Wieseltier’s wild piece has served the other side

on 7 Comments

Wieseltier looks worse and worse. Here is a fine piece by Daniel Luban on the editor’s wild accusation against Sullivan, demonstrating two great accomplishments of this blowup:

–the threat of the anti-Semitism accusation as an effective bar to folks’ speaking out is over. Walt and Mearsheimer began to break it years ago; at some level they were willing to accept the scarlet letter A in order to say what they had to say. Now that Wieseltier is affixing it to his former colleague in a fit (a piece that Greenwald justly dispatches as "ugly, reckless and at times deranged"), he’s made the charge absurd and revealed it for what it is, a way that Israel lobbyists stifle discussion.

–Luban reports that even the New Republic boys are now conceding that the Israel lobby is very powerful, though not nearly as powerful as we theorists claim it is. OK so let’s have the conversation. I heard rumors that Wieseltier and Michael Walzer refused to debate Walt and Mearsheimer back when their book came out; they didn’t want to share a platform with the scholars. Then at Yivo Jeffrey Goldberg said he’d also refuse to debate em. Those days are over. It is only a matter of time before Chris Matthews finally has to discuss this, and gets some mainstreamers to pull their chins.

Thanks Leon Wieseltier. Oh, I’m rereading Luban. He says it all, and better than I do:

For a long time, such accusations were a political death sentence for those on the receiving end of them. Even in recent years, they have remained damaging when directed at figures who were not known personally by many people in Washington journalistic circles (e.g. Walt and Mearsheimer, Chas Freeman).

However, the hardliners badly blundered by casually and frivolously leveling the anti-Semitism charge against people who were widely known — and widely known not to be anti-Semites — in Washington. Joe Klein, an anti-Semite? Andrew Sullivan, an anti-Semite? The obviously absurdity of these charges has caused many observers to go back and reevaluate the entire way that the charge has been used in the past — and has only confirmed the impression that it is all-too-frequently used to stifle all dissent from Israeli policies.

The result is that the tacit framework governing “responsible” criticism of Israel is breaking down.

7 Responses

  1. syvanen
    February 10, 2010, 10:28 pm

    Nothing really to add but to say Yeaaa. I was accused of anti-Semitism in 2002 for suggesting that US policy towards Israel contributed to 911. This was in a professionally damaging situation. I agree that this is a good sign that things are changing for the better.

  2. Frankie P
    February 10, 2010, 10:54 pm


    The next step is to claim that if telling the truth amounts to anti-semitism, it’s a badge we should all wear with pride.


  3. MRW
    February 11, 2010, 12:17 am

    I highly recommend reading Luban and Greenwald’s articles in their entirety. Excellent pieces. Too many great points to copy. Just go there.

  4. Pamela Olson
    February 11, 2010, 1:05 am

    Might I suggest a new law, a la Godwin’s Law:

    Sullivan’s Law: “As a cogent argument against America’s special relationship with Israel and/or against Zionist injustices against the Palestinians approaches the mainstream, the probability of its author being called an anti-Semite approaches 1.”


    • Pamela Olson
      February 11, 2010, 1:10 am

      And quite rapidly, I might add. Perhaps we should add a codicil: Once someone who is clearly not an anti-Semite is called an anti-Semite, the debate is over and whoever absurdly called someone else an anti-Semite automatically loses.

      We seem to be getting there, slowly but surely.

  5. hnorr
    February 11, 2010, 1:54 am

    As they say, an anti-semite used to be someone who hated Jews. Now it’s someone Jews hate.

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