The other day David Frum apologized for his vicious post saying that the New York Times’ Sergey Ponomarev faked a photograph of Palestinian victims of slaughter in Gaza. Frum’s colleague at the Atlantic James Fallows has now published a long piece assailing Frum for his cynicism about an elemental trust in journalism: the idea that journalists bear witness, that their work attests, “I saw this.”
Fallows is a hero in my book because he has forcefully denounced the slaughter in Gaza, by likening it to Americans napalming civilians in Vietnam in the belief that was a strategy. I think he knows– Israel is delegitimizing itself.
But I want to pick up here on Fallows’s journalistic credo, and challenge him on it. I agree with him, that journalists are most effective when they affirm to a reader, I saw this. In fact, this whole website was founded on that principle: In the early 2000’s I knew that I as an American Jew bathed in the meritocracy had a special understanding of the role of Zionism in the US political culture and, given the disaster in Iraq, I had a responsibility to share my understanding with other Americans. When my brother said in 2003 that he had demonstrated against the Vietnam war, but his Jewish newspaper said, This war might be good for Israel, I knew I had to speak out and explain every part of my privileged liberal Jewish Zionist inheritance to readers.
Explaining that meant talking about the Jewish rise into the establishment in my generation. It is not possible to explain the influence of neoconservatism or neoliberalism without speaking about the Jewish rise. We came into the establishment in the 1970s and 80s and rechristened those old strains, liberalism and conservatism. Neocons David Frum and David Brooks have been somewhat straightforward about this process. Frum said that Bill Clinton had the most philosemitic presidency in history. Both his Supreme Court picks were Jewish, so was much of his staff, even his girlfriend was Jewish. Now his son-in-law is too.
I saw this. At Harvard and later when I moved to New York to pursue my brilliant career, my cohort was Jewish men whose fathers bore resentment over anti-semitism, whose career-arcs had been dented by prejudice. Now my friends were climbing into the turrets of the new establishment. We remade Wall Street and journalism and the broader culture.
James Fallows knows this as well as I do. He has always been something of an outsider himself, as a westerner with a journalist’s wide-eyed sense of wonder. He was at Harvard just before I was and saw the wave. In Fallows’s last year at Harvard, Alan Dershowitz threatened to leave the law school unless they finally named a Jewish dean. Well Dersh didn’t leave; and there have been several Jewish deans since. One of them, a Zionist, is now on the Supreme Court, thanks to Barack Obama, who has said that his “cabal” are three Chicago J Street Jews, liberal Zionists who funded his first campaigns.
This establishment has obviously had a huge effect on our Middle East policy. George H.W. Bush is widely perceived to have lost the presidency in part because he opposed settlements (even Tom Friedman agrees with me). When AIPAC blessed Clinton in 1992, its director said Clinton loved Jews and George Bush didn’t:
I have full confidence that we’re going to have a much better situation. He’s got Jewish friends. A girl who worked for me at AIPAC stood up for them at their wedding. Hillary lived with her. I mean we have those relationships. We have never had that with Bush.
No we didn’t. The occupation flourished under Clinton, and Bill Kristol purged the Arabists from the Republican Party and George W. Bush had a neocon braintrust that saw the Israeli occupation as emulable; and Barack Obama vetoed the Security Council resolution against settlements in 2010. The Israel lobby permeates our political culture. When former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold– born in Connecticut, living in Israel, drawing $96,000 a year from the American Enterprise Institute as a “scholar”– said last night on CNN that Israel would have to be a glutton for punishment to go near the U.N., Wolf Blitzer, who once worked for AIPAC, laughed and said, “Yeah I know.”
Chuckling through a massacre.
I saw this; and when I began writing as an anti-Zionist about the establishment I’d been reared to join, that ended my career in the mainstream media like turning off a light. Jim Fallows is as sociological as I am. He became famous for a brilliant piece he wrote in 1975 that was about political action. Called, “What did you do in the class war, Daddy?” the piece anatomized the corruption of Fallows’s own white and privileged class during the Vietnam war. The elites had escaped the draft but failed to resist it, Fallows said. Why did people with “any presumptions to character… let it go on?”
Today Fallows knows better than I do (because my experience is now so stale) the extent of Zionism inside the American elite. He served Jimmy Carter; he saw the rise of the Israel lobby against Carter; he was at the Atlantic in 2005 when they funked journalistic duty and killed “The Israel Lobby” by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, and so the two published it in England, and Walt, an optimistic Californian like Fallows, gave up any dream of serving in the State Department.
There’s just been a second massacre, worse than the last massacre in Gaza, or the one before that– the one that the U.S. turned a blind eye to and cashiered the U.N.’s effort to hold Israel accountable for the slaughter. I challenge Jim Fallows to resist, to tell us what he knows about Zionism in the US establishment.