I often think of the letters that come into the Tomdispatch email box as the university of my later life — messages from around the world, offering commentary, criticism, encouragement, but mainly teaching me about lives (and versions of life) I would otherwise know little or nothing about. Then again, the Internet has a way of releasing inhibitions and, from time to time, the Tomdispatch email box is also a sobering reminder of the mindless hate in our world — of every sort, but sometimes of a strikingly anti-Semitic sort, letters that are wildly angry and eager, above all, to shut down or shut up commentary or debate of any sort.
It’s ironic, then, that the threat of sparking such “anti-Semitism,” as well as charges of being functionally anti-Semitic, have been used for a long time in this country as a kind of club to enforce, within the Jewish community, an exceedingly narrow range of correct opinion on Israel and its behavior in the world. In recent months, such attacks from within the Jewish establishment seem to have escalated whenever any professor or critic steps even slightly out of line, and the recent controversial book, The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy by John Mearsheimer and Steven Walt has caused a little storm of consternation. Tony Karon, who runs the always provocative Rootless Cosmopolitan website, suggests that these attacks may not be what they seem, that the need to turn back every deviation from Jewish orthodoxy may actually reflect a loosening of control within the political world of American Jews, and a new opening, a Jewish glasnost.
It has always been my opinion that the majority of Jewish-Americans actually hate Zionism and are loath to be connected in any way, shape or form of the term. They also hold AIPAC in low esteem as well and feel that the organization doesn’t truly represent their interests at all. And they would be correct.
There are varying forms of Zionism in historical references. The ones that Jewish-Americans have a problem with are Socialist Zionism and Labor Zionism . Both are tied to the kibbutz movement and has close ties to the Commune concept in Marxism. Decidedly anti-capitalist anyways.
I’ve never had a beef with a Jewish State. But I do think it was a bad idea to put a Zionist colony full of European Jews into the Middle East. Ulterior motives are obviously glaring here. The Truman Administration took all of 15 minutes to recognize the new State of Israel. Hmmm…
Read all of Tony Karon’s article here. Read it straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak.
From Guardian Unlimited:
Given the reception John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt received for their London Review of Books essay last year on what they called the Israel Lobby, it would have been understandable had they crawled away to a dark corner of their respective academic institutions to lick their wounds. Their argument that US foreign policy has been distorted by the stultifying power of pro-Israeli groups and individuals was met with a firestorm of protest that has smouldered ever since.
The authors were assailed with headlines such as the Washington Post’s: “Yes, it’s anti-semitic.” The neocon pundit William Kristol accused them in the Wall Street Journal of “anti-Judaism” while the New York Sun linked them with the white supremacist David Duke.
The row became a focal point of a much wider debate about the limits of permitted criticism of the state of Israel and its American-based supporters that has ensnared several academics and writers, including a former president. Jimmy Carter was castigated earlier this year when he published a plea for a renewed engagement in the Middle-East peace process under the admittedly provocative title, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. He was labelled an anti-semitic “Jew hater” and even a Nazi sympathiser. Meanwhile, a British-born historian at New York University, Tony Judt, has been warned off or disinvited from four academic events in the past year. On one occasion, he was asked to promise not to mention Israel in a speech on the Holocaust. He refused.
For Walt, the explosion of criticism after the LRB publication in March 2006 struck particularly close to home as two members of his own Harvard faculty turned on him. Ruth Wisse, professor of Yiddish literature, compared Walt and his University of Chicago co-author’s work to that of a notorious 19th-century German anti-semite. Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard criminal law professor who represented OJ Simpson, charged them with culling some of their references from neo-Nazi websites.
Given the battering he has taken, Walt is remarkably upbeat. “We were surprised by how nasty it got,” says the Harvard professor. “The David Duke reference, the neo-Nazi websites – these were intended to smear us and swing attention on to us rather than to what we were saying. It wasn’t pleasant, but it never made me doubt what we had written or doubt myself.” Standing tall in the face of attack is one thing; to raise your head above the parapet for a second round is quite another. But that is what the Mearsheimer/Walt double act are doing: they have gone on the offensive with the publication of a book-length version of their original treatise.
As night follows day, the dispute has started anew. The New York Sun has dedicated a section of its website to the controversy; Dershowitz has revved up again, calling the book “a bigoted attack on the American Jewish community”; and Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, has gone to the trouble of writing his own book in riposte – and it’s in the bookshops a week before The Israel Lobby appears.
There is one obvious question to put to Walt: why do it to yourself? Wasn’t one stoning enough? “We did ask ourselves, did we want to go through this again?” he admits, but only to add: “It didn’t take us all that long to figure out we had more to say and it was our job to say it.”
I’m sure I’ll be pilloried also and linked to neo-Nazis by the neocon-munists. The proverbial pot calling the kettle black cliche.
I don’t care. I only post political stuff once a week. I like to make it worth my time.