the anti-Semitic accusation as throw-away

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Freddie

Freddie deBoer used to blog at lhote.blogspot.com, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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  1. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    I’d like to explain some history for you and your readers, just in case they or you are unaware. I apologize in advance if you already know this.

    European anti Semitism has a long history. In the Middle Ages, it was based on the Bible, which says that they were Christ-killers and they would carry the blood-guilt of this heinous crime forever.

    Jews were subject to apartheid-like laws in the Middle Ages (which really wasn’t so bad, considering that everyone else–besides the clergy and the nobility–was as well) and worse: periodic pogroms, or massacres, based on “well-poisoning” and other “blood libels” (they kidnapped and muredered babies for their satanic rituals, etc.).

    The French Revolution eliminated this feudal order from one day to the next. With respect to the Jews, the slogan was, “for the Jews–nothing! for the citizens–everything!” In other words, Jews would become citizens of the republic and have the same rights as everyone else, as citizens. This would solve the “Jewish question” because Jews would simply stop being Jews and become citizens.

    Jews took advantage of their freedom to excel in business, the arts, the professions and in academia. In Vienna–where 20th-century anti Semitism got its start–Jews were actually the majority in the above, while being a very small minority of the population in general.

    Thus the emergence of the Elders. How to explain the success of such a despised group without assuming that they simply know how to compete? Jews, for example, have a culture that values books and reading, which would give them a head-start on anyone who doesn’t. As a teacher in Mexico, I’m confronted with this fact every day: kids who don’t come from families with university educations have a much harder time in school than ones that don’t, regardless of their social classes.

    By the end of the century, anti Semitism was on the rise. The Dreyfuss affair, in France, is usually cited as an emblem of this. I think that the legend is that Theodore Hertzl was in France as a journalist covering the Dreyfuss trial and witnessed increasing virulent anti Semitic outbursts in public etc etc, which led to his founding the World Zionist Congress in 1897.

    The Elders was written by Tsarist secret police as part of the Russian government’s wave of pograms agains the Jews that was unleased after the assasination of Tsar Alexander I in the 1880s. It was translated into French and became part of the anti Semitic atmosphere in that country during the Dreyfuss affair. Later, it was brought to Hitler’s attention by Alfred Rosenberg, a Lithuanian Russian subject who became Hitler’s main ideologue.

    Therefore 20th-century anti Semitism is an amalgam of the Middle Ages blood libels and the Elders conspiracy theory.

    This ideology was defeated in WWII. One would not expect it to reappear as such again for this reason alone.

    On the other hand, anti Semites certainly have not disappeared. Therefore one would expect some new variation of the above theory, adapted for today’s circumstances.

    So, up to now, give me an honest answer: if you were a Jew, and you were aware of this history, wouldn’t you be a bit “sensitive” about it? Wouldn’t you tend to see “updated” versions of the blood libel and the Elders theory?

    The above is why I think your characterizations of Peretz, Goldberg, et al, are incredibly insensitive and ignorant.

    As for the more substantive points about AIPAC, I can’t see why this would be such an issue were it not for anti Semitism and the Elders-like interpretation Walt/Meersheimer put on it. After all, if the Jews have a lobby, so do the Arabs–and Chas Freeman is part of it. This consists of the oil industry and academia, because of immense Saudi funding of Arabist/Islamist studies. It carries over into the State department and the CIA since academia is the recruiting ground for bureaucrats. Aside from the Israel and Arab lobbies, lobbying is just part of our system of government, guaranteed by the First Amendement (right to petition for redress of greivances). Why single out the Israel lobby for special opprobrium?

    It should be easy for you by now to see how the charge of “coordination” pushes the Elders button for Goldberg and others. Nobody is accusing anyone of hating Jews in the vulgar Islamic “apes and pigs” style. But, given the implications of conspiracy charges contained in Freeman’s final statement (for example), the Elders reference is fully justified. Just as one can explain the fact that Jews were leading Socialists and leading Capitalists in the 19th century without assuming the Elders theory (like the Nazis and others did), one can explain the widespread opposition to Freeman’s appointment without assuming the diabolic influence of the Israel lobby. The fact that Chinese dissidents, and congressmen who support Chinese dissidents, makes the “Jewish lobby” charge absurd and would say to people like Goldberg (and any Jew, really) that the Elders theory is being invoked, even if unknowingly. The fact that Freeman has been on the payroll of the Saudis and the Chinese and has made statements contradicting long-standing US policy in the Middle East and China and supporting Saudi and Chinese policies makes accusations like Goldberg’s even more likely.

    After all, if his research had been financed by the Israel Lobby or by Israel itself, his unfitness for the job would be manifest. Indeed, he never even would have been nominated.Report

  2. Avatar Freddie
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    says:

    So, up to now, give me an honest answer: if you were a Jew, and you were aware of this history, wouldn’t you be a bit “sensitive” about it? Wouldn’t you tend to see “updated” versions of the blood libel and the Elders theory?

    Absolutely. But I would expect that I would either be able to provide better evidence than insinuation to back up my specific claims of anti-Semitism. More importantly, I wouldn’t make throwaway accusations or imputations of anti-Semitic tropes, because that leaves the people so accused with no meaningful way to challenge the accusation at all.

    Of course, there is reason for sensitivity when it comes to anti-Semitism. And vigilance is the responsibility of all principled people. But we still have to behave in a manner conducive to respectful and principled debate– in part, because that ultimately will be a benefit to eliminating genuine anti-Semitism.Report

  3. Avatar Will
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    says:

    It’s weird, because Goldberg is stuck between a rcok and a hard place, and I’m kind of sympathetic to his plight. His views on settlements and the peace process are pretty reasonable and he’s usually a darn good reporter, but he also has hair-trigger sensitivities to any accusation of anti-Semitism. I think this is unfortunate and frequently compromises his objectivity, but given his background I can’t really blame him it. It’s like he overcompensates on the anti-Semitism front to make up for his liberal views on the peace process.Report

  4. Avatar Max
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    says:

    Will, you beat me to it, but I was just going to say: it’s very sad to me to see guys like Goldberg dragged through the mud by liberals, because he’s doing a great deal in the service of a liberal vision of Israel and Palestine. I thought it was sad when Glenn Greenwald did it over a meaningless, flip remark, and I think it’s sad when Freddie does it over a meaningless, flip remark.Report

  5. Avatar Freddie
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    says:

    Max, he does it over and over again. They might be meaningless and flip, but they add up and add up and add up and contribute to a culture of intimidation.Report

  6. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    The following is the text of Freeman’s email declining his appointment. I take it as evidence of anti Semitism in that it depends on the Elders-like theory of the diabolical cabal manipulating events from behind the scenes in their own interests.:

    The libels on me and their easily traceable email trails show conclusively that there is a powerful lobby determined to prevent any view other than its own from being aired, still less to factor in American understanding of trends and events in the Middle East. The tactics of the Israel Lobby plumb the depths of dishonor and indecency and include character assassination, selective misquotation, the willful distortion of the record, the fabrication of falsehoods, and an utter disregard for the truth. The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.

    There is a special irony in having been accused of improper regard for the opinions of foreign governments and societies by a group so clearly intent on enforcing adherence to the policies of a foreign government – in this case, the government of Israel. I believe that the inability of the American public to discuss, or the government to consider, any option for US policies in the Middle East opposed by the ruling faction in Israeli politics has allowed that faction to adopt and sustain policies that ultimately threaten the existence of the state of Israel. It is not permitted for anyone in the United States to say so. This is not just a tragedy for Israelis and their neighbors in the Middle East; it is doing widening damage to the national security of the United States.

    You see, it’s not a question of criticizing Israel or even of opposing Israel that leaves people open to charges of anti Semitism. Even if you advocated policies that would lead to Israel’s destruction, like the right of return or unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank, you would not be anti Semitic. But if you’re going to engage in conspiracy theories like Freeman does, then it doesn’t matter to me what you think of Israel. You’d be an anti Semite, even if some of your best friends are Jews.

    A very enlightening book on this topic is by Claudia Koonz, The Nazi ConscienceReport

  7. Avatar Chris Dierkes
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    says:

    Joe Klein calls it an assassination. And says that Freeman is wrong to call it a cabal/lobby but rather it should be labeled a mob. Unless of course Jewish-American Klein is anti-Semitic or buys into the Protocals theory. Somehow I’m doubting that last idea.

    Joe Klein on FreemanReport

  8. Avatar James
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    says:

    After all, if his research had been financed by the Israel Lobby or by Israel itself, his unfitness for the job would be manifest. Indeed, he never even would have been nominated.

    Auh…Rahm Emmanuel has quite a high position in the Obama Administration, y’know?Report

  9. Avatar Roque Nuevo
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    says:

    James,

    Rahm Emmanuel has received money from Israel or the Israel Lobby for his research? What are you talking about?Report

  10. Avatar James
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    says:

    I just don’t think that that’s a claim you can substantiate.Report

  11. Avatar James
    Ignored
    says:

    And with regards W&M, this is worth reading:

    http://backtowardsthelocus.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/facts-of-life-someone-needs-to-wipe-up-smears/

    Their work is commonly misrepresented, so as to make easier to brush aside.Report

  12. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Chris,
    I don’t know if I was unclear for you or you are deliberately misreading me. Whatever. I never said that anyone “bought into” the Elders theory. I specifically said that this was not the case since the Nazi defeat meant the defeat of Nazi-style anti Semitism as well. I said that the Elders theory has been updated. Today, instead of the “International Jewry” that was the Nazi bugbear, we have “international Zionism,” and so on. In WWII, the Nazis said that “International Jewry” was pulling the strings on Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s governments so that they joined the anti-Axis alliance. Therefore, in the Nazi view, “International Jewry” was responsible for the war, not Nazi expansionism, etc. Nazis believed that the “true interests” of both GB and the US were in line with Nazism and therefore, “International Jewry” was manipulating the US and GB to act against their own “true interests.”

    The parallels between Freeman’s screed and Nazi-style anti Semitic “theory” are too obvious to ignore.

    Freeman, and those who support and agree with him, believes in a conspiracy theory that makes the Jews, Zionists, etc etc responsible for nefarious deeds against the “true interests” of the US, like for example, opposing the appointment of Chas Freeman himself.

    I know it’s useless to argue with any true believer in any conspiracy theory but just to show that I’m trying, the Hill (http://thehill.com/images/M_images/printButton.png) quotes congressmen and senators as saying that the Israel Lobby had nothing to do with their opposition to his appointment:

    Hastings said he was not contacted by any lobbyists prior to that scheduled meeting, which was then canceled.

    “I’m close to AIPAC. If they did come out against Freeman, I was not in the loop because no one called me to say a word about Charles Freeman,” said Hastings.

    Just as one can explain the fact that Jews were leading Capitalists and leading Communists before WWII etc etc without having to refer to any conspiracy theory whatsoever, one can explain the opposition to Freeman. You’ll see in the article I linked to that he simply wasn’t qualified for the job, which is aside from the fact of his business links with Saudi Arabia and China, which would make anyone doubt his fitness for the post he wanted.

    I can’t comment on the Klein article you link to. Of course I don’t believe that he’s anti Semitic. He doesn’t show that he believes in the Israel Lobby conspiracy theory either, let alone the Elders. I don’t see the point of your linking to him or the question you pose. Nothing in your comments or in Klein’s peice can refute anything I’ve said here so far.Report

  13. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    James,

    This quote from the page you link to by Nick Cohen says it all:

    “Lévy finds it significant that when the American academics Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer disinterred conspiracy theories about powerful Jews to explain away the Iraq War, they were not embraced by right-wing European journals, as anti-Semitism was in the early twentieth century, but by their left-wing rivals.

    I speak from experience when I say that among English academics, the duo’s notion that a Jewish cabal organised the second Iraq War is ubiquitous, and those who hold it think that their regurgitation of the oldest fantasy of the far right is proof positive of their liberalism. Denunciations of ‘Jewish warmongering’ came from Charles Lindbergh and ‘America Firsters’ in the thirties and forties, Lévy says.”

    Cohen’s observation applies to you as well.

    Otherwise there is asolutely nothing in the article you link to that shows that M&W do not propose an updated Elders-style conspiracy theory in their book, The Israel LobbyReport

  14. Avatar Freddie
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    says:

    Roque, I’m sorry, but if you can’t see the difference between saying “there is a powerful pro-Israel lobbying interest in the United States which undertakes unprincipled tactics to silence critics of Israel” and “there is a Jewish conspiracy that controls the world”… I don’t know what to tell you. This is again one of those instances where I can’t believe that you are the same person that wrote many of your more insightful comments. Clearly, there is an enormous difference in those ideas, and it really reeks of bad faith that you don’t acknowledge it.Report

  15. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Freddie,

    Of course there’s a difference. What have I said that could give you the idea that I felt otherwise? I honestly can’t find anything, but let this stand here as a repudiation of anything I’ve said to the contrary. It was gratifying for me that James found a quote by Nick Cohen that supports my point of view.

    I’ve said many times that there are parallels between the Elders and M&W’s The Israel Lobby. “Parallels” does not mean that the two are identical. I’ve said many times that the Elders theory has been updated. “Updating” means changing, evolving. Therefore they are different.

    I won’t accuse you of bad faith, but Freeman did not say, “there is a powerful pro-Israel lobbying interest in the United States which undertakes unprincipled tactics to silence critics of Israel.”

    He said, “The aim of this Lobby is control of the policy process through the exercise of a veto over the appointment of people who dispute the wisdom of its views, the substitution of political correctness for analysis, and the exclusion of any and all options for decision by Americans and our government other than those that it favors.”

    Even though these two ideas are quite different, neither is equivalent to “there is a Jewish conspiracy that controls the world.” I never accused anyone of believing in the latter. In fact, I’ve gone out of my way to show that such beliefs are dead (except for the Arab/Islamic world).

    Either way–if Freeman believes that the Israel Lobby silences critics (as in your rendering), or if he believes that it aims to control the policy process (as in his own words), this is a manifest absurdity. There are critics of Israel all over the map, foremost amongst them is Freeman himself today. Far from being silenced, his view have been trumpeted across the country and he’s made a very good living out of having such views, as have so many others.

    Then, of course, Freeman’s appointment was not torpedoed by the Israel Lobby at all, as evidenced by the article from the Hill I linked to above.

    None of the above will matter a bit to people who believe in the nefarious power of the Israel Lobby to “control the policy process” in detriment to our “true interests.” It doesn’t matter that 1-Critics of Israel are not silenced or 2-that the Israel lobby had nothing to do with the rejection of Freeman.Report

  16. Avatar BenSix
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    says:

    “This quote from the page you link to by Nick Cohen says it all”

    It “says it all“, eh? Is that why he refuses to provide quotes/references? Or even publish comments that ask for them?

    “Otherwise there is asolutely nothing in the article you link to that shows that M&W do not propose an updated Elders-style conspiracy theory in their book, The Israel Lobby…”

    Well, no, it shows that they don’t suggest that there was an “Elders-style conspiracy” behind the Iraq War. That’s what Cohen was claiming, and that’s what needed addressing. Besides, it’s really your responsibility to show that they are proposing anything of the kind, not theirs to demonstrate that they’re not.Report

  17. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Besides, it’s really your responsibility to show that they are proposing anything of the kind, not theirs to demonstrate that they’re not.
    Your article quotes M&W explaining that they do not propose a world wide Jewish conspiracy.

    we described the lobby as a loose coalition of individuals and organisations without a central headquarters. It includes gentiles as well as Jews, and many Jewish-Americans do not endorse its positions on some or all issues. Most important, the Israel lobby is not a secret, clandestine cabal; on the contrary, it is openly engaged in interest-group politics and there is nothing conspiratorial or illicit about its behaviour.”

    “Pressure from Israel and the Lobby was not the only factor behind the decision to attack Iraq in March 2003, but it was critical. Some Americans believe that this was a war for oil, but there is hardly any direct evidence to support this claim. Instead, the war was motivated in good part by a desire to make Israel more secure.”

    This is as good an example of “updating” the Elders conspiracy theory as you’re likely to find.Report

  18. Avatar James
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    says:

    Otherwise there is asolutely nothing in the article you link to that shows that M&W do not propose an updated Elders-style conspiracy theory in their book, The Israel Lobby.

    Yes, because it is possible to prove a negative. That’s how every debate works: with one person saying “I think you once trod on a newt” and the other person rummaging around for evidence that that never happened. Right?

    This is as good an example of “updating” the Elders conspiracy theory as you’re likely to find.

    That isn’t updating it. That’s saying something else entirely.Report

  19. Avatar Roque Nuevo
    Ignored
    says:

    Let me rephrase that: “there is asolutely nothing in the article you link to that refutes my claim that M&W propose an updated Elders-style conspiracy theory in their book, The Israel Lobby. OK?

    W&M, Freeman, and people who think like them, accuse the Israel Lobby of torpedoing Freeman´s appointment. This is false. Another peice of evidence for that from today’s WaPo: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/13/AR2009031301856_pf.html. According to this, Freeman’s attitude towards China and Tibet determined the opposition to his appointment. The Israel Lobby was not instrumental in this. Freeman and many others, like James, believe that the Israel Lobby has undue influence on the policy process. This is also false. Accusations of such things usually take the form of lists of Jewish names as “proof.” Your logician’s mind should be able to see the fallaciousness of this approach.

    I say all this W&M theory is an updated version of the Elders conspiracy theory because it blames Jews for a variety of evils without proof or even logic. Naturally, the theory is much more nuanced today than it was at the end of the 19th century. That’s the whole point of it’s being updated. People can say that they don’t believe that there’s a Jewish conspiracy to control the world and instead there’s “a loose coalition,” etc etc. People can accuse this Israel Lobby of “silencing” them when it’s only about criticism and even when they have prominent positions in academia or the government, like W&M themselves. These are hallmarks of the Elders-style conspiracy theory and therefore they are hallmarks of anti Semitism.Report

  20. Avatar James
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    says:

    W&M, Freeman, and people who think like them, accuse the Israel Lobby of torpedoing Freeman´s appointment.

    I haven’t heard W&M saying that, actually. Could you provide me with a link or article reference for them doing so?

    This is false. Another peice of evidence for that from today’s WaPo: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/03/13/AR2009031301856_pf.html. According to this, Freeman’s attitude towards China and Tibet determined the opposition to his appointment. The Israel Lobby was not instrumental in this. Freeman and many others, like James, believe that the Israel Lobby has undue influence on the policy process. This is also false. Accusations of such things usually take the form of lists of Jewish names as “proof.” Your logician’s mind should be able to see the fallaciousness of this approach.

    It’s to do with them being pro-Israel, not to do with them being Jewish. I know some people who are borderline violently pro-Israel and goy, and some fierce anti-Zionist Jews. Affiliation and identity are not the same thing.

    I say all this W&M theory is an updated version of the Elders conspiracy theory because it blames Jews for a variety of evils without proof or even logic.

    It provides plenty of logic for Zionists having a substantial amount of control. The two terms are distinct because a lot of those Zionists aren’t Jews!

    Naturally, the theory is much more nuanced today than it was at the end of the 19th century. That’s the whole point of it’s being updated. People can say that they don’t believe that there’s a Jewish conspiracy to control the world and instead there’s “a loose coalition,” etc etc. People can accuse this Israel Lobby of “silencing” them when it’s only about criticism and even when they have prominent positions in academia or the government, like W&M themselves. These are hallmarks of the Elders-style conspiracy theory and therefore they are hallmarks of anti Semitism.

    Yes, apparently this new form of anti-semitism is the kind that extends even to us dreadful anti-semites hating goys for being Jews. That makes plenty of sense.Report

  21. Avatar James
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    says:

    And as far as I’m aware W&M have never whined about being “silenced”, just grotesquely misrepresented. With people like you constantly inventing their opinions for them I can see where they’re coming from.Report

  22. Avatar BenSix
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    says:

    Roque Nuevo,

    “Let me rephrase that: “there is asolutely nothing in the article you link to that refutes my claim that M&W propose an updated Elders-style conspiracy theory in their book, The Israel Lobby. OK?”

    That’s fair – as I believe I’ve said, I haven’t read the book – although it makes me wonder why you thought that Cohen’s remarks “said it all“.

    “According to this, Freeman’s attitude towards China and Tibet determined the opposition to his appointment.”

    No, that article describes one man’s opposition to the appointment.

    The first attacks on Freeman, as Daniel Pipes has acknowledged, came from Steve Rosen, the former AIPAC official now under indictment. Then there were the vile smears of Michael Goldfarb, the wildly hypocriticalurg[ings]” of Chuck Schumer and the “top official[s] at a major [pro-Israel]* organization who had worked against” the appointment of a man who showed “hostility to America’s closest friend and most loyal ally“. Even Jonathan Chait wrote that the Israel lobby…was a key element in the pushback against Freeman“.

    “Freeman and many others, like James, believe that the Israel Lobby has undue influence on the policy process. This is also false. Accusations of such things usually take the form of lists of Jewish names as “proof.”

    Evening, Monsieur Strawman. It’s true that there are anti-semites who employ that bogus ‘tactic’, but what I’ve read of Walt and Mearsheimer makes no reference to “Jewish names“. They sensibly prefer to rely upon public statements and press documentation. I’ve little idea how Freeman came to his own conclusions, because he hasn’t written substantially on the issue.

    It’s worth saying that I think Walt and Mearsheimer overstate the influence of AIPAC and other such groups – especially with regards to Iraq – but that doesn’t make them anti-semitic or, broadly, wrong.

    “I say all this W&M theory is an updated version of the Elders conspiracy theory because it blames Jews for a variety of evils without proof or even logic.”

    Firstly, Walt and Mearsheimer don’t accuse the Israel lobby of being “Jews“. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean that their thesis isn’t anti-semitic – if they merely asserted “a variety of evils“, for example, then I’d take your point – but I believe that they substantiate the thesis that lobbyists for Israel have an “undue influence on the policy process” with, as I’ve said, simple public statements, documentation and analysis of previous policies. Secondly, I don’t believe that they reference any “evils“, and indeed they’ve written that there is “nothing conspiratorial or illicit about [the lobbys] behaviour“.

    People can say that they don’t believe that there’s a Jewish conspiracy to control the world and instead there’s “a loose coalition,” etc etc.

    I believe that’s called “telling the truth”.

    “People can accuse this Israel Lobby of “silencing” them when it’s only about criticism and even when they have prominent positions in academia or the government, like W&M themselves.”

    They’re referring to persistent misrepresentation rather than mere criticism. Walt and Mearsheimer, for example, have been so persistently misrepresented that commentators can quite blithely assert that they use “anti-Jew canards” and such like.

    Ben

    [*] The article actually says “Jewish organization“, but – even without knowing the organisation that the official came from – I reject the descriptor. If it was mobilising to oppose “hostility” towards Israel it was clearly a political organisation, not one that, say, combatted anti-semitism.Report

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