Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Richard Brookhiser thinks he spies anti-semitism on the left. Or is it anti-Zionism? Or just pro-Palestinianism? Apparently they're all the same.
My National Review colleague Byron York reported on last Saturday’s anti-war rally on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C. The main message of the rally was President Bush’s evil and stupidity—fair enough, in a two-party system—and the main instance of it was Iraq...But another theme was anti-Zionism. As Mr. York reports, kaffiyehs outnumbered American flags. George Galloway, the left-wing M.P., wore one around his neck. Occasionally, the themes were weirdly conflated: One group of college kids chanted, “From Palestine to New Orleans, no more money for the war machine.”

Having been to more than a few such demonstrations myself, I've observed that some of the rhetoric and signage occasionally crosses the line. But, the presence of George Galloway aside, the mere display of Palestinian kaffiyehs does not in itself indicate anti-Zionism, let alone anti-semitism, any more than the display of the Israeli flag promotes the forcible transfer of Palestinians to Jordan.

Think of the word “neocon” and its current usage. The actual neocons were Jewish intellectuals who began thinking outside the Great Society box in the 70’s. Some of them—Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz—became conservative Republicans. Others—Daniel Bell, Nathan Glazer—remained liberal Democrats. Pat Moynihan allowed the neocons to say that they weren’t all Jewish. But none of that is what “neocon” now means. “Neocon” now means hook-nosed Nosferatu-the-vampire warmongers who plotted the invasion of Iraq, and the dumb goyim they manipulate. When Mick Jagger sings about “sweet neocon,” or when Maureen Dowd uses the word, every other paragraph or so, that is what they evoke. They evoke it, I am afraid, even if they don’t intend to, for the words we use can carry their own freight, and we are not always in charge of packing and unpacking them

Yes, they may not even know it or mean it, but these people are trafficking in anti-semitism. But what about Irving Kristol when he self-identifies as a neoconservative? Would Brookhiser argue that Kristol, unbeknownst to Kristol himself, is a self-hating Jew?

It's certainly true that there are those who use politically loaded code-words to communicate politically incorrect messages and stereotypes. Take the GOP's use of "welfare mothers" (poor, lazy blacks) or "coastal elites" (dope-smoking homosexual Democrat pornographers), for example. The difference is that you don't see anybody proudly self-identifying as those things, let alone publishing books with the title. Regardless of the ethnicity of those with whom neoconservatism originated, the term has come to stand for an ideology of American global dominance.

Throughout the article, Brookhiser attempts to weave criticism of Israel's invasion of Lebanon and occupation of the West Bank and Gaza into a narrative of liberal anti-semitism, even trotting out the 1984 Jesse Jackson "Hymietown" episode as evidence. Oy. Brookhiser is a conservative whose writing I generally admire (his Founding Father is an excellent short biography of George Washington), but I don't think this sort of careless argumentation, the lazy conflation of pro-Palestinian with anti-Jewish, is at all productive. Further, when you publish a piece entitled "American Jews Unprepared For Attacks From the Left," it might be a good idea to provide a single example of such an "attack" that isn't two decades old.

No comments: