Sullivan gets the treatment

on 22 Comments

Leon Wieseltier, in a V-part symphony in the New Republic, smears former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan as an anti-semite because of his criticisms of Israel. Hard to read. Baroque style. Best quotes in the piece are Sullivan’s.

Note that after Jeffrey Goldberg published a piece in the New York Times questioning the settlements two years ago, Wieseltier published a veiled attack on a "friend" for a "miserable" piece and said he was of a mind "to be withering." Here he let’s go. His Sullivan piece says that the Israel lobby is no different from the Taiwan lobby or the Saudi Arabian pressures on the U.S. Wieseltier lives in a bubble.

The piece begins by knocking Sullivan’s religion, Catholicism, which as a media friend says is not a way to win readers to your side. Says another media friend: "What a twit. Leon W may not recover."

About Philip Weiss

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

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22 Responses

  1. DICKERSON3870
    February 9, 2010, 11:31 pm

    RE: “Leon Wieseltier…smears former New Republic editor Andrew Sullivan as an anti-semite” – Weiss
    SEE: Wieseltier vs Sullivan, by Matt Yglesias, THINK PROGRESS, 02/09/10
    (EXCERPT) …this bizarre Wieseltier hit-piece on Sullivan.
    Like most of TNR’s very worst work, it suffers deeply from schizophrenia about the idea of flinging around baseless charges of anti-semitism. On the one hand, the charges are baseless so the writer hesitates to fling them around. On the other hand, flinging baseless charges of anti-semitism is the essence of the magazine’s commentary on Israel. For the purposes of intimidation, after all, baseless charges work better than well-grounded ones. Nikolai Krylenko, Bolshevik Minister of Justice, said “we must execute not only the guilty, execution of the innocent will impress the masses even more.” And it’s much the same here. If you call anti-semites anti-semites, then people who aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism will figure “hey, since my political opinions aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism, then I’m safe.” The idea is to put everyone on notice that mere innocence will be no defense. But relatively few people are actually goonish enough to execute the strategy properly, so instead Wieseltier’s piece beats around the bush and doesn’t really come out and say what it’s saying….
    ENTIRETY – link to yglesias.thinkprogress.org
    P.S. Why doesn’t our Phil rate a high-profile smear like this? It’s so unfair!

  2. annie
    February 9, 2010, 11:36 pm

    His Sullivan piece says that the Israel lobby is no different from the Taiwan lobby or the Saudi Arabian pressures on the U.S. Wieseltier lives in a bubble.

    don’t all the others have to register under FARA?

  3. Duscany
    February 9, 2010, 11:50 pm

    If you happen to be a writer on public policy issues and no one has ever called you an anti-Semite for daring to criticize Israel’s Palestinian policy, clearly you’re not doing your job.

  4. wondering jew
    February 9, 2010, 11:51 pm

    Jonathan Chait (in TNR) on Andrew Sullivan and Leon Wieseltier:

    “Leon agrees that the pro-Israel lobby wields significant power in U.S. policymaking, and determining this level of power is also a legitimate topic of inquiry. At one point on the spectrum of thought you have what Leon and I would consider a realistic assessment of the power of the Israel lobby. As you move further along the spectrum, you eventually approach Osama bin Laden’s view of the power of the Israel lobby. Clearly, bin Laden qualifies as an anti-Semite. But the judgment can’t be that as soon as you go just a little further along the line from my view, then you’re an anti-Semite. There has to be some room on this question to be merely wrong — to harbor an exaggerated view of the power of the Israel lobby without being an anti-Semite. Otherwise debate becomes impossible.

    Now, I believe that those who wish to explore areas that coincide with the favorite obsessions of bigots have an obligation to do so with more care than they might use with other subjects. Andrew has been careless, but carelessness isn’t bigotry.

    Leon writes very carefully about the Middle East. I find his writing on this subject extremely well-informed and, in my opinion, invariably persuasive. There are topics about which I’d say the same about Andrew, but the Middle East is not one of them. (None of us can be an expert in everything.) Indeed, on the Middle East, Andrew falls prey to a habitual tendency to see the world divided between children of darkness and children of light. This is not a problem for a writer who is describing conflicts between Democrats and Republicans. When the parties involve happen to correspond with ethnic groups, then it’s going to be impossible to avoid language that appears racialistic. I don’t think that Andrew’s transformation from overwrought hawk to overwrought dove is driven by, or has brought about, a different view of Jews. It seems instead to be the shattering of a brittle worldview and its replacement by a new worldview, equally brittle.”

  5. wondering jew
    February 10, 2010, 12:40 am

    Cliff,

    Firstly, as a rule I try to avoid the term antisemitism for it is confusing. I prefer the term Jew hatred. Secondly, if I accuse someone of Jew hatred you could ask me for my definition. But the case here is of Leon Wieseltier accusing Andrew Sullivan.

    Thirdly, the last time I responded to something you said, you ended up calling me names, so please bother somebody else. Say something nasty to yonira or Richard Witty. Or stop acting nasty.

    • Cliff
      February 10, 2010, 1:03 am

      It’s really difficult to search past entries, via the comment section. In fact, you can’t. You have to do so through the entry itself.

      I won’t go through the trouble of quoting our past exchange. I’m guessing you’re referring to when I called you a dick.

      Anyways, I know this is about Leon and Sullivan. However, you supplied this quote to give some context (as you see it) that you feel was not provided by Phil.

      My response is this:

      The point is antisemitism or ‘Jew-hatred’. So defining it is important. And since you felt it necessary to quote Chait – I assume you are in partial agreement at least of his measuring stick of etiquette, concerning the Lobby.

      Apparently, ‘awareness’ of an Israeli Lobby is judged in antisemitism notches. From ‘acceptable’ to Bin Laden levels.

      So defining what the parameters means, means defining antisemitism. Since I can’t ask Chait, I’m asking you.

      • Cliff
        February 10, 2010, 7:27 pm

        Glenn Greenwald also believes that Chait is acting as official arbiter of antisemitism. This was my point.

        TNR’s Jonathan Chait piped up yesterday to embrace most of Wieseltier’s premises ["Leon has written what I consider to be a trenchant and persuasive dissection of Andrew's (current) worldview on Israel and the Jewish lobby"], but then — as though he’s the Papal arbiter of anti-semitism generously granting absolution — cleared Sullivan of the charge of anti-semitism, instead decreeing him guilty of the lesser crime of “carelessness” for failing to renounce the supposedly bigoted, Jew-hating “provenance” of Sullivan’s ideas about Israel and Jews.

    • jimby
      February 10, 2010, 9:33 am

      WJ, I was rude a few days ago and have felt badly since. Please accept apology.

      Past that I wonder about your use of the term “Israeli Lobby”. There is AIPAC and J St, but I think the power of Jewish (Zionist) influence in the US govt. goes far beyond these entities. Jews giving money to candidates and writing letters to them and to newspapers is a huge component to the overall issue of the effect of Zionism on American foreign policy. Are you referring to that or just to the lobbies?

      • wondering jew
        February 10, 2010, 10:27 am

        Hey jimby,

        I accept your apology.

        I know it’s a small thing, but I don’t like the L of lobby to be capitalized when referring to the Israeli lobby. Walt and Mearsheimer capitalized it in their original LRB article, but didn’t when their book came out.

        I don’t think letter writing campaigns are totally powerless, but I do not put them in the same category as raising money and contributing to campaigns. Although the Supreme Court might feel or rule that money equals free speech, and I can understand that a philosophical issue is at stake, still I consider money and free speech (letter writing) as two separate issues. Campaign contributions are a major problem in the US- in terms of the time spent by congressmen and candidates for president raising money and the fact that Congress represents special interests rather than their constituents when they vote in Congress. When letter writing campaigns cross the line to boycotts (like boycott a certain newspaper because they express an anti Israel stance) then there is a little too much weight being thrown around. But letter writing is free speech and I feel uncomfortable being told that anyone who holds a placard, writes to a newspaper or to a talkback is part of the lobby.

      • jimby
        February 10, 2010, 11:57 am

        When the letter writing coincides with campaign cash it is like the old one-two. The majority or Jews writing or donating on Israel’s behalf are predominantly urging the far right of Israeli politics. I wish more Jews would predicate their contributions for peaceful ends.

  6. wondering jew
    February 10, 2010, 1:37 am

    I included part of Jonathan Chait’s remarks in order to provide in house (pro Israel TNR) criticism of Leon Wieseltier’s charge. (That is: one does not need to be an antiZionist like Phil Weiss in order to find fault with LW’s charge.)

    I don’t know to what degree the US’s foreign policy towards Israel is determined by the Israel lobby and I cannot define at what point a description of the lobby’s influence becomes antisemitic. I think that those who considered Bush a puppet of Sharon were very wrong and I do not feel that the evidence backs such a point of view and I would not be surprised if people with that point of view held anti Jewish attitudes. But I do not think that such a point of view within itself proves anti Jewish attitudes.

    I think Wieseltier’s article contains some interesting points including: Sullivan’s use of the quote (I paraphrase) “Go explain the trinity to the New Republic” as his quote of the day is emblematic of ethnic or religious insensitivity. Sullivan’s implication that there are wings to the Jewish community rather than the existence of various individual Jews with varying opinions, seemed to me to prove that Sullivan’s broad stroke criticism of a community that he doesn’t belong to was again insensitive.

    I am not surprised that you need to refer to the sources in order to recall what name you called whom. You are constantly calling anyone who is Zionist various names and I cannot expect you to keep track. I hope Phil installs a better system so that you can keep track of who you called what without going through too much strain in the future.

    • Cliff
      February 10, 2010, 7:21 am

      I am not surprised that you need to refer to the sources in order to recall what name you called whom. You are constantly calling anyone who is Zionist various names and I cannot expect you to keep track. I hope Phil installs a better system so that you can keep track of who you called what without going through too much strain in the future.

      I hope so too. Then I can quote what the other guy said.

    • Cliff
      February 10, 2010, 7:31 pm

      Chait wasn’t criticizing Leon. You cited him because you wanted his view to be fleshed out more.

      ‘pro-Israel criticism’ of antisemitism? Puhleeze.

      That’s like the ADL bashing the JDL, but not the settlements. It’s not meaningful criticism.

      Insane is insane. The only meaningful criticism is when the subject hits ‘close to home’.

      It’s like how Martin Luther King was a hero, so long as he was (via Chomsky) bashing racist sheriffs in the South. As soon as he spoke out against the Vietnam War, American imperialism and spoke out for the poor – he was characterized by the mainstream press as having lost his usefulness/purpose.

  7. Avi
    February 10, 2010, 3:27 am

    I think that those who considered Bush a puppet of Sharon were very wrong and I do not feel that the evidence backs such a point of view

    By oversimplifying the relationship between the US government and the Israeli government you make it nearly impossible for many NOT to sound like anti-Semites.

    You’re setting Israel’s critics for failure on the basis of alleged anti-Semitism, but at the same time, it becomes impossible to criticize Israel’s policies within that framework of that oversimplified slogan.

    Surely, we can all agree on the fact that the Israel Lobby has the influence, both politically and financially to decide US policy to the extent such influence can be described as “control”.

  8. Richard Parker
    February 10, 2010, 3:30 am

    wondering jewI don’t know to what degree the US’s foreign policy towards Israel is determined by the Israel lobby and I cannot define at what point a description of the lobby’s influence becomes antisemitic.

    If you don’t yet know what influence the Israeli lobby has on US foreign policy, then you’re a blind, deaf and dumb dickhead.

    At no point, however extreme, does any criticism of the Israeli lobby ever become anti-semitic, except for the outstanding fact that most Israeli lobbyists are Jews. They’re a very small minority of American Jews. If the crap they peddle ever gets more widely known, then certainly anti-Semitism, in its true sense, could become more widespread.

    You might want to read: link to whitehonor.com, which leads to the same conclusion; that all white men should be tarred with the brush of Naziism.

    • wondering jew
      February 10, 2010, 10:42 am

      RP-
      It is fair to call me blind, deaf and dumb. (Though usually dumb in that context means silent rather than stupid and even though my literal voice is not heard here, I am not silent.) But dickhead is stepping over the line of common courtesy. (Although on this website, from time to time, courtesy is more rare than common.)

      I have little doubt that Obama is not pressuring Israel as much as he would prefer and this is due to the Israel lobby. I think Clinton’s delay in putting forward his own peace plan in 2000 was due to the fact that his wife was running for Senator from New York. On the other hand I do NOT think that Jimmy Carter was a one term president due to the Israel lobby. I do NOT think that George Bush Sr. was a one term president due to the Israel lobby. I do NOT think that George Bush Jr. went to war against Iraq because of the Israel lobby. I do NOT think that Richard Nixon supported Israel because of the Israel lobby.

  9. potsherd
    February 10, 2010, 2:26 pm

    Glen Greenwald weighs in: link to salon.com

    Glenn Greenwald
    Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010 06:11 EST
    TNR’s ugly and reckless anti-semitism games
    By Glenn Greenwald
    The New Republic’s Leon Wieseltier, left, and The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan

    Even by that magazine’s lowly standards, The New Republic yesterday published an amazingly ugly, reckless, and at-times-deranged screed from its Literary Editor, Leon Wieseltier, devoting 4,300 words to accusing Andrew Sullivan of being an anti-semite, largely due to his critical (i.e., forbidden) comments about Israeli actions and American neoconservatives. Particularly since the horrific Israeli assault on Gaza, Sullivan has become more critical of Israeli actions and more dubious of uncritical U.S. support. The whole TNR column oozes dark and obvious innuendo but never has the courage to state the anti-semitism accusation explicitly (the last paragraph comes closest). TNR’s Jonathan Chait piped up yesterday to embrace most of Wieseltier’s premises ["Leon has written what I consider to be a trenchant and persuasive dissection of Andrew's (current) worldview on Israel and the Jewish lobby"], but then — as though he’s the Papal arbiter of anti-semitism generously granting absolution — cleared Sullivan of the charge of anti-semitism, instead decreeing him guilty of the lesser crime of “carelessness” for failing to renounce the supposedly bigoted, Jew-hating “provenance” of Sullivan’s ideas about Israel and Jews.

    So shabby and incoherent are Wieseltier’s accusations that they merit little real refutation, and I hope Andrew will resist the (understandable) temptation to elevate and dignify them by lavishing them with lengthy self-defenses. Certain attacks are so self-evidently frivolous that they negate themselves, damaging the reputation of the author and his editors far more than the target of the attack [such was the case with Jeffrey Rosen's trashy, widely scorned and ultimately impotent anonymous hit piece on the intellect and character of Sonia Sotomayor, also published (naturally) by TNR]. Moreover, numerous commentators — including Daniel Larison, Gawker’s Alex Pareene, long-time-Sullivan-critic Brad DeLong, and especially Matt Yglesias — have already torn Wieseltier’s “rationale” to shreds, and Sullivan himself offered up two short but fatal pieces of evidence which, standing alone, expose the idiocy at the heart of Wieseltier’s attack. The specifics of Wieseltier’s rant have already received more attention than they deserve.

  10. Scott
    February 10, 2010, 3:04 pm

    I’d give the prize to Yglesias for most effective polemical retort. Few things would irritate Leon more than comparison with murderous Stalinist apparatchik, and the comparison here is quite apt. One of MY’s commenters says Leon typically misconstrues the thoughts of famous figures he throws in to show off (Aquinas, in this instance) but I’m in no position to judge. If so, Leon would hate that even more. As far as being seen as smugly anti-Christian, Leon could care less.

  11. dalybean
    February 10, 2010, 6:04 pm

    Jeffrey Goldberg adds his voice to the beatdown of Sullivan and tells us that he no longer considers Sullivan a friend, that Sullivan just isn’t very perceptive about the Middle East, and that Sullivan gives unacceptable aid and comfort to anti-semites. I quite suspect that all of the vitriol is in response to Sullivan’s fleeting references to the Goldstone Report.

    link to jeffreygoldberg.theatlantic.com

    • Cliff
      February 10, 2010, 7:25 pm

      Shows you how much Goldberg valued that friendship.

  12. Don
    February 10, 2010, 7:26 pm

    weiseltier “The idea of plurality in the deity, like the idea of corporeality in the deity (Auden would not have had an easier time with the Incarnation!), represents nothing less than a retraction of the monotheistic revolution in thinking about God, a reversal of God’s sublimity, a regress to polytheistic crudity.”

    Gee, I cannot imagine why a Catholic (like myself) would find this offensive.

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