The New York Times has now covered the attack by Leon Wieseltier on John Judis for writing a book that is highly critical of Zionism. The piece by Jennifer Schuessler is called “A Bastion for Israel, Seething Inside“– the bastion being The New Republic, where both Judis and Wieseltier are employed– and revels in the foodfight element of the spat.
No doubt that’s a juicy story. The characters are compelling, from the disciplined but turbulent author (Judis) to the lurking impetuous saloniste (Wieseltier, pictured in the Times with Louis Quatorze mane, below), to the unreadable new owner of the magazine, Chris Hughes out of North Carolina, Facebook, and marriage equality.
But as Wieseltier and Judis would surely agree, this is not about personalities in the end, it is a substantive battle over an ideology inside the US establishment; and there is scarcely a word of substance in the Times account. Wieseltier says Judis wrote a “profoundly anti-Zionist book.” I agree with him. You’d think this idea might have been discussed. Nope.
I’ll get to Schuessler’s grittier revelations in a moment. For the time being, here is an excellent cheat-sheet on the story from a friend:
2. Fails to identify “historian Ronald Radosh” as an ex-Left renegade neoconservative (subspecies: fanatic).
3. Fails to describe how Wieseltier used Radosh as go-between to get out his letter attacking Judis to a far right website. Doesn’t even cite Radosh’s email containing Wieseltier’s greenlight to publish his email [which Mondo published].
4. Doesn’t describe Judis’s book thesis– that Truman went against his own convictions, for a binational state (because he believed in separation of church and state), and supported the establishment of a Jewish state because of pressure from the Zionist lobby.
5. Doesn’t report that Judis spoke recently at the Truman Library and was received enthusiastically.
6. Doesn’t quote any historian who supports his thesis.
Now here is the grittier part of Schuessler’s story:
“Judis interjects a point of view into the debate that has probably never been expressed by a New Republic writer,” Jack Shafer, a media and politics columnist at Reuters, said in an interview. “That’s what’s fascinating. I don’t think you’ve ever heard a New Republic employee arrive at the conclusions he seems to have arrived at.”
In the pre-publication galleys of “Genesis,” Mr. Judis praised Mr. Hughes for an openness to views on Israel that would not have been “tolerated” under its longtime former owner, Martin Peretz, who sold the magazine to Mr. Hughes.
“I suppose that having to be associated with a publication whose views on the subject I often disagree with led to a buildup of repressed indignation that fueled the years I spent on this book,” he wrote in the acknowledgments.
Mr. Judis, in an interview, said that he had dropped that passage from the finished book after complaints from Mr. Wieseltier, but stood by the basic point. “I always felt I couldn’t write about Israel, and the few times I did there was an enormous fluff,” he said. When Mr. Hughes took over, he added, “I think his attitude was, there’s no correct line. There would be a diversity of views.”…
“What’s insulting to the magazine isn’t Leon’s email, it’s that they excerpted the book,” Mr. Radosh said in an interview, adding, “Obviously Chris Hughes doesn’t know anything about Israel.”
In a statement, Mr. Foer rejected the notion that the magazine had a new editorial line on Israel, or any line at all.
I wonder how long the Times is going to treat the Israel conversation as a badminton dispute that ended up ruining the party, and actually discuss the extent to which Zionism depended/depends upon empire to dispossess Palestinians– “the darker side of Zionism… the attempt to impose a Jewish state on a people who had lived in Palestine for 1300 years,” as Judis writes.
(A year ago I wrote that it’s time for the media to tell their readers what Zionism is. Judis’s book presents just that opportunity.)