Thursday, August 5, 2010

How Bad Can the Jewish Rightwing Get?

        Serious observers of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are familiar with the nastiest and most irresponsible of the “pro-Israel” American Jewish rightwing, which at any cost seeks to defend Israel against the indefensible: Martin Peretz, Alan Dershowitz, Jeffrey Goldberg, Abraham Foxman, David Horowitz, Daniel Pipes, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, and the like. To this unillustrious list must now be added the name of Lee Smith, until now an obscure rightwing journalist. I don’t know if Smith is Jewish, but in the last two weeks Tablet, an online “magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture,” published two articles by Smith that have reached a new low: ”Mainstreaming Hate,” and “Playing With Fire”

        Because Tablet has a number of well-known editors and contributors, as well as because of the sensational nature of the Smith charges, the articles have received widespread publicity and notoriety. They are hard to read without feeling physically sick. Smith makes two charges. First, he asserts that the most important blogs critical of Israel—Phil Weiss’s Mondoweiss, Glen Greenwald’s regular blog on Salon, Andrew Sullivan’s commentary in Atlantic and, above all, Steven Walt’s blog at foreignpolicy.com (Weiss and Greenwald are Jewish, Sullivan and Walt aren’t)—represent nothing more than “Jew-baiting.”

        Secondly, according to Smith the blogs he attacks are sponsored by mainstream media companies who, desperate to reverse their recent loss of readers, have decided that their prospects for returning to profitability depend on their “using the Internet to make anti-Semitism respectable…” He explains: “The Israel, or rather anti-Israel, market is one of the most attractive niche markets….If not quite as popular as adult-content sites, the anti-Israel blogosphere is a dirty little thrill that major U.S. media outfits have mainstreamed for the masses, the intellectual equivalent of the topless “Page Three” girls that British tabloids use to boost circulation.”

        In response to the outrage that greeted his first article, in his second article Smith elaborates on his charges. He denies, apparently with a straight face, that he had charged Walt and Sullivan with being personally anti-Semitic, or Weiss and Greenwald with being “of the hothouse flower variety of anti-Semite known as the self-hating Jew.” Even though “all four men openly engage in Jew-baiting,” he continues, and even though “plenty of credible voices” (copiously cited) have accused the leading critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic, he, Smith, would refrain from doing so because he couldn’t read their minds. Nor was he blaming the critics for allegedly anti-Semitic comments on their blogs, not at all: “Walt is not accountable for the rabble that hang on his every word….Even though a sewer follows Walt wherever he goes, he is not that sewer’s keeper.”

      The real point of his first article, Smith argues, was to “illustrate that these pundits, their audiences, and the major media companies hosting their blogs, are complicit in the common work of mainstreaming…anti-Semitic language, ideas, and discourseIf Walt and the others may be acquitted of responsibility for their cesspools, what blame lies with their employers?” He continues: “Walt’s readers live through his posts and feed off of the legitimacy bestowed on him by mainstream American cultural institutions—Harvard, which employs him; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which published his book, and FP.com and The Washington Post Company, which host his blog. Walt and his anti-Israel blogging colleagues have become the respectable face of Jew-baiting. They’re the cesspool’s avatars.

       As if it would verify his charges, Smith in several places quotes Jeffrey Goldberg: “Walt is a throwback to the 1930s,” says Goldberg. “In the ’30s the isolationists rode the Jews as a hobby horse. They tried very hard to marginalize American citizens of the Jewish faith by questioning their loyalty. These guys don’t even understand what ancient terror they’re tapping into. What’s original, what makes this period alarming, is that The Washington Post Company would give a Jew-baiter a platform.” Can there be any doubt that Smith and Goldberg hope to pressure the Washington Post, not exactly an exemplar of fearless liberalism these days, into silencing Walt?

      Even leaving aside the case of Lee Smith, the ugliness of his language, and his crackpot argument about the mainstream media’s decision to make more money by backing “Jew-baiting,” there are a number of things wrong with, and possibly even dangerous about, the Jewish rightwing’s screams of “anti-Semitism” when Israel is strongly criticized by the leading bloggers. Not only are the charges false and scurrilous, they risk provoking a genuinely anti-Semitic backlash; beyond that, they are bad for U.S. national interests and security, bad for Israel, and bad for the American Jewish community, especially since they violate our best traditions and values.

Are the Leading Bloggers Anti-Semitic?

To begin with, Walt, Sullivan, Weiss, Richard Silverstein, and Jeremiah Haber, along with many others, have ably defended themselves or their colleagues, for example by pointing out that the sole evidence Smith cites to support his ugly charges that they engage in “Jew-baiting” come not from anything—anything—that the bloggers themselves wrote, but from reader comments on their blogs! Of course it is the case that anything critical of Israel will appeal to a few genuine anti-Semites—but it is far more likely to generate equally enraged and vicious comments, along the lines of Smith himself, from the “pro-Israel” crackpots.

       Smith’s main target is Steven Walt and, by implication, John Mearsheimer, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007), which aside from Walt’s ForeignPolicy.com blog is the main focus of outrage by the Jewish rightwing. Mearsheimer (a chaired professor at the University of Chicago) and Walt (a chaired professor at Harvard, the former Dean of the Kennedy School of Government and Co-chairman of the Editorial Board of International Security, the most prestigious professional journal in its field) are two of the most eminent scholars and public intellectuals in the field of international politics, world renowned and deservedly so: in a recent survey of international politics scholars, Mearsheimer was ranked fifth on a list of scholars who have had the greatest impact on the field over the past twenty years, while Walt ranked twenty-second.

         Of course intellectual eminence might not always constitute definitive disproof of the charge of anti-Semitism, but you would think it would at least induce some caution and constrain guttersniping from the Jewish rightwing—typically called “pro-Israel,” but in terms of consequences, anything but. In any case, the important point is that a careful reading of The Israel Lobby as well as the subsequent work of both Mearsheimer and Walt (as well as that of Andrew Sullivan) would make it clear that far from being anti-Semitic, if anything they are philo-Semitic. That is, while being good realists who must first emphasize the national interest stakes for the United States, they are also deeply concerned about moral justice and the true national interests of Israel. Indeed, those of us in the same profession who have widely read the work of Mearsheimer and Walt, as well as being acquainted with them personally, know that both of them have close connections to the American Jewish community, and are rightly in disbelief if not despair at what the Jewish right is doing to that community and to the “Jewish moral values” that they have deeply admired.

The Israel Lobby Thesis

Even if The Israel Lobby was actually anti-Semitic, it would not relieve us of the necessity of evaluating on its merits the book’s central argument—that the Israel lobby, of course overwhelmingly Jewish, has great power over American foreign policy toward the Middle East in general and towards Israel in particular, and that it has exercised that power in a manner that is bad for both the U.S. and Israel. In my view, while the Mearsheimer/Walt book is a highly important work in a number of ways, it is by no means entirely persuasive. I will not go into detail here; I have written about it at length and Mearsheimer and Walt have responded

    In brief, for over sixty years the United States has provided nearly unqualified support of Israel, not merely for its existence and basic security, but for most of its policies in the Arab-Israeli conflict. How to account for this “special relationship” is complicated and subject to dispute. One of the problems that Mearsheimer and Walt faced in writing their book and in their subsequent defenses of it is that there is no doubt that a focus on Jewish financial and media power has long been one of the staples of anti-Semitism both in the United States and Europe; however, that doesn’t change the obvious fact that Jews do in fact have great financial, political and media power in the U.S. The only serious question is the extent of that power. In my judgment, The Israel Lobby overstates the case—although not whether that power, whatever its extent, is today being used wisely. My own answer—and I am certain that of Mearsheimer, Walt, and Sullivan as well--is that on all non-Israeli issues America is better off because of the prominence of Jews. On Israeli issues, however, both America and Israel are harmed by the power of the Israel Lobby, whatever its extent.

      In my view, the long-lasting and remarkably strong U.S. support of Israel is the result of the convergence of many factors, of which the existence of a strong pro-Israel lobby is only one, and in most cases probably not the most important. The initial reason—and one that remains important today--was the widespread and deeply felt belief among U.S. officials and the general public alike that the United States had a moral obligation to help Israel defend itself against its Arab enemies. In the early years, this obligation stemmed from a widespread sense of guilt about the consequences of centuries of Western anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust.

        Second, Israel captured the imagination and sympathy of the American public, which even today still generally views it (in however oversimplified a manner) as having created and maintained a Western liberal democracy in a region dominated by despotic autocracies. Third, during the cold war Israel came to be perceived as a strongly anticommunist, pro-American, and militarily powerful ally in countering the threat of Soviet or communist expansionism in the Middle East and even, to a somewhat lesser extent, elsewhere in the global struggle. A fourth set of factors are the felt cultural and religious affinities between the United States and Israel: the differences between Christians and Jews in the United States have come to be seen as increasingly irrelevant and have been replaced by a sense of solidarity between those who share the “Judeo-Christian heritage.” Finally, of course, Israel is seen by most Americans—however simplistically or even erroneously (as, in fact, Mearsheimer and Walt convincingly argue)—as an indispensable ally in the struggle against Islamic radicalism and terrorism.

       All that said, however, who can seriously doubt that domestic politics are also are important part of the explanation, or that the American Jewish community has long had considerable influence and power in the U.S. government policy-making process on Israeli issues? Perhaps more so than ever: witness Obama’s pathetic series of retreats-- especially as his domestic popularity wanes and the Congressional elections approach--from his initial attempts to press Israel into agreeing to a fair settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In short, while one may disagree about the extent of Jewish power, in no sense is the Israel Lobby, or the subsequent powerful foreign policy analyses of Mearsheimer and Walt, “anti-Semitic”—let alone that Walt, Andrew Sullivan and other critical bloggers are, in Smith’s nauseating language, “career Jew baiters.”

The Jewish Right and the Danger of an Anti-Semitic Backlash.

Rather than guarding against anti-Semitism, the insults, coarseness, irrationality and dishonesty of the Jewish rightwing risks setting off an anti-Semitic backlash. To be sure, I don’t think there is much likelihood of this at present, but being Jewish myself and with some personal experience with anti-Semitism in the past, I cannot dismiss the danger out of hand: coming of age in America in the 1940s, I heard about, saw, and personally experienced plenty of anti-Semitism.

       More importantly, it is well to keep in mind the historical experience of the Jews: in the past two thousand years Jews have frequently been a tolerated minority, and sometimes have even risen to powerful and respected positions in some of the most advanced and civilized states—like England, Spain, Portugal, France, and of course Germany—only to see their social standing, their accomplishments, their livelihood and often their very lives suddenly swept away by a deadly outbreak of anti-Semitism. In light of this history, the possible resurgence of anti-Semitism in the West cannot be entirely discounted, for it has never been definitively defeated and eliminated and has always survived, even if deep under the surface, as if lying in wait for some national political or economic crisis to once again burst out in full fury.

       With that in mind, it is one thing to label (explicitly or by unmistakable innuendo) the most prominent and brave of the Jewish critics of Israel—Norman Finkelstein, Phil Weiss, Glen Greenwald, Richard Silverstein, M.J Rosenberg, and so on—as “self-hating Jews,” a charge that is so preposterous and revolting that only fools take it seriously. It’s another matter altogether to continue assailing the serious, informed, and justifiably highly respected non-Jewish critics of Israel—Mearsheimer, Walt, Sullivan, Chas Freeman, Scott McConnell, Michael Desch, and others.

      The problem is not that these men themselves--all of them patient, of good will, and genuinely committed to the best interests of Israel--will get really angry at the supposedly “pro-Israel” Jews in general, let alone countenance an anti-Semitic backlash. Rather, the real concern is how ordinary Americans as well as unwise or unprincipled politicians will react, if or when they finally catch on to the fact that Israel’s policies and the still-strong support of them by a large majority of American Jews are inflicting serious damage on American foreign policy, and perhaps even basic national security. Although the Jewish rightwing blandly denies that there is any connection between the hatred of Islamic fanatics and terrorists for the United States and the history of the near-unconditional American support of Israel, the denial is preposterous, since Osama bin Laden and many other al-Qaeda or other terrorist leaders have repeatedly said that their primary motive for attacking this country—including 9/11-- is its support for Israel’s occupation and repression of the Palestinians.

Bad for Israel

As well as being bad for the United States, the American Jewish rightwing is bad for Israel. Israel today is in desperate straits. Even leaving aside the dangers to its national security or very existence created by its endless provocations of the Arab or Islamic world, whose fanatics will almost certainly eventually gain possession of nuclear weapons, the poison created by the stupidity and criminal behavior of the Israelis towards the Palestinians is rapidly seeping into the politics and society of Israel itself. Israel today is well on its way to making a mockery of its claim to be a civilized Western democracy—even if only for the Jews, let alone for the more than five million Arabs whom it effectively rules or controls, directly or indirectly. And with every passing day the news gets worse, as new signs emerge of the gathering descent of the Jewish state into authoritarianism, religious fundamentalism, anti-intellectualism, state repression, majority tyranny, and international pariahdom.

      A growing number of Israeli commentators openly express their fear that Israel—a Jewish state, who could have imagined it—is sliding into fascism, and desperately call on the United States to help save Israel from itself. In vain, I fear, given the domestic politics of the Israeli issue in this country, as well as (as Scott McConnell has astutely observed) the reluctance of so many Jews and Gentiles to speak out and subject themselves to the repugnant attacks of the Jewish rightwing.

Bad for the Jews

In the entire history of the Jews there has never been a state such as America of the last fifty years or so: certainly not anti-Semitic, and not even merely “tolerant,” but perhaps even philo-Semitic. Where else have we ever been more secure—certainly not in Israel—and, beyond elemental safety, more integrated, respected, prosperous, honored—and, yes, powerful? Even so, given our overall historical plight, as well as the fact that we constitute less than 2% of the American population, one might hope for greater wisdom and insult-free discourse from the Jewish rightwing.

        Beyond the potential dangers of fouling the nest, the Jewish rightwing is betraying what we have been pleased to think of as “Jewish values,” but which are really what is best in Western civilization as a whole: a commitment to reason, truth, and justice. The Jewish rightwing is making a mockery of these values: routinely lying, resorting to the tactics of the guttersnipe, and debasing rational and civilized discourse. Indeed, such a discourse would be essential even if the Jewish rightists had something of value to contribute to the debate over Israeli policies and U.S. support of them, and all the more so when they are devastatingly wrong about the true national interest, well-being, and moral standing of Israel.

31 comments:

Juan said...

Prof. Slater,

Thanks for this terrific post. Your view that continued attacks of this nature by the Israeli right and their supporters could eventually lead to anti-Semitic backlash is, I think, correct. Efforts to suppress all criticism of Israel-no matter how reasoned/justifiable-can only lead ultimately to disaster.

Human groups under threat circle the wagons and develop an intense "you're either for us or against us" mentality. The tragedy is that this attitude ultimately leads to ever more extreme illegal/immoral actions as "necessary for survival."

I'm particularly worried that the Israelis will decide to deal with their anxiety by attacking one or more of their perceived enemies. It does not now seem likely that they will make the peace that the international community (save the USA) requires them by law to make with Syria and the Palestinians. To do so would amount in their thinking to surrender.

Jim Donnellan said...

>On Israeli issues, however, both America and Israel are harmed by the power of the Israel Lobby, whatever its extent.

I must say I was dumbfounded when House Resolution 867 on the Goldstone Report passed with such strong support; that vote seemed to me to be a very strong testimony to Walt and Mearsheimer's hypothesis.

Also, I attended presentations in 6 different synagogues in the Boston area over the past 16 months. Those I would consider liberal were relatively modest structures and they played host to Michael Lerner, Combatant's for Peace, Gershom Gorenburg, and Breaking the Silence. The others played host to Michael Oren, a congressman, and a trio of speakers - a former head of AIPAC, a Harvard historian, and Jeremy Ben Ami. The later three attracted huge audiences to well-endowed synagogues and I would roughly classify them in the right wing camp. So, given that very limited data sample, I would guess that Smith knows where the money is and he also knows that audience is very receptive to his tripe.

Given the fact that the right wing quickly leaps to charges of antisemitism and self-hating Jew, it is hard to take those accusations seriously. In fact, it would be foolish to do so. And yes it does raise questions about what has happened to the American Jewish culture. The values it once stood for have been relegated to an almost niche minority (I recognize that this is only an impression; but it's a hard one for me to refute.)

AIG said...

Walt is not anti-semitic per se, but many of the comments to his blog are. Either willingly or unwillingly he has become a cheer leader for antisemitism.

As for the Israel Lobby, even Walt emphasizes that it is completely legal. If so, what are you complaining about? That some group with different views than yours is good at lobbying? That is pathetic and not how democracy works. Create your own lobby and beat the Israel lobby at its game. Otherwise, stop your whining.

As for the antisemitic backlash, that is an argument that should not have been even put forward. Would you have recommended that the civil rights movement be curbed because it may cause an anti-black backlash? The people in the Israel lobby have every right to voice their opinions and lobby legally. If bigotry is the consequence of that, it is certainly not the fault of the Israel Lobby. Threatening with antisemitism is just another way of attempting to stifle freedom of speech.

You don't like what the Israel Lobby says. That is of course your right. But the solution is to be more convincing and make better arguments than them, not to monger fear as you do in this article.

Juan said...

AIG,

If it were possible in this country to have a fair and open debate of our middle eastern foreign policy, I have no doubt that the Lobby's one-sidedly pro-Israel positions would often be voted down--at least in the court of public opinion. The Lobby has created an atmosphere in our government of fear--fear of criticizing Israel because of political retaliation. Yes, the Lobby's tactics are legal, but its smear tactics and punitive actions toward its critics are totally in oppostion to free and open democratic debate. Yes, I am arguing that the Lobby's one-sided presentation of their views conjoined with active suppression of criticism is essentially undemocratic (not to mention, harmful to both Israeli and American long-term interests). Finally, your suggestion that Walt tacitly encourages anti-Semitism with his blog is beneath contempt.

Jerome Slater said...

AIG asks: "Would you have recommended that the civil rights movement be curbed because it may cause an anti-black backlash?" No. But neither did I say that the Jewish rightwing should be "curbed," if by that you mean suppressed by the state.

That aside, here are the differences between the civil rights movement and the Jewish rightwing:
1. The civil rights movement was fighting on behalf of a just cause, whereas the JRW is fighting on behalf of an Israel which is acting not only unjustly, but dangerously, for itself and others.
2. The civil rights movement told the truth, the JRW lies.
3. The civil rights movement spoke to us in ways which appealed to what is best in us, whereas the rhetoric of the JRW is ugly.
4. America became a far better place as a consequence of the civil rights movement. The JRW supports the worst tendencies in Israel.

Anonymous said...

"My own answer—and I am certain that of Mearsheimer, Walt, and Sullivan as well--is that on all non-Israeli issues America is better off because of the prominence of Jews."

Racism.

I find in this article, as well as Walt and Mearsheimer's writings, the tendency to argue that abuses of power are wrong insofar as they are bad for Israel, or bad for the United States. Torturing and murdering Palestinians, bribing, spying on, blackmailing and terrifying US politicians, bullying everybody with the accusation of anti-Semitism and so on is wrong, but only because it is bad for the Jews, bad for Israel.

In cases where such behavior is good for the Jews and good for Israel, it would be perfectly ok, or at least that is the impression that one gets from reading the writings of those who are "genuinely committed to the best interests of Israel". One would not find them arguing that Israel should act in a morally upright way even if doing so costs it something rather than gains it something.

In truth, the reason for this is not that these men are evil and would genuinely want Israel to commit evil when that is the best way to further its interests. The reason is that these men believe that there is no hope in preaching morality - they believe that Israel is a lost cause, hopelessly evil and only willing to listen to the message "stop torturing, murdering and intimidating everybody" when it is accompanied by "because it is the best way to further your interests."

AIG said...

Slater,

All your points are mere opinions on your part. You don't like the Israel lobby's views. Again, that is fine. But instead of standing up to them using standard democratic means, you try selling fear. Also, I find your position extremely lacking from an epistemological point of view. You seem to believe that you know better than the collective Israeli position that was determined by fair and frequent elections. The Israelis (of which I am one) have skin in the game. Our decisions affect us directly. Furthermore, most of us are, have been or have relatives in the IDF. We are well aware of the dilemmas we face. To claim that you know better than all of us is as arrogant as can be.

AIG said...

Juan,

Political retaliation is a LEGITIMATE method in democracy. Why wouldn't a lobby work against an elected official that opposes its views??? All good lobbies do that. As for smear tactics, you are in fact using them now by claiming that the Israel lobby uses smear tactics. When they use a line you don't agree with, you call it "smear tactic".

Let's put the facts on the table. The Israel lobby is successful at what it does because most Americans have pro-Israel tendencies. Otherwise, why would American politicians be so worried to be branded as not pro-Israel? Would a politician care if he is branded not pro-Namibia? You just cannot accept this fact.

So, again I ask, why don't you put together a lobby to battle the Israeli one instead of whining and using smear tactics against a very successful organization?

Jeff Blankfort said...

The one fact that AIG patently ignores is that the Israel Lobby is working on behalf of the interests of a foreign country which many people believe to be in conflict with the interests of the US and only through its extraordinary power have its members not been required to register with the Foreign Agents Registration Agency of the Justice Dept.

Before he was assassinated President Kennedy's Justice Dept. under his brother, Robert, were making a determined effort to force the American Zionist Council, AIPAC's predecessor to register as a foreign agent and the AZC's lawyers kept fighting off the request with various legal trickey. After November 22, 1963, that no longer became necessary since LBJ wasn't pushing it.

Anonymous said...

"is that on all non-Israeli issues America is better off because of the prominence of Jews."

Er, care to explain? Got any examples? Or is this just a generalisation along the lines of 'Jews are intellectually smarter than anyone else'?

Anonymous said...

"As for the Israel Lobby, even Walt emphasizes that it is completely legal."

Many things in the US are made 'legal' because congress votes for them, congress is overwhelmingly made up of AIPAC stooges. The simple fact is AIPAC is an agent of a foreign country.

Not only that, but a foreign country with an illegal nuclear arms program. A country that has been castigated more times in the UN for illegal conduct than any other nation on Earth.

So, the fact that a foreign government, via AIPAC, has taken over the legislative branch of your government, and declares everything it does 'legal' is ok? Get real.

Geltmeister said...

'The Israel lobby is successful at what it does because most Americans have pro-Israel tendencies.'

No, they are told they do by the Jewish dominated US media - heresy or fact? It's a fact. Don't argue about it.

'Otherwise, why would American politicians be so worried to be branded as not pro-Israel? Would a politician care if he is branded not pro-Namibia?'

Because Namibia doesn't stuff their bank accounts with illegally acquired US taxpayers dollars in return for support. The US is in violation of it's very own laws every time it give money to non-NPT nuclear power Israel.

AIG said...

You see Slater?

Just scratch the surface a little and all the antisemitic tropes emerge:
1) Jews control the media
2) Jews control the US congress
3) The Israel lobby was involved in Kennedy's murder

Do you not see that you are inadvertently giving these ideas the environment to thrive? Don't you see that by castigating the Israel lobby in the specific way you do, you are encouraging such views?

By all means, criticize the Israel lobby as much as you want. But you should reconsider your line which could easily be interpreted as "antisemitism is justified because of Jewish actions". I know that is not what you are saying, but just look at the comments above.

Jerome Slater said...

A general response:

Which of the following is more likely to harmful to Israel's best interests, and to moral justice:

a. Israel's stupid and ugly repression of the Palestinians?
b. Criticism of Israel for its stupid and ugly repression of the Palestinians?

Which is most likely to lead to anti-Semitism:
a. The Jewish rightwing's ugly attacks on both Jews and Gentiles who criticize Israel?
b. Criticism of the Jewish rightwing's ugly attacks on Jews and Gentiles who criticize Israel?

The Israeli defense: we chose our policies by democratic means, so only we can know what is best for us: "To claim that you know better than all of us is as arrogant as can be."

Response:
1. Hitler came to power by democratic means, and polls repeatedly show that Stalin was viewed favorably by most Russians. Did the German and Russian people know what was best for them?

For that matter, throughout most of the Vietnam War U.S. majorities supported the war, and when they were given a choice, they voted for Nixon who continued the war, rather than McGovern, who would have ended it. U.S. policies were criticized as stupid,immoral, and bound to fail by most Western democracies--ie,"outsiders?" Who was right?


2. If a genuinely democratic regime nevertheless acts immorally against others, the fact that it has majority support is irrelevant.
Actually, it makes it even worse. People who live under autocracies--say, the Iranian people--are far less responsible for the ugly policies of their government than people who freely choose their own government--say, the Israelis.

AIG said...

Slater,
If you have a better method than the democratic one for a polity to choose what to do let me know. As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others. Or are you advocating that we make you King of Israel because you can make better decisions than all of us?

And of course, democracy is not perfect, but what is even worse, is a minority with no skin in the game, like you and your fellow travelers deciding for Israelis.

As for your fear mongering, you offer a false dichotomy. Your fear mongering does in fact give support to antisemites as the comments above show. But the other option you put on the table is:
The Jewish rightwing's ugly attacks on both Jews and Gentiles who criticize Israel?

But where have you even established that these occur? That is your own opinion and you are just wrong.

And as for your claim that "Israel's stupid and ugly repression of the Palestinians" will lead to antisemitism, you are again jumping to conclusions about how Israel treats the Palestinians. Your view is completely and utterly distorted mainly because if you haven't noticed Hamas is an antisemitic organization already. And why would Americans become antisemitic? Did they start hunting Serbs after the Kosovo massacre? Did they start hating Somalis after Mogadishu? Did they stop trading with China because of Tibet? The Israeli treatment of Palestinians is so benign and so under the radar screen for most Americans that your argument is just ridiculous.

Of course, you failed to address the comments above mine. The simple fact is that your rant has created antisemitism NOW. Just read the comments.

Juan said...

AIG,

Your comments completely ignore the fact that Israel, supported by American governments in thrall to (primarily) Jewish money, has consistently violated Palestinian human rights and defied international law (e.g., Res. 242) for decades. Such behavior reveals the sham of Israeli propaganda claiming to be a moral "light unto the nations" and reveals its actual guiding principle is that might makes right. This is the law of the jungle, pure and simple.

While you should be advocating for a complete withdrawal from the occupied territories and justice for the Palestinians, you instead whine about "anti-Semitism." When Prof. Slater convincingly rebuts your suggestion that the Ameican civil rights movement and the Israeli Right Wing are similar, you have no reasoned response except smears. This comes as no surprise to me, because your position is wholly indefensible...

AIG said...

Juan,

Thank you for proving my point and using an antisemitic trope: American governments are in thrall to primarily Jewish money. With supporters like you, Slater is really going places.

Slater,
Do you now understand what you are doing? I hope so.

Anonymous said...

AIG, I do not support the occupation, I voted for Obama, I do not support Netanyahu, or any member of the JRW as slater puts it, and I loved Yitzhak Rabin and admired him. I think you are completely right, and I am curious to see slater respond. It is unfortunate that even on Slater's own blog, commenters are doing exactly what Lee described.

Anonymous said...

BTW - i clarified my occupation position because I wanted to show slater that there exist people who agree with Lee Smith and You that aren't even a member of the JRW. I know you aren't necessarily one either, AIG, but the thought of anyone disagreeing with him not being a member of the right wing probably will be too much for mr. slater.

Anonymous said...

thank you for your blog it was very interesting.

I would just like to say that i am an anti-semetic.

i have no hate or bad feelings toward any jew or jewish group, but i have been called an anti-semetic for so many times because i criticise Israeli policy. I have given up on explaining my views and my not having any bad feelings towards the people or religion, but still i am insistently called an anti-semetic by jewish supporters for israel. so i give up the endless discussions that cannot be won by reason and adopt their word for 'someone who doesn't agree with israeli policy'. from now on i am an anti semetic. voila. learn to live with it now.

all i can say further is that i am much younger (27) than most readers here (i guess), and i am european. most people of my age here know what is going on in the israeli/palestinian conflict. we get good objective news and articles even on national television (unlike in the US). people here have chosen a side. and no surprise it's the side of the oppressed. what i want to make clear is that we are sick of israeli policy and if it ever comes to an armed conflict, don't expect europeans to come and help you out. our leaders might want it but our people don't. in fact the dislike for israel is so great right now that we'd rather fight against them then help them.

Jerome Slater said...

I'll try to respond to a few of the criticisms. It is an overwhelming, irrefutable fact that Israel has mistreated, repressed, and in myriad ways made life miserable for the Palestinians, basically since 1948, and increasingly so since.
It is also an overwhelming, irrefutable fact that Israel has had a number of opportunities to reach fair peace settlements with its Arab adversaries, including the Palestinians--and probably including even Hamas--but has repeatedly thrown away those opportunities. It is a further demonstrable fact that Israeli society as a whole is becoming cruder, nastier, less democratic, less egalitarian, and more violent--to the JEWs, let alone to the Arabs.
And it is just about a fact that the language and arguments of people like Lee Smith, Peretz, etc. are nasty, thuggish, and above all, breathtakingly dishonest--since they acknowledge none of the above.

Now, it may be the case that pointing out all these facts--which have terrible consequences for both Israel and the U.S.--will generate a bit of outright anti-Semitism, although I don't see it on this blog. What is the alternative: sit by and say nothing as the US and Israel both suffer the consequences of its benighted policies? And when those consequences become even more apparent, and they almost surely will, isn't that likely to generate REAL anti-Semitism?

All that said, the key point is this: to contribute anything worthwhile to the ongoing debate, you must first be aware of the crucial facts, and secondly honestly acknowledge them.

My very strong impression is that the critics, here and elsewhere, are not aware of the facts, and indeed don't want to become aware. Rather, they dismiss facts as mere "opinions," mine and others. They prefer to continue their willed ignorance, so they can continue to spout off about matters they know little about, or (as in the case of so many Israelis, repress).

But such people have nothing of any value to say, and they are wasting my time and that of serious readers

Anonymous said...

Jerome, you couldn't have copped out more in your response.

Like I said before, I am well aware of the occupation and it's need to disappear. I am well aware of the atrocities committed by both sides. But you continuously ignore the fact that YOU ARE PROVIDING A FORUM SIMPLY BY NOT CONDEMNING THE ANTI-SEMITIC comments on even your own blog!!!

In fact, the majority of the first half of your response was saying, WELL IT'S DESERVED CUZ ISRAEL IS SO BAD. MAYBE IF ISRAEL WASN'T SO BAD THERE WOULDN'T BE SO MUCH anti-semitism! That's some serious bullshit, Mr. Slater, and it's really sad to see an academic go this route. I am an Israeli who KNOWS the occupation is bad, and I wish Bibi was not in power. But he is, and we get it! So stop making excuses for the anti-semitism that you are FUELING. EVEN steve walt in his first childish response to Lee Smith accused anyone who stands up for israel of being a "hasbara agent," something that ALL of his commentators on his blog then jumped on and have been using on anyone who defends israel, even the good things it does. You're not above admitting that israel HAS done a good thing or two, right?

Maybe instead of making excuses for anti-Semitism you should say something public about how it REALLY IS A problem. Instead you chose to be an apologist for it, when you don't even realize that you and Steve Walt's articles are providing both the fuel and the matches for it. And then you have the nerve to give excuses for it.

Sad day.

Anonymous said...

All it would really take is an a statement to your readers that they should focus on legitimate criticism of israel. As the first person to engage you about this on these comments showed you, all one has to do is scratch the surface, and criticism about the RIGHT TO EXIST pop up like mosquitos near a pond at dusk. YOU ARE FUELING THIS. FUELING IT. There is no way to get around that, at least admit it. Hopefully you feel some shame, somewhere, because I think deep down you know I have a point.....

Anonymous said...

Mr. Slater, you have cleverly closed the door to fair criticisms of YOUR own arguments because you are crying wolf about your opponents crying wolf about anti-semitism. You are doing exactly what you are accusing your opponents of doing, while managing to sink even closer to the sewer while doing it. Sad.

Anonymous said...

Moronia.

Anonymous said...

AIG,
please stop referring to Professor Slater as "Slater", it is rude and offensive. Try to engage without abuse, name calling, denigration - I think most people are tired of that routine when discussing Israel - it doesn't work anymore. Is "antisemitism justified because of Jewish actions"?.
It certainly has nothing to do with Christ, the "Protocols" or "blood libels"?

Jerome Slater said...

Anonymous: I appreciate the first two sentences of your rebuke of AIG--although I don't need to be referred to as Professor, as either Mr. Slater or even "Jerome" will do--in most cases, anyway. However, I certainly do not like your conclusion. I don't know whether you were intending to summarize my argument or speaking in your own voice--I do hope it is the former, not the latter. I most certainly do not argue that "antisemitism is justified by Jewish actions." Rather, my argument is that there is a risk that there might be an antisemitic backlash as a result of particularly ugly Jewish attacks on critics of Israel.

AIG said...

Slater,

You are burying your head in the sand.
I find it ironic that you are giving a platform for antisemitism in your comments section while being worried about some potential antisemitism in the future.

Now I understand. Antisemitism created by critics of Israel is ok, because Israel is EVIL while only the antisemitism that follows actions of Israel supporters is superfluous. Why didn't you say so from the start? At your core your argument is simply that Israel is EVIL. It is a pity that you do not have enough self confidence to stand behind what you really believe.

Anonymous said...

Jerome,
thank you.
"anti-semitism is ...." was lifted from one of AIG's attacks on you, although he did say he was not accusing you of supporting that thesis.
He deliberately misrepresents your argument to belittle and intimidate you and eventually silence you. But in one sense he is correct - the web debate is attracting the more lucid, informed and rational - who not so long ago would have been discouraged by the likes of AIG and would not have been involved.
The less debate there is on e.g. the recent Atlantic article on bombing Iran the more successful will be its proponents. Nevertheless the question remains - in my mind anyway - why is there so much antisemitism? Your article DOES posit that it may not be entirely irrational. If a current act (particularly ugly attacks) can lead to future antisemitism then it seems reasonable to consider whether previous acts have lead to current antisemitism.

Anonymous said...

I must say I enjoyed reading the first few comments under Dr Slater's opinion. I could see value and thought in both sides of his argument. As a long time Western based supporter of the Palestinian struggle - though not living in the US - I found it refreshing to read US originated reasoned debate.

This was a change, I thought, comments on blogs usually degenerate into name calling and add nothing except salve to the angst of the agitated author.

But then I read on. And I realised how myopic US debate really is. Any advocacy of the Palestinian cause has to be predicated with both a defense against anti-semitism and secondly with a claim that the case is argued on the grounds of benefit to Israel and or the US.

So debate gets consumed in stupid accusations about who is fueling anti-semitic naratives.

Is not the real issue the zionist sui generis claim that Jews own historical Palestine, against the universalist claim of the Palestinians based on continuous and non discriminatry occupation of the land area within a political border?

Legitimacy for Israel then is predicated on its particular claim that its existence is sufficiently low cost for the Palestinians for Israeli exceptionalism to be tolerated.

But Israel has become high cost.
Israeli behaviour towards the Palestinians has become increasingly harsh. If zionist goals of a democratic and Jewish majority in Palestine are to be maintained then this is alsolutely necessary. Long term the only successful Israeli option is mass murder and yet another expulsion of at least many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

It is paradoxically what the US, Israel's only true and strong ally, would never contemplate nor allow. The US might be Israel's biggest funder, it is also Israel's biggest handbrake.

Let's have some honest debate about that.

Anonymous said...

It has become almost amusing to view what I call "The Elders Of Zion Defence" when an observation or criticism of apparently undue Jewish influence in respect of US politics is advanced.

If such an observation is made, one is immediately branded as anti-semitic for suggesting that a cabal of Jews control US politics or the US media.

Of course in reality there is no such view advanced - rather, the suggestion is that given that US Jews form 1.7% of the population, their influence in politics and the media appears to be disproportionate. To counter this seemingly-obvious observation, the Elders Of Zion rhetorical device is used.