Torn apart by Walt and Mearsheimer
Jon Chait explains why he started writing about Israel:
Until recently I wrote very rarely about Israel. What changed things for me was the emergence of [Stephen] Walt and [John] Mearsheimer's conspiratorial analysis "The Israel Lobby," which not only inspires a lot of opinions in me, but also strikes me as an important moment in American political discourse. I see the climate of debate on the American left changing in disconcerting ways. There is the creepy division of American Jews into good Jews and bad Jews, and resulting premise that American Jews who don’t take a sufficiently left-wing position on the Middle East should be presumed to be acting out of dual loyalty. There is the casual impugning of hawkish American Jews qua Jews, and the wild assumption that pro-Israel Jews coordinate secretly. This is an assault upon the liberal norms that have prevailed in this country for decades. I find myself shocked to see liberals failing to decry it and sometimes defending it out of what strikes me as ideological tribalism.
On most things, Jon Chait and I have fairly similar beliefs. We both supported the Iraq war out of an optimistic-liberal hawkishness that I think we both now consider to have been misguided, at least in that context. We both supported the health-care reform bill. We both think supply-side economics is a hilarious prank masquerading as a viable theory. But on this, we're almost perfectly opposed.
Like Jon, I used to avoid the topic of Israel. For one thing, I believe it gets entirely too much attention relative to its actual importance in the world. For another, it's simply an unpleasant discussion. For a third, numerous journalists warned me -- because they genuinely believed -- that there were adverse professional consequences to speaking out on the issue.
It was the reaction to Walt and Mearsheimer's book that drew me into the topic. The accusations of anti-semitism or, when the target was Jewish, self-hatred. Jeffrey Goldberg's New Republic cover story that connected the book to Osama bin Laden, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, Father Coughlin, Charles Lindbergh, Patrick Buchanan, Louis Farrakhan and David Duke. The American Jewish Committee's paper (pdf) calling progressive Jewish thought "the new anti-semitism." The implausible rejection of the idea that America's behavior toward Israel might be heavily influenced by groups interested in Israel, just as its behavior toward corn subsidies is heavily influenced by the corn lobby, and that this might have worrying consequences. I found myself shocked to see liberals engaging in all of this out of what struck me as a fearful tribalism.
Not just shocked, but worried. Accusations of anti-semitism are accusations made partially in my name. I'm Jewish, after all, and have the inbox to prove it. (Today's selection: "I know you don't care about our Constitution, like most Jews, you are only in this country because it is the best place to satify [sic] your greed.") Accusations of ethnic hatred are heavy weaponry: Rolling that grenade against critics of the Israeli government's actions might shut down debate, but it's a dangerous strategy, as it cheapens the meaning of the term and tells a lot of people that they are not simply being critical of Israel's actions, but that their beliefs actually set them against Jews. Friends are important, even if you disagree on some things. And that's not how you keep them.
Posted by: bdballard | May 20, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: srw3 | May 20, 2010 3:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: matt297 | May 20, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: rjewett | May 20, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 20, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lomillialor | May 20, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jwellington1 | May 20, 2010 4:16 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: jkaren | May 20, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: CaptainMcGlew | May 20, 2010 4:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: randrewm | May 20, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bdballard | May 20, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MosBen | May 20, 2010 7:39 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: scottpost1 | May 21, 2010 8:46 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dasimon | May 21, 2010 1:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: MeMyself1 | May 21, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: m-epstein | May 22, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RobinPeter | May 26, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.