What Clarence Thomas Is to Thurgood Marshall, Bill Kristol Is to Anthony Lewis

In rereading Norman Finkelstein’s book, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, I noticed that in the furor that occured in the mid-80s over the false issue of Whether there were even Palestinians in Palestine when Israel was born, an important part was played by the great former New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis.

Not to get too deep into the issue, but in 1984 Joan Peters published From Time Immemorial, which claimed that most Palestinians had immigrated into Palestine once the Jewish immigrants got things rolling there. She based her "analysis" on British Mandatory records of in- and out-migration. A couple of scholars, notably Norman Finkelstein and Yehoshuah Porath, defenestrated Peters’s claims. They looked at the same records and showed that she had misrepresented numbers, gotten numbers wrong. All to serve a highly tendentious argument, that there were no Palestinians, or few of them.

Finkelstein says there was a struggle to get the word out. Joan Peters’s book was a Jewish bestseller, endorsed by Saul Bellow and Barbara Tuchman. Finkelstein had trouble publishing his own findings. Ultimately Alex Cockburn wrote about them in the Nation, though, and that did some good; and Porath published in the New York Review of Books.

And then in the middle of it all, Anthony Lewis wrote a noble column: "There Were No Indians." He called the lie a lie in the center of mainstream-intellectual culture, the Op-Ed page of the Times.

One of the tragedies of Bill Kristol’s ascension to be a Times Op-Ed columnist, besides the grant of immunity awarded by the paper that printed the Pentagon Papers after the Vietnam debacle, the fact that he is now getting to wash his hands in the font on 43d Street rather than be grilled for an investigative series on the front page about the neoconservative ideas that gave rise to the Iraq war, is that, There is no Anthony Lewis now.

It was a tragedy when Clarence Thomas, an angry emotionally-convoluted second rater, got the Thurgood Marshall seat on the Supreme Court; Thomas couldn’t hold a candle to Marshall, and had nothing like Marshall’s amazing achievement. And though there is no such thing as a Jewish seat on the Times Op-Ed page (No it is the exceptions who are not Jewish), it is a shame that There is no voice on that page who comes out for Palestinian human rights, as Lewis did on a fairly regular basis. I believe that Nicholas Kristof has it in him, and may have made some evenhanded noises about the cycle of violence in Israel/Palestine, but he seems timid on this score. And Lewis held that ground at a time when it was extremely unpopular. Being in Boston may have made things easier for him, but I imagine he lost friends over the issue. Now it is the Prague spring for criticism of Israel in this country, and the Times Op-Ed page has no representative of this important dissident point of view regarding a central element of our Middle East policy….Some day our society will wake up from this freeze.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Beyondoweiss, Israel/Palestine, US Policy in the Middle East, US Politics

{ 14 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Jim Haygood says:

    "Anthony Lewis … called the lie a lie in the center of mainstream-intellectual culture, the Op-Ed page of the Times. One of the tragedies of Bill Kristol's ascension to be a Times Op-Ed columnist [is] that he is now getting to wash his bloody hands in the font on 43d Street."

    Two small but pointed corrections, Phil:

    1. "the THEN-center of mainstream-intellectual culture"

    2. "the font on 42nd [not 43rd] Street"

    Here's Nicolai Ouroussoff's in-house review of the Times' new building on 42nd Street, across from the bus station:

    link to nytimes.com

    As you've pointed out, the Prague spring of anti-zionist glasnost is here, but it's a Rachel Carson "silent spring" on the ossified gray tablets of the New York Slimes Op-Ed page. This makes it, by definition, as obsolete as the old headquarters on 43rd Street.

    The Revolution will not be televised, nor will it be covered in the Slimes.

  2. Richard Witty says:

    If the article had stated "there were few Palestinians", would you and Finkelstein reacted differently?

  3. Richard Witty says:

    For example, there were estimated to be 1 million residents of Palestine/Israel in 1948. Now there are what 11 million?

    5 million of which are ethnic Palestinians.

    Very round numbers obviously.

    When there were only 1 million, was Palestine empty or full, or something in between?

    Phil,
    Do you believe that when a criticism is levied, that the replaced answer is necessarily a better one?

    Having watched him berate a Lebanese interviewer for not being loyal to Hezbollah, and not urging an Israeli military defeat at the hands of Hezbollah, I currently do NOT have a high opinion of Finkelstein.

    I think that is an open question.

  4. Richard Witty,

    Do you think you are any different from German Nazis that used to refer to Jim Crow and lynchings whenever Americans criticized the Nuremberg Laws in the 30s?

    The German Nazis like the Zionists had as the goal the establishment of a positive ethnic consciousness that would overwhelm any understanding of basic ethics.

    The German Nazis indoctrinated the Germans to believe that good and evil are judged in terms of benefit to the German Volk.

    It was hard work. In comparison, was it so hard for Zionists to get ethnic Ashkenazim to ask themselves on any ethical or political issue, "Is it good for the Jews?"

    Is there any evil act for which you would not apologize or make excuses if it were "good for the Jews"?

  5. Richard Witty says:

    "There were no Palestinians".

    I'm sure Phil is reading or has read the quotes of Golda Meir "There are no "Palestinians"", or numerous of Ben Gurion.

    1901 – just after the turn of the 20th century, not 1948, not 1967.

    "Zangwill is incorrectly known for coining the slogan "A land without a people for a people without a land" describing Zionist aspirations in the Biblical land of Israel. What Zangwill actually wrote, in the New Liberal Review in December, 1901, was “Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country.” Zangwill, who had visited Palestine, knew perfectly well that it was populated. What he meant by calling it a land without "a people" is that there was at that time no people or ethnic group identifying itself as any particular national group. The people then living in Palestine under the rule of the Ottoman Empire thought of themselves as Arab, Greek, Circassian, and so forth. Those identifying as Arabs idenfied with their cities, villages or tribe, or with the wider region of Syria, Bilad al-Sham, encompassing what are now Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian territories."

  6. Jim Haygood says:

    .

    "When there were only 1 million, was Palestine empty or full, or something in between?"

    Oh, please! You are transparently dishonest. You know perfectly well that it's not the population TOTAL, but the ethnic distribution within it which is at issue.

    I say this, because you proceed to raise the proportional question yourself in the next post. In 1901, the overwhelming proportion of Palestine's small population was Arab. Then comes the customary, Talmudic hairsplitting over whether the word "people" actually means "people," or a "nation-state." I guess it depends on what the meaning of "is" is. "People" is a lazy word, Richard, used lazily by the lazy in an indolent paroxysm of laziness.

    Native Americans didn't have any concept of a corporate nation-state either. They defined nationality in tribal terms, just as many Jews do. So that justified "removing" them, because they didn't live in a nation-state with defined borders?

    Plot the percentage of Jews in Palestine over the last hundred years. You'll have a graph which starts in single digits, and flattens out toward an asymptote a little below 50%. Your homework assignment is to write a single, logical paragraph, describing the implications of this graph. Otherwise, I'll flunk your lazy ass out of Harvard.

  7. Richard Witty,

    Why am I not surprised that you have refrained from answering my question?

    Why am I not surprised you spewing the drivel that the David Project paid Muir to write?

    Of course, Zangwill knew that he was conflating religious dispensationalist, E. European voelkisch racist nationalist, and Anglo-American democratic civil nationalist terminology.

    He knew that Anglo-American non-Jews would think Palestine was empty and that giving Palestine to E. Europeans would not conflict with Anglo-American concepts of democratic self-determination.

    Zionists disguised the intention to murder Arab Palestine from the start but it easy to find it in the primary Zionist literature as early as 1881.

    link to eaazi.blogspot.com discusses Zionist dissimulation from the 1920s.

    Face it, Witty. You are an ethnic Ashkenazi Nazi that gives material support to Zionist genocidal terrorism. You belong in jail and all your assets should be seized.

    You don't do anything that the German Nazis did not do in the 1932 German elections when they realized that open anti-Semitism would descrease the number of votes that the NSDAP would win.

    Actually, you are worse than German Nazis, because 1920s and 1930s German Nazism was not yet genocidal while Zionism already is.

    To tell the truth I prefer dialoguing with Nadia Matar. She is far less hypocritical than you are.

  8. Richard Witty says:

    Interrogation is not dialog.

    What is the point of the name-calling.

    You know that I am a liberal Zionist, who values the Jewish community, the Jewish nation.

    I tend to distrust mass movements, including the invocation of "Prague spring".

    Israel is incidental in American foreign policy, in expenditure and actual political weight. Its definitely there, but to exagerate its role in US policy is silly, either fixated or hateful.

    It is not the center of any "Prague Spring", an introspective assertion, a determination to be free, free from the yolk of a large imposer, and free to live individually, passionately, creatively.

    The invocation of "anti-Zionism" is more a cul-de-sac, an often racist distraction from an American intifada, moreso than a practise of one.

    Not the stuff that American liberation is constructed of.

    Jewish affirmation itself is a good in the world. It represents the affirmation of a people, following centuries of suppression and dispossession.

    There are others that will follow. Other national movements of existing and new nations that are not yet landed, that require a home space.

    And, their formations will similarly be goods in the world, and will likely involve some displacement in this very crowded world.

    MANY factors will force emigration of peoples. Global warming and other climate change (local and regional). Political instability and persecution.

    Israel is not modeling it currently, in continuing to expand, even if currently very slowly, when expansion is the oppossite of what it and the world needs.

  9. americangoy says:

    You know, this is an incredible post.
    This bears repeating:

    "The German Nazis like the Zionists had as the goal the establishment of a positive ethnic consciousness that would overwhelm any understanding of basic ethics.

    The German Nazis indoctrinated the Germans to believe that good and evil are judged in terms of benefit to the German Volk.

    It was hard work. In comparison, was it so hard for Zionists to get ethnic Ashkenazim to ask themselves on any ethical or political issue, "Is it good for the Jews?""

  10. cogit8 says:

    Phil, you write about "an investigative series on the front page about the neoconservative ideas that gave rise to the Iraq war". Don't stop there.

    Lets see investigative series on:
    a. Neoconservative (oh hell just say Jewish) influence over U.S. conduct in Iraq: Intentionally leaving a vacuum after a strong system was overthrown. Allowing looting and destruction. Firing the whole army instead of using it. Firing the bathists instead of using them to build a new society. Conducting show-trials, a la the USSR of 1938. Influencing all policy decisions made in the Green Zone.

    b. Jewish influence in America involving:
    Rationalizing and legalizing torture. Setting up an American Gulag that exceeds the horrors of Soviet Russia. Promoting race-hatred and religious-slander against Arabs. Promoting the industry of terrorism, including spying on citizens (there is always a soviet smell to these policies). Selling and profiting from arms sales.

    This is my short list….

  11. Glenn Condell says:

    'Israel is incidental in American foreign policy, in expenditure and actual political weight.'

    You live in a bubble Richard, a bubble made of a very thick, and opaque, hide. That statement is what you wish was true. Or rather what you wished we all thought was true.

    'Jewish affirmation itself is a good in the world. It represents the affirmation of a people, following centuries of suppression and dispossession.'

    It cannot be a good in the world if it relies for it's physical expression on the dispossession and suppression of others. It then becomes a poison.

    'There are others that will follow. Other national movements of existing and new nations that are not yet landed, that require a home space.'

    Like Palestine?

    'And, their formations will similarly be goods in the world, and will likely involve some displacement in this very crowded world.'

    So, if the Israelis were to be shouldered aside when the Palestinians have the wherewithal to re-take some of their ancestral lands.. and that would be OK with you, would it? Am I reading you right? That's surprisingly sanguine of you.

    If the US goes down the economic pan and can't afford the albatross of Israel around it's neck any longer, and if China and India among others make nice to the Arab/Muslim world as their energy suppliers, that scenario may come to pass sooner than you think.

    'MANY factors will force emigration of peoples. Global warming and other climate change (local and regional). Political instability and persecution.'

    Presumably this applies to Israel too. What if the rockets keep coming but from more directions, better directed and bigger? Who will remain when even Israel's most vociferous and generous supporters wouldn't dream of moving there?

  12. Richard Witty says:

    Israel is by no means the most significant concern in American foreign policy, nor anything beyond incidental in proportional expenditure.

    The theme of this site is that it is primary. If the theme were that it was catalytic (a catalyst) that might be more arguable.

    But, then in some ways we'd be talking about what "causes" the weather. (Something does. They can predict many weather events. But, the ones that can be predicted are the ones of gross conditions. The catalyst events though, are impossible to get right, by definition.)

    So, what happens when a mass is desparately searching for "what went wrong?". A financial recession (inevitable tides, that flood when mismanaged), a stupid war (rejected by the majority of Jews, and probably the majority of Jewish money, even as money is more risk-averse than ideas), some prominent dominant Jewish leaders.

    Contrasted with "gold as a more reliable basis of money", "they" caused the war, "they" control the media and manipulate it for their selfish ends, "they" dominated the Stalinist communist movement (not Stalin).

    And, Phil, you wonder if there is anything to be scared about.

  13. LeaNder says:

    Here is the link to the Finkelstein interview passages R.W. alluded to:

    link to memritv.org

    Yes that was distributed a couple of days ago.

  14. Glenn Condell says:

    That's either evasive sophistry Richard or you are simply on another planet.