One year ago, the New York Times opinion page hired two feverish Israel advocates, Bret Stephens and Bari Weiss, as columnist and opinion editor/writer respectively, in a shock to the left. Now the two are proving their value– they are smearing critics of Israel as anti-Semites.
This is an important duty for Israel supporters because of the looming battle inside the Democratic Party over Israel, the same battle that has begun in earnest in Britain and France.
Last Wednesday in a book review, Bret Stephens slagged Israel critics John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt as bigots. In a throwaway line, Stephens wrote that Mearsheimer’s “2001 magnum opus, ‘The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,’ was later overshadowed by his tendentious and bigoted screed, ‘The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy,’ written with Stephen M. Walt.”
So– two realist scholars at the University of Chicago and Harvard who argued that support for Israel is not in our national interest, and that neoconservatives had pushed the Iraq war for the sake of Israel’s security — they are bigots. And the Times offered no comment section on the piece for readers to question this clinker of viciousness from Stephens, a writer who has diagnosed the “disease of the Arab mind.”
A day later, Bari Weiss wrote that the far left in France is as threatening to Jews as the far right. Addressing the murder of an 85-year-old Jewish woman in Paris, she said that in France’s political culture, “Jews are reviled on the far right and, increasingly, on the far left.”
What is Weiss’s evidence that the left is as anti-semitic as the nationalist right? An article in the Jewish Week saying French socialist leader Jean-Luc Melenchon is an anti-Semite because he: supports boycott of Israel, regards West Bank settlements as theft, condemned Israeli “war crimes” in the last Gaza massacre, and has attacked the French Israel lobby for rallying French citizens to serve a foreign flag.
Weiss– who got her career rolling by attacking any candidate for tenure at Columbia who supported Palestinian rights– says leftists are giving a pass to anti-Semitism: “attacks on Jews have been explained away as politically motivated by events in the Middle East.”
These were just two throwaway lines, tangential to the thrust of the articles. But Weiss and Stephens can’t help themselves, they’re raring to go.
Theirs is an important job because it is simply a matter of time before the battle that is roiling Britain over Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn harboring anti-Israel voices is going to come here: The progressive base of the Democratic Party in the U.S. is going to demand stances against Israel from Democratic candidates. The glimmerings of this battle were evident at the AIPAC policy conference earlier this month, when one politician or influencer after another rose to assure the crowd that support for Israel must remain bipartisan; that Democrats will never abandon Israel. In turn, Democratic leader Chuck Schumer identified the defection of young progressives as an existential threat to Israel. He laid down the law, saying that the boycott movement is anti-Semitic. (But the young are not listening: even the Harvard Hillel is having an anti-occupation seder, with IfNotNow.)
Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens will be instrumental in this battle: they will derogate Israel’s critics as anti-Semites. And Jennifer Rubin will do the same thing at the Washington Post.
These writers are anti-Trump, making them “good” conservatives for liberals. Notice what a red carpet that liberal Democrats unroll for them. Mel Levine and MSNBC toast Rubin. Bill Maher fetes Weiss. Brian Lehrer of WNYC hosts Stephens (who explains that Pompeo and Bolton are a great foreign policy team, and Lehrer barely demurs). BTW, Stephens likens Trump to Mussolini even as he finds democracy alive and well in Israel.
It is tragic that the highest journalistic platform in the country has been turned into a pro-Israel inktank. But plainly that is the role that the New York Times editors understand that its opinion page must play; and no wonder, for it is a vital political function for Israel in the U.S.
Thanks to Donald Johnson.