IfNotNow Co-Founder & Jeopardy Contestant Emma Saltzberg Gaslights & Criticizes Mayim Bialik in Interview

A few days ago I posted about IfNotNow co-founder Emma Saltzberg’s performance on Jeopardy, in particular her inability to provide the obvious answer of “Tel Aviv” to a question.

JTA have since interviewed Saltzberg, painting her as the victim of online abuse.

Emma Saltzberg knew she might invite criticism by competing on “Jeopardy!”

From her years of experience in progressive Jewish groups, including IfNotNow, a group founded in 2014 to galvanize American Jews to oppose Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, she knew that her appearance on one of the most popular TV shows in the United States would likely generate negative comments from those who believe criticizing the occupation is antisemitic.

There are trolls in IfNotNow’s Twitter mentions, a small and vocal group of people who say really negative things. That was priced in to my decision to do something public. I was totally expecting it.

I will also say that I got a real perspective into how messed up the kind of hate that comes our way actually is.

This is an entirely dishonest statement designed to paint her critics as antisemitic. Those who criticized her (like me) do not believe criticizing the so-called “occupation” is necessarily antisemitism. But we do object to IfNotNow’s support of terrorism, alliances with antisemites, and co-opting Judaism to bash Israel (to name a few things).

The JTA piece also reveals that the guy who answered “Tel Aviv” correctly and ended up winning the episode is himself on the wrong side of history:

What she hadn’t counted on, she said, was her fellow contestants standing up for her. On Monday, Lawrence Long, the nursing student and self-described “stay-at-home uncle” from North Carolina who defeated Saltzberg on Monday’s episode reached out to let her know that he was distressed by the attacks and would be donating to IfNotNow in her honor.

Long, whose second appearance also ended in a win Tuesday, told JTA that he happens to agree with Saltzberg on the issue of the occupation, but that wasn’t what animated him.

“I noticed the particularly hateful comments directed at Emma online,” he said in an email, adding, “I would have had her back regardless of whether our personal beliefs aligned. … I wish her nothing but the best and I gotta figure out the cool multiple of $18 to donate.”

$18, or multiples thereof, is a common donation amount among Jews because 18 represents “chai” or life. So this might indicate Long is Jewish or has been “educated” by one about this (perhaps Saltzberg). And if the latter, it is no wonder he is on the wrong side of history!

Later on in the interview, Saltzberg gaslights:

What makes the “Jeopardy!” world so great is this sense of curiosity and wanting to learn and being there for each other. And so much of the conversation that I’m seeing in the Jewish world right now is so deeply anti-intellectual in a way that I find really heartbreaking.

I see Jewish organizations — big and small, secular and religious — rejecting the painstakingly crafted research of a whole swath of human rights organizations just out of hand, without even bothering to make arguments about what it’s saying on the merits. They just reject it out of hand, and in a way that really sows confusion, for non-Jews and Jews alike, about what antisemitism is. So they’re calling things like this Amnesty International report antisemitic, or saying that it will increase antisemitism just to look squarely at what the Israeli government is doing to Palestinians.

This whole conversation is basically posing a false choice: that people can support Jews against antisemitism, or they can support Palestinian liberation from Israeli oppression. The idea that you have to pick one is so dangerous to me and so sad, because we actually can stand for Palestinian freedom and stand for our freedom and safety as Jews.

Painting those who reject IfNotNow, the Amnesty Report, and others who demonize the Jewish state as “anti-intellectual” is reflecting the exact opposite of reality. There have been numerous articles, for instance, explaining exactly why the Amnesty Report is inaccurate and dishonest. Quite the contrary, you will find it is those who demonize Israel (like IfNotNow activists) who have a very superficial, anti-intellectual understanding of the situation, not to mention Jewish concepts like “Tikun Olam.”

Meanwhile, it seems that Saltzberg takes aim at Jeopardy host Mayim Bialik for showing support for Israel in an entirely random comment:

It’s funny that this is your takeaway because “Jeopardy!” actually is a competition with a single correct answer.

It’s a competition — but it’s also a place where people respect the rules of the game, and if you get the answer wrong, you don’t tell the hosts that they’re making it more dangerous for Jews to live in the world. In some ways, that sort of clear competition creates a clearer way to support one another.

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David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media