The “American Street” and Antisemitism

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When I tuned in C-Span for the White House briefing today, they were reairing this morning’s Washington Journal call-in. In the space of five minutes I heard two attacks on the closeness of U.S. policy to Israel. Both callers described Israel as an aggressor. One call was reasonable, the other was clearly antisemitic, in a comment about “letting the Jews” run America. This is hardly the first time I’ve heard such attitudes on C-Span. A few weeks back a caller asked Sen. Russ Feingold and his host why all the guests on the show were Jewish. Quick on his feet, Feingold said that Jews are good at talking.

I get attacked a lot for my critique of American policy in the Mideast. I’m not generating those call-ins, though. They are a genuine reflection of shifting American attitudes towards our joined-at-the-hip alliance with Israel. As someone here said a few weeks back, the Israel lobby may be looking at its Elian Gonzales moment, that moment when a special interest’s precious interest suddenly becomes the property of national attention.

Plainly the new focus on the Middle East is going to generate some antisemitism. The way to respond to it is condemning it but also opening the subject up to wider discussion. Just yesterday a big editor I saw in the city marveled that the Times had managed to all but suppress the raging controversy over the historic Mearsheimer-Walt paper, the Harvard/UChicago profs who say that the Israel lobby skews America’s true interests in the region. The Times has done one skimpy piece about the paper, on B8 (yes, followed by the (majestic) Tony Judt op-ed). That is inexcusable.

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