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Robert Siegel scolds Kalle Lasn

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Siegel (photo by Steve Barrett)

The other day on All Things Considered, in an otherwise respectful interview, Robert Siegel scolded Kalle Lasn, the Adbusters founder and Occupy inspirer, suggesting he is anti-Semitic. It happened fast:

SIEGEL: You’ve been very critical of Israel and of neoconservative policies.

LASN: Yeah.

SIEGEL: Some people think you’re out of bounds identifying who are Jews among prominent neoconservatives.

LASN: Yes, and some people think I’m way in bounds as well.

Here are seven Jews who have identified neoconservatism as either a Jewish movement or a movement that has a strong Jewish component:

Alan Dershowitz: (The Vanishing American Jew):

Jews have been active in gay rights, but the recent neo-conservative movement in America has also been dominated by Jews, many of whom had been leaders in the socialist movement of the past.

JJ Goldberg (Jewish Power):

Not all the neoconservatives were Jewish… Nonetheless, they became known as a Jewish group for several reasons. For one thing, most of them were Jews…. Most important, the neoconservatives proclaimed their existence throught two magazines edited and published by Jews…

Jacob Heilbrunn (They Knew They Were Right)

Neoconservatism was forged into an actual movement by [Irving] Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. Even today, the neoconservative movement is best described as an extended family based largely on the informal social networks patiently forged by these two patriarchs…. there were many other figures who contributed to its emergence, both as a movement and as a school of thought. Not all of them were Jews–a fact that has been frequently pointed out by the neoconservatives themselves to refute the canard that neoconservatism is a Jewish movement. Fair enough. Yet the movement’s non-Jewish members were largely bound to the group by a shared commitment to the largest, most important Jewish cause: the survival of Israel.

Murray Friedman (deceased, former vice chair of US Civil Rights Commission):

[book title] The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy….

A new generation of Jewish neocons have lined up behind the Bush Doctrine… If one argues, as I do, that Jewish conservatism has played a little-noticed role in American social and political life for much of the last hundred years, one may wonder why it has gone largely unrecognized.

Benjamin Ginsberg (professor of political science at Johns Hopkins), The Fatal Embrace:

The predominantly Jewish neocons are the chief intellectual spokesmen for all aspects of Reaganite Republicanism that the paleoconservatives find objectionable… One major factor that drew them inexorably to the right was their attachment to Israel and their growing frustration during the 1960s with a Democratic party….

Joe Klein:

You want evidence of divided loyalties? How about the “benign domino theory” that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about–off the record, of course–in the runup to the Iraq war, the idea that Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam, which would set off a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region?

Ari Shavit [2003]:

In the course of the past year, a new belief has emerged in the town [Washington]: the belief in war against Iraq. That ardent faith was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer), people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history.

The simple explanation of Robert Siegel’s statement is that it was OK to talk about the Jewishness of the neocons when they were a rump group of intellectuals at the margins of Washington. When they gained actual power, and played a crucial role in a disastrous decision (Iraq war), the subject suddenly became verboten, in part because of fears among Jews (like Siegel) of a recurrence of virulent anti-Semitism. The result has been journalistic abdication from an important story. 

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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28 Responses

  1. Dan Crowther on December 9, 2011, 11:32 am

    “the subject suddenly became verboten, in part because of fears among Jews (like Siegel) of a recurrence of virulent anti-Semitism. ”

    Siegel doesn’t fear anti-semitism, and none of the neo-cons do either. Siegel fears gentiles calling bullshit on this “fears among jews” nonsense.

    • Citizen on December 9, 2011, 3:58 pm

      God forbid the average American gets some actual facts about who instigated, and why we invaded Iraq, for example. They might be tossing around acronyms like PNAC as if they were studying football odds.

  2. piotr on December 9, 2011, 11:48 am

    “a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them Jewish, almost all of them intellectuals (a partial list: Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, William Kristol, Eliot Abrams, Charles Krauthammer),”

    I think this is a vast exaggeration. Off-hand, from the list, Feith and Abrams are party/government aparatchiks, while Krauthammer is a hack and an idiot. Kristol is a hack and apparatchik.

    Wolfowitz is an actual Ph. D. etc. but in a wrong field, if I recall.

  3. Bill in Maryland on December 9, 2011, 12:36 pm

    Fantastic- thanks for your scholarship Phil in assembling this list. Unfortunately for them, I guess these seven that you quote will be banned from Daily Kos as well for “Jew-counting”. I fully agree with you that it was okay to talk about the Jewishness of the neocons while George Bush was strutting on the aircraft carrier in his flight suit, not so cool a few years later as we are facing up to the real costs of the (off-budget) Iraq War.

    • Citizen on December 9, 2011, 4:02 pm

      Hey, some Jew-counting is kosher. How about a nice list of Noble Prize winners?The Porn Industry, Wall St? Not so much.

  4. seanmcbride on December 9, 2011, 12:51 pm

    Does Robert Siegel really not get the all-important distinction between merely being a member of an ethnic group and being a militant activist for that group’s ethnic nationalist agenda?

    Most of the neocons are militant Jewish nationalists (Likud Zionists) whose public writings and statements revolve obsessively around Jewish nationalist issues — especially Israel’s bitter conflicts with a long list of ethnic, religious and national enemies. They themselves have aggressively put Jewish issues at the front and center of their politics in a highly conspicuous and confrontational way.

    It’s useful to get a handle on where yet another NPR “liberal” is coming from — apparently Siegel is thin-skinned about an honest discussion of neoconservatism and its ideological and cultural roots and explicit self-described agenda. Wow.

    • philweiss on December 9, 2011, 4:24 pm

      thanks Sean, if only we had an open discussion, then the majority of Jews who opposed the Iraq war would face off against the minority who are ultraZionist, and an ethos of separatism epitomized by Abrams would be debated; and great Jewish diversity would emerge… Phil

      • seanmcbride on December 9, 2011, 10:02 pm


        Right — an open discussion about the neoconservative role in promoting the Iraq War would reveal that Jews overall were the *good guys* in this controversy — on a percentage basis they probably opposed the war more than any other ethnic or religious group in America. Jewish Likud Zionists within the neoconservative movement no more represent “the Jews” than Christian Zionists represent “the Christians.” We need to air out and clarify these matters as an antidote to antisemitism.

  5. Cliff on December 9, 2011, 1:06 pm

    The Dersh himself vouches! Enough for me.

  6. Gellian on December 9, 2011, 1:25 pm

    You can throw David Brooks in there, I’m sure he’s made the same point (I remember reading it)

  7. Les on December 9, 2011, 1:59 pm

    Jew counting is only permissible when counting literary luminaries or Nobel Prize winners. And, of course, only Jews are allowed to do the counting.

    • Kathleen on December 9, 2011, 3:22 pm


      Would still like to know about the independent investigation of the alleged “pervasiv e cronyism” that NPR was charged with by numerous employees. I believe there were some monetary settlements. The claims had to do with climbing the ladder at NPR getting host of shows positions etc. Talked to Juan Williams about these claims and outside investigation that was allegedly done (had read about it on line). That report about those claims has never been released.

  8. MRW on December 9, 2011, 2:31 pm

    “The result has been journalistic abdication from an important story.”

    Dead right.

    But it’s more than that now: it’s the deceit of a cover-up, and attempt to whitewash recent history. Had they been successful in their domino fall of the ME, they would have stuck their penises on their forehead and brayed about how smart they were. But because of the abject failure and the cost to this country, which will continue for decades for military families, they don’t want the blame. Hiding behind the fear, oh-yeah-now, of anti-semitism is a poor excuse for decency, morality, and intelligence. Someone should have thought about that before the bombs dropped in 2003.

  9. Richard Witty on December 9, 2011, 3:26 pm

    “Robert Siegel scolded Kalle Lasn, the Adbusters founder and Occupy inspirer, suggesting he is anti-Semitic. It happened fast:”

    More questionable reading comprehension. Are you personally that sensitive?

    • Donald on December 9, 2011, 5:58 pm

      “More questionable reading comprehension. Are you personally that sensitive?”

      So repeating an accusation of anti-semitism is no big deal? No one should care if Lasn is anti-semitic or not? It’s true Siegel doesn’t make the accusation directly–“Some people” do it and Siegel just repeats it. And he gives no context. Why would Lasn think it matters that some neocons are Jewish? Is it because he’s anti-semitic, or does he think some conservative Jews linked their Jewishness with certain foreign policy preferences?

      If Siegel thought the accusation deserved an airing, then they should have spent some time on it–Lasn could have explained his position. Otherwise it’s just a very serious accusation that Siegel raises, Lasn brushes it aside, and the casual listener has no idea what it was about. It’s a weird way to do journalism, unless one wishes to plant a seed in the listener’s mind.

  10. marc b. on December 9, 2011, 3:37 pm

    another example of why i only listen to NPR now if the guest is of interest.

  11. seanmcbride on December 9, 2011, 3:39 pm

    Because the neocons have not been held accountable by the political establishment for their outrageous failures in Iraq and Afghanistan, and since proper attention has not been paid to the central role of Israel in their hysterical agitation for those wars, they are getting away with promoting *yet another* disastrous war, this time against Iran, with almost no critical commentary or pushback from the mainstream media punditocracy. In fact, they continue to dominate the mainstream punditocracy.

    If news organizations like NPR were behaving like real journalists, we wouldn’t be in this mess. Many “liberals,” like Robert Siegel (who reminds one a bit of Richard Witty in terms of his “reasonable” and “well-intentioned” demeanor), are protecting and running interference for neoconservatives and the Israel lobby.

  12. Kathleen on December 9, 2011, 3:55 pm

    American I don’t want any Jews, Pole, Gypsy to be afraid of another Holocaust. And I don’t think they are. Use the Holocaust endlessly to commit crimes against Palestinians others.

    “never again” should apply to Iraqi’s, Iranians etc. But to many “never again” means only Jews…that is a problem

    • American on December 9, 2011, 9:54 pm

      I didn’t say Jews I said zionist……..but having said that, let me say I think some fear can be a healthy thing.
      I don’t wanted to get into my entire theory on how Jews can be cured of the anti semite and holocaust nightmares…..but treating them like nervous little, overly excitable poodle dogs who have to be pampered is ridiculous, it just reinforces the syndrome.

      • Kathleen on December 12, 2011, 5:42 pm

        Hey did part of our conversation disappear?

      • American on December 13, 2011, 11:09 am

        Yea it did disappear…..wonder why……there was nothing offensive about it.
        Maybe because I said zionist….and by extension, Jews….should feel some fear of consequences of their actions or activities. I see nothing wrong with that. It’s not saying Jews should be ‘made to fear” another holocaust for gawds sake. Fear of consequences prevent most people from going too far and harming others. That’s the system the world operates on for law and order and a half way decent society. I don’t think anyone should be exempt from understanding that if their actions go over some line there are consequences…whether it’s legal consequences or just societal disapproval.

      • seanmcbride on December 13, 2011, 12:39 pm

        It’s a classical feature of most messianic movements — and contemporary Zionism is a messianic movement of the most extreme variety — that members of the cult succumb to the delusion that they are immune from all rational laws of nature — they convince themselves that they comprise a body of “exceptional” people. This is why most messianic movements crash against the wall of reality and self-destruct, often in spectacular ways.

        Israel seems to be very much on this typical path. The chances that it will come to its senses are nil. The main question now is if Israel will manage to take down the United States and much of the rest of the world with it. The smart money is betting yes, since both major political parties in the United States, and the mainstream media, are totally under the thumb of the Israeli government and the Israel lobby. We are just a short step away from total ruin (envision the consequences of an Israeli and/or American attack on Iran).

      • LeaNder on December 13, 2011, 12:55 pm

        (envision the consequences of an Israeli and/or American attack on Iran).

        We were treated to Mossad glorifying news yesterday on our second public channel (ZDF). Several Israeli security specialists mainly Ronen Bergmann but others including the ex Mossad director Ephraim Halevy were interviewed. In a nutshell: Israel already leads a war against Iran, albeit a secret war. We are only safe since the best and most super secret agency of the world is so active for all of us..

        In case someone understands German: Israel’s secret war against Iran

  13. Citizen on December 9, 2011, 4:06 pm

    Meanwhile, why not watch old episodes of The Goldbergs? Or how about that new TLC reality show about the 5 Muslim American families? You won’t be bothered by Ronald McDonald ads:

  14. eugnid on December 9, 2011, 7:56 pm

    A recent poll found that 70% of Americans do NOT consider Israel an ally. Indeed, there are signs that many American Jews also feel that way– their primary allegiance being to their homeland, USA. This was in large part due to the way the neocons identified American interests with Israeli desires. So twisted was the presentation that many Americans came to feel that Israel is not a cooperative ally but an exploiter of the allegiances it enjoys in America. Jewish critics of Zionism were labeled as “self-hating Jews” and the many that the neocons ridicule as “dumb goyim” were declared “anti-Semites” for criticizing Israel. The neocons have not only demonstrated that Israel is their only not-for-hire issue, but also that their raison d’etre is argued in terms of “Jewish interests” rather than American ones. Their careers as “public intellectuals were funded by CIA, then military-industrial complex and now by rabid Zionists. Their mainhead publication, COMMENTARY, is a Jewish publication.

    So the issue is not that Siegel called Lasn an anti-Semite because he really thought him so for connecting neocons to Zionism, but because he knows which side of the bread is buttered on NPR, a dying liberal entity depending for funds on a conservative Congress. The 100 Senators vote for Iran censure mentioned herein, despite the raised oil cost risk to Americans, suggests that intense pro-Israel programming and commentary is how NPR hopes to survive financially.

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