Lee Smith Ups The Ante

How's this for a conspiracy? Lee Smith thinks that criticism of Israel's policies on the Daily Dish is a cynical attempt by the Atlantic Media Company to profit from "Jew-baiting" by increasing web traffic through attracting swarms of anti-Semitic commenters! Yes, I am not kidding:

To advertising salesmen and advertisers, of course, the subject of any given blog post is presumably immaterial: What matters are the numbers. But is targeting Jews that much more profitable than going after African-Americans or gays and lesbians or women? The answer is simple. People know they can get away with Jew-baiting because history shows that it has been done before and no one did anything to stop it.

Jew-baiting is simply one way that the new old media and old new media are trying to find their collective footing in a changing press environment and a bad economy.

Who knew? The subtitle of the piece is:

When the comments on the blogs of Stephen Walt, Andrew Sullivan, Phillip Weiss, and Glenn Greenwald turn ugly, who should be held accountable? Plus: A Jew-baiter’s lexicon.

But this site, as everyone knows, has no comments section. So what evidence can Smith provide?

He cites the emails we publish as dissents or otherwise:

These published emails are scarcely different from the comments published under the posts of Walt, Greenwald, and Weiss, whose arguments serve as a dog-whistle, calling out the pack of haters whose remarks make explicit what was merely hinted at in the original, (usually) more respectable post.

That is a heavy charge against you, Dish readers - that the edited emails we publish are "scarcely different" than random, crazy, bigoted rants that can crop up on any comments section. His evidence: one single email. Go read it - and laugh. Then he actually asserts that my long-standing opposition to male genital mutilation - rooted in my own involuntary circumcision 46 years ago - is some kind of anti-Semitic code! Heh. I've been a bore on the subject for aeons - ever since I discovered that my own willy had been chopped without my consent.

Smith then goes on to argue that almost any argument that criticizes the policies of the state of Israel is de facto anti-Semitic. His rules for discourse essentially place out of bounds any discussion of the subject that challenges neocon premises. How conveeenient. So when you are careful to make distinctions and not to imply that all American Jews believe one thing, or constitute a coherent, single lobby - you are being an anti-Semite on the "good Jews/bad Jews" paradigm. If, on the other hand, you assert something generalized about "the Jews", you are also an anti-Semite. Any acknowledgment that a strong and legal and open pro-Israel lobby exists in Washington is de facto anti-Semitism, because it has echoes of "cabal" and "conspiracy" that have long been anti-Semitic tropes. So how does one describe a tightly knit group of intellectuals (some Jewish, some not) who advance a neoconservative defense of Israel's policies at every turn and with passionate intensity? Answer: you cannot. Even if you use the word "neocon", then you are an anti-Semite because, according to Smith, "neocon"

is a synonym often used to designate the kind of American Jew who has forced Washington officials to sacrifice U.S. interests, as well as U.S. blood and money, in order to make war on behalf of Israel’s desire to gobble up Muslim and Arab lands.

If you ever express an opinion that

“No one can criticize Israel without being labeled an anti-Semite”

you are also an anti-Semite, because

what this statement really means is that Jews control the media.

So my protest against being called an anti-Semite is proof of my anti-Semitism!

Smith is a Likudnik crank, who even finds the NYT's Robert Mackey's coverage of the Israeli rape-by-deception case a form of anti-Semitism. But what his little essay reveals, it seems to me, is a panic that the discourse about Israel has indeed shifted in Washington. Thanks to the blogosphere and the taboo-breaking Walt-Mearsheimer book, we are having a discussion about US-Israel relations that is now out of the control of those who used to dictate its terms and police its boundaries.

They don't like that, especially when some of the critics have very solid and long records of strong support for Israel, like myself and Peter Beinart. So they smear. Which suggests to me they're worried that reason and realism may prevail.