Friday, October 07, 2011

Author of anti-Semitic book shocks all by endorsing another author's anti-Semitic book

Eamonn alerted me to this, which has sent me next to a truly excellent Foreign Policy post by David Rothkopf. Two of the comments to the post, ones that spin the discussion into one about Jewish marriage patterns, will, believe it or not, make it into the conclusion of my dissertation. Into a draft of it, at least. So that's something. My work, as 1840-France as it might seem, has contemporary American relevance.

But that's for a reason only tangentially related to the matter at hand, which is that Rothkopf managed to point out where Mearsheimer (and Walt, let's never forget Walt!) screwed up in endorsing a book by a Jewish anti-Semite and Holocaust revisionist without in any way disagreeing with them that U.S. Israel policy is something it's acceptable and even perhaps necessary to criticize. Said Jewish Jew-hater is, from what I've read, apparently something of an outcast among anti-Zionists, who don't want to be associated with his filth.*

All of this should, I'd think, make clear that it's possible a) to criticize Israel and not hate Jews, and b) to criticize Israel as a socially-acceptable proxy for hating Jews. Such a simple point, but so difficult to make known. Not everyone who criticizes Israel hates Jews, this much not too many doubt. No reasonable people, at least, and there are those (including some in my own family, etc., etc.) who cannot be reasoned with.

But a whole lot of folks seem to find it mind-blowing/libelous/theoretically impossible that any "critics of Israel" are just anti-Semites. And, OMG of OMGs, it's obviously impossible that anyone with a prestigious academic position at a university with lots of Jewish students and faculty could be an anti-Semite. Like, physically impossible. How could it be? Why, no doubt some of the man's best friends are...

Since these discussions always descend into accusations among a bunch of blog-skimmers about how no one's really read any of the tomes being discussed, I'll say upfront that I have read only about Atzmon's book and Mearsheimer's defense of blurbing it. I have, however, read The Israel Lobby, and closely at that, both to have authoritah on the matter and, more practically, to write an article about it. It is, without a doubt, an anti-Semitic book. I say that - let me repeat - having read the book. A book scattered with valid observations, indisputable facts, and, from what I understand from experts in that discipline, shoddy political science. But if there's some anti-Semitism in a book, and we're not talking something written in 1950 that fails to live up to today's standards of political correctness but that was for its time quite progressive, then sorry but yes, it counts.

So no, my mind is not blown, every truth I hold dear not shattered, to learn that one of its authors has offered up yet more evidence of hating The Jews (and I do not care where Some of His Best Friends might rank on the Jewiness spectrum), nor that the other of its authors signs off on it. I do think we need to be careful labeling people bigots - against Jews or anyone else - whether these people are baristas at the local coffeehouse or big-deal polisci professors. I also think we can't have anything close to a real discussion about anti-Semitism if we maintain the absurd stance that it's so totally impossible that anyone living and breathing today, who isn't in fact Mel Gibson, might be oh just the teensiest bit anti-Semitic.

*Along the same lines, anyone who thinks U.S. Israel policy needs to change should be less than thrilled that the work most associated with bringing this issue to light is one that's also just plain anti-Jewish.

24 comments:

Dan O. said...

"long the same lines, anyone who thinks U.S. Israel policy needs to change should be less than thrilled that the work most associated with bringing this issue to light is one that's also just plain anti-Jewish."

Yup. Especially for those of us who like to make the point that quite a lot of the supposedly pro-Israel stuff, like the movement to defund the PA, has the stink of anti-semitism. (Insofar as the security of Israel is held hostage to the demands of Christian eschatology.)

eamonnmcdonagh said...

even the Angry Arab is capable of recognizing what Atzmon is

http://angryarab.net/2009/01/08/friends-we-dont-need/

Phoebe said...

I'm no great fan of the 'our allies are evangelicals' branch of Zionism, but I don't think it's analogous. The group most commonly associated with "pro-Israel sentiment" in the US would be... Jews. Not Christian evangelicals. Conversely, those with a bias vs. evangelicals (itself not quote analogous to anti-Sem. b/c one can plausibly cease to be an evangelical) that they wish to express in coded language can do any number of things before they'd think to criticize Israel, whereas for those who hate Jews, this is the most obvious socially-acceptable option.

So there's that, but also the question of whether End Times Zionism is properly understood as anti-Semitic. It's not pro-Jewish, but it's also not directly related to modern anti-Semitism (the Jews-and-money-and-power stuff) in the way that the anti-Jewish end of anti--Zionism is.

Or, while I certainly agree that there are "friends of Israel" coming at this from a not-so-pro-Jewish angle, ones pro-Israel Jews should think twice before allying with, etc., it seems clear enough that one finds more Jew-hate on the anti-Israel side. Again, this is not to conflate "critical-of-Israel" with "anti-Jewish," but rather to point out that it's a shame, for critics of US aid to Israel that their cause is most saliently represented by anti-Semites.

Phoebe said...

Eamonn,

I'll file this under more evidence that Mearsheimer went above and beyond following some anti-Zionist party line. Nope, not shocked.

J. Otto Pohl said...

I agree with you that Atzmon is an anti-Semite despite being born an Israeli Jew. I am not sure what Mearsheimer was thinking or smoking when he endorsed Atzmon's book. But, he certainly made a mistake which he has since compounded by trying to defend the original act. I do not think that anybody outside the UK, where Atzmon has been living and working as a jazz musician, had ever heard of the man before this. Quite honestly Atzmon is not worth paying any attention to.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

It's precisely Atzmon's status as a Jew and repentant ex-Israeli that give him credibility in the eyes of antsemitic antizionism. There's a long history of this kind of thing in antisemitism.

Also the fact that the likes of the Angry Arab and Mearsheimer were and are well aware of Atzmon indicates that he is rather well known outside the UK.

And a question for the gallery, is it just me or is the term "ex" only ever applied to Israelis who move abroad/change their nationality/ or whatever? I can't recall ever having heard of ex-Pakistanis, ex- Irish only Pakistani Americam, Irish-American, Argentine citizen born in Paraguay etc...

Dan O. said...

"The group most commonly associated with "pro-Israel sentiment" in the US would be... Jews."

In the Northeast for sure. But the Northeast does not wield disproportionate political power. But, again, I was not discussing pro-Israel sentiment. I specifically mentioned the current effort to defund the PA.

"So there's that, but also the question of whether End Times Zionism is properly understood as anti-Semitic."

In which the Jew plays the traditional role of facilitator and eventual foil in a wacko deterministic narrative that will result in the eventual death and damnation of Jews, and the deliverance of (crazy) Christians.

Dunno, sounds like modern anti-semitism to me... At least, it is the source of modern anti-semitism.

"it seems clear enough that one finds more Jew-hate on the anti-Israel side"

Probably true in the Northeast. Absolutely true on the left coast. True in Hyde Park, and in other university towns. But I think you're wearing academy-colored glasses if you think it's "clear enough" that it is true generally. Jew-hate is pretty socially acceptable in many quarters where support for Israel is extremely strong.

Dan O. said...

"And a question for the gallery, is it just me or is the term "ex" only ever applied to Israelis who move abroad/change their nationality/ or whatever?"

It's a bizarre usage to me, and not common in my world. All the Israeli-born U.S. citizens I know (my mother, my cousins, and many others) describe themselves as Israeli and American, as they are, after all, dual citizens.

Maybe Atzmon renounced his Israeli citizenship? Does one have to to become a citizen in the UK? I was pretty sure one did not (it was common, I thought, for Israelis of my grandfather's generation to hold British passports even after independence).

Andrew Stevens said...

Dan, I hear this charge often, that evangelicals support Israel for eschatological reasons. Could you point me to a couple of evangelical websites which explicitly spell this out? Because I have found it impossible to document that anyone believes this.

Speaking as someone who has a number of fiercely pro-Israel evangelical Christian friends, when I have questioned them on this issue, they have normally offered the following reasons: 1) "those who curse you will be cursed, and those who bless you will be blessed" (Genesis 12:3), 2) that God made certain promises to the Jews regarding certain parcels of land and that it is the duty of Christians to honor these promises (see point 1, they don't actually believe that God really needs their help to keep those promises), 3) a belief that the continued existence of the Jews, despite millennia of oppression and persecution, is excellent evidence for the truth of their own beliefs which include that the Jews are God's Chosen People and specially protected by him, and 4) a certain hostility to Islam and affection for Judaism as being somehow closer to Christianity.

Note that I am not trying to defend their views - point 4 doesn't seem particularly noble to me, but I actually can find that motivation explicitly stated - a judgment that Jewish culture is simply superior to Arab culture, whereas I cannot find anyone who cops to the oft-claimed eschatological motive.

Even those dispensationalist theologians (a minority among evangelicals and every one of them disagrees with every other on the proper interpretation of the prophecies) almost always believe that there is nothing humans can do to hasten the Second Coming and so support for Israel is irrelevant (except see point 1 above, they may believe it scores them points with God). As you said, those people who have this theory believe it to be pre-determined.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

I'd say that people who renounce their citizenship of Ireland, say, would be likely know as former Irish citizens, not former Irish. After all, tearing up your birth certificate and passport doesn't do away with the language, the culture etc...

eamonnmcdonagh said...

Another example, this country's (Argentina)Foreign Minister, Héctor Timerman, had to renounce his US citizenship to take the job. In so far as this has been commented on at all, I've never heard him described as or describe himself as an "ex-American"...

Phoebe said...

To respond to just some of this...

Dan,

It's not a regional thing that "pro-Israel" makes one think "Jews" first, any other groups a distant second. That's not to say that Jews make up the majority of Israel's American supporters (in places other than the Upper West Side)! It's about associations. Walt and Mearsheimer checked that box and made sure to mention that the "Israel lobby" includes not just Jews, but also Christian evangelicals (while at the same time complaining that part of what's wrong with America is that Jews don't abstain from voting in proportion with the rest of the population!), but all those folks complaining now about the "Jewish lobby" that determines Israel policy made that slippage because... Jews are without a doubt the group one thinks of in this context.

J. Otto,

The issue isn't so much Atzmon, I gather, as Mearsheimer's endorsement, and Walt's of that. This strikes me, at least, as not something to just ignore, and as a problem both for pro-Israel sorts and for those who want the non-anti-Semitic version of the "Israel lobby" argument addressed. Or even, heck, for those of us who are pro-Israel and who are not sure U.S. aid, as it currently goes, is the best thing for either the U.S. or Israel.

Dan O. said...

@Eamonn

What I mean is that I believe it would be extraordinary for an American from Israel to renounce her Israeli citizenship - she'd have to make that happen. I think it would involve a special rejection of Israel, as it is certainly not a requirement for US Citizenship. I don't know how dual Israeli citizenship works in the UK (or whether it does). In any case, the usage 'ex-Israeli'seems bizarre to me as it does to you, but this is the first place I've encountered it. Where do you generally see it?

@Andrew

I admit, I've relied on Gorenberg. It's certainly been documented that Hagee believes it. You're right, though, that I shouldn't be so confident. I'll have to look into it better. But, you know, given their reasons as you explained them, the ferocity of their Zionism is pretty mysterious. I'm also disturbed, but not surprised, that their sentiment toward Israel is not at all related to the Progroms and Holocaust. If they wanted good reasons to be Zionists, deadly anti-semitism should top the list.

I completely reject the way your friends characterize determinism operating in eschatology. If evangelicals you've known characterize their views on God's promises in such a way that it doesn't matter what they do, then they understand providence as a spectator sport? Let's Go God! Let's Go Jews! Seriously? Ugh.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

usually Israelis who've moved abroad and seen the light regarding the special evil of their country of birt and people sympoathetic to them

Dan O. said...

@Phoebe

I am not speaking of people being broadly "pro-Israel". I am speaking of people being specifically pro-expansionist, pro-Likud.

@Eamonn -

I've never met such a person.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

there are plenty of them, similar specimens exist in Israel itself

Andrew Stevens said...

Hagee is a dispensationalist and believes a wide variety of crazy things about Israel in the end times, but even he has explicitly denied several times that his support for Israel comes about because he thinks it will accelerate the end times.

If I understand it correctly, the ferocity comes about because they believe that God is vigorously keeping his Genesis 12:3 promise and has thrown down Germany and Russia and elevated the U.S. because of their behavior towards Jews and Israel. So many of them sincerely believe that the U.S.'s preeminence comes about solely because of its support for Israel and the Jewish people and will be withdrawn if the U.S. withdraws that support.

I don't think you can believe in an omnipotent being and not believe that you can have no effect on his grand plans. They don't believe that it doesn't matter what they do because they believe what they do determines how they will be judged. They just don't believe they have any hope of actually upsetting or changing any of God's grand plans.

I wouldn't say that the Holocaust plays no role, but I wouldn't say that evangelicals weigh it more highly than anybody else, so it doesn't help explain their disproportionate support of Israel.

Phoebe said...

Allow me to intervene here again. It's fine if everyone wants to discuss the particularities of why, exactly, some evangelicals lurve Israel in the way that they do, but the relevant issue here is that in any American setting, not just New York, aka in any part of the country, on any website, etc., do we really, and think "word-association" here, think anyone thinks "Christian evangelical" when we hear "pro-Israel," "pro-Netanyahu," "pro-settlements," "Israel Lobby," etc.? Clearly, clearly not, and not because, numerically, this isn't the demographic with more impact on U.S. Israel policy. Rather, we're thinking of so much else, including domestic policy, when we think of evangelical Christianity's influence on U.S. politics, whereas with Jews, that's kind of... it.

Point being, it would be absurd to think that anyone who offers support for Israel is, in coded language, actually trying to express hatred of Jews, on account of, some of Israel's American supporters support Israel for the wrong reasons. Whereas it would not be absurd - rather, it would be most reasonable - to think that some who offer constant streams of criticism of Israel do so because they can't outright say how much they hate Jews.

Andrew Stevens said...

Phoebe, I'm on board with all of that. Sorry, didn't mean to hijack your thread.

Dan O. said...

Andrew -

"I don't think you can believe in an omnipotent being and not believe that you can have no effect on his grand plans."

Philosphical detour: It depends on the necessity of Providence. If God's Providence is necessary, full stop, one can't effect God's plan, but - moreover - one's behavior is necessary as well. That's Leibniz (Spinoza too, but providence ain't the same for him), not evangelical theology. Another possibility: providence is necessary as a result the way in which God's will is determined. Human behavior is, in turn, necessitated by God's will. Insofar as the former could have been different, the latter could be different as well. So what we do matters, but we do what God wills. That's Calvinist theology, broadly speaking. What you describe, on the other hand, is something altogether different. It's that God lets the world go, and we humans do what we do, and God punishes and rewards us as God pleases, but it all doesn't matter in the end, because God is going to make it so, no matter what we do, and through miracles, no doubt. So the world and human events are all a good show for Christian spiritual edification. Great.

I suppose the great attraction to evangelicalism as you describe it is that they know, ahead of time, that Their Guy is going to win no matter how bleak it looks. As you explain them, Evangelicals are the Yankees fans of the spiritual. Mo, short for 'Moshiach', will return to close it out in the end.

In contrast, the naive view (and by 'naive', I mean unreflective, not wrong) is that God works his will by influencing human actions. This influence is variegated, but normally involves prayer, moral guidance, and the giving of signs and prophecy. This view has the benefit of understanding the world around us as more than just a sideshow to our personal salvations, and God's final victory in a 1-run game that was never really in doubt.

"Point being, it would be absurd to think that anyone who offers support for Israel is, in coded language, actually trying to express hatred of Jews, on account of, some of Israel's American supporters support Israel for the wrong reasons."

Is defunding the PA support for Israel? I believe I've made it 'clear enough' that I don't think so. My claim is precisely that this is an area that indicates where support for Israel and Christian self-interest diverge. I think defunding the PA expresses contempt for Israel. (Just as an American failure to veto the Palestinian statehood bid would have expressed contempt for Israel).

I have often met people who believe in the black-box conspiracy who "love" Israel insofar as it represents Christian access to Jerusalem. It's apt that such people are always going off on some spiritual journey or other, inevitably termed a 'crusade'. Is this really controversial? Do you think it is marginal? Are you really more concerned with what latent anti-semitism we Jews express toward ourselves than what is implicit all around us?

Should Israel ever give up full political power (i.e. for shared control) over the old city, explicit anti-semitism will return with a vengeance. At issue will be what they'll see to be the genetic faithlessness of Jews.

@Eamonn - Lots of Atzmons running around? Right. Specimens? Pin 'em to a card. Weak.

That's exactly what I mean by the perceived genetic faithlessness of Jews, and the danger of perpetuating the myth of the syndrome of the self-hating Jew.

Fake Herzog said...

Dan O.,

If Phoebe doesn't mind this threadjack, what the heck do you mean by this:

"Is defunding the PA support for Israel? I believe I've made it 'clear enough' that I don't think so. My claim is precisely that this is an area that indicates where support for Israel and Christian self-interest diverge. I think defunding the PA expresses contempt for Israel. (Just as an American failure to veto the Palestinian statehood bid would have expressed contempt for Israel)."

I don't understand. Mind you, I'm a very, very conservative Catholic Christian (check out my website) who is also a Likud-loving Zionist and I think we all can trust the PA about as much as Phoebe can trust the next immigrant from the Ivory Coast she meets in Paris at 3:00 AM. So I'm curious why you seem to think support for the PA is so important?

Dan O. said...

@FH

For example:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/10/a-self-defeating-palestinian-aid-freeze/246096/

and this:

http://thinkprogress.org/security/2011/10/04/335639/aid-palestinians-increase-instability/

What a bizarre analogy.

eamonnmcdonagh said...

@ Dan O.

I was thinking of this lots

http://972mag.com/

Only one of them (Yossi Gurvitz) bears comparison to Atzmon but most of the rest of them are firmly of the we are the worst people in the world (or would be if we were a people, which we aren't), the occupation is the worst crime in the history of humanity, Gaza is the Warsaw ghetto persuasion

Dan O. said...

@EM

And which of them goes by "ex-Israeli"?