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:

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:

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.



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