Where We’re Coming From, Where We’re Going

by A. Jay Adler on July 30, 2009
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Here is the cache of James Kirchick’s post that led to my email exchange with Andrew Sullivan and that was removed from the Contentions site. I’m not posting it here directly because it is, in fact, filled with scatter-shot invective, including, in line with my speculation about the cause of the post’s removal, one gratuitous and irrelevant swipe at Sidney Blumenthal. Kirchick may even have set a record for “number of people attacked in a single short blog post.”

His essential point, though, is a genuine one. I’m not willing to ascribe the term “self-hating Jew” to Max Blumenthal because I don’t know enough about him. I know enough about his thinking and his professional work to know that it’s callow and intellectually incoherent. I tried to demonstrate that here. His comments and blogging since his Tel Aviv video demonstrate no greater mental acuity. Commenter Jacob describes him as “an over-privileged and undernourished punk.” I won’t argue.

I am willing to say that Philip Weiss fits the bill. His cultural psychodrama is all throughout the posts of Mondoweiss, of which I’ve read far too many in order to be able to write knowledgeably about him. He is a blogging pathology with a missionary purpose seeking to play an historic role – so check your hallways for alarm sirens and flashing lights. He removed a post of his own a while back, after only a day, because it revealed too much. The cache of it is gone now, but I saved it.

Currently, he and co Mondoweiss blogger Adam Horowitz are fussing much about instituting a new more discriminating and “professional” comments policy. They acknowledge their comments sections has been filled, for the life of the blog, with invective and hatred. Obviously, they were in no rush. I’ve cited examples before. In the meantime, as of today, they are still willing to put up with this:

The Israelis filth elected Netanyahu on an exterminationist platform. They wildly applauded the Gaza massacre which Obama graciously paid for and supported to the fullest extent, while mouthing pieties about Israel’s security.

I actually have more respect for israelis like eitan, who have embraced their inner Nazi and are proud of their jack-booted atrocities. It’s the Commentary Leon Weisetlier tapeworms who pretend israelis are decent members of the human tribe who I find the most offensive.

The follow up commenter, seeking to restore a hint of humanity, urges the above commenter, “lovelyisraelis” (let’s work through that psychopathology) to “Try to understand the deep sources of your anger.” It’s almost comical. Yes, if only Adolf had sat thrice weekly with Sigmund, we all might have been spared so much trouble.

Yet Andrew Sullivan thinks the ideas of Mondoweiss and Blumenthal are worth arguing about. And vile demonization of Israel, and the possibility of Israel’s end, is increasingly mainstreamed in the political discussion.

I have a particular fondness, myself, for self-refuting arguments. Currently, those critical of Israeli concerns about Iran rather too easily argue that Israeli worries are overblown. Israeli, and the Jewish, sense of existential threat post-Holocaust (get over it already!) is monomaniacal. Yet what discussion is increasingly in the air, sympathetically or not? The possible demise of Israel.  The Israel haters mock Israel’s fierce historical concerns – while they actively seek the end of Israel.

Israel is not blameless in this. I feel no joy in being able to say that I knew thirty years ago that Likud’s stepped up settlement policy, in order to establish “realities on the ground,” would come back to haunt Israel. Yaacov Lozowick’s moving and forceful post, to which I linked earlier, speaks of how the narrative about Israel has changed. Israel and all Jews need to recognize the role Israel played in changing this narrative. When armies lose battles (hopefully not wars) they need to be brutally honest with themselves about their own role – their own failures – in the loss. Any clear-eyed observer of history who is not an antagonist to the very idea of Israel to begin must see the single fundamental cause of ongoing conflict: Arab, and then principally Palestinian rejectionism. Israel has been able to make the mistake it has made on lands captured in 1967 because the Palestinian leadership has never been willing to trade recognition of Israel and peace in return for those lands.

The narrative needs to be changed again. That is one battle, and it will be a long, hard one. But there are other battles now, beyond the fundamental one that has been there from the start.

Now Israel faces an ideological assault, mixed with overt and covert anti-Semitism, unlike any it has faced in its history outside of the Arab world. Mondoweiss and Blumenthal are just two particularly visible crests in a far larger wave of animus rolling over Western socieities. A commenter at another site where I published my Sullivan post wrote that when we begin to talk about the people who talk about the issues rather than talk about the issues, we have ceased to engage in productive activity. I told him that I don’t disagree. But now the movement to call into question Israel’s existence has become an obstacle to peace.

Peace between enemies can be achieved when two fundamental conditions have been met. One is when the political leaderships no longer believe they can achieve the ends they sought through war at a cost they can bear to pay. The other is when the people themselves are so tired of the costs of war that peace becomes more desirable than acting out their hatred of the enemy. Essentially, unless there has been an outright victory by one side, the parties must be worn down to peace. There have been times when it appeared that condition might be close to being met between Israelis and Palestinians.

Now we have the new anti-Zionists, who are not parties to this conflict, who have not paid the cost of war and are not worn down, who happily don their agitprop fatigues on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and in the comfortable suburbs to goad the conflict on. Remember, the objective of the anti-Zionists is not peace; it is the demise of Israel. Do they think Israelis will just fold? Yaacov Lozowick tells us they will not. No more than have the Palestinians. If these agitators for Israel’s end are not fools – and we know that many are – do they think Israel would end in a good way? Do they think it will simply wither away, like the State in the Marxist imagination? Or would there, rather, be just more blood and suffering on a newly calculated scale? They claim to be the Palestinians’ friend. Who will tell the Palestinians they are not?

So directly productive of peace be it not, this is now another battle that needs to be waged, against anti-Zionist hatred and the anti-Zionist idea in new ascendance, and against its promoters – dressed up in whatever finery of righteous compassion they strut themselves.


10 comments

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael W. August 24, 2009 at 5:10 am

Hey Mr. Adler, (this may be just the second time I commented here)

Great post! Your posts are very insightful. I am starting to really like your blog. I also like Yaacov L.’s blog which you mentioned as well, though he maybe a bit more right wing than I am on Israeli issues.

Phil Weiss is a mess. I used to go to his blog often (maybe 6 months ago) and comment and argue, but Mondoweiss just became so pathetic. I used to think he was just an over sensitive hard lefty, but I soon realized how dark his words and thoughts are. You clearly wrote down what I sensed about him. I know very little about Horowitz.

The commenters on Mondoweiss are obsessed with one issue. Though I must admit that they are acutely tuned in to Jewish discussions except that the misinterpret everything we say. They see everything in the world through their neo-nazi lense, their world view. The saddest thing is that Phil thinks about the same things neo-nazis think about – Jewish power. They project a sentiment onto the Jews – tribalism, where the Jews compete against whites and others for power. But it is really just neo-nazis who are tribal for no logical reason. Phil views Zionism as the tribalism the neo-nazis see. Zionism empowered Jews and because he sees it as an overall negative since the Palestinians suffered, he believes everything power related involving Jews is ill gotten. He doesn’t believe Jews should get power and influence usually afforded to citizens of democracies unless they use it to help the Palestinians which we, the Jews, took power from them. Because things aren’t perfect in Israel and everything seems in turmoil, while forgetting that things were much worse and could be worser, he believes Zionism is a mistake.

Blumenthal I hardly know as well. I thought he was just a left wing Jew who makes fun of right wing Jews on the issue of Israel. But he’s actually anti-Israel in the sense that he views Israel in one-dimension (like in “The Feeling the Hate in …” vids), he tries to represent Israel by interviewing a few bigoted Jews there.

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Suzanne August 4, 2009 at 5:25 pm

I agree, Jay. The Bob Simon report was an op-ed in video form. He didn’t even pretend to be objective, from what I recall.

Your blog is very interesting. You have lots here. I’m going to have to look around and see what else you’ve written about.

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Suzanne August 2, 2009 at 5:27 pm

Jay

That’s a really good point about media bias. I tend to not be an expert about most things I read about in the news–so more often than not–the bias can fly over my head.

I think both the left and the right can be guilty of that kind of bias…and I really respect journalists who strive to fight that tendency in themselves.

I was caught by pleasant surprise recently when David Brancaccio (PBS’s NOW) did a 2-part series on the I/P conflict recently.

Did you happen to see it?

If not…a quick summary.

First they gave the Palestinian side–and the next week the Israeli side.

I was apprehensive it was going to be an indictment of Israel.

Interestingly they told it from the pov of “foot soldiers”–former Shaheedi and IDF reservists.

Maybe NOW had a slant that went over my head…but my impression was they let the subjects tell their story instead of asking loaded questions–and they interviewed people with different points of view.

It put a human face on the whole thing–and it wasn’t about “oppressor” and “oppressee.” That was my impression anyway…

It was probably the most balanced piece of reporting of this nature I’ve seen in awhile.

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A. Jay Adler August 3, 2009 at 2:55 pm

I didn’t happen to catch that NOW piece, Suzanne, but it does sound like something we need more of – explorations that seek to increase understanding rather than vilify. A contrast would be that awful Bob Simon segment on 60 minutes a few months back, in which he engaged in Bill O’Reilly stalker showmanship with an Israeli unit in the middle of an operation. The problem is less the human slipups in objectivity than the conscious bias, when the “reporter” has an agenda other than reporting.

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Suzanne August 2, 2009 at 4:08 am

Mr. Adler

I did find the analysis and read it in its entirety.

One thing I particularly appreciate is the concerns you raise from a journalistic standpoint. I hope you continue to do that.

It’s an important issue, in my opinion. One that I know has been of great concern to the profession as newspapers fall into decline and the Internet becomes a more popular news source.

The rigorous standards applied to investigative reporting, for example, seem to have fallen by the wayside.

I haven’t made journalism my lifetime career…but I did learn it in school and spent a good 10 years on and off doing newspaper reporting.

I had my wrists slapped for violating protocol–e.g., using only one source for a story, getting the story by phone instead of visiting relevant locales, not offering both sides of the story etc.

I made those mistakes early and never made the same mistake twice.

So I think what you are talking about is CRITICAL

The anti-semitic angle is equally as important…but it’s easy for denialists to dismiss us as emotional or subjective.

But they cannot say that when it comes to professionalism. Weiss calls himself a journalist–and I have to wonder whose standards he is abiding by.

Thanks for you insightful arguments on this.

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A. Jay Adler August 2, 2009 at 4:57 am

Suzanne,

I think you’re dead on here about charges of anti-Semitism versus attention to journalistic standards, or the lack of them. We see already that anti-Semites and those merely unsympathetic to Israel easily turn that charge away as a McCarthyite smear. That same, defensive unwillingness to hear is present among many whites who are tired of hearing about racism against people of color and those who are tired (it’s such a burden, and it has continued for almost a second on the timeline of human life) of hearing about the Holocaust. Weiss and Horowitz, and Max Blumenthal too, think that because they go to “cover,” or “report” on, an event in the world, that makes them journalists. You rightly question their standards, because they appear to have none.

I raised this issue, from a somewhat different perspective, a few weeks ago, about the Honduran coup. As an informed non-expert on Honduras or Central America who likes neither coups nor Manuel Zelaya, I was seeking information to help me clarify my perspective on events. At this point, the traditional, mainstream news sources tend not to dig deep enough, early enough to be leading educators on stories that are not high profile. I pursued online news sources, some of whom, as it turns out, have been quite accurate in their reporting on the nature of the coup leaders (or golipistas, as the Spanish more succinctly puts it), but whom I distrusted and ceased to read because they were so unabashedly, even rancidly, biased. The people who read such sources regularly are those who are already ideologically sympathetic – so who is being informed and educated? This is all the product of post-modern and post-colonial theorizing that challenged the possibility of true (complete) objectivity, and so, via the slippery slope, has led to complete comfort in abandoning even the attempt at it.

Finally, if you comment again – and I hope you will – I hope you’ll call me Jay. (In fact, the rule around here, which I just conceived, is that once you’ve commented three times, it’s mandatory.)

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A. Jay Adler August 1, 2009 at 2:54 pm

I agree that Weiss’s cultural identity conflicts have long threaded their way through his blog. Part of what is so striking is that he seems not to recognize how the personal material he willingly shares is so revelatory of the sources for his politics. He looks in the mirror and the growling dog chasing its tale sees a sad stray longing to be part of the pack. I think what probably struck him differently about this post, on reflection, were the dead giveaways of feeling anger merely at the sound of Hebrew and of a Jewish name, the acknowledgment of his “rage” (not mere “anger”) as personal in its nature and not only intellectual outrage, and the culminating dream not of peace but of the end of Israel. His commenters recognized the tortured cry of the post and reacted with striking awe and compassion – thought not, it’s worth mentioning, with any acknowledgement of the anti-Semitic affliction producing the cry. I hope you managed to find my analysis here.

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Suzanne August 1, 2009 at 11:28 am

Mr. Adler

I wasn’t able to access the archive you saved of Phil’s removed post.

That may be for the best. I’ve sworn off reading anything else by the author of “Phil Weiss: Diary of a self-absorbed shlub”

On the other hand…I am morbidly curious. If it’s not accessible–can you give us a quick summary of what it said?

thanks.

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A. Jay Adler August 1, 2009 at 12:29 pm

Suzanne, I fixed the link, so you should be able to read it now. I understand both the reluctance and the morbid curiosity. If you read it, read it to the end, because it’s cumulative and reaches a crescendo of cultural self-hatred. You’ll understand why he removed it within twenty-four hours. I analyzed it in “The Malice of Mondoweiss.”

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andrew r July 31, 2009 at 8:33 pm

The scary thing about anti-Zionism is how it threatens to turn Jews into a minority in an Arab state. And we know how Jews have fared under minority status. Look at the United States for example.

Look at how, after being expelled from several states by a man hailed as a war hero (Grant) and sent back to Europe to face Hitler, we are still chaffing under the Anglo-Phone regime. Sure things look rosey now but so did Weimar Germany and there’s all these Aryan militias. Look at the brilliant revolution our brethren have accomplished in Eretz Israel. They threw off gentile rule and became the majority population. Jews all over the world should be doing that.

Let’s set up our own Zionist state in the USA. How about NJ? Just a bunch of corruption there, anyway. They can live in NY or MA or wherever they hell they end up. And the Jews living there now, sure, but if any of them married cross bearers there’s going to be trouble. Can’t have intermarriage in a Zionist state.

Come on, how awesome is that? We’ll be the first ever double layered colonial settler state. We’ll colonize the colonists. Are you in?

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