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a brief look at the defense of Andrew — on the Mearsheimer-Walt comparison

An announcement is not yet on Chris Dodd’s Senate website, but a press release is on Bayh’s (emphasis in bold, mine):

Washington – Senators Evan Bayh (D-IN), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), and Jon Kyl (R-AZ) hailed the passage of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2009, which the Senate approved unanimously last night. The legislation incorporates the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act (S. 908), which Senators Lieberman, Bayh, and Kyl introduced in April of last year and which empowers the President to sanction companies involved in the sale of refined petroleum products to Iran. Seventy-eight members of the Senate are cosponsors of S. 908; the House counterpart of this legislation was passed in an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 412 to 12 on December 15, 2009.

On the morning of January 1 of this year, Andrew had a” serious problem” with the legislative movement on this bill … just as it was gathering momentum toward this particular empowerment of the President. For Andrew, the bill would have created cruel sanctions that would do nothing except hurt the Iranian people — it was in Congress because of AIPAC’s power over American foreign policy:

How much worse can it get? The neocons want a big, breast-beating, emotionally satisfying dispaly [sic] of righteousness. […] AIPAC, as usual, is at the center of it, although why the pro-Israel lobby should be the central organization for tackling Iran is beyond me. This is America.

I dealt with that Israelcentric reaction here, where I also stated my concern that this was quite the wrong time for gasoline sanctions.  I still think it’s the wrong time, but I am happy that Congress did in the end do the right thing by handing that decision to the President.

Now that this bill has passed through the Senate, I guess I should remind The Dish again that this is still America ( — though he is still British — ) and that “the central organization for tackling Iran,” if there is such a thing in America, is not AIPAC.

These kind of statements — and there is no shortage of other ones to quote — are why Wieseltier aligned Sullivan with “party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt, whom he cites frequently and deferentially.” In his defense, Sullivan and others want to take “whom” there to mean both Mearsheimer and Walt, when I think Wieseltier was referring only to Stephen Walt, whose blog posts at Foreign Policy Sullivan has linked to with approval ( — “deferentially” is too strong a description). Sullivan’s compliments for the thesis of Mearsheimer and Walt have been sporadic and usually restrained.

I suppose Wieseltier meant that  Sullivan belongs to this “party and clique” of Mearsheimer and Walt — a counterpart to Sullivan’s “much darker” “Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing” of American Jews — because The Dish has said things that boil down to “Jews control Washington.”

That was probably strategically unwise. People like Matt Yglessias have tried to deflate Wieselter’s argument (and slight The New Republic‘s reputation) by taking Wieseltier literally that Walt and Merheimer or Sullivan would say “Jews control Washington”:

This is just a lie. Niether Walt nor Mearsheimer nor Sullivan has said anything remotely resembling “Jews control Washington.”

Frankly there are very few Americans except believers in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion who would say words that paraphrase closely to the “Jews control Washington.” You probably won’t hear “Hebrews control D.C.,” or “there is an ethnic group [by which I mean Jews, as you can see from the fact that I just pointed to my penis and am now making a scissors motion with two fingers] that has the power in the federal government.” All of these phraseologies are in bad taste. But more importantly, any close paraphrase of “Jews control Washington” is absolutely unnecessary for making a case that Jewish influence has trump power in Washington.

Why? Because if you’re not so far gone that you think Jews pull the strings at the Fed to help the investment fortunes of their ethnic group, what policy issues do you think Jews care about because they are Jews? Um … U.S. solidarity with Israel would be a safe answer. Maybe also, sidelining Christian ability to proselytize in civic life, like in the armed forces. Maybe even, Muslim groups’ ability to disseminate literature that Jews think is hateful. These are issues where Jews might try to benefit their ethnic group with appeals to present and future government officials.

If an American says something like “the Jews control ya-da-ya-da-ya-da policies in Washington,” this tends to mean the presumed interest of Jews or Israel can usually exercise the more than their fair share of pressure on any bill that has to do with the Middle East. This type of ya-da-ya-da statement is about as close to “the Jews control Washington” as we’re going to get. To “remotely resemble” (Yglesias’ words) “the Jews control Washington,” a statement does not have to mean that the Jews’ final approval is necessary for federal laws, either about Israel or about safety seats on tricycles.

Maybe an American who compliments The Protocols might consider whether the Jews have final approval about tricycle safety seats. However, the only relevant idea of Jewish control in Washington concerns the Middle East and a few spare issues that crop up, and the idea has to do with whether Jewish interests always have the dominant power in a policy decision, not a literal yes-or-no in plenary session.

So instead of “Jews control Washington (when it comes to the Middle East),” which might sound in bad taste because of how Protocols believers mean it, we might get, for example … “Israel has a strangle-hold on American foreign policy” — which antisemites like to say. I hope Yglesias would acknowledge translates to “Jews control Washington.”

But then, Andrew has written of his

“desire[s] to see the US-Israel alliance become less suffocatingly one-sided.”

Hmm … “A strangle-hold” vs the occurrence of a “a one-sided suffocation” … Are the ideas behind these two phrases so different? The second phrase could be a comical euphemism for the first.

When Andrew wrote of this “one-sided suffocation,” he lamented:

[…] deemed an anti-Semite. This is the fate of most goyim who question the Israeli government on any grounds in Washington, so I cannot complain (at least I am not called a self-hating Jew as most Jewish American critics of Israel’s government are).

But when real anti-Semitism emerges, it is hard not to miss it.

From what comes after, it seems he meant to write “it is hard to miss” … not that he longed for the good old days of unabashed, robust antisemitism.

Regardless, and putting aside his use of “goyim,” this statement sounds like a clinical overestimation of the power of American Jews and their loyalty to Israel. Incredibly, when Sullivan clicked POST, he believed that Jews could and would, through condemnation, squelch any voices which “question the Israeli government on any grounds in Washington” — that is to say, which have one degree of difference of opinion with current Israeli policy.

A much better case can, and has been made, that Sullivan is capable of condemning as a neocon or part of the “Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing,” any Jew who has one degree of difference of opinion with Sullivan on Israeli policy. We often lash out at tendencies we contemn in our own characters.

Such wild overestimations of Jewish power by Sullivan are only more anxious formulations of Pat Buchanan’s declaration that “Capitol Hill is Israeli occupied territory.” It is as if Sullivan’s statements refer to the immediate future, where the Israel lobby could exercise just a degree more control than they have at that current moment, bringing Americans into a situation where our government is unfairly controlled by a foreign power.

I doubt Yglesias would defend Pat Buchanan’s “Israeli-occupied territory” with the idea that it does not adequately resemble “the Jews control Washington.” Is it so much more defensible when Sullivan portrays himself with distraught uncertainty about whether “this is still America” because of the power he imagines is being wielded by AIPAC? To adapt a rhetorical question used by The Daily Dish, “Is Andrew once again the exception?” … Um, guess the proper noun for which I’ve substituted the word “Andrew.”

When Andrew writes in his defense,

Look, I am not one to dismiss any notion of anti-Semitism in me or anyone else. I believe it is such a toxic theme in human history and such a grave strain in the human soul that no one should be sublimely confident that he or she is free of it entirely. I take the moral demand to guard against it very seriously. And I have indeed searched my conscience these past few years to take stock if anything like this is unconsciously entering my soul, as I try to guard against my many other sins.

I wonder whether Bishop Williamson would be able to feel he has done the same.

In Andrew’s case, I would like him to be able to acknowledge the bias and stark double standards evident in some of his statements about Jews and Israel. I doubt that Andrew has made himself into an antisemite just because he has suffered a few delusional spells about AIPAC, but he should still admit that he’s gone through those delusional spells. I think they have a lot to do with a demonology he has created around “neocons.” Hate is not a controllable emotion.

Andrew in his self-defense and tried to distinguish his “anger,” as arising from good motives, and therefore different from hate. I imagine that Andrew — while perhaps relishing the chance to make neoconservatives uncomfortable — thought he was asking for the people he loved to seize the chance to morally uplift themselves, when he asked millions of Jews to

exchange anger and paranoia for the integrity they once had.

But I wonder whether he read a few years ago a TNR cover story on anti-Americanism by Paul Berman. Through a discussion of Andre Glucksman’s Le Discours de la haine (not yet translated into English), Berman described hate as an emotion that prescribes “righteous anger” for the power to fulfill an image of greater perfection, an emotion that methodically obviates limits to anger for the benefit of the world at large.

Leon Wieseltier should have used the word “antisemitism,” not left it as innuendo. His essay should have had a section that answered the question directly. Is it possible for there to be “something darker” about Andrew that ends up in some things that resemble antisemitism? My view is, yes. Has he become a “hater,” when it comes to those Jews who don’t agree with him? He has unleashed hostility at them, and through this hostility, invoked their Jewishness in ways I think are meant to make them feel squeamish. Has he become an antisemite? No.

In Sullivan’s passage on the current state of his own soul, I think he’s setting himself up for more than what is fair. To look for a “strain in one’s soul” that correlates to every wrongdoing is … Well, that means a lot of things relating to the spiritual health of an individual, and to claims about his spiritual worth. Perhaps it entails the same kind of reification as a reflex toward prejudice.

One Response

  1. […] he starting to qualify himself. Now he’s using the word “often,” perhaps because someone pointed out his comment […] deemed an anti-Semite. This is the fate of most goyim who question […]

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