Commentary Magazine


Topic: Paul Johnson

A Different Christmas Story

This holiday season, while other stocking stuffers hash out the comparative merits of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and Philip Pullman, why not cut these confections from your diet and go straight for the meat and potatoes (or bangers and mash) of Middle English poetry? I don’t mean the new Beowulf in 3-D—though that poem is in Old English, of course, which is why it looks like somebody dumped a sack of Scrabble tiles on the floor. If O.E. is your poison, Alex Nazaryan has posted some thoughts on the new Beowulf at Armavirumque. It would seem that this poem is unfilmable: Here on the horizon, Peter Suderman wrote that “[c]omparing it to its source material is of little use. It’s been streamlined and modernized, and now bears more resemblance to a computer game than an ancient epic.”

Whether or not you check out Beowulf, have a look at Simon Armitage’s new verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a poem whose hairy green villain gets less attention than Grendel for the simple reason that he rarely appears on high school curricula. Paul Johnson wrote, “No one ever reads Beowulf unless forced to do so (in schools or universities) or paid to do so (as on the BBC). Gawayn and the Green Knight is little more attractive.” I disagree vehemently on both counts. A few days ago, the poet Edward Hirsch explained in the New York Times what makes Gawain so great:

In 1967, Ted Hughes’s third book, “Wodwo”—raw, spooky, elemental—sent me scurrying to find out the meaning of this strange Middle English word. The figure of “wodwo,” which Hughes elsewhere characterized as a sort of “half-man, half-animal spirit of the forests,” seemed to have loomed up out of the unconscious of English poetry. The book’s epigraph came from a ferocious passage in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” and soon I was parsing the somewhat resistant Middle English text and bounding through J. R. R. Tolkien’s faithful translation. I was transfixed. I had stumbled upon the underground alliterative tradition of English poetry. . . .

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the founding narratives of English literature. The storyteller nods to the Aeneid, thus invoking his epic lineage, and then settles down to tell his tale, which begins in the court of King Arthur, “most regal of rulers in the royal line.” It is Christmastime at Camelot, and the chivalrous Knights of the Round Table are carrying on and carousing when suddenly an enormous stranger appears, a hulking interloper, “a most massive man, the mightiest of mortals.” The astonishing stranger is green from head to foot, a kind of emanation from nature. Even his horse is “a steed of pure green stock.”

You can read the poem “Wodwo” here, but I suspect you’ll get more out of Gawain. It’s stranger than just about any Christmas story you’re likely to encounter—after all, it does substitute “You’ll lose your head” for “You’ll shoot your eye out“—and of course it shows us what English literature looked and sounded like it its infancy. As Hirsch writes, the poem “still wields an uncanny power after 600 years. We’re fortunate that ‘our coffers have been crammed/ with stories such as these.'”

This holiday season, while other stocking stuffers hash out the comparative merits of J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, J. K. Rowling, and Philip Pullman, why not cut these confections from your diet and go straight for the meat and potatoes (or bangers and mash) of Middle English poetry? I don’t mean the new Beowulf in 3-D—though that poem is in Old English, of course, which is why it looks like somebody dumped a sack of Scrabble tiles on the floor. If O.E. is your poison, Alex Nazaryan has posted some thoughts on the new Beowulf at Armavirumque. It would seem that this poem is unfilmable: Here on the horizon, Peter Suderman wrote that “[c]omparing it to its source material is of little use. It’s been streamlined and modernized, and now bears more resemblance to a computer game than an ancient epic.”

Whether or not you check out Beowulf, have a look at Simon Armitage’s new verse translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a poem whose hairy green villain gets less attention than Grendel for the simple reason that he rarely appears on high school curricula. Paul Johnson wrote, “No one ever reads Beowulf unless forced to do so (in schools or universities) or paid to do so (as on the BBC). Gawayn and the Green Knight is little more attractive.” I disagree vehemently on both counts. A few days ago, the poet Edward Hirsch explained in the New York Times what makes Gawain so great:

In 1967, Ted Hughes’s third book, “Wodwo”—raw, spooky, elemental—sent me scurrying to find out the meaning of this strange Middle English word. The figure of “wodwo,” which Hughes elsewhere characterized as a sort of “half-man, half-animal spirit of the forests,” seemed to have loomed up out of the unconscious of English poetry. The book’s epigraph came from a ferocious passage in “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,” and soon I was parsing the somewhat resistant Middle English text and bounding through J. R. R. Tolkien’s faithful translation. I was transfixed. I had stumbled upon the underground alliterative tradition of English poetry. . . .

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is one of the founding narratives of English literature. The storyteller nods to the Aeneid, thus invoking his epic lineage, and then settles down to tell his tale, which begins in the court of King Arthur, “most regal of rulers in the royal line.” It is Christmastime at Camelot, and the chivalrous Knights of the Round Table are carrying on and carousing when suddenly an enormous stranger appears, a hulking interloper, “a most massive man, the mightiest of mortals.” The astonishing stranger is green from head to foot, a kind of emanation from nature. Even his horse is “a steed of pure green stock.”

You can read the poem “Wodwo” here, but I suspect you’ll get more out of Gawain. It’s stranger than just about any Christmas story you’re likely to encounter—after all, it does substitute “You’ll lose your head” for “You’ll shoot your eye out“—and of course it shows us what English literature looked and sounded like it its infancy. As Hirsch writes, the poem “still wields an uncanny power after 600 years. We’re fortunate that ‘our coffers have been crammed/ with stories such as these.'”

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Last Night at the Lobster

Stewart O’Nan’s new novel Last Night at the Lobster, which details the last day in the life of a Red Lobster franchise, is near the top of my reading list this month. It isn’t just that the writers’ strike has deprived me of nightmare-job comedy like The Office; Mr. O’Nan’s book sounds more melancholy than comical, truth be told. Nor is it that today’s New York Times profile of Mr. O’Nan (“he still drives a 1995 metallic copper pearl [translation: orange] Mitsubishi Eclipse that rattles on the highway”) reassures us that the book isn’t just a hipster sneer at a soft target:

After lunch, a waiter delivered a brownie sundae to an elderly woman . . . and serenaded her with a surprisingly melodic rendition of “Happy Birthday.” “That gets to the heart of it,” Mr. O’Nan said. “It’s America. This is where folks live. There is nothing ironic or silly about it.”

That certainly helps, but the chief reason I’ll be picking up Last Night is that after Joshua Ferris’s terrific debut of office life, Then We Came to the End, I vowed to read any new fiction that depicts people working at actual jobs. Part of the fun of Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land, for instance, is that it takes the reader through the ins and outs of real estate, a subject that I never expected to find fascinating. By contrast, Dana Vachon’s debut Mergers & Acquisitions shows people at a job, but not working in any discernible sense. The book might as well be set in a country club.

It’s amazing how greatly a writer benefits from a working knowledge of what people spend most of their time doing. In Paul Johnson’s Creators, he notes that Geoffrey Chaucer

was involved professionally with the army and navy, international commerce, the export and import trade, central and local government finance, parliament and the law courts, the Exchequer and Chancery, the agricultural and forestry activities of the crown estates . . . and the workings of internal commerce and industry, especially the building trade.

Apparently Chaucer knew life in all its toiling variety. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to say that, were he our contemporary, he himself might have written The Franchise Manager’s Tale.

Stewart O’Nan’s new novel Last Night at the Lobster, which details the last day in the life of a Red Lobster franchise, is near the top of my reading list this month. It isn’t just that the writers’ strike has deprived me of nightmare-job comedy like The Office; Mr. O’Nan’s book sounds more melancholy than comical, truth be told. Nor is it that today’s New York Times profile of Mr. O’Nan (“he still drives a 1995 metallic copper pearl [translation: orange] Mitsubishi Eclipse that rattles on the highway”) reassures us that the book isn’t just a hipster sneer at a soft target:

After lunch, a waiter delivered a brownie sundae to an elderly woman . . . and serenaded her with a surprisingly melodic rendition of “Happy Birthday.” “That gets to the heart of it,” Mr. O’Nan said. “It’s America. This is where folks live. There is nothing ironic or silly about it.”

That certainly helps, but the chief reason I’ll be picking up Last Night is that after Joshua Ferris’s terrific debut of office life, Then We Came to the End, I vowed to read any new fiction that depicts people working at actual jobs. Part of the fun of Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land, for instance, is that it takes the reader through the ins and outs of real estate, a subject that I never expected to find fascinating. By contrast, Dana Vachon’s debut Mergers & Acquisitions shows people at a job, but not working in any discernible sense. The book might as well be set in a country club.

It’s amazing how greatly a writer benefits from a working knowledge of what people spend most of their time doing. In Paul Johnson’s Creators, he notes that Geoffrey Chaucer

was involved professionally with the army and navy, international commerce, the export and import trade, central and local government finance, parliament and the law courts, the Exchequer and Chancery, the agricultural and forestry activities of the crown estates . . . and the workings of internal commerce and industry, especially the building trade.

Apparently Chaucer knew life in all its toiling variety. It doesn’t seem like a stretch to say that, were he our contemporary, he himself might have written The Franchise Manager’s Tale.

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Will the Real Sarkozy Please Stand Up

In his victory speech on election night this past May, Nicolas Sarkozy declared that under his reign, “the pride and the duty of France” will be on the side of “all those who are persecuted by tyranny and dictatorship.” Sarkozy appealed to “all those in the world who believe in the values of tolerance and democracy” to join him. Specifically, Sarkozy pledged, “France will be on the side of the locked-up nurses in Libya.” Whereas his predecessor Jacques Chirac acted out of delusions of grandeur, Sarkozy’s goal is to restore identity to a nation imbued with failure and doubt.

This week Sarkozy produced a “success,” bringing home the nurses. But aiding the persecuted should not entail paying off their persecutors. Sarkozy’s pledge became farce when Madame Sarkozy, followed by le président de la République himself, sat in Colonel Qaddafi’s tent, after which the Madame said that she and the Libyan dictator had built “a real relationship of trust.”

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In his victory speech on election night this past May, Nicolas Sarkozy declared that under his reign, “the pride and the duty of France” will be on the side of “all those who are persecuted by tyranny and dictatorship.” Sarkozy appealed to “all those in the world who believe in the values of tolerance and democracy” to join him. Specifically, Sarkozy pledged, “France will be on the side of the locked-up nurses in Libya.” Whereas his predecessor Jacques Chirac acted out of delusions of grandeur, Sarkozy’s goal is to restore identity to a nation imbued with failure and doubt.

This week Sarkozy produced a “success,” bringing home the nurses. But aiding the persecuted should not entail paying off their persecutors. Sarkozy’s pledge became farce when Madame Sarkozy, followed by le président de la République himself, sat in Colonel Qaddafi’s tent, after which the Madame said that she and the Libyan dictator had built “a real relationship of trust.”

But it was more than “trust” that convinced the Libyan to free his hostages. Qaddafi’s blackmail went something like this: in exchange for freeing the nurses, European countries would forgive $400 million of Libya’s foreign debt and allow Libya (Libya!) to host the next UN conference on racism. The parties also agreed to deepen Franco-Libyan relations to include a possible military-industrial partnership and, not least, contracts for French oil companies. (Compare this haggle to Natan Sharansky’s defiant crossing of the Glienicke Bridge into West Berlin.)

The cost, when viewed in the proper context, is very high: others (North Korea, but especially Iran) are surely watching. Even the impression of relenting to blackmail and terrorism is self-defeating. To be sure, this is a very bizarre affair with a long and twisted history, and Qaddafi, though truly a crackpot, did surrender his weapons of mass destruction to the United States. But even a little goodwill in the face of brutality can be perilous.

Sarkozy remains a mystery. He showed independence when he called Hizballah a “terrorist” organization, which of course it is, even though it is not classified as such by the European Union. And whereas Chirac blocked action on Darfur, Sarkozy is eager to stop genocide—in cooperation with the United States. Still, this week’s events suggest that Sarkozy is shirking his generation’s tasks: curbing nuclear proliferation abroad and, at home, overcoming the entrenched enarchs and ending their long collaboration with Islamism and terrorism.

Far from shaking up French foreign policy, Sarkozy’s actions this week were eerily reminiscent of Monsieur Chirac’s: Sarkozy cheered on Arab nuclear power while seeking conciliation and contracts from Arab regimes. (When asked to describe Chirac, the great British historian Paul Johnson responded: “Why are the French so notorious for shiftiness? Because there are plenty of Chiracs there.”) Yes, the world looks different from the Elysée than it did from the victory stage, but, by collaborating with tyrants and dictators, Sarkozy further degrades “the pride and the duty of France.”

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Weekend Reading

“The news from Israel is of headache and annoyance, trouble and difficulty.” These words—written by Milton Himmelfarb in COMMENTARY just months after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War—have proved to be of timeless relevance. And never more relevant than today, on the fortieth anniversary of that war, when numerous observers have concluded that Israel’s smashing victory in that hair’s-breadth conflict led to nothing but decades of even worse “headache and annoyance, trouble and difficulty.”

But Himmefarb himself did not stop there. “The news from Israel is of headache and annoyance, trouble and difficulty,” he wrote, and then continued: “We have almost forgotten the joy of unbelievable victory.”

COMMENTARY devoted most of its August 1967 issue to the war. In his “Letter from the Sinai Front,” Amos Elon narrated the Israeli experience from the closest of perspectives. Widening the lens to the utmost, Theodore Draper explored the “peculiar combination of internal and external forces” in world politics that led to the war, while Walter Laqueur examined Israel’s radically changed place among the nations in its aftermath. As for the war’s impact on American Jews, Arthur Hertzberg argued that it had caused an “abrupt, radical, and possibly permanent change.”

And speaking of timelessly relevant words: only months later, Martin Peretz would be writing in COMMENTARY about the momentous turn of the American Left against the Jewish state. Thirty years later, on the occasion of a half-century of Jewish sovereignty, the great British historian Paul Johnson confidently predicted that Israel itself, the “product of more than 4,000 years of Jewish history,” fully deserved to be known forever, and to be celebrated forever, as a “Miracle.”

In that Johnsonian spirit, we offer all of these articles for your weekend’s reading.

“The news from Israel is of headache and annoyance, trouble and difficulty.” These words—written by Milton Himmelfarb in COMMENTARY just months after Israel’s victory in the 1967 Six-Day War—have proved to be of timeless relevance. And never more relevant than today, on the fortieth anniversary of that war, when numerous observers have concluded that Israel’s smashing victory in that hair’s-breadth conflict led to nothing but decades of even worse “headache and annoyance, trouble and difficulty.”

But Himmefarb himself did not stop there. “The news from Israel is of headache and annoyance, trouble and difficulty,” he wrote, and then continued: “We have almost forgotten the joy of unbelievable victory.”

COMMENTARY devoted most of its August 1967 issue to the war. In his “Letter from the Sinai Front,” Amos Elon narrated the Israeli experience from the closest of perspectives. Widening the lens to the utmost, Theodore Draper explored the “peculiar combination of internal and external forces” in world politics that led to the war, while Walter Laqueur examined Israel’s radically changed place among the nations in its aftermath. As for the war’s impact on American Jews, Arthur Hertzberg argued that it had caused an “abrupt, radical, and possibly permanent change.”

And speaking of timelessly relevant words: only months later, Martin Peretz would be writing in COMMENTARY about the momentous turn of the American Left against the Jewish state. Thirty years later, on the occasion of a half-century of Jewish sovereignty, the great British historian Paul Johnson confidently predicted that Israel itself, the “product of more than 4,000 years of Jewish history,” fully deserved to be known forever, and to be celebrated forever, as a “Miracle.”

In that Johnsonian spirit, we offer all of these articles for your weekend’s reading.

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Suzanne Garment’s Scandal

Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post on the Libby verdict below makes a good occasion to offer our readers veteran COMMENTARY contributor Paul Johnson’s review of Suzanne Garment’s Scandal—a penetrating book on issues not identical with but germane to those brought up by the Libby trial. Johnson’s review finds indisputable Garment’s contention that

Democratic Congresses, by devising special acts and procedures for the prosecution of public officials, in conjunction with “investigative journalists” of the media, overwhelmingly Democratic or even radical, have between them developed a culture of mistrust toward those in power which has made good government—that is to say, courageous government, willing to take calculated risks and make unpopular decisions—far more difficult.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Gabriel Schoenfeld’s post on the Libby verdict below makes a good occasion to offer our readers veteran COMMENTARY contributor Paul Johnson’s review of Suzanne Garment’s Scandal—a penetrating book on issues not identical with but germane to those brought up by the Libby trial. Johnson’s review finds indisputable Garment’s contention that

Democratic Congresses, by devising special acts and procedures for the prosecution of public officials, in conjunction with “investigative journalists” of the media, overwhelmingly Democratic or even radical, have between them developed a culture of mistrust toward those in power which has made good government—that is to say, courageous government, willing to take calculated risks and make unpopular decisions—far more difficult.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

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Bush the Bookworm

No myth about George W. Bush has been cultivated more sedulously by his enemies than the idea that he has never read anything—that he is too ignorant to be the leader of the West. Of course, the same myth was created about Reagan, but the Teflon president had the natural ebullience to remain indifferent and undamaged in public esteem. Bush is more vulnerable.

Yet the accusation is even less warranted in his case than it was in Reagan’s. Last Wednesday the British historian Andrew Roberts was a lunch guest at the White House. The President had already read Roberts’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900—a chunky volume of over 700 pages—over Christmas, months before it was published in the United States. (It had appeared in Britain last fall.) His first instinct was to arrange to meet the author, a long-standing habit of his.

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No myth about George W. Bush has been cultivated more sedulously by his enemies than the idea that he has never read anything—that he is too ignorant to be the leader of the West. Of course, the same myth was created about Reagan, but the Teflon president had the natural ebullience to remain indifferent and undamaged in public esteem. Bush is more vulnerable.

Yet the accusation is even less warranted in his case than it was in Reagan’s. Last Wednesday the British historian Andrew Roberts was a lunch guest at the White House. The President had already read Roberts’s History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900—a chunky volume of over 700 pages—over Christmas, months before it was published in the United States. (It had appeared in Britain last fall.) His first instinct was to arrange to meet the author, a long-standing habit of his.

According to Roberts, he and his wife Susan “spent 45 minutes alone with the President in the Oval Office” before they were joined at lunch by Vice President Cheney and other senior officials. Then Mr. Bush proudly showed his guests the desk at which Churchill and Roosevelt were sitting when the latter broke the news of the British defeat at Tobruk—the opening scene of Roberts’s next book. In other words, the President had not only read the current book but had taken the trouble to inform himself about Roberts’s next one, too.

So how does this distinguished historian think President Bush compares to his predecessors? “He’s an amazingly well-read man, contrary to the way he’s portrayed in the media,” Roberts told the Daily Telegraph.

This chimes with the experience of my father, Paul Johnson, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Mr. Bush last December. In his eulogy, the President listed a few of my father’s many books and added, with typically self-deprecating irony, “I’ve read them all, of course.” The audience laughed, but it emerged in conversation that he actually had read some of them. Like Reagan, whose reading—including Modern Times, my father’s history of the world since 1917—encouraged him to persevere in his mission to win the cold war, George W. Bush has been strengthened by books in his determination not to give up in the war on terror.

Is it only the natural modesty of this President that leads him to wear his erudition so lightly that a cynical intelligentsia assumes that he has never opened a book? Or is it native cunning? Far better to be “misunderestimated” by your enemies than to flaunt your academic prowess and then—like the former president of France, Valery Giscard d’Estaing—find your admission to the Académie Française publicly ridiculed. The only possible motive for President Bush to read big books by historians like Andrew Roberts and Paul Johnson is that he thinks history has important lessons to teach him. Whether he draws the correct conclusions from what he reads is another matter—but he can be sure that future historians of the early 21st century will at least judge him without the insufferable condescension of his contemporaries.

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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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