All about Philip Weiss: why he left the Observer, why he’s an “Israel-hater”

NY gossip and news blog Gawker tells us “Why Philip Weiss Left the ‘Observer’”

Author and former Observer blogger Philip Weiss has taken to the pages of The American Conservative to detail how he felt he was forced out by Observer owner Jared Kushner and his former Harvard friend, Observer editor Peter Kaplan, for writing incorrectly about Israel. (Also, we find out that Weiss did the blog for free! Uh, what?) Weiss claims that as he got increasingly strident about his feelings about Israel, Kushner and Kaplan’s quiet discomfort with his blog grew, and it didn’t help that the paper was being totally besieged by complaints. Kushner comes from an Orthodox Jewish family, and his family has also long donated to Jewish and pro-Israel causes. And from Weiss’s account, it sounds like this is Kaplan’s lone Achilles heel that he might have for any Kushner editorial thoughts. Definitely Weiss made Kushner uncomfortable, if not unhappy.

When Weiss approached Kaplan about starting to get paid for the blog (he asked for $25,000—a year), Kaplan turned him down, but offered him a bi-weekly print column.

Closing the door, Peter said, “We’re going to have a grown-up conversation.” He told me that the owner believed in Israel, and so did he. Israel may do a lot of bad things, but it was still a force for good. I interrupted, “My wife said to me the other night, you can’t expect a guy who doesn’t believe in anything you’re saying to give you $25,000 a year to put it out.” Peter nodded, “That’s right.”But Peter felt committed to me as a writer. He didn’t want to lose me from the paper and offered me a biweekly column. Kushner had “winced” at the prospect, but Peter was the editor, and he wanted me in print. I could write about American politics, Obama and Hillary. I could go around the country during the campaign and have fun.

Yes, but what about my hard-earned views? Israel and the Mideast were crucial pieces in American foreign policy. Jewish giving was the largest factor in Democratic campaign financing. Peter had never squelched my views, but how free would I be as a writer, knowing what I knew about the bosses’ feelings?

(Weiss, by the way, now blogs here.)

And from the depths of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, editor Jonathan Tobin,whose foaming at the mouth attack-dog approach makes him something of a parody of the Israel-right-or-wrong-crowd, calls Weiss “an Israel-hater, even one with a Jewish background, who is drawn to rhetorical violence against Israel and the Jews.”

He accuses him of getting into bed with anti-Semites because his story about getting forced out at the Observer appeared in The American Conservative, a publication for which Pat Buchanan currently serves as Emeritus Editor.

Pat Buchanan does have a real history of anti-Semitism and should always be watched carefully. He once wrote in a memo, for example, as an aide to President Ronald Reagan, that the president was “succumbing to the pressure of the Jews.”

Like all American public figures, he has evolved somewhat and today is a ubiquitous conservative pundit, a “syndicated columnist, a political analyst for MSNBC, and a founding member of three of America’s foremost public affairs shows, NBC’s The McLaughlin Group, and CNN’s The Capitol Gang and Crossfire…His articles have appeared in magazines ranging from The Nation and Rolling Stone to Human Events and National Review.” Are ALL of these institutions guilty of seeking Israel’s destruction? If so, then where is the outcry from Tobin? MSNBC actually pays him money.

In fact, Tobin’s thesis, that the hard right has finally met the hard left in the form of Weiss publishing a story in a Buchanan publication, builds into a crescendo of venom directed towards a list of many more “Israel-haters” including everyone from Norman Finkelstein and John Mearsheimer to the two Tonys- Tony Judt and Tony Kushner.

Weiss, Buchanan, Judt and Kushner have not put forward legitimate differences with Israeli government policies. They dismiss the state’s right to exist and its legitimate right of self-defense against bloodthirsty terrorists whose aim is mass murder of Jews.

Huh?

It is no small irony that someone with Tobin’s strikingly one-dimensional perspective has taken on some truly remarkable Jewish thinkers. He’s out of his depth, so name-calling works just as well.

It’s also difficult to find a parallel between a Philip Weiss article appearing in a publication that Buchanan no longer edits, and the real-life numerous political alliances between members of the religious right in particular, many of whom embrace a Jewish “eliminationist” religious ideology, and pols and Jewish institutions that support current US and Israeli policies.

These alliances go far beyond the relatively picayune issue of publishing in a conservative magazine.

There are many well-documented ties between those who would see Jews convert or burn to death (Hagee, Delay, Robertson, Falwell…..), and US Jewish groups who honor them like AIPAC, or the Israeli Knesset which once gave then House leader Tom Delay a standing ovation after he told them to essentially ignore an effective cease-fire and to keep killing Palestinians.

While it’s entertaining to try to delegitimize thoughtful critics of Israeli policy by accusing them of being in bed with anti-Semites, it serves as a great diversion from these substantive political alliances that work to perpetuate the deaths of both Israelis and Palestinians in the region through extended conflict.

What’s sad is that Tobin’s broader concern about the connection between anti-Semitism on the far right and the far left is something to take seriously. But he picks absolutely the wrong targets. The real culprits are groups like ANSWER, and folks in the 9/11 truth movements where anti-Israel conspiracies flow like water. Embarrassing tirades like Tobin’s do nothing but set back meaningful efforts to have thoughtful and reasoned discussions about these very real problems.

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