Tuesday, February 23, 2010

"I AM SPARTACUS!": The 'Honor' To Be Called An Anti-Semite

Eric Fingerhut has an interesting post on how it is now becoming a badge of honor to be called an Anti-Semite--so much so that some will go to some lengths in order to be able claim they are Anti-Semites.
I do agree that some of Israel's defenders are too quick to throw out charges of anti-Semitism or "self-hating Jew," and that's lamentable and a problem. But it seems that among many of Israel's critics, claiming that you've been accused of being an anti-Semite has become some sort of bizarre badge of honor. And quite a few of those that have allegedly been accused of being an anti-Semite, according to Wieseltier's critics, either were never smeared with such a term or were only accused of making a specific problematic remark and not tarred with some broad brush of disliking Jews, as they claim.
As an example, Fingerhut quotes the following paragraph from a post by Glenn Greenwald:

If The Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, and Time's Joe Klein, and Foreign Policy's Stephen Walt, and the University of Chicago's John Mearsheimer, and Gen. Wes Clark (a TNR target), and Howard Dean, and former President Jimmy Carter, and a whole slew of others like them are "anti-semites," then how terrible of an insult is it?
Now Fingerhut dissects each of the examples one-by-one:
First we have the oddest name on this list, Howard Dean. Yes, when running for president in 2003-04, Howard Dean was criticized for some remarks he made about the Israeli-Palestinian issue. But I couldn't remember any point where he was referred to as an anti-Semite. Well, in fact, the Salon article that Greenwald links to in order to apparently make his case on Dean doesn't even include the words "anti-Semite" or "anti-Semitism" anywhere in its more than 2,000 words. Yes, the article includes people, inside and outside the Jewish community, criticizing Dean as insufficiently supportive of Israel. That criticism may have been overheated or somewhat unfair -- but no one ever said Dean was anti-Semitic. In fact, the article makes the point that the most vocal critic of Dean was John Kerry, who last time I checked isn't a neocon and isn't Jewish (and for you smart alecks, yes, his paternal grandfather was Jewish, but Kerry isn't.) Dean was being criticized for his position on Israel by another candidate in the heat of a presidential primary contest. It happens all the time on many issues -- and it's called politics.
Hmmm, that's one down.

How about Charles Freeman? There were a lot of words written about Freeman's eventually aborted nomination to the National Intelligence Council, from the Weekly Standard's Michael Goldfarb, former AIPACer Steve Rosen, and The New Republic's Jonathan Chait, among others. Some of these pieces criticized Freeman's "realist" approach to foreign policy, some his opinions and feelings about Israel. Did some of the things written about Freeman unfairly distort his past writings? Sure, and that's not good, but that happens on issues in Washington every day. Was there a legitimate argument to be made that too much focus was being put on Freeman's opinions on the Middle East, and that it shouldn't matter for his appoitment to this intelligence post? Sure. But the only -- and please, we're not counting someone's anonymous comment left at the bottom of a Politico article or something -- mainstream figure to ever make any kind of argument that Freeman had any hostility to Jews was Marty Peretz, who wrote that the former ambassador had a "hostility to Jews generally." That line is unfortunate -- and also completely unrepresentative of the vast majority of criticism of Freeman, but was seized upon by his defenders as the only statement that really mattered about Freeman. (Accusations of anti-Semitism later were made about Freeman, but only after his bizarre screedblaming the "Israel lobby" for his withdrawal.)
That's 2.

Let's move on to Joe Klein, who claims he was called an anti-Semite by the ADL's Abe Foxman. Actually, he wasn't. Here's what Joe Klein originally wrote that raised the ire of Foxman:
The notion that we could just waltz in and inject democracy into an extremely complicated, devout and ancient culture smacked--still smacks--of neocolonialist legerdemain. The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives--people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary--plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel.
Foxman objected to Klein's reference to "Jewish" neoconservatives and his use of the term "divided loyalties" and wrote this: "The notion that Jews with 'divided loyalties' were behind the decision to go to war is reminiscent of age-old anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government..." That's the only time Foxman uses the term "anti-Semitic" in his letter, and it's hard to argue that he's using it incorrectly. Klein says, pretty clearly, that some American Jews supported the war in Iraq, and are supporting another with Iran, because of "dual loyalties," and accusing Jews of dual loyalties is, as Foxman writes, an "age-old anti-Semitic canard."

Klein's response is essentially to say he was telling the truth--and then rip Foxman for calling him an "anti-Semite"--but he never actually proves that what he says is the truth.  [Fingerhut has more to say about this, but you get the idea]That was #3.
Finally, Sullivan himself -- unintentionally -- best illustrates this point with a Monday blog post about Johann Hari entitled "What Often Happents to Israel's Critics, Part 1." He finds a 2008 column by British journalist Hari, who had written a column charging that sewage from Israeli settlements was poisoning the water of Palestinian reservoirs and was outraged by the reaction. He claims that "there was little attempt to dispute the facts I offered. Instead, some of the most high profile 'pro-Israel' writers and media monitoring groups – including Honest Reporting and Camera – said I an anti-Jewish bigot akin to Joseph Goebbels and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

So I eagerly googled Honest Reporting's piece attacking Hari and found hardly anything to substantiate Hari's claim. Midway trough an 888-word blog post, the phrase "modern day 'poisoning the wells' libel" is used. Some hyperbole that would have been better left out? Yes. But the other 882 words in the post are indeed a lengthy attempt to "dispute the facts" that Hari offered. There's a charge that Hari used a fabricated quote from David Ben-Gurion, that he gets the history of Israel wrong, and that the Palestinians are equally to blame for polluting the West Bank. I don't know who's correct on these issues, but for Hari to claim that the Honest Reporting piece compared him to Goebbels and didn't address his arguments is simply not true. (And the CAMERA piece is much the same.)
And that is number 4.

Actually, if you take a look at the comments on that post, there is some back-and-forth on the example of Hari--check it out.

Now while it's true that--whether intended or not--this sort of behavior is likely to dilute the relevancy of the term Anti-Semitism, by the same token I have no doubt that there will always be people who will see this charade for what it is...

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