James Howard Kunstler is an important writer. His blog has a huge following for good reason. As Glenn Condell explained to me:
I have been reading him for about three years; he has (equipped with the work of Nouriel Roubini, Nassim Taleb,
theorists and others) been extraordinarily prophetic about the meltdown
and much else. His vision of the future is dark, but he has written an
optimistic bestselling novel (World Made By Hand) about how we might
live in the ruins of the industrial economies.
This background makes it
hard for me to accept that he is a Zionist moonbat. His arrogant, unruffled pose masks a deep fear that
the dislocation he has been predicting for years will have a pronounced
antisemitic hue, but of course mindsets like his invite rather than
repel such an outcome. He prints some of the hate mail he gets, as if
the sharper edges of the discontent somehow disqualify all anti-Zionist
critiques. He excuses Gaza as an Israeli example of the Powell doctrine.
He may not be Jeffrey Goldberg or
but he is very influential and his blog is an internet hub. His views reveal how Zionism can make sensible people who contribute a lot to our
collective wisdom lose their marbles, and their humanity, when their
tribe is involved.
I've read Kunstler now and then; and I picked up Condell's link. Here is Kunstler on Gaza– equating criticism of Israel (not anti-Zionism) with antisemitism, in his distinct (and enviable) style:
[P]ublic Jew-hating has made a comeback in the USA among two distinct
groups: one is the extreme right-wing crypto-Nazi step-child of the old
John Birch Society bunch, the idiots who believe the world is a web of
conspiracies against wholesome Christian white folks. As a young
newspaper reporter with an interest in political pathology back in the
early 1970s — a heyday for extremism — I used to cover the Birchers'
antics (and study their belief system, if you could call it that).
Their paranoid ideology has survived the decades marvelously intact,
complete with all the colorful leitmotifs including The Protocols of
the Elders of Zion, the Orders of the Illuminati narrative, the
Bilderburgers conspiracy story of world domination, and a Jesus-soaked
crusade against "socialism" that has mutated far beyond the quaint
sepulcher of John Birch into a broad mostly Southern evangelical,
Nascar-tinged, aggressive apocalypticism.
large cohort on the political Left adopted the Palestinians as their
"pet oppressed minority group du jour." This branch of Jew-haters
emanated out of the humanities departments of the universities, when
the faculty got bored with the Nazi holocaust, or wished to stake out
some new turf in the arena of multiculturalism for the sake of academic
advancement. (It even included some ethnic Jews intoxicated by new
horizons in victimology.) To a certain extent, it was an academic
fashion choice. The drab old Jews from the Hitler documentaries, with
their shabby World War Two suits, gray skirts, boxy shoes with bad
hose, pitiful deal luggage, and black-and-white expressions of horror
on the train-platform-to-hell had exceeded their sell-by date in the
sociology seminars. And since irony and paradox had become the
stock-in-trade of higher ed in the USA, wasn't it perfect to cast the
Israelis as "the new Nazis" with the Palestinians as the new epitome of
I quote this at length because it demonstrates Condell's point. It is completely out of touch with reality. However contemptible the old locus of antisemitism (and I've been to Hayden Lake, Idaho), it has nothing to do with the trends we are seeing now. Post-Iraq realists are one phalanx–the American Conservative/Desch/Mearsheimer crowd. Ahead of them were Jews of conscience like Tony Kushner, Adam Horowitz, and Zachary Lockman. I suppose Kunstler could say he covers them in his cartoons. But it is interesting that wherever he lives, he completely misses other important factions: Arab-Americans, from Abunimah to Ammous; the black urban politicians (Gwen Moore, Maxine Waters, Cynthia McKinney) who have shown some spine here. Then there are church-based activists like Andy Whitmore and Nancy Horn, and the Presbyterian divestment movement. And closer to the realists, the sotto-voce military/State Department/Arabists/realists. I haven't even talked about the dailykos progressives.
All these strands are essential to the grassroots uprising against the Gaza atrocities. An uprising that was not there in '82 or '06. So, journalistically, Kunstler's view is a very thin distortion based on well-thumbed notes from his childhood. My mother also raged against John Birch.
The other reason I quote so much is that Kunstler's writing really takes off and becomes amazing where–when he gets to the Holocaust imagery, the deal suitcases and boxy shoes and bad hose. A breathtaking passage of writing. I love beautiful writing. That's where his real feeling is. And it's thoroughly out of place– when Gaza is being destroyed and children slaughtered.
Unhealed feelings of Jewish persecution pervade the Gaza talk. Jeffrey Goldberg revealed this same attitude 2 years ago when he said that Jimmy Carter was a classic antisemite who "believes that Israelis — in their deviousness — somehow mean to keep Jesus from fulfilling the demands of His ministry" and likened Walt and Mearsheimer to Father Coughlin. Many of the Jews in Max Blumenthal's report from the NY demonstration Sunday talk about a second Holocaust. Benny Morris in the first Times piece on Gaza said that Israelis are doing this because they feel world opinion changing on them– "the doors closing in."
Avraham Burg said, prophetically, in his book on Jewish identity, that the Holocaust is over and we must rise from its ashes. But that is prophecy. In the Jewish heart, it's not over. It's rewinding and replaying. When you slaughter hundreds of children because you feel threatened and aggrieved, you are just perpetuating a cycle of abuse. When you thumb your nose at the world's outrage over the atrocities because the world was silent during the Holocaust, you are not living in history, you're stuck in amber. Often I think that the smartest most Arendtian thing Burg says in his book is that Jews forgave the Germans too quickly (and did so in part for money that built Israel). They took all that feeling and put it on the Arabs. Kunstler does us all a service by making that connection publicly, exposing the terrified emotion behind irrational, and incredibly hurtful, conduct.