging them to boo and hiss.

Podhoretz (emphasis added):

In the course of her account, she claims that “mystifyingly,” I “encouraged” the audience to boo and hiss me. In fact, after a prolonged bout of booing, I responded by suggesting—in a manner that was intended, for what I would have thought were obvious reasons, to be ironic—that the crowd might try hissing too. Which they did. Maybe they didn’t pick up on the irony; Eisner apparently didn’t, given her level of mystification.

Eisner (emphasis added):

And then — honestly, it’s a bit of a blur, but this is what I remember — he started wagging his finger at Ben-Ami in a manner at once threatening and condescending. That’s when I stepped in, trying to rein in the argument, using my hands (I am known to gesticulate) to try to calm him down.

Podhoretz (emphasis added):

Eisner then says I wagged my finger ”in a manner threatening and concescending” at Ben-Ami. As it happens, I had no problem with Ben-Ami personally throughout the panel, though we disagreed vehemently. And given that he was ten feet away from me and we were having an exchange that was mutually heated, I’m not sure how threatening my condescending finger-wagging could have been. (I am unaware there was any finger-wagging, by the way, but I will stipulate for the sake of comity that some wagging took place.)


Eisner (emphasis added):

Instead, Podhoretz angrily said that I raised my hand at him and stormed off the stage.

Whoa.

I am, physically, much, much smaller than John Podhoretz, so he could hardly allege that I was intending to do him harm. More than that, I was the moderator, and he had a responsibility to be civil on stage and, at the very least, listen to my requests. I was stunned by what I can only describe as a temper tantrum.

Podhoretz (emphasis added):

Whatever I did, it was, to be sure, no more “threatening” than Eisner’s response, which was to put her hand up close to me for the purposes of quieting me down. Eisner seems to think that when I spoke in objection to this gesture, which I did angrily, I was perhaps fearful she was going to attack me physically—which is the height of silliness. I was annoyed by the hostility of the crowd, one of whose number had shrieked at me, and I was troubled by Eisner’s effort to shush me.

In the middle of the panel, I chose to walk off the stage rather than continue.

Eisner (emphasis added):

But the damage was done. The chair was empty. Yes, I made a joke at one point about “Elijah” but it is hard not to view this lopsided scene as an incredibly sad commentary on the difficulty of engaging Jews with vastly different views on Israel in civil dialogue.

Podhoretz (emphasis added):

Bottom line: I’d had a long day and I didn’t see the point in spending more of it getting booed and shushed. So I left. So sue me.


[image via 92nd Street Y]