The recent squabble between notable neoconservatives publications and Time Magazine’s Joe Klein who recently spoke out against Jewish neoconservatives who helped promote the Iraq war and are now pushing an Iran agenda has been gathering momentum. Daniel Levy writes:
The Klein thesis shared by a great many commentators and analysts (this writer included) goes something like this: Bush administration policies in the Middle East have had disastrous consequences for the US; Israel too is in a less secure and worse place as a result of these policies; ultimate responsibility for all this lies with the President himself and his hawkish and close group of senior aides—principal among them Veep Cheney; the neoconservatives played an important role in providing an ideological framing for these policies; within that neoconservative world there operates a prominent and tight-knit group of Jewish neocons who are ideologically driven in part by an old school Likudist view of Israeli interests.
Were the Jewish neocons in control and did they make the fatal decisions? No. Are all Jews neoconservatives or are all neoconservatives Jews? Please! Are the Jews or Israel to blame for the Bush Middle East debacle? Get outta here.
Something did happen though—there was a failure within the mainstream, Jewish and non-Jewish, to identify the existence of a particular Jewish neoconservative narrative and then to challenge that narrative as being fundamentally flawed in its reading of both American and Israeli interests. One of the causes of that vacuum was the abuse and cheapening of the term anti-Semitism as it was hurled at many who went after Podhoretz, Perle, Feith, and co. They tried, and sadly rather successfully, built a wall of untouchability. Klein is taking his shofar, or trumpet, to that wall, as many have done before, but Joe is particularly MSM, and therefore important.
Too many Jewish communal leaders and institutions made the mistake of not standing up and speaking out more against the right-wing excesses of a small minority of their co-religionists. Some even embraced and feted the neocons—a mistake AIPAC particularly excelled in and something I get the impression that AIPAC is at least partially trying to walk itself back from.
Read the rest of Levy’s comments at Prospects for Peace. Jim Lobe paints it as a “mushrooming media controversy” that can set the stage for who speaks for the American Jewish community.
But the fierceness of the controversy surrounding Klein, generally considered a political centrist, highlights the growing antagonism between neo-conservative hardliners and prominent U.S. Jews whose more moderate views are aligned more closely with those of the foreign policy establishment.
The controversy began Jun. 24, when Klein argued in a TIME blog post that the “fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives — people like [independent Democrat Sen.] Joe Lieberman and the crowd at Commentary — plumped for this war [in Iraq], and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties.”
Within a day, Abraham Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League, accused Klein of espousing “age-old anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government”.
The reaction from the right-wing press was even harsher. Commentary editor John Podhoretz reiterated the accusation of “anti-Semitic canards” and called Klein “manifestly intellectually unstable”.
Writing in National Review, former George W. Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner called Klein “a man who cannot control his anger and even hatred”.
But Klein has refused to back down, accusing his attackers of using charges of anti-Semitism to silence criticism of neoconservative policies.
“When [Commentary writer] Jennifer Rubin or Abe Foxman calls me anti-Semitic, they’re wrong,” he said in an interview. “I am anti-neoconservative.”
In its broad contours, the controversy is a familiar one, as critics accuse neoconservatives of exercising pernicious influence on U.S. Middle East policy and neoconservatives reply with charges of anti-Semitism and conspiracy-mongering.
What distinguishes the recent furour over Klein, however, is that it involves someone who is widely regarded as an exemplar of the centrist political establishment.
Klein is best known for his 1996 novel “Primary Colors”, a thinly-veiled and largely unflattering portrait of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign that was originally published anonymously and subsequently made into a Hollywood movie. A frequent critic of Clinton, Klein has at times expressed admiration for George W. Bush.
He also endorsed the invasion of Iraq in 2003 (although he has since expressed regret for his support) and describes himself as “a strong supporter of Israel”.
The Klein dust-up is the latest in a series of events over the last several years that have placed neoconservatives both in the spotlight and on the defensive.
MJ Rosenberg at Talking Points Memo writes:
This is a narrative some very powerful people do not like. They claim to fear that, because most of the neocons are Jews, Americans will conclude that the war on Iraq was pushed by the Jewish community.
Of course, that is not so. Although most neocons are Jews, few Jews are neocons. Every poll taken of Jewish opinion shows that, after African-Americans and non-Cuban Latinos, Jews have been the segment of the population most strongly opposed to military action against Iraq and Iran. This is no big surprise considering that 80% of Jews are Democrats, and the same percentages supported Gore, Kerry and will, no doubt, support Obama.
But the neocons aren’t worried about the Jews. They are worried that any focus on the campaign they waged for war with Iraq will (as it should) utterly discredit them.
They are, in fact, one of the two groups that push the “neocons equal Jews” meme. The first is the anti-semites. Anti-semites want Americans to associate Jews with a hated war.
The second is the the neocons themselves. They want Americans not to follow the trail of war-mongering that leads not to Jews but to THEM.
Anyway, bravo to Joe Klein for fighting back. As for Feith and Perle and Kristol and Bolton and Wolfowitz and Wurmser and Brooks and Krauthammer and Wieseltier and COMMENTARY and THE NEW REPUBLIC and the WASHINGTON POST editors and the rest of that crowd, they should shut up and volunteer at Walter Reed. For the rest of their lives.
Irancove @ August 1, 2008