In 1990, the former Wall Street Journal editorialist Seth Lipsky created The Forward, a weekly English-language newspaper that was intended to carry on in the spirit of The Jewish Daily Forward, a paper that was founded in 1897 and became central to the Yiddish-speaking community of New York in the early 1900s. Like its predecessor, The Forward focused primarily on Jewish affairs. But Mr. Lipsky’s inspired editorship made it a paper that was read and respected far outside the Jewish community. On any number of issues, from Israel to U.S. foreign policy to the achievements of the Giuliani administration, one could turn to The Forward and be sure of finding well-informed, intelligent reporting conveyed in lively, no-nonsense prose. The Forward has had no party-line except an ingrained suspicion of party-lines.
All that is about to change. Mr. Lipsky’s editorial independence—he has the temerity to describe himself as a “neo-conservative” and even has nice things to say about Ronald Reagan—has proved to be too much for some of the owners of The Forward. As was reported in The New York Times last month, The Forward Association, which owns a half-interest in the paper, has forced Mr. Lipsky to resign, effective May 25. It is a sad outcome, as much for the future of independent journalism as for the New York Jewish community. Mr. Lipsky had made The Forward into the best Jewish paper in the country. If the paper survives at all it will be as neutered remnant purveying the usual liberal clichés about Israel and social policy. One of Mr. Lipsky’s most virulent critics has been Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, the left-wing historian and polemicist, who was quoted in the Times as saying that “We are staunchly for the welfare state. Lipsky is not staunchly for the welfare state, and he should be if he wants to edit this newspaper.” There you have it. Rabbi Hertzberg is fond of noting that the United States is a “plural” country. When he is not advocating higher rates of taxation, he is trumpeting the importance of diversity and liberal tolerance. But his action in the case of The Forward reminds us of exactly how much liberal tolerance is worth when it comes to dealing with those who deviate from liberal orthodoxy.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 18 Number 9, on page 2
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