Anti-Semites & Extremists

The escalating fight between Joe Klein and Commentary is funny, if for no other reason than it’s always nice to see someone, especially someone of Klein’s stature, stand up to the thugs that make up a small, but loud, element of the neoconservative moment. And whether it’s coincidence or not, the overwhelmning portion of that small contigent is Jewish. I suspect that that’s by design, since they can, or they think they can, pummel their critics with cries of anti-semitism.

Take, for example, John Podhoretz’s painfully predictable response to Klein yesterday:

He says he’s not anti-Semitic but rather, anti-neoconservative. To say it is a badge of honor to stand in opposition to a person as manifestly intellectually unstable as Joe Klein has become is to understate the case. As for his use of classic anti-Semitic canards, I am happy to report that the Jewish people will long survive Joe Klein.

The question is, will Time Magazine?

So in response to Klein’s obvious point that he’s not an anti-semite, Podhortez can merely manage an idea that he relies on “anti-semitic canards,” which is to say he can merely call him an anti-semite in a round about way to avoid looking really silly and intellectually infantile. And since these people don’t threaten their critics, he caps it off with a thinly veiled threat against Time magazine.

I should say that my disdain for the likes of the people at Commentary comes mostly from the way in which they smeared Mearsheimer and Walt as anti-Semites after they wrote The Israel Lobby, doing such an effective job that even Klein feels compelled to assure Jeffrey Goldberg that, “I am not a Walt-Mearsheimer guy.”

My personal take on this is that, unseemly as it may be, the tactic is necessary for them to deflect criticism, lest people listen to the critics. While it’s obviously perfectly legitimate to advocate action with the best interests of Israel at heart, if it was more widely perceived that you had the best interests of Israel at heart, fewer Americans would be inclined to listen to you. And so when someone dares to point out that you routinely advocate that the United States look ot for Israel’s interest, they must be smeared viciously, lest anyone else consider mulling that idea over.

In any event, it doesn’t look like Klein has any intention of backing down, and it doesn’t really look like Commentary is winning many defenders outside of the neocon sphere. As Ezra puts it:

In recent years, AIPAC — and many other organizations and actors who use the term “ant-semite” as a tool of intimidation and not a descriptor of hatred — proved it. They attacked voices who weren’t inclined to back down. They assailed Walt and Mearsheimer only to find that the smear campaign had done nothing but act as publicity for the W&M thesis, and spurred other writers to make almost identical arguments. Now they’re trying it on Joe Klein, and are finding that the wages of that campaign are a lot of criticism from an incredibly public and well-known writer and pundit. Their problem is that they bought into their own reputation, they believed too fully that they could fire offending writers and thinkers, that they could shut down all dissent and criticism. And so, in the end, the impression of their past success — which they leveraged so elegantly in recent years — is the exact force that’s dissolving the boundaries they’ve placed on the conversation.

Hopefully he’s right.