Andrew Sullivan, about whom I have mainly not been blogging lately, in part to keep my sanity and in part because, really, how much time can a blogger devote to fighting with other bloggers (answer: a lot!), e-mailed me earlier today, while I was traveling, to tell me that I obviously missed, or at least misread, part of one of his posts. He was right that I missed, and misread, some of it so I want to amend (partially) what I wrote earlier (The truth is, I'm not even sure I understand the post in question, but I'll get to that).
But first, I want to tell the many Goldbloggers out there who wrote me with some surprise, asking why I was back on Andrew patrol after ceding that role to others these past several months, exactly what I think of Andrew's blogging, and why I'm apparently (though who knows what the future, meaning next week, entails?) jumping back in to this argument. Generally, I love Andrew's blog, and I agree with most of what he writes, including on torture, Afghanistan, gay marriage (though I could always do with less on the issue of bears and their role in the environment). On Israel, and on the power of the Jewish lobby, of course, I think he is wrong wrong wrong (except on those occasions -- infrequent -- when he is right), and I also think he does not understand the corrosive power of his words, and of the public venting of his unmediated emotions. I think the things he writes excoriating Israel often give aid and comfort to people who truly want to hurt Jews and hurt the Jewish state. Rather than ignoring his posting on the subject, as I have been doing, I'm going to point out, whenever I can, the ways in which his intemperate language and one-sided understanding of Middle East politics and history can be used to create real damage. One of the things I don't think Andrew understands is that Jews (and Israel) are simultaneously powerful and vulnerable. And by "vulnerable," I don't mean vulnerable emotionally; I mean, actually physically vulnerable to violence and discrimination. I think that singling out Israel and its Jewish supporters for special scorn aids and abets the very dark forces lining up to deny the Jewish state its legitimacy.
All that said, I don't think he is personally antisemitic. Quite the opposite: He passes the Anne Frank test, in my mind, without a doubt. (For those of you who don't know what the Anne Frank test is, think about it for a minute.) I expect many angry e-mails from Andrew's critics for writing what I have just written, but I know him well, and I know that not only is he repelled by unfairness, he is the sort of person who goes out of his way to help those he thinks are oppressed or treated unfairly.
Well, that was some sort of throat-clearing. In any case, I think I jumped to conclusions about a previous post of his, because I thought he was downplaying the words of Rick Sanchez, when he had said in an earlier post that Sanchez was full of shit, and again said it, a bit too passively, (in sentence construction) in a later post, in which he wrote, in reference to a less-than-compelling Hitch piece in Slate (are you completely lost yet?) that grappled with the subject of Jewish power. Andrew:
So why the fuss over Rick Sanchez? Surely the tone and generalities about media ownership, as Hitch notes, and as I posted. But this statement on its own seems completely banal to me:Do not underestimate the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. That is the best-organized lobby, you shouldn't underestimate the grip it has on American politics--no matter whether it's Republicans or Democrats.Hitch is right to argue that this cannot empirically be in dispute among sane people in Washington - although the Belgian who said it, like Sanchez, draped it in self-evident anti-Semitic hooey. Sigh. Maybe that connection tells us something. But maybe it doesn't necessarily.
More on this later, but I think the connection between an obsession with the power of the "Jewish lobby," on the one hand, and "self-evident anti-Semitic hooey," on the other, is very often quite strong. For what it's worth -- and I'm straying somewhat afield here -- I think that critics of the "Jewish lobby" not only demonize Jewish participation in the democratic process, they fundamentally misunderstand the way powerful lobbies succeed: Lobbies succeed (and AIPAC people will tell you this privately) when they push on open doors. The NRA (which is a more powerful lobby than AIPAC, IMHO) succeeds in large part because the majority of Americans believes in gun rights as the NRA frames the issue. Similarly, I believe that AIPAC is pushing on open doors in Congress because the majority of Americans, polls show, are intuitively more sympathetic to Israel than to Israel's enemies. I don't believe, as AIPAC's critics do, that AIPAC creates pro-Israel legislation; I believe that pro-Israel feeling creates pro-Israel legislation. AIPAC organizes the feeling, buttresses the feeling, rewards the feeling, but I think it is obviously true that if Israel were truly unpopular in America, it would be unpopular in Congress. But more on that another time.