Email from Andrew Sullivan on Israel and Max Blumenthal

by A. Jay Adler on July 29, 2009

Ever since Andrew Sullivan did a turn on Israel during the recent Gaza conflict (which, by the way, appears to have met its immediate goal, despite all the know-it-all naysayers who said it would fail in even that), I have been trying to get a grasp on just how far he turned. It might seem I should have grasped this before now, since he was already citing Mearsheimer and Walt on the Jewish Lobby at the time of the Israeli offensive, but Sullivan, despite our conflicting politics, had earned credibility with me over the years.

Yesterday he posted citing a response by DiA to James Kirchick’s Contentions post attacking Max Blumenthal and others like him as, in DiA’s words, “self-hating” Jews. Sullivan used the post to offer his own defense of Israel’s critics against charges of self-hatred and anti-Semitism. I emailed Sullivan not to defend Kirchick but to ask if he really wanted to focus the defense on the likes of Blumenthal. Here is my email:

I am not by any means writing to defend Jamie Kirchick’s argument or to take issue with the essential point of your post. Unfortunately, though, DiA’s post, and your post quoting from it, focus on Max Blumenthal and, in DiA’s post, “other young left-wing Jewish political writers who criticise right-wing Israeli policies.” These latter might be, for instance, the authors of the Mondoweiss blog, who were primary posters and defenders of Blumenthal’s videos.

The problem in this is that Blumenthal and those particular “young left-wing Jewish political writers who criticise right-wing Israeli policies” are not, simply, “writers who criticise right-wing Israeli policies.” Blumenthal and Mondoweiss are both anti-Zionist. They are opposed to the existence of the Jewish state and are expressly working to bring about its demise. Their position toward Israel is not that of Jews who wish to correct Israeli behavior, but is in every respect that of the most agonistic Palestinian. Blumenthal (and Mondoweiss) has explicitly stated that the purpose of his videos is to expose the essential racism of Jewish nationalism (Zionism), in contrast to any other nationalism. This goes far beyond the point you meant to make, and warrants acknowledgement.

I wrote about this issue, and all of these parties, at length: http://sadredearth.com/the-malice-of-mondoweiss/

This was Sullivan’s reply:

it may be true of phil weiss but it isn’t of blumenthal and their position, while i disagree, is a legitimate one, worth arguing about. at the rate things are going i cannot imagine israel having a 60th anniversary.

To which I responded:

I wonder how much of Blumenthal you’ve read. In the recent Tablet profile of him he calls himself a “non-Zionist,” a not so cute evasion if ever there was one, and states, ” “I wanted [when he was younger] to describe myself as a liberal Zionist, but there was no way-the liberal values I’d been raised on were not compatible with Zionism.” Is there any other group’s national aspiration he considers incompatible with liberal values? He called the behavior of the students in his first video  ”the painful consequences of prolonged Zionist indoctrination.” Is there any other group’s assertion of nationalistic faith and desire he considers, in itself, “indoctrination” rather than, simply, an idea?

And did I read you right? You think anti-Zionism, and an overall stance that demonizes Israel in every respect and seeks its demise, a legitimate position worth arguing about? With respect to what other national group do you hold such a position?

Of course, Israel has already had its 60th anniversary, but it is the very fact that you can conceive of the nation’s end that is the point in all this. Again, of how many other nations could you make such a statement? And this is precisely why people like Blumenthal and Weiss and others like them are waging the campaign that they are. Because unlike with Russia, or China, or Iran, or Sudan, they actually think they can do it. They think can bring an end to the Jewish state. I can offer you chapter and verse.

And this is a position you think worth arguing about? And you wonder why Israelis feel the way they do? I really do recommend you read my analysis: http://sadredearth.com/the-malice-of-mondoweiss/

As far as I know, Sullivan has not chosen to read my analysis, and he has not further replied. You’ll have to provide your own answer for that fact. But now I know, and you do, just how far Sullivan has turned.

Interestingly, Commentary has now removed Kirchick’s Contentions post, about which his pals at Mondoweiss are crowing, calling it a loss of nerve. I think we can all agree that it was not the “Jewish Lobby” responsible for this. Is it perhaps – do you think it could be – who’d a thunk it – an “anti-Jewish Lobby” at work?

At any rate, I’ve not lost my nerve. You want to read serious criticism of Blumenthal and Mondoweiss, read this.

AJA


15 comments

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick @ Canadian Maple Leaf Gold Coins September 9, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Great Post! Your blog is one I try to always read.

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JES August 17, 2009 at 5:07 am

A. Jay, you hit the nail right on the head. These people would not dare speak of the demise of any other state.

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Thom August 4, 2009 at 10:51 am

When you see a post on Mondoweiss that no one contradicts, remember that Mondoweiss bans dissenters. So the apparent consensus there (Israel=bad) is just a reflection of the ban on any other opinions, not a reflection of reality.

Until recently, Mondoweiss blog allowed supporters of Israel to comment there. Now they are requiring registration and silently banning any dissenters. The range of opinion there now ranges from “Israel is the most evil country ever” to “Israel is evil, but not the most evil ever”. So if you like your Israel bashing without any inconvenient facts spoiling things, Mondoweiss is the place to be. Of course, like with most echo chambers, be prepared to embarrass yourself if you post anything you get from there elsewhere.

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Geoff M July 30, 2009 at 4:10 pm

Is it any surprise that a man who still cannot comprehend the mysteries of Sara Palin’s uterus also can’t imagine Israel reaching its 60th anniversary?

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David T. July 30, 2009 at 8:59 am

Jay,

You should consider yourself lucky that Andrew Sullivan deigned to respond to you. I think at this point his political transformation from neocon to realist-appeaser is nearly complete; and of course a central marker for that transformation is his turnabout on Israel. I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if he progresses further into the fevered swamps of anti-Zionist thinking and starts to actively advocate for the abandonment/dismantlement of Israel within the year, when it becomes clear that the Israelis will to survive is stronger than their desire to please Americans, Arabs, and Europeans. His line will be that it Israel has become an religious/apartheid/authoritarian state that can no longer be supported by anyone who buys into enlightenment values. And, unfortunately, it’s easy to see many American Democrats following suit.

One thing worth considering on your post above. You seem to use the word Zionist in its traditional sense as “the nationalism of the Jewish people”. But this is not how the word is heard today, not only on the left, but also in the political center. I think Zionism is more generally understood, at least by the “human rights” left, as, well, a form of Jewish exclusivity and racism. It ties into the “Jews are the chosen people and despise others” canard, as well as the notion that the Jews are not a people, just a religion. So when you accuse others of being anti-Zionist, the logical response of many reader will be “so what? Anti-Zionists are on the side of justice because Zionism is apartheid”.

It’s funny how the UN resolution of 1975 has effectively become true in the popular mind through a very effective propaganda campaign. No matter that the resolution was overturned… surely that was a manipulation of the Israel lobby.

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A. Jay Adler July 30, 2009 at 11:08 am

David, I’ve received replies from him once or twice before, though mostly not, and especially when I”ve driven holes through his already porous obsession with labeling circumcision “male genital mutilation’ or “MGM.”

About the meanings people give the word “Zionism,” oh, yes, I know. You’re quite right. It is a subject about which I plan to write.

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Jacob July 30, 2009 at 6:25 am

“…I prefer “fools” to self-hating Jews.”

That would work for me too, Jay.

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Jacob July 29, 2009 at 5:54 pm

“But that Contentions published a piece that they then felt should be pulled is definitely dismal.”

I am not a regular reader of Commentary or even their blogs, but I assume that they pulled the piece because they didn’t want to give Weiss’s mendacious blog more publicity. This is just a guess, though.

Btw: I also don’t like the term “self hating Jew.” They are hardly Jewish and I prefer to call them antisemites no different from non-Jewish antisemites. Max Blumenthal seems to like an over-privileged and undernourished punk.

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A. Jay Adler July 29, 2009 at 6:33 pm

I’ve been searching the web for any sign of acknowledgment. None. Any speculation is meaningless in the absence of evidence, but I do wonder about Blumenthal the father. I take your point about antisemitism, but I’m always in favor of making distinctions. It clarifies the nature of the world. I have written elsewhere, though, that I prefer “fools” to self-hating Jews.

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PetraMB July 29, 2009 at 3:22 pm

Yeah, it’s always fascinating to read what pundits who can’t imagine Israel having its 60th anniversary think about Israel… Oh well, maybe that also explains why Sullivan would apparently think there is something liberal or leftist about the mondoweiss campaign against Israel.
But that Contentions published a piece that they then felt should be pulled is definitely dismal.

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A. Jay Adler July 29, 2009 at 3:27 pm

I”ve yet to read any explanation or even acknowledgment that the post was pulled, and that would certainly be interesting to know.

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Jacob July 29, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I have thought of Andrew Sullivan as one of many British antisemites for a while now. Many of my online interlocutors thought I was exaggerating.

I wish I had been.

There is also in interesting bit on Sullivan who think that the US has become a “police State” under
Obama:

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2009/07/on-tendencies-and-categories.html

Moonbat is too mild for good old Andrew.

As for “mondoweiss,” he is very hostile to Jews not just to Israel wanting all Jews to assimilate. He is the very embodiment of those old pre-Nazi German Jewish assimilationists with one exception, he knows very little about Judaism or Jewish history.

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