reporter's record

After Nova exhibit article, The New Republic faces questions over impartiality of its new reporter

Talia Jane, a new hire at the magazine and avid social media user, called the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks ‘rebellion against state repression’

Meir Chaimowitz/NurPhoto via AP

Anti-Israel protesters march through NYC, stopping at the Nova Festival Exhibit on Wall Street and then dispersing at Zuccotti Park in New York City, USA, on June 10, 2024.

There’s very little that unites Squad lawmakers Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) with conservative House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). But all three, along with a wide swath of political leaders including the White House, found themselves briefly aligned last week when they condemned protesters who celebrated Hamas and Hezbollah outside the Nova music festival exhibit in Manhattan — and described the demonstration as antisemitic.

Days later, The New Republic published an article arguing that it was “disinformation” to say that the protests outside the Nova exhibit and other recent anti-Zionist actions in New York were antisemitic. Referring to a tweet from President Joe Biden that condemned “horrific acts of antisemitism,” the magazine’s newly hired associate writer for breaking news, Talia Jane, who uses they/them pronouns, said Biden was wrong: “None of the instances Biden cited were antisemitic.” 

The analysis has drawn criticism, including from some former New Republic staffers, for Jane’s approach to claims of antisemitism and their willingness to dismiss incidents that many Jews deemed antisemitic. But more than that, Jane’s public social media postings about antisemitism, the war in Gaza and Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel raise questions about their impartiality in covering those topics. 

“I’m always hesitant to label people racist, antisemite, unless there’s just absolutely undeniable evidence. I think [Jane is] just making terrible arguments that come from a place of factional purity in defense of people who are antisemitic,” said Jonathan Chait, a political columnist at New York magazine and a former senior editor at The New Republic.

An avid poster on social media, Jane has defended people accused of antisemitism and justified the targeting of Jews when they show up to anti-Israel protests. Responding to a video of a group of visibly Orthodox Jews called “Zionists” and denied service at a drink cart in Brooklyn, Jane said in June that this would have been “clear as day antisemitism” if it were “said to someone genuinely just walking down the street.” But, they continued, “it was at a pro-Palestine protest these guys showed up to, who per their own videos had been hanging around annoying people who asked them to leave them alone.”

In April, Jane called it “insane” for the White House to criticize a Columbia student who said on social media that Zionists deserve to die, because “Zionism is synonymous with ethnonationalist supremacy and *not* Judaism.” In May, after a man took to Twitter to complain that someone on a dating app saw his Star of David necklace and asked him if he’s a Zionist, Jane defended that litmus test: “Given how intensely Zionist extremists have co-opted Judaism in pursuit of hate, you don’t think it’s understandable for people to be cautious or at the very least curious of someone depicting Judaic symbolism on their profile where they land on the matter?” Jane has also said antisemitism “applies to Arabs too,” seemingly a reference to the fact that Arabs are a Semitic people — but the term “antisemitism” was coined by a person who hated Jews, specifically in relation to Jews.

On the morning of Oct. 7, when details of Hamas’ attack and its rising civilian death toll were already known, Jane posted a picture of Hamas militants tearing down a fence to enter Israel under the caption, “Good morning.” Jane called it a “rebellion against state repression.” Jane’s posts on Instagram are even more direct in their targeting of Israel: “The Zionist entity is an immoral and illegitimate state,” Jane wrote as a caption to a June post about protesters burning Israeli and American flags outside the Israeli consulate in New York. 

Early in the war, they wrote an article for the digital news site Daily Dot asking whether posters of Israeli hostages taped up in public places are “drawing awareness or baiting pro-Palestinians into getting canceled when they tear them down.” Some people are “wondering,” Jane wrote, “if the posters are being strategically placed to entrap those who tear them down, many of whom support the Palestinian people.”

Jane did not respond to a request for comment from Jewish Insider on Wednesday.

Jane started writing for The New Republic in mid-May. Most of their writing, often several articles a day, is focused on former President Donald Trump and Republicans. 

“I’ve discussed the post with the writer and the editor, and we are working to address the situation,” Michael Tomasky, the magazine’s editor, told JI. He declined to elaborate.

“It disgusts me for a whole variety of reasons, not just because we were once pro-Zionist and pro-Israel — which, by the way, did not always mean anti-Palestinian,” said Leon Wieseltier, who served as the magazine’s longtime literary editor beginning in the 1980s. “It also disgusts me because it’s a real betrayal of universal liberal principles which apply, because they are universal, also to the Jews. Protesting that exhibition on Wall Street about the Nova festival, whatever you think about the current conflict, was stupendously indecent.” 

Founded in 1914, The New Republic has since operated under a series of editors and owners who have fluctuated between political ideologies, mostly moving between various iterations of left-wing politics, from liberal to progressive to leftist and everything in between. Wieseltier was brought on by Martin Peretz, who purchased the magazine in 1974 and remained its editor-in-chief in 2012 — a period in which the magazine was closely associated with liberal Zionism, a core belief of Peretz and Wieseltier. It also attained a popularity in literary and political circles that it has not achieved in the past decade.

In 2014, a new owner — Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes — brought in a young tech-savvy editor who was widely unpopular with the staff. The magazine’s then-editor Franklin Foer (now at The Atlantic) was fired, and Wieseltier then quit in protest, leading to a mass exodus of staffers, including Puck’s Julia Ioffe, ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis and The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner.

“There were so many people on the left who were so gleeful when Chris Hughes mismanaged the place and caused the entire staff to quit. It wasn’t that they were excited about creating some different version in its place. They basically stopped paying attention to what it published after that,” Chait said. “No one has really cared very much about what The New Republic has done since then.”

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