February 12, 2010


Wieseltier/Sullivan again; and why Alterman doesn’t get it (Ron Kampeas, February 12, 2010, Capital J)

Alterman basically says Wieseltier is crazy, and thinks Jonathan Chait (who defended both Wieseltier and Sullivan in his post) is headed there:

Jonathan Chait was, onceupon a time, immune to this kind of thing and was a fine liberal writer. But he's caught the disease now as well. With considerable political dexterity, he embraces Wieseltier's thesis while distancing himself from the particulars. But here's the bottom line. "His obsession with the singular power of the Israel lobby, writes Leon 'has a provenance that should disgust all thinking people.' Agreed. But just because an idea has a revolting provenance, it does not follow that everybody who subscribes to any version of it shares the same motive."

Got that? Andrew may not be an anti-Semite but anyone who is concerned with the Israel's lobby's ability to thwart the peace process or interfere with the conduct of a sensible policy toward the region is guilty of holding an idea of "revolting provenance" and hence, is only asking to be described this way, true or not. Remember inside TNR Walt and Mearsheimer are literally treated as the equivalent of David Duke and Louis Farrakhan. Jimmy Carter will go down in history primarily as a "Jew-hater." Etc, etc. And if you, yourself find any cause for concern in the actions of the Israel lobby, prepare to find yourself similarly smeared.

First, Wieseltier is "criminalizing" no one, as Alterman alleges elsewhere in his post, he is exercising his right, as he says in his reply to Sullivan, to "refute" arguments. Alterman, on the other hand, by intimating "crazy" (actually, saying it straight out) seems to want to institutionalize folks.

More substantively, here's the thing: A lot of us who are watchful for instances of these slides into bigotry would love to have that discussion about the "lobby," about AIPAC's influence and whether it is truly doing America, Israel or the Jews any favors. But with obscurantists like Walt and Mearsheimer mucking up the debate, that becomes impossible. It's like a cancer patient who has a hernia: Before we even get to that abdominal bump, we have to clear out the toxins.

And that is what Chait is referring to with the critical word Alterman, whether by design or sloppiness, ignores in his quote: "singular." You want to have the lobby discussion? Please, bring it on, and we may even agree in a lot of areas. But do not make it seem that the lobby has supernatural powers. The "revolting provenance" of which Chait and Wieseltier speak does not refer to "the Israel's lobby's ability to thwart the peace process or interfere with the conduct of a sensible policy toward the region."

It refers to the depiction of the lobby as more powerful than any other group influencing foreign policy (which is what Walt and Mearsheimer posit), or even more fantastically, any other group seeking influence, period (which is what Glenn Greenwald has posited, to Sullivan's approval.) As a "singular power."

The reality is that Jews and the Jewish Lobby don't matter. Even politicians who don't love Israel themselves have to bow and scrape before the overwhelming majority of Americans who do.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2010 12:39 PM
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