Fallows bridles at the use of the anti-Semitism bogy

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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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