Commentary Magazine


Re: Assassination Fantasies Beyond the Pale

Jonathan’s prediction that Andrew Adler’s disgraceful Obama assassination fantasy will be used to smear critics of the president’s Israel policy couldn’t have been more prescient. Here’s Yossi Gurvitz at 972 Magazine taking the first shot at the strawman:

The vast majority of American Jews will feel nothing but horror at Adler’s sick fantasy. Most of them would shudder at the idea of betraying their country like Jonathan Pollard did. A small number of them are, however, “Israel-firsters”: They put Israel’s interests – or, to be more precise, Greater Israel’s interest – ahead of their country’s. You can spot them easily: They generally doth protest too much about the usage of “Israel-firsters.”

Of course. Because if you didn’t secretly have a primary allegiance to Israel, why else would you possibly object to people saying you do?

As an Israeli, Gurvitz likely has little experience with accusations that he’s an insufficiently faithful American citizen. Maybe to him, this doesn’t seem like a very big deal. Sure, he writes, there are a “small number of American Jews” who put Israel’s interests ahead of the U.S. But like most defenders of the “Israel-first” charge, Gurvitz is careful to note that this doesn’t include the vast majority of American Jews.

This is exactly where the defense of this smear starts to break down. For some reason, there’s a perception that the term is only anti-Semitic if it’s directed at the entire Jewish community. Jeffrey Goldberg skewers this succinctly: “The mainstreaming of hostility toward any group of Jews leads inevitably to the mainstreaming of hostility to Jews generally.”

In fact, this is already playing out right before our own eyes. Gurvitz begins his piece the same way all defenders of the Israel-first slur tend to: by listing off a few strawman-dual-loyalists, including convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, and the latest example, newspaper publisher Andrew Adler. Gurvitz’s intention isn’t just to argue that Pollard and Adler are Israel firsters – that’s too easy. The real target of Gurvitz’s column is Jeffrey Goldberg, as if a liberal, Obama-supporting Zionist could reasonably be lumped into a category with the first two.

The Israel-firster smear has been thrown at everyone from Goldberg to Gary Ackerman to Bill Kristol to Dennis Ross, Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer the Anti-Defamation League, AIPAC and the Republican Jewish Coalition. If anyone who falls under that wide spectrum of Israel policy views is an “Israel-firster,” then we’re not just talking about a “small number of American Jews,” as Gurvitz contends. We’re talking about almost every Jewish American who considers himself a Zionist, and nearly every Jewish American who exercises his constitutional right to speak freely and lobby in support of the Jewish state.

Israeli fringe leftists like Gurvitz should realize that they’re providing cover for an anti-Semitic term that was coined by American neo-Nazis decades ago, a term that’s designed to intimidate American Jews from voicing support for Israel. Maybe Gurvitz hasn’t grasped that piece of history. Or maybe he wants to marginalize American Jewish support for Israel. Either way this is a debate that doesn’t concern him.