Wieseltier’s wild piece has served the other side

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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.

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