Leftwing Jews Provide Cover to Extremist Wurmser

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 19 Comments

I found David Wurmser’s speech last week frightening. He said that he was able to read "the code" on Ahmadinejad, which revealed that the Iranian president is a messianic Hitler who wants to destroy the west. Wurmser was Vice President’s Cheney’s code-reader for the Middle East, serving in the White House for many years, and in that capacity he said the same thing about Saddam Hussein, too–another Hitler. As I reported last week, Wurmser’s evil empire has shifted over ten years from Arab nationalism (Iraq) to Islamic "theofascism" (Persia). Whoever is Israel’s enemy.

As a Jew, I understand Wurmser in Jewish terms: He is a Zionist paranoid. All Jews know this type. We’ve been around them all our lives, they’re our cousins, our brothers. And from the time that the neoconservatives began promoting the Iraq war, the challenge has been to Jewish liberals and lefties to openly label the neocons’ feverish concern for Israel’s security. As I’ve said repeatedly on this blog, America won’t be healed from Iraq, and American Jewry won’t recover from neoconservatism, until these intellectual/cultural currents are identified and repudiated.

There have been some real profiles in courage on the Jewish left–among them, the late Norman Mailer, Jim Lobe of Interpress, the author Joel Kovel and Rabbi Michael Lerner. All have used their Jewish knowledge to state that there was a Zionist component to the neoconservative revolution.

Here is Kovel, before the war even began, in Wrestling With Zion:

This is one of those very difficult moments. Certainly one would not say that Jews have ‘taken control of U.S. foreign policy,’ but it’s certainly the case–and I think a very ominous case–that the Bush administration, to a much greater degree than any previous administration, has people in it who are ardent right-wing Zionists and who have actually been advisors in upper echelons of government. We don’t want to talk about ‘The Jews.’ But I think it is important to talk about people with a very strong militant imperialist sort of Zionist mentality.

The fact of the matter is that these people are substantially more powerful in this administration than they have been in any other. These are also the same people who are leading the United States into a kind of preemptive mode, which is so appalling and terrifying to the whole world. [Emphasis Weiss's]

I disagree with what Mitchell [Plitnick] just said on that subject. I think we have to learn ways to speak about the actualities of Zionism without falling into the abyss of anti-Semitism. That’s a very, very difficult question. It’s something that’s inhibited critique of Israel for many, many years. We have to be very forthright and say that this kind of rational critique of the Zionist project is really necessary. It’s necessary in order to prevent anti-Semitism, among other things.

Brilliant, prescient statements. Mitchell Plitnick works for Jewish Voice for Peace. His belief is that the Iraq war was launched for U.S. "global interests" and that the neocons were just riding in a sidecar. He told me this when I interviewed him for the Nation about Walt and Mearsheimer two years ago. "It is absolutely crucial that mainstream Americans come to
grips with how powerful Aipac is and how much they do to stifle debate on
American policy," Plitnick said. "But they don’t decide what the American policy is." That policy is made by "American leaders." I.e., some nebulous nexus of corporate bosses and oil men. I believe Plitnick’s analysis is born of Jewish fear, the desire he stated in Wrestling With Zion to "steer" the left away from a Jewish conspiracy theory, "this idea that Jews or the Zionists or the Israelis…have taken control of U.S. foreign policy…I think it’s only going to be Jews who can stem that [view]."

Plitnick et al have succeeded in the years since the war began. He and Stephen Zunes, Norman Finkelstein, and Noam Chomsky among others, have stemmed the belief that Zionists had a crucial role in the Iraq war policy–I believe out of fear that Jews would be persecuted if the connection were made. Other liberal Jews have gone along with this anti-intellectual claim. Smart guys like Jerrold Nadler and Glenn Greenwald have fingered the neocons for their authorship of the war but declined to link their fervent Zionism to the war project. Jacob Heilbrunn came close to saying that many Iraq-planners were motivated by Israel’s security in his book on the neocons, They Knew They Were Right, but he has seemed to back away from any such suggestion in his public statements on the book. Washington Post diplomatic correspondent Glenn Kessler bravely wrote, in his Condi Rice bio,
that the Iraq war was planned in part to "help Israel," but has this assertion ever been explored in the pages of the Washington Post? When Walt and Mearsheimer made that claim in their groundbreaking book, the Post repeatedly attacked them as antisemites, while the liberal Forward editorialized, "In Dark Times, Blame the Jews." Plitnick’s concern.

And so, amazingly, this "really necessary" conversation that Kovel spoke of five years ago, before the war, has never taken place. And Hillary and Alan Greenspan, those beacons of peace, can go around saying that it was a war for oil, and the left echoes this, stupidly. (Yes, I imagine oil played a part; but Israel was a crucial part of the thinking…)

The reason that the left cannot perform this intellectual chore so necessary to an understanding of the war, is that the Jewish left is also bound up in the Zionist narrative.

The DNA of Zionism, inscribed in the movement by Herzl, is that Jews are ultimately unsafe in western democracies and
therefore need a state of their own. The Holocaust gave proof to the theory; and Israel was born. Now 60 years have passed, and modern pluralistic America is providing complete opportunities to Jews (even to be presidential advisers), and the
Zionist premise is weak. Still, this ideology remains engrained in the emotional makeup of liberal American Jews: at any moment things could turn, we need Israel for that reason alone. Such fears were Jeffrey Goldberg’s motivation to move to Israel, he writes in his memoir Prisoners, while in his new book, Aaron David Miller writes that his father continually asked his children, Who will hide you when the Holocaust comes to the U.S.? My liberal editor used to ask me that question–in the hoary old days of 2005 and ’06.

What distinguishes Kovel is that he is a post-Zionist. He has interrogated his Zionist inscription and found that it doesn’t address the realities of life here or in Palestine. Jews are safe here, and unsafe there.  Until the Jewish left comes to terms with these realities, and accepts that Jews won’t be persecuted for naming the Israel-first agenda of their Likudnik neocon cousins, the left will continue to avoid the great chore that Kovel assigned five years ago, and continue to provide cover to reactionary extremists. 

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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19 Responses

  1. syvanen
    March 10, 2008, 3:30 pm

    I find it easy to criticize specific Israeli policies but avoid criticizing Zionism, even with the caveat "rightwing". To my ears it sounds antisemitic and to be sure it is a term that rolls easily off the tongues of real antisemites. (speaking of which, it might improve your comments section if you could scrub some who post here) You are correct, the assault will have to be led by Jewish intellectuals before us goyim can criticize zionism.

  2. Val
    March 10, 2008, 4:03 pm

    syvanan censorship is a bad business, sometimes the shouting is about fear and anger. Right now there is a lot of angry and frightened people. Phil is a good guy, a smart guy who knows that gulf between Jews and gentiles is never going to bridged without total honesty. Sometimes, you have to get the shouting out of the way before the talking starts. Our guys are dying, god only knows the genuine number of dead Arabs. It isn't an ugly rumour who architected this war, it's a fact. Phil knows it, he isn't alone he just has the
    guts AND intelligence to know, lies only get us so far.
    About Wurmser – Ahmedinajad would have to work night and day for the nest fifty years to wreak the damage on my country the way the Zionists have. That isn't an opinion either, it a plain cold fact. Censor is the liars best friend.

  3. 5 dancing shlomos
    March 10, 2008, 4:22 pm

    wurmser like dershowitz like pipes like feith like albright like lieberman like wiesel like walters like wolfowitz like summers like, well, continue for 10 – 12 million names. all are jews. all pray to israel. all are mediocre, worthless, damaging to usa, hey, the world. yet all continue in high paying, high profile/status jobs. such is the "greatness", "superiority" of jews – affirmative action of the worst sort.

  4. Jim Haygood
    March 10, 2008, 4:28 pm

    .

    "We have to be very forthright and say that this kind of rational critique of the Zionist project is really necessary. It's necessary in order to prevent anti-Semitism, among other things." – Joel Kovel

    I doubted that I would ever see this simple, rational statement in print.

    "Until the Jewish left … accepts that Jews won't be persecuted for naming the Israel-first agenda of their Likudnik neocon cousins, the left will continue to … provide cover to reactionary extremists." – Phil Weiss

    Indeed. The truth always comes out. It is far riskier to cover up the excesses of the Israel Lobby than to expose them. How many politicians have been brought down by the cover-up, rather than the original crime?

  5. MM
    March 10, 2008, 4:42 pm

    Just in fairness to Greenwald, another top journalist and conscientious, truly progressive American Jew, he has criticized the Lobby and "enforced orthodoxy" of right-wing Zionism for the run-up to war with Iran, for instance.

    link to salon.com

    While Phil's title is apt, he and others like him deserve recognition for not towing the line, for not accepting the easy Zionist narrative of good vs. evil, for not eschewing the truth to protect a vague, anachronistic notion of "one's own".

  6. Michael Blaine
    March 10, 2008, 5:28 pm

    Thanks for the superb Kovel quote, Phil, and your excellent commentary structured around it.

    This is the best, most energizing post I've read since I started following your blog.

    "Jews are safe here, and unsafe there."

    Boy is that right. I've said for years that the US should phase out official aid to Israel, but offer all Israelis US citizenship in the meantime.

    Israel is an untenable state, while the US would benefit from the injection of immigrants coming from Israel.

    Michael Blaine
    http://www.rudelystamped.blogspot.com

  7. Jim Haygood
    March 10, 2008, 6:25 pm

    "This is the best, most energizing post I've read since I started following your blog."

    That's for damned sure. This post of Phil's deserves to be expanded into an article in a monthly literary magazine. Foreign Affairs, New Republic and Commentary could gaze upon the spectacle, noses pressed against the glass in impotent envy. Message: "We are relevant." Bwa ha ha ha …

  8. americangoy
    March 10, 2008, 6:30 pm

    Well holy cow – there it is.

    Certainly proves my point.
    Again, I will "steal" Mr. Weiss' blog post and analyze it for my audience.

    Meanwhile:
    link to americangoy.blogspot.com
    link to americangoy.blogspot.com
    link to americangoy.blogspot.com

  9. Anonymous
    March 10, 2008, 6:53 pm

    "it might improve your comments section if you could scrub some who post here"

    I reiterate my viewpoint: those who care to comment here are trying to bring the subject to light (yes, even the sordid parts of it) and get educated in the process. If you stay the present course of censorship, those who will follow us will have no ears and no heart. Suit yourself.

  10. Gene
    March 10, 2008, 7:18 pm

    Michael Blain: "I've said for years that the US should phase out official aid to Israel, but offer all Israelis US citizenship in the meantime."

    I agree with you about the quote, "Jews are safe here and unsafe there." It struck me too. I don't know that we should offer Israelis free citizenship though in return for their willingness to renounce American aid. There are a lot of people who haven't sunk any American ships or stolen any intelligence secrets who would like to be Americans too.

  11. syvanen
    March 10, 2008, 9:02 pm

    val it is not censorship but exercising editorial judgment. Look at 5 dancing shlomos above; is there anything redeeming in that.

    Michael Blaine, I agree. I think the best thing that we could do for the Israelis is to prepare the US to accept 5 million immigrants on short notice.

  12. syvanen
    March 10, 2008, 9:03 pm

    val it is not censorship but exercising editorial judgment. Look at 5 dancing shlomos above; is there anything redeeming in that.

    Michael Blaine, I agree. I think the best thing that we could do for the Israelis is to prepare the US to accept 5 million immigrants on short notice.

  13. syvanen
    March 10, 2008, 9:04 pm

    val it is not censorship but exercising editorial judgment. Look at 5 dancing shlomos above; is there anything redeeming in that.

    Michael Blaine, I agree. I think the best thing that we could do for the Israelis is to prepare the US to accept 5 million immigrants on short notice.

  14. Michael Blaine
    March 10, 2008, 9:30 pm

    "I've said for years that the US should phase out official aid to Israel, but offer all Israelis US citizenship in the meantime."

    That just seems a practical and politic way of ending official aid to Israel. The US could say: We're ending support for an untenable country, but we're not leaving its people high and dry, either. We're offering citizenship and a transition to life in the Americas.

    I have no idea how many Israelis would accept the offer, but at least the US could not be accused of leaving a supposedly friendly nation completely out in the cold.

    Michael Blaine
    http://www.rudelystamped.blogspot.com

  15. Michael Blaine
    March 10, 2008, 9:32 pm

    BTW, it wouldn't be on short notice. It would take a number of years.

  16. Jim Haygood
    March 10, 2008, 9:56 pm

    This experiment was already conducted with Russian Jews in the 1980s. Senator Henry Jackson (reading from an AIPAC script) claimed that a bloody pogrom was imminent. This proved to be nonsense. Jewish voting strength in New York and New Jersey was nicely enhanced by the engineered migration, though. And Russian senior citizens who weren't eligible for Social Security (owing to lack of "contributions") learned that SSI and Medicaid were wide open to them. SWEET … though not for the taxpayers. And in another sad by-product, Russian Jewish mobsters gained the notoriety enjoyed by Italian mobsters generations ago.

    In a time of anti-immigration sentiment, U.S. immigration policy is a messy, and poorly-administered, compromise. However, it does have rules and limits, to provide a semblance of fairness. Suggesting that the gates should be thrown wide open to Israelis, as some kind of "compensation" for ending years of unmerited charity, would show immense favoritism … in a repeat of the Russian Jewish fiasco. Fortunately, there isn't the slightest chance that such a harebrained notion could gain any traction.

  17. Anonymous
    March 11, 2008, 12:54 am

    "Look at 5 dancing shlomos above; is there anything redeeming in that."

    5 dancing shlomos is a visitor from Xymphora and he seldom comments here, so don't tell us he is the focus of your censorship initiative.

    By the way, showing the real five dancing shlomos performance on american television would be indeed redeeming.

  18. Charles Keating
    March 11, 2008, 6:39 pm

    Damn, so what should the American goys do?

  19. Todd
    March 11, 2008, 8:11 pm

    Large-scale immigration to this nation has mostly been for the purpose of cheap labor, or to provide settlers for expansion. Neither are needed at this point, and for the majority of this nation's history, immigration was sensibly restricted to western Europeans.

    I hope that none of our rulers are stupid enough to water down what is left of this nation's traditional population by allowing Israeli immigration. Enough is enough. It's obvious that massive immigration doesn't work, and that assimilation is rarely a goal. Yeah, we need 6 million more potential traitors.

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