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Anthony Lewis’s death unleashes an ‘outpouring of vitriol’ about his views critical of Israel

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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.

Philip Weiss

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

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19 Responses

  1. pabelmont on March 29, 2013, 11:58 am

    A lEWIS

  2. PeaceThroughJustice on March 29, 2013, 12:00 pm

    “surging movement inside the Jewish community of anti-Zionists and non-Zionists”

    You think this kind of optimistic claim will help inspire change, but it actually just lets people avoid looking at the problem squarely.

  3. pabelmont on March 29, 2013, 12:01 pm

    Anthony Lewis was a hero of mine. On law, on S/C, on Israel/Palestine. RIP.

    And let the old money, so used to having its way “as of right” that it never stops to question the “rights” that having and spending lots of money pretends to convey — let it shrivel up and die as quickly as possible.

  4. marc b. on March 29, 2013, 12:04 pm

    In my interactions with him he was unfailingly courteous, helpful and deeply, deeply concerned with Israel’s well-being.

    obviously ‘deep, deep concern with Israel’s well-being’ is a pretty low bar to set. there’s so much more to be done, so much more to be felt by bona fide supporters of Israel. lewis could have tried harder, and the fact that he didn’t is a symptom of his own self-loathing.

    • MRW on March 30, 2013, 11:28 am

      marc b.,

      Lewis did a lot in the 80s. He pushed against the Likud tide bigtime. He was lucky to have a column at the NYT because if he had come along at any time later, the NYT would never have given him space.

      • marc b. on April 1, 2013, 1:58 pm

        sorry, mrw, my inappropriate snark. the point (poorly made) was that it really takes very little for the bots to shout ‘treason’.

  5. DICKERSON3870 on March 29, 2013, 1:13 pm

    RE: “Leonard Fein has a column at the Forward remembering Anthony Lewis and his writings critical of Israel. . . I am shocked by Fein’s report that there’s been an ‘outpouring of post-mortem vitriol’ because of these writings.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: I suspect that Anthony Lewis would have been (or is) flattered by the “outpouring of post-mortem vitriol” due to his writings critical of Israel.
    In any case, the “outpouring of post-mortem vitriol” by his über-Zionist detractors certainly reinforces my admiration for Anthony Lewis. I have tremendous respect for him as a man with the utmost integrity.

  6. W.Jones on March 29, 2013, 1:23 pm

    May God remember him forever.

  7. Blownaway on March 29, 2013, 4:24 pm

    Many many years ago the Israeli army was all set to demolish our family home in Ramallah on trumped up charges against one of the children. It turned out that another young man was arrested and under torture gave up names of anyone he knew to stop the torture. So the Israelis came to demolish this family home that was multi story. Word got to Anthony Lewis and he wrote about it in the Times and even went there on the day of the scheduled demolition. Because of his principled stand the whole house wasn’t demolished, only the top story where it was alleged the child lived. He wasnt anti Israel by any stretch he was just pained by injustice

  8. Les on March 29, 2013, 6:38 pm

    Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.

  9. eGuard on March 29, 2013, 6:52 pm

    Sigh.It is the ‘liberal Zionist’ thing.

  10. ToivoS on March 29, 2013, 7:53 pm

    I read Anthony Lewis’s opinions in the NYTs for over two decades. I took him seriously. It is one of the reasons I believed for many years that American supporters of Israel were genuinely interested in justice for the Palestinians and that they were willing to “make compromises” to find a just solution to the IP issues.

    As most of us have learned the whole peace process was just one big scam to create a camouflage that allowed Israel to steal more land from the Palestinians. I have a difficulty in believing that Lewis was not aware of Israeli plans.

    • MRW on March 30, 2013, 11:43 am

      I have a difficulty in believing that Lewis was not aware of Israeli plans.

      But do you think the NYT op-ed editor would let him write that? As Chris Hedges said in a 2010 interview with Christopher Lydon everyone who works at the NYT knows the line they can’t cross there and if they did, like Sydney Schanberg (Westside Highway development) or Hedges (Iraq War and Israel), they were out. Hedges said we weren’t stupid, we knew we were crossing their line, and accepted the consequences. Lewis opted to stay in the salad bowl, and probably for reasons Blownaway described above.

  11. southernobserver on March 29, 2013, 8:51 pm

    Interesting. An example of why moderation often fails in the face of extremism.

    A serious question, why was somebody like Mr Lewis still supportive of a state such as Istratine that we know had such strong apartheid tendencies inside the 1967 borders. Yes it is better than the worst of the worst, but from the start it had serious theocratic and fascistic elements. Why was he trying to love it at all?

    • MRW on March 30, 2013, 11:47 am

      Lewis started out as a journalist covering the courts and law. He taught law writing at Columbia’s J School. His second and last wife was a judge in Massachusetts. (She was South African, if I remember correctly.) Lewis’ thing was injustice.

      EDIT: And he was American. He believed the bullshit about this being a nation of laws, not men, which it no longer is at this time.

  12. on March 29, 2013, 10:52 pm

    ISraelites cannibilizing their own. And Americans think they’ll be spared. Ha ha!

  13. clubroma on March 30, 2013, 4:14 am

    Anthony Lewis’s biggest problem was that he spoke the truth. You can’t speak the truth in a country that relies on lies to survive.

  14. Henry Norr on March 30, 2013, 3:16 pm

    This is a couple of days old, evidently, but I just noticed it and don’t see it mentioned here: the International Herald Tribune website has a nice remembrance of Anthony Lewis by Raja Shehadeh, the writer and lawyer from Ramallah:

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