Fallows bridles at the use of the anti-Semitism bogy

on 22 Comments
As I wrote the other day, one of the best things that’s happened in the Chuck Hagel controversy is that neoconservatives threw the libel “anti-Semite” around so casually that their irresponsibility has come back to bite them. The latest evidence of this is that James Fallows, a sober establishment journalist if ever there was one, a designated sage on National Public Radio (whom I revere for his description of the Vietnam War draft as a “class war,” thereby overlooking his more recent service to the Israeli military), has apparently had it with the Israel lobby’s tactics.

Adam Kredo reports on private emails exchanged by a group supporting Hagel (called the Committee for the Republic) and exposes Fallows’s anger over Elliott Abrams’s use of the anti-Semitism smear, and his defense of Chas Freeman. Kredo: 

Fallows, who has repeatedly defended Hagel on the Atlantic’s website, wrote [in the private emails] that “[Elliott] Abrams and his wife” are “central” figures in the fight against Hagel.

“Was there any single person who was as central to the ‘accusations’ in Chas Freeman’s case as Abrams and his wife, who’s centrally involved in Emergency Committee for Israel, have been in this case?”…..

“I won’t comment on what anyone else might have said in an email exchange that has been given to you,” Fallows said via email Monday… “I do not know [fellow group members] David Fenton or Robert Naiman,” Fallows added. “I do know and respect Charles Freeman.”

“I was going to say more about the flat-out anti-Semitism accusation that Elliott Abrams made on NPR a week ago,” he said. “But I decided to wait to see whether the Council on Foreign Relations stood behind or distanced itself from that charge.”

This is significant because Chas Freeman was smeared in 2009 when Obama chose him for director of national intelligence. Freeman was forced to abandon the offer and was then declared damaged goods: a good man disqualified from the mainstream discourse as an alleged “Arabist”. Fallows is obviously disturbed by this type of redlining, and is standing up for Freeman privately– and now publicly.

Arianna Huffington is also angry about the Elliott Abrams smear of Hagel:

What’s amazing is that the Council on Foreign Relations would allow its credibility to be used to advance an accusation like this. In response, a CFR official told Al-Monitor‘s Laura Rozen that the views of their experts are “theirs only” and that “the Council on Foreign Relations takes no institutional position on matters of policy.” But this isn’t policy, it’s character assassination. Does the Council take no official position on that?

Scott McConnell says the neocons have put the fat in the fire, and may regret it:

Of course, the reason the opposition to Hagel is so desperate and so focused on side-issues or made-up charges is because they don’t want a debate that would shine a spotlight on their spectacular and disastrous failure in Iraq.

Indeed, it is something of a puzzlement why Abrams even seeks a role in American foreign policymaking, as he has written that unless they live in Israel, Jews are “to stand apart from the nation in which they live,” though perhaps his views on this question have evolved.

In short, we are in for a wild ride. By raising charges against Hagel that those who know the man find bizarre and disgraceful, the neocons have succeeded in turning a spotlight on themselves–not only on their history of warmongering, but on their political tactics and on their character. They may regret it.

I wonder if we have not reached a watershed moment in the use of the anti-Semitism charge. For decades now, people who have wanted to speak out about the Israel/Palestine conflict have been frightened by the possibility of being charged with anti-Semitism. Many of my anonymous tipsters on this site don’t come forward because of that fear. And having experienced the charge myself, I can tell you that it’s deeply concerning: I wonder if the claim that I’m anti-Semitic will shadow my work and leave me sidelined for years to come, and diminish my ability to publish.

One of my anonymous writer friends complained to me about the pattern the other day– “this Stalinist use of the anti-Semitism bogy, the constant search for suspected kulaks” and went on:

Why is there a government office to monitor and combat anti-Semitism in a nation where an underclass of blacks and Indians was part of the fabric of the constitution. It is a combination of moralizing with opportunism.

[I wrote back, Well let’s have a federal office against racism. My correspondent said:]

We have laws against racism, and courts. A government office against racism would be a magnet for cronyism and diverted taxpayer money, as this special-interest anti-Semitism office is. We should spend the money on education.  My tax dollars should be going to schools and healthcare, not on kulak hunting.

I bet James Fallows and many other mainstream journalists, many of them Jews, agree with those sentiments. And that our discussion of these issues is now likely to change.
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22 Responses

  1. American
    January 16, 2013, 11:20 am

    “We have laws against racism, and courts. A government office against racism would be a magnet for cronyism and diverted taxpayer money, as this special-interest anti-Semitism office is. We should spend the money on education. My tax dollars should be going to schools and healthcare, not on kulak hunting.”

    I so agree with this. And it’s not because I am not sympathic toward and don’t believe in protecting people from being discriminated against and treated as lesser humans or citizens.
    We do have laws and those laws should be and are enforced for the most part as far as I can tell.
    And beside creating offices for croynism and special interest it creates this national ‘notion’ where people of some races or classes will think of themselves as “Victims” or claim victim status whether they actually ARE vicitms or not….it would create even more attitudes among the public.
    The last this country needs is to become a nation of victims.
    The whole point to laws ending racism is to get to the point where all people are able to live ‘feeling equal’ as well as actually being equal and without feeling like they are some lesser class all their life…Not feeling different or singled out…which is what these kinds of offices would do.

    • lysias
      January 16, 2013, 2:04 pm

      The hounding to death of Aaron Swartz shows the degree of responsibility we can expect from an office within the Department of Justice.

      • Carowhat
        January 16, 2013, 4:53 pm

        The prosecutors in the Aaron Swartz case knew they would never get a unanimous guilty verdict against him from any computer literate jury. So they grossly over-charged him in hopes of scaring him into a plea bargain that would make him accept significant jail time. Instead they scared him so badly (he had always battled with depression) that he took his own life.

        When I hear a song like “God Bless America” I sometimes wonder what America they’re talking about.

      • phacepalm
        January 17, 2013, 7:54 am

        Carowhat, thanks for the post – you nailed it.

    • Mooser
      January 16, 2013, 2:05 pm

      “And beside creating offices for croynism and special interest it creates this national ‘notion’ where people of some races or classes will think of themselves as “Victims” or claim victim status whether they actually ARE vicitms or not….it would create even more attitudes among the public.”

      How right you are, American. All I ever hear from my white friends (I have a few, but I’ll be damned if i marry their daughters) is all about their victimisation at the hands of affirmative action and diversity. And the white Christians are victimised by atheists! Will nobody stand up for the rights of whites?

  2. LeaNder
    January 16, 2013, 1:32 pm

    I’ve been following the Jacob Augstein debate over here, and just noticed that I was right Dieter Graumann the president of Central Council of German Jews does not believe Augstein is an antisemite either, I think we had already the vice president denying it. English version

    SPIEGEL: Mr. Augstein, are you an anti-Semite?

    Augstein: No.

    SPIEGEL: Mr. Graumann, do you think Jakob Augstein is an anti-Semite?

    Graumann: No. To make it clear right from the start, he doesn’t belong on the list of top 10 anti-Semites that was recently compiled by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. But I find his column entries despicable and repugnant. He is recklessly fueling anti-Jewish sentiment.

    Augstein: That is a serious allegation. What makes you say that?

    SPIEGEL: Is there a litmus test for anti-Semitism? Henryk Broder, a former SPIEGEL journalist who is now a regular columnist for the conservative daily Die Welt, summed it up as follows: From now on, I determine what constitutes an anti-Semite. Broder, whose expertise played a role in the Wiesenthal Center’s rating …
    Graumann: … is a gifted polemicist. He has also sharply criticized me on occasion. I survived — and I still think highly of him.

    Augstein: I can’t take this quite so lightly. Broder wrote that I could have made my career with the Gestapo and been of service on the ramp (a reference to loading Jews onto rail cars headed for concentration camps). Is that what you mean when you say that he is a gifted polemicist?

    SPIEGEL: Let’s get back to the definition of anti-Semitism.

    And here is a little more from Rabbi Abraham-Cooper. The German TV audience only got one sentence in the larger “Augstein case context”. Anyway lame interview but interesting nevertheless and in English. We learn that France could have made it on the list too. Interesting to a certain extend it seems to be about Germany more than about Augstein. But to understand you have to listen to the very, very end.

    Hendryk M. Broder, by the way has apologized to Augstein by now. I haven’t checked his “Axis of the Good” site, but it’s reported.

  3. Mooser
    January 16, 2013, 2:14 pm

    “I wonder if the claim that I’m anti-Semitic will shadow my work and leave me sidelined for years to come, and diminish my ability to publish.”

    Not if you work it right! All you’ve got to do is rediscover you Judaism, re-affirm your Zionism (in the blandest, most indefinite terms, of course, no use painting yourself into another corner) and you’ll command double the rates. And think of the readings! Not a dry eye in the house, as you describe kneeling by your bedside, a broken man, and stuttering your first S’hma since boyhood through your tears. Just think of the product-placement fees from Soda-stream! You can ring down the curtain on this entire episode, and come out on the right side of the ledger.

    OBTW, I hate to ask, but what did you think was going to happen when you entered the high-prophet, low-overhead field of anti-Zionism?

  4. ckg
    January 16, 2013, 2:56 pm

    Five years ago Fallows himself was being smeared by the neocons: “Is James Fallows a Disloyal American?” by Gabriel Schoenfeld in Commentary. http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2007/10/22/is-james-fallows-a-disloyal-american/

  5. seafoid
    January 16, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Imagine a cult of elite rich DC or NY gays and lesbians that sprung up and took over US foreign policy and started planning wars against third world countries such as Paraguay and Burundi on the basis that they were homophobic. And that loads of money paid by insurance companies to HIV patients was appropriated by the cult and none of it spent on the people who suffered. But nobody would talk about it
    And ordinary gays felt that they had to support them. Except for a few who didn’t like it and knew that real homophobia would be back and that it was stupid to abuse the word for imperial purposes.
    And tried to draw attention to the fable about the boy who cried wolf but were labeled “self hating fags”.

    And afterwards Donald Trump went on youtube all camped up and said war was* fabulous*.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    January 16, 2013, 5:17 pm

    RE: “Fallows, who has repeatedly defended Hagel on the Atlantic’s website, wrote [in the private emails] that ‘[Elliott] Abrams and his wife’ are ‘central’ figures in the fight against Hagel.”

    “Rachel Podhoretz Decter Abrams’s Gay Problem — And Ours, by Daniel Luban, LobeLog.com, 7/13/10

    [EXCERPTS] Eli and Ali have been doing great reporting on the Emergency Committee for Israel, the new Likudnik group that has formed to attack Democrats on Israel. Many of the group’s principals will be familiar — Bill Kristol, of course, needs no introduction . . .
    . . . One figure who has received less attention is the group’s fourth principal, Rachel Abrams — wife of Elliott Abrams, daughter of Midge Decter, stepdaughter of Norman Podhoretz.
    This is a shame, because she is almost certainly the craziest of the lot.
    I must confess that when I began reading her blog, I was primarily looking for evidence of her Revisionist Zionism. And, to be sure, such evidence is not in short supply. . .
    . . . But as I continued reading Rachel Abrams’s writings, what jumped out at me was not so much her predictably crazy views about Israel, but her strange obsession with (and apparent hostility to) homosexuality. This first jumped out at me in her response to Peter Beinart’s New York Review of Books essay, a long rant in which Abrams pretends to write in Beinart’s voice. While most of her Beinart “parody” is devoted to accusations that he is insufficiently devoted to the state of Israel, a large chunk of it is spent on rather bizarre and gratuitous insinuations that Beinart is gay. Thus she has fake-Beinart complaining, about a focus group of Jewish students, that “an insufficient number were gay and too many were broads,” and espousing his support for “open debate that of course excludes those who would advance anti-feminist or anti-gay or pro-Israel argument”. (It’s striking that she equates “pro-Israel” with “anti-feminist” and “anti-gay” arguments.) Then she has fake-Beinart condemning Orthodox Jews for homophobia before defensively reasserting his own heterosexuality: “they condemn gays, though I want to reassert that I have children,” a trope that she repeats throughout the piece. One has to wonder why she is so intent to insist that Beinart is gay, as if this fact would have any relevance whatsoever to the content of his piece.
    I was initially inclined to dismiss Abrams’s homophobic attack on Beinart as simply a failed and sophomoric attempt at humor, but the more of her writing I read, the more I noticed that this strange obsession with homosexuality seems to be a recurring feature of it. For instance, in a post claiming that Christopher Hitchens is “giving homosexuality a bad name,” and professing disinterest in the sexual pasts of “old Tory buggers,” Abrams writes:

    Wherever one stands on the homosexuality question—I’m agnostic, or would be if the “gay community” would quit trying to shove legislation down my throat—there can be no denying bisexuality’s double betrayal—you never know, whether you’re the man of the hour or the woman . . .

    . . . Similarly, Abrams is deeply offended by the Obama administrations’ human rights policy, but her complaint goes beyond the standard neocon one that Obama is not aggressive enough in pushing regime change against Israel’s rivals — what’s really galling is that the administration has identified LGBT rights in the U.S. as an important human rights issue. She froths that it’s Hillary “Clinton’s fawning speech in honor of ‘Pride Month,’ which she delivered the other day to members of the ‘LGBT community’ who have fanned out from the mother-ship of state, as it were…that’s the truly breathtaking expression of this perversion of a policy.” For telling this quote-unquote community such wildly controversial statements as “human rights are gay rights and gay rights are human rights,” Clinton is responsible for this “perversion” — I can’t imagine the word choice is accidental — of a policy.
    I could go on. There’s her speculation, for instance, that the problems of the Afghan war originate in the rampant homosexuality of Pashtun males, which leads Abrams onto a long tangent about homosexuality among the ancient Greeks, concluding: “those ancient elitist pedophiles and narcissists, disturbingly fascinating as they are, will seem to many in our armed forces to have been people doing and suffering things that are very ‘base’ indeed.” There’s yet another rant about the Obama administration’s focus on LGBT rights, which she excoriates as an abandonment of America’s traditional “embracing of the rights of ordinary men and women,” (as opposed to perverts, presumably). There’s the way that Abrams throws a gratuitous warning about “a profitable surge in gay-couples-therapy sessions, as gay marriage, and divorce, become commonplace—nay, even humdrum” into an article on a completely unrelated topic. But you get the picture. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.lobelog.com/rachel-abrams-gay-problem/

    • lysias
      January 16, 2013, 6:53 pm

      If Rachel Abrams has such a thing about homosexuality, I wonder what she thinks of William Kristol.

      Midge Decter, by the way, wrote a notoriously vitriolic piece for Commentary on gays and Fire Island. The Boys on the Beach. (Decter’s piece is blocked by a paywall, but you can read Gore Vidal’s brilliant reply in The Nation: Some Jews & The Gays .)

      • Annie Robbins
        January 16, 2013, 7:36 pm

        that’s hysterical lysias

        Decter goes on to tell us that she is now amazed at the recent changes in the boys on the beach. Why have they become so politically militant—and so ill groomed? “What indeed has happened to the homosexual community I used to know—they who only a few short years ago [as opposed to those manly 370-day years] were characterized by nothing so much as a sweet, vain, pouting, girlish attention to the youth and beauty of their bodies?” Decter wrestles with this problem. She tells us how, in the old days, she did her very best to come to terms with her own normal dislike for these half-men-and half-women, too: “There were also homosexual women at the Pines, but they were, or seemed to be, far fewer in number. Nor, except for a marked tendency to hang out in the company of large and ferocious dogs, were they instantly recognizable as the men were.” Well, if I were a dyke and a pair of Podhoretzes came waddling toward me on the beach, copies of Leviticus and Freud in hand, I’d get in touch with the nearest Alsatian dealer pronto.

    • Castellio
      January 17, 2013, 12:54 pm

      Dickerson – You have a habit of both excerpting and bolding within the excerpt. FWIW, I find it difficult to read. If it’s the right excerpt, why the need to bold?

  7. Annie Robbins
    January 16, 2013, 5:34 pm

    from kredo’s article:

    “What’s interesting is that tactic of attacking critics of Hagel rather than defending Hagel,” Abrams said when informed about the email chain obtained by the Free Beacon. “My views were made clear now in two articles and I’ll stand by them.”

    but it wasn’t until the very last paragraph of kredo’s article he informs the reader

    The pro-Hagel activists also exchanged an Open Zion article detailing “Abram’s Truth Problem.” Open Zion is the Daily Beast blog sponsored by the New America Foundation and edited by a former New Republic staffer named Peter Beinart.

    then you open the article by Ali Gharib and it recounts abrams interview on NPR. and what kredo forgot to mention is that abrams ( on npr) was discussing kredo’s thoroughly debunked smear article! http://mondoweiss.net/2013/01/ricochets-atlantic-strikes.html

    it’s like a circular clusterf and when abrams attacks hagel personally he complains about getting smeared back? he expects people to argue his false allegations and not attack him personally.

    • DICKERSON3870
      January 16, 2013, 6:38 pm

      RE: “it’s like a circular clusterf” ~ Annie Robbins

      QUESTION: What the devil is a “circular clusterf”? [LOL!!!]

      P.S. It was reportedly a favorite of Parisian “salon society” after-parties (after the women had retired to the sitting rooms).
      A great-grandmother of mine supposedly told everyone she met: “We’re French, you know.”
      If she had only known!
      Or, might she have?
      “Enquiring mimes want to know!”

      • Annie Robbins
        January 16, 2013, 7:41 pm

        pardon my parlance! in this case i meant kredo printing lies (immediately debunked) and the abrams humping the already debunked lies on npr and then kredo writing about abrams humping the lie on npr forgetting to mention the lie had been previously debunked and on and on … like a circular cf

  8. DICKERSON3870
    January 16, 2013, 5:35 pm

    RE: “Fallows, who has repeatedly defended Hagel on the Atlantic’s website, wrote [in the private emails] that ‘[Elliott] Abrams and his wife’ are ‘central’ figures in the fight against Hagel.” ~ Adam Kredo

    MY COMMENT: As far as I am concerned, Elliott Abrams is one of those rare individuals who can fairly be derided as being ‘evil incarnate’.
    His Iran-Contra associate in Central American mayhem (and its conjoined arms and drug trade), John Negroponte , is another.

    FROM ‘RIGHT WEB’/IPS [Elliott Abrams]:

    (EXCERPT) . . . [Elliott] Abrams is best known for his role in the Iran-Contra scandal. He was indicted by a special prosecutor for intentionally deceiving Congress about the Reagan administration’s role in supporting the Contras—including his own central role in the Iran-Contra arms deal. In this deal, national security staff led by Oliver North brokered the sale of weapons from Israel to Iran in exchange for Iran helping broker the release of six Americans held hostage by Hezbollah. Some of the money made from the sale was channeled to the U.S.-backed and -organized Contras, who were spearheading a counterrevolution against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Congress had prohibited U.S. government assistance to the Contras because of their pattern of human rights abuses.
    At the time of his involvement, Abrams was the assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs, working under George Shultz. Abrams pleaded guilty to two lesser offenses (including withholding information from Congress) to avoid a trial and a possible jail term.
    Throughout the proceedings, Abrams denied knowledge of the NSC and CIA programs to support the Contras. He blamed Congress for the deaths of two U.S. military members shot down by the Sandinistas in an illegal, clandestine arms supply operation over Nicaragua. He [Elliott Abrams] described the legal proceedings against him as “Kafkaesque” and called his prosecutors “filthy bastards” and “vipers.” . . . [18]

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.rightweb.irc-online.org/profile/Abrams_Elliott

    • DICKERSON3870
      January 16, 2013, 5:47 pm

      P.S. FROM HistoryCommons.org [Elliott Abrams]:

      “June 2001: Abrams, Other Think Tank Neoconservatives Move to Join White House”
      Hardline neoconservative Elliott Abrams (see June 2, 1987) joins the National Security Council as senior director of Near East and North African affairs. A State Department official will later recall: “Elliott embodied the hubris of the neocon perspective. His attitude was, ‘All the rest of you are pygmies. You don’t have the scope and the vision we have. We are going to remake the world.’ His appointment meant that good sense had been overcome by ideology.”

      Rush of Neoconservatives into Administration – Abrams’s entry into the White House heralds a rush of former Project for the New American Century members (PNAC—see January 26, 1998 and September 2000) into the Bush administration, almost all of whom are staunch advocates of regime change in Iraq. “I don’t think that most people in State understood what was going on,” the State Department official will say later. “I understood what this was about, that PNAC was moving from outside the government to inside. In my mind, it was an unfriendly takeover.” [UNGER, 2007, PP. 205]

      Neoconservatives Well-Organized, Contemptuous of Congress – In June 2004, former intelligence official Patrick Lang will write: “It should have been a dire warning to the US Congress when the man who had been convicted of lying to Congress during the Iran-contra affair [Elliott Abrams] was put in charge of the Middle East section of the NSC staff.One underestimated talent of the neocon group in the run-up to this war was its ability to manipulate Congress. They were masters of the game , having made the team in Washington in the 1970s on the staffs of two of the most powerful senators in recent decades, New York’s Patrick Moynihan and Washington’s Henry ‘Scoop’Jackson (see Early 1970s). The old boy’s club—Abe Shulsky at OSP [the Office of Special Plans—see September 2002], Undersecretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, Middle East Desk Officer at the NSC Abrams, Defense Policy Board Chairman Richard Perle—had not only worked together in their early government years in these two Senate offices, but they had stayed together as a network through the ensuing decades, floating around a small number of businesses and think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute and the openly neoimperialist Project for a New American Century. The neocons were openly contemptuous of Congress, as they were of the UN Security Council.” [MIDDLE EAST POLICY COUNCIL, 6/2004]

      SOURCE – http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a060101abramsnsc#a060101abramsnsc

  9. piotr
    January 16, 2013, 9:29 pm

    Actually, the fact that Abramses and Crystol became central figures in the campaign against Hagel shows how narrow and tepid this campaign was. The most significant change that I see in this affair is that the notion of Zionist extremist fringe was defined at long last. The grand poobah of the Jewish establishment went through motions of opposing Hagel but without zest, and it would take a page to list Jewish commentators, journalists etc. who were opposing the opposition. In the Hagel affair, AIPAC was a hollow shell, a shadow of the dragon which nixed the idea of “settlement freeze” that Obama floated in 2009.

    There is a growing sense in those circles that (i) war on Iran is a moronic idea and (ii) settlement expansion has to stop. The first point is easy, for all huffing and puffing Israel cannot do it without American permission. The second is hard, because this and the next government of Israel will escalate the settlement expansion, intensify oppression and dispossession until it is disciplined by some form of sanctions and “regular Zionists” have to face that.

    This is closely related to the issue of “new anti-Semitism”. My attitude is “we are all new-Antisemites”. New anti-Semitism is a bait-and-switch concept. Bait: it is evil to slaughter 6 million people. Switch: it is evil to oppose any steps that Israeli deem necessary for their survival, however insane and delusional.

    New anti-Semitism has think tanks devoted to classifying and tracking the phenomenon and branding the perpetrators. It has about as much of moral validity as Intelligent Design has scientific validity.

    To restate my modest proposal, any accusation of anti-Semitism should be inspected: old or new? If new, the accusation is not a slander but kvetching. The accused should be viewed as not harmed, and he/she/they should not be harmed.

    • aiman
      January 17, 2013, 10:27 am

      “New anti-Semitism has think tanks devoted to classifying and tracking the phenomenon and branding the perpetrators. It has about as much of moral validity as Intelligent Design has scientific validity.”

      What’s interesting is that Bernard Lewis’s Islamophobia fully mirrors, no comprehensively extends, what he called new anti-Semitism, including his wet dream about Iranian cosmic evil.

  10. DICKERSON3870
    February 13, 2013, 5:51 pm

    RE: “I wonder if we have not reached a watershed moment in the use of the anti-Semitism charge.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: Have I derided Phil’s Weissglossian optimism lately?
    If not, this is a good occasion for it.

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