Commentary Magazine


Topic: Norman Finkelstein

Israel Haters Rally to Charles Barron

Yes, fine — it’s not really fair to attack New York congressional candidate Charles Barron directly for this, because as far as we know, he didn’t solicit David Duke’s endorsement. But it’s still worth mentioning because of a) The PR disaster this is going to unleash all over the closely watched Barron campaign, and the impact it has on the race; and b) The confounding mystery about how a former KKK Grand Wizard and vocal southern white supremacist could ever bring himself to endorse a pro-Black Panther, pro-reparations black man from New York City (Spoiler alert: it involves the Jews).

Former KKK Grand Wizard and member of the Louisiana Legislature David Duke released a video yesterday endorsing Charles Barron in his race for Brooklyn’s 8th congressional district against Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. Mr. Barron, a member of the City Council and former member of the Black Panther Party who, over the years, has made a series of controversial statements against Israel and in support of African dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He would seem to be an odd choice for a self-described “white nationalist” like Mr. Duke, but in the video, Mr. Duke explains that he thinks Mr. Jeffries has “sold his soul to the international Zio-bankers” while Mr. Barron’s strong past criticisms of Israel outweigh their other differences.

“In a race for Congress between an anti-Zionist black activist and a black activist who is a bought and paid for Zionist Uncle Tom, I’ll take the anti-Zionist any day,” Mr. Duke says in the video. “In this election of limited choices, I believe that Charles Barron is the best choice. Why? Because I think there’s no greater danger facing the United States of America and facing the world than the unbridled power of Zionist globalism. … Charles Barron stands against that power. If I lived in New York City, I would certainly vote for Charles Barron.”

Mr. Duke begins his video by noting that Mr. Barron has been labeled the “David Duke of New York City” by his political opponents.

As unhinged as David Duke is, you would think he’d still realize that his endorsements do the exact opposite of what endorsements are typically intended to do. Hakeem Jeffries, Barron’s opponent, is already out front denouncing Duke’s cartoonish rant about Zionist treason, Jewish-controlled media, etc.

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Yes, fine — it’s not really fair to attack New York congressional candidate Charles Barron directly for this, because as far as we know, he didn’t solicit David Duke’s endorsement. But it’s still worth mentioning because of a) The PR disaster this is going to unleash all over the closely watched Barron campaign, and the impact it has on the race; and b) The confounding mystery about how a former KKK Grand Wizard and vocal southern white supremacist could ever bring himself to endorse a pro-Black Panther, pro-reparations black man from New York City (Spoiler alert: it involves the Jews).

Former KKK Grand Wizard and member of the Louisiana Legislature David Duke released a video yesterday endorsing Charles Barron in his race for Brooklyn’s 8th congressional district against Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries. Mr. Barron, a member of the City Council and former member of the Black Panther Party who, over the years, has made a series of controversial statements against Israel and in support of African dictator Muammar Qaddafi. He would seem to be an odd choice for a self-described “white nationalist” like Mr. Duke, but in the video, Mr. Duke explains that he thinks Mr. Jeffries has “sold his soul to the international Zio-bankers” while Mr. Barron’s strong past criticisms of Israel outweigh their other differences.

“In a race for Congress between an anti-Zionist black activist and a black activist who is a bought and paid for Zionist Uncle Tom, I’ll take the anti-Zionist any day,” Mr. Duke says in the video. “In this election of limited choices, I believe that Charles Barron is the best choice. Why? Because I think there’s no greater danger facing the United States of America and facing the world than the unbridled power of Zionist globalism. … Charles Barron stands against that power. If I lived in New York City, I would certainly vote for Charles Barron.”

Mr. Duke begins his video by noting that Mr. Barron has been labeled the “David Duke of New York City” by his political opponents.

As unhinged as David Duke is, you would think he’d still realize that his endorsements do the exact opposite of what endorsements are typically intended to do. Hakeem Jeffries, Barron’s opponent, is already out front denouncing Duke’s cartoonish rant about Zionist treason, Jewish-controlled media, etc.

Notably, Barron has not repudiated Duke’s comments, probably because of the awkward fact that he’s been captured on film saying a lot of similar things. And Barron’s problems don’t end with Duke. He appears to be winning over other hatemongers, including fringe anti-Israel author Norman Finkelstein, who published an approving blog post about him recently.

This is hardly surprising, considering Barron’s history of support for a string of reprehensible figures, from Qaddafi to Mugabe to Malik Zulu Shabazz. The New York Observer, which has covered Barron’s antics as a city council member for years, published a scathing editorial yesterday warning New Yorkers about what they’re going to face if he makes it to Capitol Hill:

The prospect of Charles Barron on Capitol Hill ought to send a shiver down the spine of every decent New Yorker. The man is a hater and a bigot whose only redeeming quality is his candor: The man makes no attempt to hide his loathing of white people, Israel, his colleagues and anybody else who doesn’t share his demented views. …

If Mr. Barron wins, he will have a national forum for his hate-filled rants. To be sure, he will be incapable of turning his views into legislation, but still—he will have greater access to the media and a bigger audience for his insulting rhetoric. And here’s the worst part: He’ll be identified as a Democrat from New York.

Is that what Democrats want? Is that what New York deserves?

The real loser of this is the Democratic Party, which will have to face many more of these embarrassments if Barron actually pulls off a victory. It makes you wonder why President Obama — who seems to have significant clout in the district — still hasn’t intervened to try to forestall this debacle.

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University of Toronto Thesis Argues Jews Exploit the Holocaust

Criticizing Islam may get you a court summons in Canada. But calling the Jews “privileged racists” who intentionally exploit the memory of the Holocaust to generate political power may just get you a graduate degree.

The University of Toronto has come under heavy criticism for accepting a master’s thesis from an anti-Israel activist that accuses the Jewish community of deliberately using Holocaust-remembrance programs to create a false impression of Jewish victimhood, in order to make it easier for Jews to push “racist” and “apartheid” policies in Israel:

The thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” was written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. It denounces the March of Remembrance and Hope, for which young adults of diverse backgrounds travel with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and March of the Living Canada, which takes young Jews with survivors to Poland and Israel.

Peto argues that the two programs cause Jews to falsely believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.” The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional: It produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel.

While her argument may not technically qualify as Holocaust revisionism, it’s teetering precariously close. The argument that Jews are using the memory of the Holocaust to propagate a false sense of victimhood only makes sense if you believe that a) Jews are exaggerating the facts of the Holocaust to make it sound worse than it really was, or b) the Holocaust is as horrific as it is portrayed, but was not uniquely horrific. In other words, Jews are deliberately downplaying the adversity faced by other cultures in order to exaggerate the importance of the Holocaust.

The second perspective seems to be where Peto is coming from. In her thesis, she laments that the Holocaust minimizes the magnitude of other apparent horrors, such as violence against women, America’s historical acts of “genocide,” terrorism, and Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.

Peto isn’t the first to argue these points. Norman Finkelstein has said and written similar things in the past. But this is the first time that I’m aware of that an esteemed Western university has treated borderline Holocaust revisionism as legitimate scholarship.

Criticizing Islam may get you a court summons in Canada. But calling the Jews “privileged racists” who intentionally exploit the memory of the Holocaust to generate political power may just get you a graduate degree.

The University of Toronto has come under heavy criticism for accepting a master’s thesis from an anti-Israel activist that accuses the Jewish community of deliberately using Holocaust-remembrance programs to create a false impression of Jewish victimhood, in order to make it easier for Jews to push “racist” and “apartheid” policies in Israel:

The thesis, titled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education,” was written by Jenny Peto, a Jewish activist with the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid. It denounces the March of Remembrance and Hope, for which young adults of diverse backgrounds travel with Holocaust survivors to sites of Nazi atrocities in Poland, and March of the Living Canada, which takes young Jews with survivors to Poland and Israel.

Peto argues that the two programs cause Jews to falsely believe they are innocent victims. In reality, she writes, they are privileged white people who “cannot see their own racism.” The “construction of a victimized Jewish identity,” she argues, is intentional: It produces “effects that are extremely beneficial to the organized Jewish community” and to “apartheid” Israel.

While her argument may not technically qualify as Holocaust revisionism, it’s teetering precariously close. The argument that Jews are using the memory of the Holocaust to propagate a false sense of victimhood only makes sense if you believe that a) Jews are exaggerating the facts of the Holocaust to make it sound worse than it really was, or b) the Holocaust is as horrific as it is portrayed, but was not uniquely horrific. In other words, Jews are deliberately downplaying the adversity faced by other cultures in order to exaggerate the importance of the Holocaust.

The second perspective seems to be where Peto is coming from. In her thesis, she laments that the Holocaust minimizes the magnitude of other apparent horrors, such as violence against women, America’s historical acts of “genocide,” terrorism, and Israel’s “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians.

Peto isn’t the first to argue these points. Norman Finkelstein has said and written similar things in the past. But this is the first time that I’m aware of that an esteemed Western university has treated borderline Holocaust revisionism as legitimate scholarship.

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Mearsheimer Makes a List

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

John Mearsheimer gave a speech at the Palestine Center in Washington yesterday and called Israel an apartheid state that has practiced ethnic cleansing and will likely practice it in the future. For Mearsheimer, this is standard practice. But he added a new twist: he separated American Jews into three categories: “Righteous Jews,” “New Afrikaners,” and a middle group of Jews who aren’t quite sure whether they’re righteous or ethnic cleansers. These are Mearsheimer’s Righteous Jews:

To give you a better sense of what I mean when I use the term righteous Jews, let me give you some names of people and organizations that I would put in this category. The list would include Noam Chomsky, Roger Cohen, Richard Falk, Norman Finkelstein, Tony Judt, Tony Karon, Naomi Klein, MJ Rosenberg, Sara Roy, and Philip Weiss of Mondoweiss fame, just to name a few. I would also include many of the individuals associated with J Street and everyone associated with Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as distinguished international figures such as Judge Richard Goldstone. Furthermore, I would apply the label to the many American Jews who work for different human rights organizations, such as Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch.

And then there are America’s Afrikaner Jews, who are not just apologists for apartheid and ethnic cleansing, but are actually a fifth column. Note that he goes beyond the normal “dual loyalty” trope and says that these American Jews are “blindly loyal” only to Israel:

These are individuals who will back Israel no matter what it does, because they have blind loyalty to the Jewish state. … I would classify most of the individuals who head the Israel lobby’s major organizations as new Afrikaners. That list would include Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee, Malcolm Hoenlein of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Ronald Lauder of the World Jewish Congress, and Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, just to name some of the more prominent ones. I would also include businessmen like Sheldon Adelson, Lester Crown, and Mortimer Zuckerman as well as media personalities like Fred Hiatt and Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post, Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, and Martin Peretz of the New Republic. It would be easy to add more names to this list.

I believe Mearsheimer left out a category: “Anti-Semites and Jew-Baiters.” I will leave it to you who to add to that list.

UPDATE: David Bernstein adds his thoughts over at Volokh.

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Important Piece on Human Rights Watch

Benjamin Birnbaum has a long investigative piece on HRW in the upcoming issue of TNR that is now available online. There are a number of important disclosures in the piece: he quotes a HRW board member admitting that “We seek the limelight — that’s part of what we do. And so, Israel’s sort of like low-hanging fruit.” (No kidding.)

I’ve written on this blog about some of the rather odious people HRW employs as “human-rights activists,” such as Joe Stork and Sarah Leah Whitson. The latter, who is the head of HRW’s Middle East division, is a major focus of the piece. We learn that she is a big fan of Norman Finkelstein, the crackpot pro-Hezbollah activist (“I continue to have tremendous respect and admiration for him”) and that she has privately acknowledged her mission against Israel (“making Israeli abuses the focus of one’s life work is a thankless but courageous task”).

There is much, much more in this important piece. Please read it all.

Benjamin Birnbaum has a long investigative piece on HRW in the upcoming issue of TNR that is now available online. There are a number of important disclosures in the piece: he quotes a HRW board member admitting that “We seek the limelight — that’s part of what we do. And so, Israel’s sort of like low-hanging fruit.” (No kidding.)

I’ve written on this blog about some of the rather odious people HRW employs as “human-rights activists,” such as Joe Stork and Sarah Leah Whitson. The latter, who is the head of HRW’s Middle East division, is a major focus of the piece. We learn that she is a big fan of Norman Finkelstein, the crackpot pro-Hezbollah activist (“I continue to have tremendous respect and admiration for him”) and that she has privately acknowledged her mission against Israel (“making Israeli abuses the focus of one’s life work is a thankless but courageous task”).

There is much, much more in this important piece. Please read it all.

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“Why Are You So Popular with Norman Finkelstein?”

Someone at the AIPAC conference captured video of Alan Dershowitz confronting J Street’s Hadar Susskind. It was a Kodak moment.

Someone at the AIPAC conference captured video of Alan Dershowitz confronting J Street’s Hadar Susskind. It was a Kodak moment.

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Feisty Dershowitz Attacks the Wrong Target

According to Haaretz, the schmoozing is getting a little rough at the AIPAC conference. The Israeli paper says that Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz barged into a conversation between one of their reporters and Hadar Susskind, a representative of J Street, and then tore into the left-wing group. The Dersh, a liberal stalwart whose credentials as a partisan Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel cannot be questioned, pulled no punches but rather charged the group with false labeling in calling itself “pro-Israel” and accused it of dividing the Jewish community.

“I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it,” he said. “They shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel. The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. “But I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel,” he said. … The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said. “If you invite Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel,” Dershowitz told Susskind. “You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you,” he said.

Claus von Bulow’s former appeals attorney is, of course, right on all counts here. J Street isn’t merely an exercise in pro-Israel political diversity, as it claims. It spends more time bashing Israel than backing it because it was created specifically to create a counter-force to AIPAC that would push for pressure on the Jewish state. But the Dersh’s fury at J Street is misplaced. The question pro-Israel activists must ask is why he or they should bother wasting their time swinging away at J Street when the group is now merely a stalking horse for the real problem: the Obama administration.

J Street is, after all, nothing more than a Jewish rump of MoveOn.org and the leftist activist wing of the Democratic Party. It came into existence to give Jewish cover to members of Congress who wished to oppose the pro-Israel consensus. But now its main purpose is to give aid and comfort to an Obama administration that is determined to distance itself from Israel and to pressure it into concessions on issues — such as Jerusalem — on which an Israeli and American pro-Israel consensus is firmly behind the Netanyahu government. Dershowitz has expressed misgivings in the past about Obama’s policies but has refused to break with the president. But at this point it’s fair to ask Professor Dershowitz whether it isn’t it a bit unfair to smack J Street around when they’re only loyally carrying the water for the man whom he helped elect president and continues to support?

In 2008, Dershowitz argued that not only were Obama’s pro-Israel credentials impeccable but that it would be a boon to Israel to have a liberal president who backed the Jewish state. That was because he thought that having a liberal icon like Obama who supported Israel in the White House would convince young people and others on the Left that it was okay for them to do the same. But the opposite has happened. The pointless fights that Obama has picked with Israel (while he continues to dither on the threat from Iran) have helped to further discredit Israel among liberals and Democrats while J Street disingenuously stamps his policies “pro-Israel.”

But while he is prepared to get tough with Obama’s J Street spear-carriers, the redoubtable Professor Dershowitz is still unwilling to take on their inspirational leader in the White House. Slashing away at J Street’s stands is nice but if you’re going to keep giving Obama a pass for policies that put the left-wing lobby’s misguided principles into action, you’re wasting everybody’s time. The next time Dershowitz feels the urge to belabor Susskind and the rest of the J Street crowd, he should instead focus his anger on the real offender: Barack Obama.

According to Haaretz, the schmoozing is getting a little rough at the AIPAC conference. The Israeli paper says that Harvard Law’s Alan Dershowitz barged into a conversation between one of their reporters and Hadar Susskind, a representative of J Street, and then tore into the left-wing group. The Dersh, a liberal stalwart whose credentials as a partisan Democrat and a strong supporter of Israel cannot be questioned, pulled no punches but rather charged the group with false labeling in calling itself “pro-Israel” and accused it of dividing the Jewish community.

“I reject J Street because it spends more time criticizing Israel than supporting it,” he said. “They shouldn’t call themselves pro-Israel. The combative Harvard law professor said that he too opposed settlements. “But I spend 80 per cent of my time supporting Israel,” he said. … The sort of supporters J Street was attracting to its conferences showed that the group was damaging to Israel, Dershowitz said. “If you invite Zbigniew Brzezinski you are not pro-Israel,” Dershowitz told Susskind. “You should ask yourself why Norman Finkelstein loves you,” he said.

Claus von Bulow’s former appeals attorney is, of course, right on all counts here. J Street isn’t merely an exercise in pro-Israel political diversity, as it claims. It spends more time bashing Israel than backing it because it was created specifically to create a counter-force to AIPAC that would push for pressure on the Jewish state. But the Dersh’s fury at J Street is misplaced. The question pro-Israel activists must ask is why he or they should bother wasting their time swinging away at J Street when the group is now merely a stalking horse for the real problem: the Obama administration.

J Street is, after all, nothing more than a Jewish rump of MoveOn.org and the leftist activist wing of the Democratic Party. It came into existence to give Jewish cover to members of Congress who wished to oppose the pro-Israel consensus. But now its main purpose is to give aid and comfort to an Obama administration that is determined to distance itself from Israel and to pressure it into concessions on issues — such as Jerusalem — on which an Israeli and American pro-Israel consensus is firmly behind the Netanyahu government. Dershowitz has expressed misgivings in the past about Obama’s policies but has refused to break with the president. But at this point it’s fair to ask Professor Dershowitz whether it isn’t it a bit unfair to smack J Street around when they’re only loyally carrying the water for the man whom he helped elect president and continues to support?

In 2008, Dershowitz argued that not only were Obama’s pro-Israel credentials impeccable but that it would be a boon to Israel to have a liberal president who backed the Jewish state. That was because he thought that having a liberal icon like Obama who supported Israel in the White House would convince young people and others on the Left that it was okay for them to do the same. But the opposite has happened. The pointless fights that Obama has picked with Israel (while he continues to dither on the threat from Iran) have helped to further discredit Israel among liberals and Democrats while J Street disingenuously stamps his policies “pro-Israel.”

But while he is prepared to get tough with Obama’s J Street spear-carriers, the redoubtable Professor Dershowitz is still unwilling to take on their inspirational leader in the White House. Slashing away at J Street’s stands is nice but if you’re going to keep giving Obama a pass for policies that put the left-wing lobby’s misguided principles into action, you’re wasting everybody’s time. The next time Dershowitz feels the urge to belabor Susskind and the rest of the J Street crowd, he should instead focus his anger on the real offender: Barack Obama.

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Hezbollah’s Media Relations

Michael Young has a terrific article in Reason magazine about the collateral damage (as he put it) in think tanks, academia, and the media after the assassination of Hezbollah Commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. He zeroes in on leftist icons Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein for their full-throated support for the Syrian- and Iranian-backed terrorist militia. (Be sure to watch Finkelstein’s performance on Lebanon’s Future TV here, and note how exasperated his interviewer Najat Sharafeddine is with his views.) The absurd alliance of violent Islamists and leftists has been covered elsewhere at length. At least Finkelstein and Chomsky are honest with their audience about what they believe and where they’re coming from.

Young also points out what may be a more serious problem, one much harder for most observers to see. Certain things are expected of those who want to maintain access to groups like Hezbollah. As Young points out,

Hezbollah is adept at turning contacts with the party into valuable favors . . . Writers and scholars, particularly Westerners, who lay claim to Hezbollah sources, are regarded as special for penetrating so closed a society. That’s why their writing is often edited with minimal rigor. Hezbollah always denied everything that was said about Mughniyeh, and few authors (or editors) showed the curiosity to push further than that. The mere fact of getting such a denial was considered an achievement in itself, a sign of rare access, and no one was about to jeopardize that access by calling Hezbollah liars.

Young is correct. And I’ll add that is there is nothing “special” or difficult about getting a quote from Hezbollah. I’ve done it. All I had to do was call their press office and take a taxi down to their headquarters. Every journalist in Lebanon has the phone number. What’s difficult is preserving access to Hezbollah. Doing so is not necessarily impressive, however. It took me five minutes and a press pass to gain access, but it lasted less than a week. I was threatened for writing this blog post, and I was blacklisted for publishing this article in the LA Weekly.

My experience isn’t unusual.

A journalist friend–whom I’ll keep anonymous because his comment to me was not on the record–was severely upbraided by Hezbollah’s “media relations” liaison for a neutral and entirely innocuous article he wrote for a left-wing American magazine I’m sure you’ve heard of or read. It wasn’t enough for them that his article wasn’t anti-Hezbollah. It also was not pro-Hezbollah. The party line was not toed.

During the July 2006 war in Northern Israel and South Lebanon, Beirut-based Time magazine reporter Chris Allbritton wrote the following on his blog: “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loath to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”

Reporter Charles Levinson wasn’t particularly impressed with them last August. “My experience with Hezbollah this week has left an unpleasant taste in my mouth,” he wrote on his blog Conflict Blotter. “I had heard this from other journalist friends who have recently returned from Lebanon, but discovered it for myself this week: their interaction with the press borders on fascist.”

You’ll notice that Allbritton and Levinson are speaking both for themselves and other journalists. Hezbollah didn’t single me out. Nor did Hezbollah single out Allbritton and Levinson. Despite their reputation for being media-savvy, the obstruction, harassment, and bullying of journalists is Hezbollah policy. Access is a meager carrot next to all that.

Some of us resist. Many do not. Some, like Chomsky and Finkelstein, don’t even have to. Michael Young is right to draw attention to those with access who will not call Hezbollah liars when they clearly are lying. It doesn’t matter if they do it to get a bite at the carrot or in fear of the stick.

Michael Young has a terrific article in Reason magazine about the collateral damage (as he put it) in think tanks, academia, and the media after the assassination of Hezbollah Commander Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus. He zeroes in on leftist icons Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein for their full-throated support for the Syrian- and Iranian-backed terrorist militia. (Be sure to watch Finkelstein’s performance on Lebanon’s Future TV here, and note how exasperated his interviewer Najat Sharafeddine is with his views.) The absurd alliance of violent Islamists and leftists has been covered elsewhere at length. At least Finkelstein and Chomsky are honest with their audience about what they believe and where they’re coming from.

Young also points out what may be a more serious problem, one much harder for most observers to see. Certain things are expected of those who want to maintain access to groups like Hezbollah. As Young points out,

Hezbollah is adept at turning contacts with the party into valuable favors . . . Writers and scholars, particularly Westerners, who lay claim to Hezbollah sources, are regarded as special for penetrating so closed a society. That’s why their writing is often edited with minimal rigor. Hezbollah always denied everything that was said about Mughniyeh, and few authors (or editors) showed the curiosity to push further than that. The mere fact of getting such a denial was considered an achievement in itself, a sign of rare access, and no one was about to jeopardize that access by calling Hezbollah liars.

Young is correct. And I’ll add that is there is nothing “special” or difficult about getting a quote from Hezbollah. I’ve done it. All I had to do was call their press office and take a taxi down to their headquarters. Every journalist in Lebanon has the phone number. What’s difficult is preserving access to Hezbollah. Doing so is not necessarily impressive, however. It took me five minutes and a press pass to gain access, but it lasted less than a week. I was threatened for writing this blog post, and I was blacklisted for publishing this article in the LA Weekly.

My experience isn’t unusual.

A journalist friend–whom I’ll keep anonymous because his comment to me was not on the record–was severely upbraided by Hezbollah’s “media relations” liaison for a neutral and entirely innocuous article he wrote for a left-wing American magazine I’m sure you’ve heard of or read. It wasn’t enough for them that his article wasn’t anti-Hezbollah. It also was not pro-Hezbollah. The party line was not toed.

During the July 2006 war in Northern Israel and South Lebanon, Beirut-based Time magazine reporter Chris Allbritton wrote the following on his blog: “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hezbollah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loath to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”

Reporter Charles Levinson wasn’t particularly impressed with them last August. “My experience with Hezbollah this week has left an unpleasant taste in my mouth,” he wrote on his blog Conflict Blotter. “I had heard this from other journalist friends who have recently returned from Lebanon, but discovered it for myself this week: their interaction with the press borders on fascist.”

You’ll notice that Allbritton and Levinson are speaking both for themselves and other journalists. Hezbollah didn’t single me out. Nor did Hezbollah single out Allbritton and Levinson. Despite their reputation for being media-savvy, the obstruction, harassment, and bullying of journalists is Hezbollah policy. Access is a meager carrot next to all that.

Some of us resist. Many do not. Some, like Chomsky and Finkelstein, don’t even have to. Michael Young is right to draw attention to those with access who will not call Hezbollah liars when they clearly are lying. It doesn’t matter if they do it to get a bite at the carrot or in fear of the stick.

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Noam & Norman

New York magazine has a short piece on what disgraced professor Norman Finkelstein has been up to since he was denied tenure at DePaul University. We learn a lot about Finkelstein in this piece. Too much. For instance:

His days are now spent in solitary scholarly pursuits; his bookshelves buckle under the weight of tomes by Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. Notes of support from his students sit on a piano; there’s a photo of him and Noam Chomsky (“my closest friend”) bare-chested on the beach at Cape Cod.

Sorry to ruin your morning.

New York magazine has a short piece on what disgraced professor Norman Finkelstein has been up to since he was denied tenure at DePaul University. We learn a lot about Finkelstein in this piece. Too much. For instance:

His days are now spent in solitary scholarly pursuits; his bookshelves buckle under the weight of tomes by Marx, Lenin, and Trotsky. Notes of support from his students sit on a piano; there’s a photo of him and Noam Chomsky (“my closest friend”) bare-chested on the beach at Cape Cod.

Sorry to ruin your morning.

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The “No”s Have It

I recently wrote about the Oxford Union‘s upcoming debate on the Middle East, which was scheduled to take place tonight. The motion to be debated stated: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” The motion was to be seconded by the Israeli revisionist historians Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe and by Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian physician with an academic appointment at Exeter University. On the “no” side: the British human rights activist Peter Tatchell, along with former Irish MP Lord David Trimble, who is staunchly pro-Israel. And, bizarrely, the passionately anti-Zionist academic Norman Finkelstein.

How, you may ask, does this qualify as a debate? Five out of the six invited participants are all harsh critics, to one degree or another, of the state of Israel. But Finkelstein really belongs in a class by himself, for the hysterical fervor and vitriol of his anti-Zionism and his obsession with minimizing the moral meaning of the Holocaust. Trimble demanded that Finkelstein be dropped from the panel as a precondition for his participation; when the Union accepted Trimble’s argument, Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi decided to withdraw in protest. Clearly, they felt that without Finkelstein on the other side of the floor, there was now a chance the debate might be fair. The debate is taking place tonight nonetheless, with three Oxford students replacing Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi, and Paul Usiskin of Peace Now UK replacing Finkelstein.

Why Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi thought that running away from worthy opponents like Trimble would help their cause is a mystery, but largely besides the point. It is in the nature of such ideologues to engage only in battles they are absolutely sure of winning. Apparently, Finkelstein’s absence undercut their advantage too greatly: instead of being five-sixths anti-Zionist, the panel would be only two-thirds. I predict that the trio will try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by claiming that Finkelstein was “silenced,” and that their withdrawal was a gesture of solidarity with their “dissident” friend. To which one should reply with the words of Hillel Halkin, appearing yesterday in the New York Sun:

Deservedly, Mr. Finkelstein was recently denied tenure at De Paul because of a Jewish campaign to demonstrate that he lacked all academic integrity. It was a fight worth winning, not because qualified scholars with anti-Israel politics should not be allowed to teach at universities, but because men whose only qualification is their politics do not belong in institutions of higher learning.

Halkin could have written these words about Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi as well.

I recently wrote about the Oxford Union‘s upcoming debate on the Middle East, which was scheduled to take place tonight. The motion to be debated stated: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” The motion was to be seconded by the Israeli revisionist historians Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe and by Ghada Karmi, a Palestinian physician with an academic appointment at Exeter University. On the “no” side: the British human rights activist Peter Tatchell, along with former Irish MP Lord David Trimble, who is staunchly pro-Israel. And, bizarrely, the passionately anti-Zionist academic Norman Finkelstein.

How, you may ask, does this qualify as a debate? Five out of the six invited participants are all harsh critics, to one degree or another, of the state of Israel. But Finkelstein really belongs in a class by himself, for the hysterical fervor and vitriol of his anti-Zionism and his obsession with minimizing the moral meaning of the Holocaust. Trimble demanded that Finkelstein be dropped from the panel as a precondition for his participation; when the Union accepted Trimble’s argument, Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi decided to withdraw in protest. Clearly, they felt that without Finkelstein on the other side of the floor, there was now a chance the debate might be fair. The debate is taking place tonight nonetheless, with three Oxford students replacing Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi, and Paul Usiskin of Peace Now UK replacing Finkelstein.

Why Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi thought that running away from worthy opponents like Trimble would help their cause is a mystery, but largely besides the point. It is in the nature of such ideologues to engage only in battles they are absolutely sure of winning. Apparently, Finkelstein’s absence undercut their advantage too greatly: instead of being five-sixths anti-Zionist, the panel would be only two-thirds. I predict that the trio will try to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by claiming that Finkelstein was “silenced,” and that their withdrawal was a gesture of solidarity with their “dissident” friend. To which one should reply with the words of Hillel Halkin, appearing yesterday in the New York Sun:

Deservedly, Mr. Finkelstein was recently denied tenure at De Paul because of a Jewish campaign to demonstrate that he lacked all academic integrity. It was a fight worth winning, not because qualified scholars with anti-Israel politics should not be allowed to teach at universities, but because men whose only qualification is their politics do not belong in institutions of higher learning.

Halkin could have written these words about Shlaim, Pappe, and Karmi as well.

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Fair Play at Oxford

This month the same Oxford Student Union that, in 1933, famously passed a motion declaring ‘”this House will under no circumstances fight for its King and Country,” is being true to the legacy of its forebears. As British blog Harry’s Place reports, on October 23 the Union, in its annual Middle East debate, will put forth the following motion: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel Palestine Conflict.”

There are no surprises in the Union’s choice of the three speakers seconding the motion. Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, and Ghada Karmi have for many years been anti-Israel agitators whose writings had only a shallow pretense of academic impartiality. If debate is meant to be shrill rather than thoughtful, venomous rather than witty, the Union chose the perfect line-up.

Karmi, a medical doctor moonlighting as an academic, has the dubious record of having voiced some of the same opinions on Israel as those of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before Ahmadinejad emerged from obscurity. In 2004, Karmi wrote that

The truth is that the West, which created Israel, cannot bear to see what it has done. In trying to solve the problem of Jewish persecution in Europe, which culminated in the Holocaust, Western powers helped to establish the Jewish state as a refuge for the Jews and their own consciences.

While Karmi clearly is not a Holocaust denier, she would nevertheless underwrite Ahmadinejad’s suggestion that Israel’s birth was the Western answer to guilt over the Holocaust. She would also support the idea that Israel should be relocated to Europe or Alaska.

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This month the same Oxford Student Union that, in 1933, famously passed a motion declaring ‘”this House will under no circumstances fight for its King and Country,” is being true to the legacy of its forebears. As British blog Harry’s Place reports, on October 23 the Union, in its annual Middle East debate, will put forth the following motion: “This House Believes that One State is the Only Solution to the Israel Palestine Conflict.”

There are no surprises in the Union’s choice of the three speakers seconding the motion. Avi Shlaim, Ilan Pappe, and Ghada Karmi have for many years been anti-Israel agitators whose writings had only a shallow pretense of academic impartiality. If debate is meant to be shrill rather than thoughtful, venomous rather than witty, the Union chose the perfect line-up.

Karmi, a medical doctor moonlighting as an academic, has the dubious record of having voiced some of the same opinions on Israel as those of Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, before Ahmadinejad emerged from obscurity. In 2004, Karmi wrote that

The truth is that the West, which created Israel, cannot bear to see what it has done. In trying to solve the problem of Jewish persecution in Europe, which culminated in the Holocaust, Western powers helped to establish the Jewish state as a refuge for the Jews and their own consciences.

While Karmi clearly is not a Holocaust denier, she would nevertheless underwrite Ahmadinejad’s suggestion that Israel’s birth was the Western answer to guilt over the Holocaust. She would also support the idea that Israel should be relocated to Europe or Alaska.

Shlaim enjoys a celebrity status as an anti-Israel historian, who holds an Israeli passport and briefly lived in Israel during his youth. His take on Israel, as an interview with Haaretz two years ago reveals, is tinged with deep personal resentment. As Meron Rapoport, his interviewer, wrote, “since he was a child, Israel has looked to him like an ‘Ashkenazi trick’ of which he doesn’t feel a part. ‘I’m not certain even now that I know how that trick works.’”

In the past, Shlaim has made some tepid efforts not to burn his own credentials as a serious scholar by occasionally distancing himself from his more radical fellow-travelers of the post-Zionist Left. As late as January 2005, Shlaim defended Zionism before 1967. Still, at an Intelligence 2 debate in London, Shlaim sided with the motion that “Zionism today is the worst enemy of the Jews.” Ilan Pappe, for his part, is consistent in his hatred for the Jewish state—so much so that he has abandoned Haifa University for the more pastoral environs of Exeter University in the U.K., where, with his department colleague Ghada Karmi, he can pursue peacefully what academics of his kind do best: promote the boycott of Israeli universities.

For the three speakers seconding the motion on Israel, the Union got the most extreme voices one could imagine. And for the other side? As the blog Harry’s Place notes,

Surely the Oxford Union, that bastion of fair and open debate, will have chosen some unflinching supporters of Israel to balance this motley collection of bigots and fanatics? Of course not! If one side includes virulent enemies of Israel and supporters of terrorists and anti-Semites, then so must the other.

To be fair, not all three members of the other side are anti-Semites and supporters of terrorists. Sir David Trimble truly is sympathetic to Israel, and has never supported terrorists—in fact, he has spent a great deal of time pleading with his fellow Brits to halt communication with his country’s home-grown brand of thugs. But the selection of the other two speakers indicates that Trimble will be lonely that night. They are Norman Finkelstein (who, clearly, after his early retirement from academia must have time on his hands) and Peter Tatchell, a British gay activist who recently commented that, had the Jerusalem World Pride parade been sponsored by the “Israeli state,” he would have boycotted it. Thankfully, the evil Zionists had no hand in the organization, and so Tatchell felt that, for once, he could approve of something happening in the Jewish state.

This is how the “bastion of fair and open debate” and the “world’s most prestigious debating society” understands fair play. As in 1933, not Britain’s finest hour.

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Mosley and the New Anti-Semitism

The oldest hatred never ceases to astonish us with its ability to rejuvenate itself. Anti-Semitism—nowadays invariably focused on Israel and repackaged as “anti-Zionism”—is once again ubiquitous in western countries. In some quarters, it is even considered respectable. Just as this salon anti-Semitism served the Nazis in the 1930′s by denying the threat to the very existence of the Jewish people in Europe, so today the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in the West serves the Islamists by denying the existential threat to the Jews of Israel.

To see how history is repeating itself, it is useful to compare the tactics used by the new anti-Semites with those of one of the most notorious anti-Semites in the history of the English-speaking world: the pre-war leader of the British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley.

One of the commonest arguments used by the new anti-Semites is that nobody is allowed to criticize or even mention the “Israel lobby”—which amounts to claiming that Jews are above criticism. In their scurrilous polemic “The Israel Lobby,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government respectively, claim that “the Lobby’s campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy.” (Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote about Walt and Mearsheimer in the November 2006 issue of COMMENTARY.)
Besides being wholly untrue—there are few subjects on which debate is livelier than Israel—this argument has a thoroughly disreputable pedigree. Here is Sir Oswald Mosley, even after the Holocaust, making exactly the same complaint: “If you wanted to stop some Jews profiteering, you were accused of wanting to destroy all Jews. If you objected to the way some of them treated their labor, you were accused of seeking to deny all of then the right to live. If you dared to criticise anything that any Jew did, you were accused of seeking to crucify the whole race.”

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The oldest hatred never ceases to astonish us with its ability to rejuvenate itself. Anti-Semitism—nowadays invariably focused on Israel and repackaged as “anti-Zionism”—is once again ubiquitous in western countries. In some quarters, it is even considered respectable. Just as this salon anti-Semitism served the Nazis in the 1930′s by denying the threat to the very existence of the Jewish people in Europe, so today the re-emergence of anti-Semitism in the West serves the Islamists by denying the existential threat to the Jews of Israel.

To see how history is repeating itself, it is useful to compare the tactics used by the new anti-Semites with those of one of the most notorious anti-Semites in the history of the English-speaking world: the pre-war leader of the British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley.

One of the commonest arguments used by the new anti-Semites is that nobody is allowed to criticize or even mention the “Israel lobby”—which amounts to claiming that Jews are above criticism. In their scurrilous polemic “The Israel Lobby,” John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, professors at the University of Chicago and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government respectively, claim that “the Lobby’s campaign to quash debate about Israel is unhealthy for democracy.” (Gabriel Schoenfeld wrote about Walt and Mearsheimer in the November 2006 issue of COMMENTARY.)
Besides being wholly untrue—there are few subjects on which debate is livelier than Israel—this argument has a thoroughly disreputable pedigree. Here is Sir Oswald Mosley, even after the Holocaust, making exactly the same complaint: “If you wanted to stop some Jews profiteering, you were accused of wanting to destroy all Jews. If you objected to the way some of them treated their labor, you were accused of seeking to deny all of then the right to live. If you dared to criticise anything that any Jew did, you were accused of seeking to crucify the whole race.”


The new anti-Semites allege that the “Israel lobby” controls American foreign policy. Having dragged President George W. Bush into Iraq, they claim, it is now trying to manipulate him into attacking Iran. This argument, too, was a staple of Mosley and his blackshirts. In November 1938, immediately after the Kristallnacht progrom in Nazi Germany, Mosley wrote: “Why is it only when Jews are affected that we have any demand for war with the country concerned?” The anti-Semites and the appeasers were then and are now natural allies.

Mearsheimer and Walt claim that the new anti-Semitism is an invention of the Israel lobby. They also deny that anti-Semitism is rising in Europe, suggesting that this too is a myth created by the Israel lobby. (For a concise history of European anti-Semitism, see Paul Johnson’s article in the June 2005 issue.) Yet according to the Community Security Trust, which monitors anti-Semitic incidents in Britain, in 2006 there was a 37 percent increase in violent assaults on Jews and a 46 percent increase in attacks on synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, and other communal property. This is an alarming rate of increase in a single year, and the trend is long-term: the numbers have doubled over a decade and are now at their highest level since records began. In its impact on the daily lives of British Jews, anti-Semitism is now much worse than it was in Mosley’s time. The situation in much of continental Europe is even worse.

This is not yet the case in the United States, but that is no reason to be complacent. Some university campuses have become places where thinly-disguised anti-Semitism is openly propagated. One such is Columbia, which invited Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak last September. The invitation was withdrawn, but the fact that it was issued at all is bizarre. Another is Stanford, where groups calling themselves the “Coalition for Justice in the Middle East” and “Students Confronting Apartheid in Israel” invited Norman Finkelstein to address them last month. Mr. Finkelstein is not in the same league of infamy as the Iranian president, but his book The Holocaust Industry defames those who keep alive the memory of the Holocaust’s six million Jewish victims and has handed a potent slogan to anti-Semites everywhere. Like other self-hating Jews of his ilk, he has embraced the Islamist cause. He is associated with more overt anti-Semites such as David Duke and David Irving. Academic freedom does not have to extend to offering platforms to a Finkelstein or an Ahmadinejad. Europe has let the genie of anti-Semitism out of the bottle; America must not follow suit.

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