Leonard Fein has a column at the Forward remembering Anthony Lewis and his writings critical of Israel. (We saluted Lewis’s record here, and quoted from the pieces.) I am shocked by Fein’s report that there’s been an “outpouring of post-mortem vitriol” because of these writings. I have not seen that outpouring, but I am sure Fein knows whereof he speaks, for he is wired in the Jewish community; and the sad news underlines the intellectual desert that is the Jewish community’s discussion of Palestinian human rights. (When as Leonard Fein and Jane Eisner, his editor, both know, there is a surging movement inside the Jewish community of anti-Zionists and non-Zionists who for now are largely unrepresented in the offices of that community). Fein:
[Lewis’s] interest in the Middle East, and on the dilemmas confronting Israel, was of long standing, a theme to which he returned again and again.
Yet it is precisely that theme that has occasioned an outpouring of post-mortem vitriol, as if any recognition of the Palestinian question merited Lewis’s angry dismissal as an enemy of Israel. This does an injustice not only to Lewis, but to serious engagement with the core conflict in the region….
[After quoting from Lewis writings] These are not the words of an enemy of Israel, and there is no doubt whatever that Lewis did not see himself as an enemy of Israel. Almost alone among major newspaper columnists, he would simply not let go of the issue, and of his profound sense that Israel’s policies were doing Israel – its standing, its security – much harm….
So, too, it is crazy – and ugly – to define this gentle man as an enemy. In my interactions with him he was unfailingly courteous, helpful and deeply, deeply concerned with Israel’s well-being.