Andrew Sullivan, Hannah Rosenthal and Neocons

Andrew Sullivan writes, in reference my charge that Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department's anti-anti-Semitism czar, made as her "first target" of criticism Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, for refusing to speak at the J Street conference:

First, this is untrue. As you can see, in this same interview she is highly critical of the UN and brutally frank about the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe and the Middle East. But for simply criticizing Oren's direct intervention in domestic Jewish-American politics, and his picking and choosing which pro-Israel group to snub or endorse, she is beyond the pale.

How long before she too is called an anti-Semite? Or has she been already?

Yes, well, let me take Andrew's points individually. I probably should have qualified my charge by stating that one of her first targets was Oren, not her first target. On the other hand, I read the interview as well, and she singles out no individual for criticism except for Oren. She is critical of the U.N for the sin of disproportionality, but she has no hard words for Richard Goldstone, and yes, she is critical of anti-Semitism as a phenomenon, but she names no individual who might currently be perpetrating anti-Semitism, these individuals being the putative target of her office.

But all this is irrelevant. The real question is: Why is an American diplomat criticizing a foreign ambassador for his choice of speaking engagements in America? I asked three people who currently work in the State Department if they could recall an instance in which an official of their department ever criticized a foreign ambassador for such a thing -- or for anything -- and they said no. In fact, the State Department is fairly upset at Rosenthal for speaking at all about the alleged political proclivities of a foreign ambassador, not about her specific criticism. It is this behavior that has put her beyond the pale, despite Andrew's assertion to the contrary.

And by the way, it is not merely "neocons" who are upset with Rosenthal. The chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Alan Solow, put out this statement in reference to Rosenthal's criticism: "As an official of the United States government, it is inappropriate for the anti-Semitism envoy to be expressing her personal views on the positions Ambassador Oren has taken as well as on the subject of who needs to be heard from in the Jewish community. Such statements have nothing to do with her responsibilities and, based upon comments I am already receiving, could threaten to limit her effectiveness in the area for which she is actually responsible."

Now, who is Alan Solow? Is he a neocon? In fact, he is a Chicago lawyer who was one of Barack Obama's earliest and most ardent supporters. So it might in fact be possible to be upset with Rosenthal and not be a neocon. As for my criticism of Rosenthal, I'm on record saying that I thought it would be a good idea for Oren to address the J Street convention. So what does that make me? A pro-J Street anti-Rosenthal neocon?

It seems lately that "neocon" has become Andrew Sullivan's term for any Jew who disagrees with... Andrew Sullivan. And no, I'm not accusing Andrew Sullivan of being anti-Semitic, or Hannah Rosenthal, for that matter, of being anti-Semitic. (Here's what I think about the state of Andrew's Semitism, if you care.) And I don't think anyone has accused Rosenthal of being anti-Semitic. Dopey, yes, but anti-Semitic? I wish that Andrew wouldn't try to preclude debate over her qualifications for what could be an important job by bringing up a charge no credible person has made.