To: The national press corps
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: How do you know if you are?
Last weekend a friend sent me a column that appeared a few days earlier in the London Spectator by Taki Theodoracopulos, whose byline is plain "Taki," or it would not fit. The column, about anti-Semitism in the press corps, seemed so much "on the margin" that I immediately sent it out to about 500 journalists in my e-mail index. It is a topic that should be addressed in the news media in a serious way, given how close we are coming to really bad stuff in the Middle East. I'm glad Taki decided to do it for the Spectator as he has been accused of anti-Semitism, the way Pat Buchanan and Joe Sobran have, for their criticisms of Israel. Conrad Black, the Jewish press mogul from Canada who owns dozens of newspapers including the Spectator, denounced Taki for his "blood libel" against the Jewish people. http://www.freedomsite.org/colum/collins39.html Taki had written that because of the Jewish penetration of Washington, the Israelis knew more about U.S. Air Force activities than the Pentagon did, but that America was "not yet territory occupied by those nice guys [in Israel] who attack rock-throwing youths with armour-piercing missiles." This does not look like anti-Semitism to me, and I certainly know there is not an anti-Semitic bone in Taki's body. And it's true. But Conrad Black, who buys ink by the carload, gets to say who is anti-Semitic and who is not. You really can't believe anything you read about the Middle East in his London Telegraph as it is the main source of propaganda being developed by the Pentagon intellectuals who make civilian policy.
Last week, I ran the Nation's Eric Alterman's "scorecard" of knee-jerk supporters of Israel in the press corps, and it included the great majority of "pundits" in the press corps. Pundits are free to write about anything they wish, but if they criticize Israel, it will be harder for their careers to advance. Alterman, who is Jewish, presented his list in the belief that Israel is being hurt by the absence of criticism from its friends. The only people I know who have accused me of anti-Semitism are people who I don't know, writing into my website because of my criticism of foreign policy or my defense of Louis Farrakhan -- who may be the LEAST anti-Semitic man I know and is labeled far worse by many of my old friends in the communications industry. Thus far I have escaped charges of anti-Semitism of the kind Bill Safire has publicly leveled at Pat Buchanan, because of my long record in support of Israel. My own career in journalism really took off when I became a Cold War hawk in the late 1960s, which included support of Israel over the Arabs, who were for the most part clients of the USSR.
Old friends know I'm not anti-Semitic, but suggest I must have slipped into senility. I'm concerned, though, when I am getting mail from ferocious anti-Semites I did not know still existed, thinking I am one of them because of my sharp criticism of Ariel Sharon's policies, some complaining that I am a wimpy anti-Semite for being even-handed. I'm also surprised almost daily by ordinary people I meet in my daily life in Morristown, NJ, who express harsh anti-Jewish, anti-Israel sentiments, in a way I've not heard for decades. All I can do is express my optimism that "it is always darkest before the dawn," and we are closer to a solid peace agreement between Arabs and Jews than we have been in my lifetime. Of course, I pray I am right. Anyway, thanks Taki.
From The Spectator.co.uk at http://www.spectator.co.uk
Eleven or so years ago, my very good friend and mentor William F. Buckley Jr devoted an entire issue of National Review — the magazine he had founded and edited for 35 years and had made into the chief journal of conservative opinion — to a subject entitled ‘In Search of Anti-Semitism’. Much of it dealt with the question whether two other good friends of mine, and his, Pat Buchanan and writer-columnist Joe Sobran, were anti-Semites. Both men are conservatives, intellectuals, and have as much in common with skinhead-type bigots as I do with Monica Lewinsky. (The article also dealt with Gore Vidal’s attack on American Jewish supporters of Israel as unpatriotic.) In another issue of NR, months later, Buckley included a large group of responses from people like Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, and Abe Rosenthal, then a New York Times ex-editor and columnist. The two issues were later packaged into a book with the same title.
The reason William Buckley undertook this issue was the split within the conservative movement over the Gulf war. Podhoretz and his ilk demanded blood; Buchanan and his flock argued that war served Israeli interests, not those of America. At the end, Buckley, an extremely kind and Christian man, hedged his conclusion. Yes, Buchanan had written some things which were anti-Semitic, but, no, Buchanan was no anti-Semite, ‘but whatever drove him to it...was due to an iconoclastic temperament’.
Needless to say, I not only followed the controversy and read every word published about it, I was also very saddened by it. Some time before that, Abe Rosenthal had written to Graydon Carter, then editor of the New York Observer, for which I wrote a column, accusing me of anti-Semitism because I had referred to him as Abie baby. (Rosenthal is a nice man but much too thin-skinned.) The iconoclastic temperament that Bill excused Pat with could easily fit me.
Like Pat and Joe, when it comes to Israel, things I have written as legitimate commentary have been seen as outright anti-Semitism. In the mind of people like Norman Podhoretz, that is. (Norman Podhoretz I do not know, but his extreme sensitivity to any criticism of Israel makes any mature discussion impossible.) Barbara Amiel, writing in the Daily Telegraph recently, touched upon this subject. She agrees that anti-Zionism does not automatically mean anti-Semitism, but affirmed that many anti-Semites hide behind anti-Zionism.
Well, although I can speak only for myself, I do know Pat and Joe, and neither man has ever characterised — in public or in private, on paper or in speech — ethnic or religious groups as displaying fixed behaviour. They simply believe that Israel’s interests and those of Uncle Sam’s are not necessarily one and the same. Also, that as long as there are three million Palestinian refugees, they will always have a vested interest in the destruction of Israel (Henry Kissinger’s words). Mind you, that did not stop either man from being branded as Jew-haters, a charge that is as unfair as it is untrue. Ditto for the poor little Greek boy.
So, can one criticise the Jewish state, a major actor in a very important part of the world, without being painted an anti-Semite, or is Israel and its defendants immune from reproach? What I do know is that an all-powerful Israeli lobby defending Israel’s interests goes into overdrive the moment Israel is criticised. What Podhoretz and many of his friends do is make charges of outright anti-Semitism. This has marginalised Joe Sobran, and has hurt Pat Buchanan. But taking into account what Bill Buckley called ‘inherited distinctive immunities’ about Israel and the Jews, here’s my take at what’s happening in that unhappy part of the world. Palestinians feel they finally have a weapon that balances the power of the United States-equipped Israeli army: the suicide bomber. And I’ll go further. The suicide bomber is a creation of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel may be the only democracy in the region, but depriving people of the right to equality and freedom!, and keeping them under occupation, is hardly a democratic act.
The reason many Israeli officers and soldiers are refusing to serve in the occupied territories is that the occupation has lasted a generation and rules the lives of 3.5 million Palestinians. Sharon’s gambles have only managed to turn policy over to the lunatic religious Right on the Israeli side, and the mad mullahs in the Palestinian camp. Sharon’s plan, however, is on track. ‘Eretz Israel’ means to cleanse it of the local population and to cover it with settlements. This is Sharon’s historic mission, but time is not on his side. I have run out of space, but let me finish with this. If a decent human being like Gerald Kaufman can write an article in an English newspaper asking ‘How CAN my fellow Jews do something like this?’ it’s time for America to wake up and take notice. And Kaufman, dear Mr. Podhoretz, is neither an anti-Semite nor a self-loathing Jew. There!
(c)2001 The Spectator.co.uk