Philip Weiss tells us in an article in the June 4th issue of The American Conservative – at enormous length – how and why he left The Observer — even though they never fired him nor even challenged his views. He apparently wanted to get paid for his blog (he had agreed to start without payment). He dresses this up as principled unease with the fact that The Observer’s editor, some writers and its new owner are pro-Israel.
After setting the scene, he quotes himself as telling his Observer editor:
I grabbed a galley of Jeffrey Goldberg’s book. … “Goldberg works for The New Yorker in Washington and because he thought America was dangerous for Jews, he moved to Israel and served in their army, then he moved back here and pushed America to go to war in Iraq. Well, I’m different. I don’t think America is dangerous for Jews, and I’m critical of Israel. And there’s no room for me here. There’s no room.”
Notice how Weiss reduces the nuanced views of this progressive-Zionist journalist to his earnest but immature rationale for making Aliya as a teenager; then Weiss accuses Goldberg of “push[ing] America to go to war in Iraq.” It’s a short hop from there for Weiss’s article to raise the old “dual loyalty” issue.
And he calls American Zionists (again, including progressive Zionists) “paranoid” for being concerned that the American majority may turn against the Jewish minority one day. But this notion, raised so tendentiously by Weiss as an accusation, is a haunting fear of many (perhaps most) American Jews — whether Zionist or not. It is, after all, part of the classic historical pattern that has cursed Jews for centuries as a minority group.
What does his “Zionist” editor do in response? This ever-tolerant guy tries to persuade him to stay.
And Weiss writes this in – of all places – The American Conservative, the magazine founded by Pat Buchanan and his basically anti-Semitic partner, Taki Theodoracopulos. (I doubt that Buchanan is personally anti-Semitic, but his agenda and public leanings have always been anti-Jewish, including not only an unwavering line on Israel – even if sometimes on target – but even in defending Eastern European Holocaust-era war criminals, and in having blamed the first Iraq war on Israel’s “Amen corner.”) Weiss’s “confession” has to be music to their ears.
P.S. I happen to have served as co-chair of a joint task force of Meretz USA and Ameinu (the Labor- Zionist affiliate in the US) to plan programs to promote civil discourse among Zionists and progressive American Jews about Israel. We are presenting a panel entitled “How to Talk Candidly About Israel: A conversation among progressive American Jews,” on Thursday, June 21, 7:30 PM at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 West 68th Street, New York, NY. Among our panelists is this same blogger and writer Philip Weiss. So please understand that I’m all in favor of enlightened dialogue. I hope that the inestimable Mr. Weiss is as well. We’ll see.
While I understand your distaste for Taki (though I enjoy reading his rants anyway, cause I’m masochistic like that) and others like Scott McConnell, never the less, Buchanan and the paleos have been proven right on many of their criticisms an fears of where the Neocons would take this country.
There’s no question that the paleocons have been far wiser on Iraq than the neocons. The paleos are consistently isolationist. In the case of the first Gulf War, Bosnia and Kosovo — the neocons and almost everybody else — were correct.
The Paleos were also wrong on World War II, when they opposed aid to Britain and favored appeasement. With Iraq, this time around, they’ve finally stumbled into a conflict where their line is correct. To my mind, this is analogous to the proverbial stopped clock that’s correct twice a day.
I’ve often enjoyed reading Taki and Buchanan — even as I’ve cringed. Buchanan (whom I also know from TV)
seems less obnoxious and (as I said) probably not anti-Semitic in a personal sense. I have to object to most of their opinions, however, but not quite all.
Ethnic groups immigrating to America bring with them interesting beliefs from the Old World. Slavs, Scandinavians and Germans hungered for cheap land. The Irish feared the Protestant establishment. The Italians mistrusted the police. And the Jews took advantage of the opportunities to make money, get a higher education, and go into the professions without worrying about quotas. Yet many of them fear that this could all end any day. This belief is I believe much stronger in Israel than in America. In Israel I think many see America as another Weimar Germany. In America those younger Jews who even still think about this remember that it was America that liberated the camps. The problem is that America doesn’t fit the analogies that are part of the mass Jewish consciousness. The smart Jews realize this and live their lives.
Eric Alterman on the Dual Loyalties question, Apr. 3, 2003, The Nation:
This is all very confusing to your nice Jewish columnist. My own dual loyalties–there, I admitted it–were drilled into me by my parents, my grandparents, my Hebrew school teachers and my rabbis, not to mention Israeli teen-tour leaders and AIPAC college representatives. It was just about the only thing they all agreed upon. Yet this milk- (and honey-) fed loyalty to Israel as the primary component of American Jewish identity–always taught in the context of the Holocaust–inspires a certain confusion in its adherents, namely: Whose interests come first, America’s or Israel’s? Leftist landsmen are certain that an end to the occupation and a peaceful and prosperous Palestinian state are the best ways to secure both Israeli security and American interests. Likudniks think it’s best for both Israel and the United States to beat the crap out of as many Arabs as possible, as “force is the only thing these people understand.”
But we ought to be honest enough to at least imagine a hypothetical clash between American and Israeli interests. Here, I feel pretty lonely admitting that, every once in a while, I’m going to go with what’s best for Israel. As I was lectured over and over while growing up, America can make a million mistakes and nobody is going to take away our country and murder us. Israel is nowhere near as vulnerable as many would have us believe, but it remains a tiny Jewish island surrounded by a sea of largely hostile Arabs. Perhaps it was a strategic mistake for America to rush to Israel’s aid in 1973, but given the alternative, I really don’t care. As Moshe Dayan told Golda Meir at the time, the “third temple” was crumbling. Tough luck if it meant higher gasoline prices at home.
I can’t profess to speak for the motivations of others, and by the numbers, American Jews seem no more prowar than the US population, and maybe even a little less. But I’d be surprised if the Administration’s hawkish Likudniks were immune to the emotional pull of defending Dayan’s “third temple.” Our inability to engage the question only forces the discussion into subterranean and sometimes anti-Semitic territory. If the Likudniks played an unsavory role in fomenting this war (and future wars), and further discussion will help illuminate this unhappy fact, then I say, “Let there be light.” If something is “toxic” merely to talk about, the problem is probably not in the talking, but in the doing.