In Jaffa, groupthink opponent Bari Weiss touts going against the grain

Visiting from US, veteran journalist and critic of anti-Israel slant in US media interviews former Labor MK Einat Wilf, who claims October 7 exposed Palestinians’ real desires

Bari Weiss, left, interviews former MK Einat Wilf as part of a series hosted with the Tel Aviv International Salon, at the Jaffa Hotel Chapel, January 28, 2024. (Courtesy of the Tel Aviv International Salon)
Bari Weiss, left, interviews former MK Einat Wilf as part of a series hosted with the Tel Aviv International Salon, at the Jaffa Hotel Chapel, January 28, 2024. (Courtesy of the Tel Aviv International Salon)

Bari Weiss, a former New York Times editor whose public fight with the Gray Lady made her a hero among some conservatives, brought her battle against groupthink to Israel Sunday during an on-stage discussion with former Knesset member Einat Wilf.

Speaking to a 100-strong crowd in Jaffa, Weiss compared social media warriors battling in Israel’s defense online against a wave of pro-Palestinian sentiment to former Soviet refusenik Natan Sharansky, whose years in prison made him an icon of the movement to free Jews behind the Iron Curtain.

“The voice of a single person holding up a light in the darkness has changed the course of history,” Weiss said in response to a question about social media activism.

She called the diminutive Sharansky, whom she had interviewed a week earlier as part of the same series, “a five-foot-one Jew who brought down the Soviet Union.”

Weiss’s appearance was organized by the Tel Aviv International Salon, an educational non-profit for young adults, in cooperation with The Free Press, a media company launched by Weiss in 2021 following her departure from the Times.

Throughout the war triggered by Hamas’s shock assault, the Free Press has extensively covered left-wing antisemitism in the United States, and consistently criticized mainstream media outlets for giving credence to the Palestinian terror group’s statements, championing a bone long picked by Weiss.

US journalist Bari Weiss during an interview with ex-MK Einat Wilf (not in picture) at the Jaffa Hotel Chapel on January 28, 2024. (Tel Aviv International Salon)

Weiss, 39, left The New York Times in July 2020.

In her letter of resignation, which she subsequently posted to social media, she said colleagues called her a “racist” and “Nazi” for failing to endorse what she perceived as their left-wing excesses, and accuses the editorial staff of taking social media more seriously than journalistic integrity, enabling a “hostile work environment” for anyone who does not subscribe to progressive “orthodoxy.”

“People would rather be socially accepted and get into the right places than do the right thing,” Weiss said Sunday. “Truth and courage always win.”

Wilf concurred with Weiss, saying a “relentless dynamic of bullying” on US college campuses was causing many Jews to shy away from publicly embracing Zionism. A foreign policy expert and former Labor MK, whom Weiss introduced as a “leading voice in Zionism,” Wilf shared her experience of disillusionment with the sincerity of Palestinian peace efforts following the Second Intifada. Those views were only reinforced by the Hamas terror group’s October 7 massacre in southern Israel, she said.

Former MK Einat Wilf answers a question from an audience member after her conversation with Bari Weiss (not in image) hosted by Tel Aviv International Salon and The Free Press at the Jaffa Hotel on January 28, 2024. (Noam Lehmann)

The Palestinians’ “deepest desires” are represented by Hamas, Wilf argued, and the October 7 onslaught gave “empirical proof” of current Palestinian priorities. They must accept the Jewish right to self-determination before there can be peace, because otherwise, they will prioritize ridding the land of Jews over their own welfare, she said.

Weiss called Wilf’s pronouncement “one of the darkest things I’ve heard.”

The Los Angeles native said she has been in Israel since last week, and has visited the southern kibbutzim hit hardest during Hamas’s brutal October 7 onslaught on Israel, which saw some 3,000 terrorists invade the country to kill nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, and take over 250 hostages of all ages, while committing numerous atrocities and weaponizing sexual violence on a mass scale.

“I have never experienced the country the way I have the past few days,” Weiss said Sunday, noting that she has been to Israel over 15 times. She described the country’s worldview as “transforming” and “shattering” since October 7, deranging long-held views about Israel’s alliances, its self-image as a technology powerhouse, and what the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about.

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