Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, one of the smartest commentators on the blatant hypocrisy (and self-destructiveness, it sadly needs to be said) of the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd. He has been writing lately about what he sees as the new irrelevance of the neocon/Israel-is-always-right bloviators.
Greenwald tends to group the Abe Foxman/Dershowitz types and the Wolfowitz/Perles in the same category, which may not be entirely fair. Nonetheless, as unpleasant as it may be to contemplate, the Israel/Jewish ties of many neocons who pushed for war with Iraq have now been thoroughly picked dry (by both both fair-minded analysts and anti-Semites, for good measure.)
Greenwald’s point is that these guys led us down the road to a terrible and useless war, and that folks aren’t going to listen to them now when they start screaming about Iran and Israel.
A few weeks ago, Greenwald took on The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg after Goldberg accused Greenwald of “doing the work of anti-Semites”, you know, for writing smart analysis about bad Israeli policy. One wonders if it occurs to any of these critics that nobody does the work of anti-Semites better than Israel- as Olmert himself recently observed as brought to our attention by Sol Salbe’s Middle East News Service- when they seemingly remorselessly attack a completely trapped and largely civilian population… but I digress.
Greenwald takes on the shrill tone of Jeffrey Goldberg’s attacks:
Indeed, people like Goldberg are becoming extra rancid and reckless in their rhetoric precisely because they know that these rhetorical devices have ceased working. There is a definite sea change when it comes to American policy debates toward Israel. They no longer possess the ability to stifle dissent through thuggish intimidation tactics and they know that, which is why they can now do nothing but turn up the volume on their name-calling attacks.
Whereas these smear tactics once inspired fear in many people, now they just inspire pity. They no longer work. Very few Americans are going to refrain from expressing their views on American policy towards Israel out of fear that the Jeffrey Goldbergs of the world are going to screech “anti-Semitism” at them. Neocons are far too discredited and their policies far too self-evidently destructive for them to intimidate anyone out of questioning their orthodoxies. Now, watching neocons recklessly spew their bitter little epithets in lieu of (and in order to suppress) debate is like watching an old, dying dragon sadly trying to breathe mighty fire from its mouth but collapsing in a debilitating coughing fit instead — or is like watching a disgraced, post-censure Joe McCarthy in 1956 stand in an empty Senate chamber and rail against hidden Communists. Nobody cares.
People like Jeffrey Goldberg — and his comrades at places such as Commentary and the ADL — have so abused, over-used, manipulated and exploited the “anti-semitism” and “anti-Israel” accusations for improper and nakedly political ends that those terms have become drained of their meaning, have almost entirely lost their sting, and have become trivialized virtually to the point of caricature.
In a different lengthy piece, also worth reading in full, Greenwald also points to NYT columnist Roger Cohen’s latest gutsy columns, the predictable blowback by the usual “neconservative lynchmob”, and Cohen’s refusal to back down. While I want to believe Greenwald that it’s a brand new day, and that analysts in this country might finally start to have reality-based conversations about Israel and US policy, the fact is that being a cohanim must play no small role in giving Cohen the cojones required to stand up to charges of anti-Semitism.
And now, here’s the chance to test Greenwald’s thesis: Charles Freeman. He’s been nominated to be the chair of the National Intelligence Council. As Stephen Walt wrote:
As soon as the appointment was announced, a bevy of allegedly “pro-Israel” pundits leapt to attack it, in what The Nation’s Robert Dreyfuss called a “thunderous, coordinated assault.” Freeman’s critics were the usual suspects: Jonathan Chait of the New Republic, Michael Goldfarb at the Weekly Standard, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Gabriel Schoenfeld (writing on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal), Jonah Goldberg of National Review, Marty Peretz on his New Republic blog, and former AIPAC official Steve Rosen (yes, the same guy who is now on trial for passing classified U.S. government information to Israel)….
What unites this narrow band of critics is only one thing: Freeman has dared to utter some rather mild public criticisms of Israeli policy. That’s the litmus test that Chait, Goldberg, Goldfarb, Peretz, Schoenfeld et al want to apply to all public servants: thou shalt not criticize Israeli policy nor question America’s “special relationship” with Israel. Never mind that this policy of unconditional support has been bad for the United States and unintentionally harmful to Israel as well. If these pundits and lobbyists had their way, anyone who pointed that fact out would be automatically disqualified from public service.
Andrew Sullivan has a timeline of the attack machine and how it all works.
Phil Weiss says former AIPAC honcho-turned-spy-suspect Steve Rosen, is now calling for the head of Israel Policy Forum’s MJ Rosenberg, of all people (the clear-eyed progressive Zionist Rosenberg is one of the better true friends Israel has ever had), for supporting Freeman. Rosen can yell all he wants, but is anyone listening?
Now support is building in Congress for putting the kabosh on Freeman, so perhaps it is way too soon to do the victory dance over the death of pompous bully-ism.
As Greenwald said:
Ultimately, the greatest weapon to defeat these campaigns is to highlight the identity and behavior of their perpetrators. Just consider who is behind the attack on Freeman; how ugly and discredited are their tactics and ideology; and, most importantly, how absurd it is, given their disgraceful history, that they — of all people — would parade around as arbiters of “ideological extremism” and, more audaciously still, as credible judges of intelligence assessment. …..
It’s destructive enough to artificially limit debate on a matter as consequential as U.S. policy towards Israel. We’ve been doing that for many years now. But it’s so much worse that the people who have been defining and dictating those limits are themselves extremists in every sense of that word when it comes to Israel and U.S. policy towards that country. Their demands that no distinctions be recognized between Israeli and Americans interests have been uniquely destructive for the U.S. Few things are more urgent than an expansion of the debate over U.S. Policy in this area, which is exactly why this radical lynch mob is swarming with such intensity to destroy Freeman’s reputation and fortify the limitations on our debates which, for so long, they have thuggishly enforced. If someone like Freeman can occupy a position like Chair of the National Intelligence Council — handpicked by Obama’s DNI, an Admiral — the taboos they are so desperate to maintain will erode just that much further.
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