May 10, 2004
Alexander Cockburn & Jeffrey St. Clair (editors), The Politics of Anti-Semitism, CounterPunch and AK Press, 2003; ISBN: 1-90259-377-7. 178 pages, $12.95.
Read Part I of this Book Review.
In the wake of the second conference on anti-Semitism, held in Berlin on April 28/29, 2004 by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Abraham Foxman, the director of the always vigilant Anti-Defamation League (ADL), declared that, in light of a survey released by the ADL, anti-Semitism had decreased in most of Europe over the past two years. "The good news is that regardless of the methodology we use, there is a decrease in anti-Semitic attitudes in eight out of the 10 countries surveyed," Mr. Foxman said. "The bad news is it seems to be open season on Israel and the level of criticism is almost beyond reason." (1) But, the Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress, Israel Singer, said in an interview with the German ZDF TV: "Anybody in a democracy can raise criticism -- this is not anti-Semitism." (2) For his part, speaking on behalf of the European Union, Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen cautioned, "We cannot and should not expect reasonable criticism and fair comment about specific Israeli government policies to fall silent." (3) And US Secretary of State Colin Powell told the conference that "[I]t is not anti-Semitic to criticize the policies of the state of Israel." (4)
Of course, "reasonable criticism and fair comment" can be debated at length, but the zest of these "official" comments validate -- and vindicate -- the essayists reviewed in Part I of The Politics of Anti-Semitism, the worthy collection edited by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair. For most folks, to criticize Israel is neither an expression of anti-Israelism, anti-Semitism, or anti-whatever. It's about being aghast by the violent policies of the respective governments of the state of Israel, since its very inception in 1948, against the Palestinians. Anyone who has spent time in the post-1967 Occupied Territories (as this writer did) would concur. Racism, blatant, ugly discrimination, prejudice, injustice, intolerance, violence, destruction, land and resources grabs -- you name it -- will testify to these policies. It has little to do with Judaism per se. It has all to do with people. More and more Jews, Christians, Muslims, Atheists, Buddhists, Pagans, Agnostics, etc. all over the world, are appalled by Israel's policies done under the cover of accusations of anti-Semitism galore, age-old pogroms, and, oh combien, the Holocaust -- anything to fulfill the "Covenant," as each and every Israeli prime minister has claimed, from David Ben Gurion to Ariel Sharon; that is Eretz Israel. (5)
Again, in the words of Israel Singer, "Anybody in a democracy can raise criticism -- this is not anti-Semitism." Singer or Powell should have added that Jewish criticism of the policies of the state of Israel does not denote self-hating Judaism either (how can one hate oneself, anyway?) -- the same way that it is not anti-American to oppose the policies of the US government, the Iraq invasion and occupation, and the like (is Senator Robert Byrd anti-American?). This is amply, clearly, and powerfully demonstrated in The Politics of Anti-Semitism.
Less convincing, however, are the essays covering the reasons behind the apparent symbiosis of US and Israeli policies, put forward by Alexander Cockburn, Jeffrey Blankfort (former editor of Middle East Labor Bulletin), George Suderland (a pen name for a senior congressional staffer), Kathleen and Bill Christison (both retired CIA officers and authors), and to a lesser degree, Jeffrey St. Clair in his excellent summary of Israel's attack on the USS Liberty in 1967. To summarize their views -- not an easy task, even after reading those essays repeatedly -- it looks like American politics is dominated by powerful Jewish interests, the Jewish Lobby or Israel Lobby (AIPAC), the media, Hollywood, rich Jews, and powerful ideologues with dual loyalties that control the executive and legislative branches of the US government. "Jewish money" buys elections; US representatives and senators are "quislings" (p. 126); that is, expressing a "sheer groveling subservience to a foreign power" (p. 119), in Suderland's words. Congress is "Israeli-occupied territory" (p. 128). And on it goes till the reader is left with the distinct impression that, by golly, the nefarious "Jews" are at it again, or at least some of them, in the media, in commerce and industry, in entertainment, and in the corridors of power. Jeez, are those "Jews" powerful or what? It is the kind of rhetoric one would expect to find on Antiwar.com, or Rense.com, or originating with the Buchanan brigades. That's disturbing and from this writer's opinion, reprehensible, or at the least, and to give the benefit of the doubt to these authors, ill-considered rhetoric.
Typical perception situation: One of the most difficult, if not impossible, tasks in the realm of political or social sciences, which are anything but scientific, is to logically demonstrate a point. French author Alphonse Allais once said that "logic gets you everywhere so long as you get out of it;" and to paraphrase Eugène Ionesco, if you take a circle and caress it, it'll become a vicious...circle... Begin with a reality -- Israel and the USA are close allies; carry on with a question -- Are the interests of Israel and those of the USA congruent? Answer the question in the negative (or the positive, or anywhere in between). Follow with another one -- Why the apparent symbiosis? And end with -- who controls whom? You now have a set of premises and can begin to build your case with much rationalization (the legendary "but it's the Truth").
Due to the magnitude of, and the raw emotions surrounding the issue, arguments and counter-arguments will quickly degenerate into personal attacks, an endearing genre of the adversarial nature of the American psyche. So it goes... It can be quite entertaining for a short while.
The main media are controlled by the "Jews."
Of course not, assures Cockburn:
Obviously, Jews don't "control" the media. All the same, Jewish families are proprietors of some of the most powerful newspapers in the country. Is it likely that this has no bearing on their coverage of the Middle East? So, it's reasonable to point out that Jewish families control the New York Times and the Washington Post and to put up for discussion whether this affects the editorial stance of both newspapers. But it's also true that the most rabid of all papers in its Israel-right-or-wrong stance is the Wall Street Journal, which is not Jewish owned and whose most influential editor was Robert Bartley, a mid-western Christian. (p. 33)What to make of this statement? The WSJ is not Jewish owned but is rabidly pro-Israel. The NYT and the WP, on the other hand, are Jewish owned and pro-Israel (rabidly?). Why then put up for discussion the editorial stance of the latter but not that of the former? Because the latter is Jewish owned (though publicly traded)? Then, what about the Murdoch media empire? Should not the Fox News editorial stance be put up for discussion too? And what about the editorial stance of The Weekly Standard, a neo-con magazine fully owned by the same Murdoch at substantial costs (the magazine is a money pits)? Don't they all have a pro-Israel editorial stance?
Could it be then that the main media reflects and disseminates the policies and the ideology of the USA and its elites, whatever the ownership may be?
Now, one can always single out Jewish-owned media, even out of good intention or curiosity: do a Google search on 'media control, jews'. Is this the company one wants to keep?
"Jews" and the Israel Lobby buy elections.
One can find plenty of food for this allegation, from Paul Findley to Adlai Stevenson, and more recently from George W.H. Bush (Bush 41) to Earl Hilliard and Cynthia McKinney. That AIPAC, the fearsome American Israel Public Affairs Committee (with its 65,000 members), and "Jewish money," can make or break a political career is a perennial charge, argued with passion, by people of all ideological backgrounds, left and right.
According to Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey Blankfort, Cynthia McKinney's re-election bid was thwarted by the power of the Jewish lobby as she lost the Georgian primaries to a lesser-known candidate. Undoubtedly, AIPAC, a pro-Israel "bi-partisan" organization attending both democrats and republicans, went after McKinney once she had made what was considered anti-Israel remarks. But, so did republicans. As Joel Beinin, a contributing editor of Middle East Report and a professor of Middle East history at Stanford University, explained in a must-read article (6), "McKinney was defeated in part because the open primary allowed Republicans angered over her comments about the September 11 attacks to cross over and vote against her in the Democratic primary." Adds Beinin, "Nonetheless, [Hilliard and McKinney] defeat enhanced the impression that the pro-Israel lobby wields great power in electoral politics."
Jeffrey Blankfort makes the case that Bush 41 lost his re-election in 1992 because of AIPAC's response to his decision to forego loan guarantees to Israel so long as the Israeli government did not freeze the settlements in the Occupied Territories.
... Jewish lobbyists descended on Washington in such numbers that Bush felt obliged to call a televised press conference in which he complained that "1,000 Jewish lobbyists are on Capitol Hill against little old me." It would prove to be its epitaph.Why did Mr. Bush feel obliged to call a press conference and make this remark if the lobby was so powerful? Never mind... So, AIPAC and the Jewish voters were one possible cause of Mr. Bush's demise, but was it the primary one? What about the economy ("it's the economy, stupid")? When is the last time a US president has been re-elected in the midst of a recession? Any idea? Did the "Jewish vote," which would presume a monolithic voting block, abandon Mr. Bush only because of his perceived anti-Israel policies? And what about the Ross Perot phenomenon? Was it not a significant factor in Mr. Bush's defeat at the polls? Only AIPAC, the Israeli government and the "Jewish money" defeated Bush 41? Hello?
This is not to underestimate the relative power of the Jewish lobby. AIPAC has a series of testimonials on its Web site, which indicate the strength of its relations with elected officials and policy makers. But its influence should not be overestimated either. There are other influential lobbies in the U.S. (oil and chemical industry, pharmaceutical industry, trial lawyers, financial institutions, etc.). For all, the nature of the relationship is closely subordinated to the interests of the decision makers who represent and are part of the ruling class. Lobbyists, Jewish or not, do not rule. Still, those who want to believe in the might of Israel and the Israel lobby can always find solace in Ariel Sharon's chutzpah: "Don't worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it." (7)
(Note to Mr. Sunderland: AIPAC is exempt from the Foreign Agents' Registration Act, not because of "another mysterious 'Israel exception,'" (p. 122) but because its funding originates in the U.S., not in Israel.)
The wealthy "Jews"
Jeffrey Blankfort posits that the economic power of Jewish Americans is at an all time high. He writes:
This is hardly the first time that Jews have been in the upper echelons of power, as Benjamin Ginsberg points out in The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State, but there has never been a situation anything like the present. This is how Ginsberg began his book:Blankfort would be well advised to go read a few history books, or at the least, Scott Handleman's essay, "Trivializing Jew-Hatred," and to take a course in, or brush up his, deductive reasoning.
According to Handleman:
"Around 1100, as commerce became lucrative and therefore respectable, Christians forced Jews out of trade, so Jews turned to the emerging field of finance, barred to the Christians by the Bible's prohibition on usury. Over the next few hundred years, Jews became bankers and financiers to the rulers of Europe. By the mid-nineteenth century, for example, Jews, who were 1 percent of Germany's population generated one-fifth of German economic activity. And a Nazi document cited by Perry and Schweitzer reports that out of 147 members of the stock, produce and metal exchanges in 1933, 116 were Jews." (p. 15)No conspiracy, indeed. There is a long banking tradition within some Jewish families (there are also family traditions in firefighting and police departments, etc.), for perfectly understandable historical reasons, which in turn explain the relatively high number of wealthy Jewish bankers in proportion to the Jewish American population. (Has anyone ever wondered why there were a relatively high number of wealthy Franco-Americans in the vineyards of Northern California in proportion to the Franco-American population?) Furthermore, bankers, Jewish or not, tend to be in the banking business to make money. That they would not, in the heart of capitalism, would defy the imagination, would it not? And should one ask whether it makes a difference if a rich banker is Jewish or Catholic or Protestant, or, or, or? The inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness, the quintessential American Dream, belongs to all, no? Or is the fact that one is Jewish and wealthy denotes some kind of innate, genetic predisposition to support the policies of the state of Israel? It's possible -- though highly improbable -- but, at the least this reader would have appreciated seeing the data justifying or proving the case...
Also, to be precise, not all Jewish people are bankers, or entertainers, academics, lawyers, physicians, scientists, etc. Handleman again: "On the other hand, even as Jews swelled the ranks of the rich and middle classes, a majority of European Jews remained poor, particularly in Eastern Europe. Even in Vienna, two-thirds of Jews were destitute in 1880." (p. 16) There are many lower middle class Jewish Americans, quite a few middle class and upper middle class and a few very wealthy ones. One is tempted to ask, so what?
Moreover, Jewish immigrants to the United States, particularly those from Eastern Europe, like the Irish and other minorities before them, didn't not have an easy sailing in the late 19th and the first half of the 20th centuries, and were not accepted by the WASP Establishment (remember Mr. Ford and the Bush family, to cite just two examples?). Like other minorities it took a couple of generations for Jewish Americans to begin climbing the social ladder, and this clearly explains why there are many more American Jews in influential positions now. Incidentally, the creation of Hollywood can largely be traced back to the East Coast Establishment shunning of Jewish immigrants (Mayer, Goldwin, Zucker, Cohn, Zelznick)... End of short history lesson.
It's a bit harder to follow Mr. Blankfort's syllogistic reasoning in regard to the "media tycoons" and news coverage. What does he mean? Let's see:
Major: There are Jewish media tycoons.
Minor: The US news coverage is much more biased in favor of Israel than European news coverage.
Conclusion: [Therefore,] the Jewish media tycoons are pro-Israel zealots
Or is it:
Major: The US news coverage is much more biased in favor of Israel than European news coverage.
Minor: There are Jewish tycoons owned major US newspapers.
Conclusion: The "Jews" are rabidly pro-Israel
Again, the main media reflects and disseminates the policies and the ideology of the USA and its elites, whichever the religious persuasion of its ownership.
Logic gets you anywhere so long as you get out of it...
Here are two more examples of syllogisms of the first degree and their incurable fallacies:
Major: Some Jews survived the German death camps.
Minor: This writer's father survived a German death camp.
Conclusion: This writer is Jewish.
(Don't laugh: Truth be told, quite a few Americans have made this leap in logic, as many believe that only Jewish people were sent to death camps!)
A subsequent deduction of the previous conclusion is that since this writer is deemed Jewish, then he has to be pro-Israel (rabidly or not). Why? Because, reading these respective essays one could easily conclude that all "Jews" are pro-Israel -- the famous "passionate attachment."
With conspiracy buffs in mind, let's present this last example:
Major: Shaul Nehemiah Eisenberg, one of the wealthiest and most powerful Zionist Israelis, came from Galicia.
Minor: The original founders of Hollywood also came from Galicia.
Conclusion: The Hollywood's founders were Zionists.
Alternative 1: All Galicia's Jews are Zionists.
Alternative 2: Eisenberg founded Hollywood.
Alternative 3: Eisenberg and the Hollywood founders are/were rich people.
Alternative 5: Jewish immigrants from Galicia are wealthy.
Alternative 6: Isn't intellectual masturbation fun?
The problem with wanting to make a point at any cost is that it is possible to make a point at any cost. Someone once asserted in a private conversation that the "Jews" controlled Hollywood. As this listener retorted that Hollywood was more likely to be controlled by banks he was immediately confronted with a textbook answer: "But the 'Jews' control the banks, don't you see?" Err, where's Ionesco again? Take a circle, caress it and...
Not that Jeffrey Blankfort has ever caressed a circle or did it in his essay, but he may want to review his work in light of the writings of Michael Neumann, Scott Handleman, and Bruce Jackson (see Part I). His article is otherwise worth reading if only for his criticism of Noam Chomsky and Stephen Zunes. Chomsky and Zunes have long considered Israel as a US asset in the Middle East, a "US aircraft carrier," the 51st state of the Union. Mr. Blankfort belongs to the 1st state's school of thought. His criticism by itself would deserve special attention.
For someone who's been accused of dual loyalties more than once in the past two decades, the essays by the Christisons and George Suderland were a tough sell. Accusing members of Congress of subservience to the state of Israel and comparing them to the Vichy regime show unbecoming shortsightedness and little knowledge of French history on Mr. Suderland's part. It also, in an insidious way, scapegoats the bad "Jews" from Israel who allegedly control and manipulate with the assistance of Jewish Americans all those poor Gentiles in the United States for imperial and class decisions that are made squarely in America. Repeating in a jackhammer fashion, like Kathleen and Bill Christison do, that a cabal of high ranking Jewish American "begats," "a bevy of aggressive right-wing neo-cons hawks," somehow have managed to highjack the reins of power in Washington D.C., leading Messrs. Bush, Cheney, Rumfeld, etc. -- goyim puppets -- to do their pro-Israel bidding, against the "true" interests of the United States, and singling them out as American traitors is most offensive to this reviewer. These polemical tirades may play well in some quarters but they are reducing the complexity of the US-Israel strategic and ideological relationship to their lowest common denominator. One example will suffice: The Christisons assert that in 1991 Dick Cheney was against regime change in Iraq but reversed course in 2001, which he certainly did. Cheney's change of mind, according to them, is due to the greater influence of Israel and the influence of the neo-cons, because in their view these are the only differences between 1991 and 2001 -- "[T]he only new ingredient in the mix that induced Cheney to begin the march to world domination . . . . is the presence of . . . . neo-con hawks who have long backed the Jewish fundamentalists of Israel's own right wing..." (p. 141) The only new ingredient? Allow a wry comment here: If this kind of analysis is representative of CIA-trained experts, no wonder the war in Iraq has turned so quickly into such a quagmire!
These two essays do a great disservice to the collection. One cannot oppose zealots and bigots who throw accusations of anti-Semitism or anti-Americanism the moment one criticizes the policies of the state of Israel or those of the United States, then turn around and demonize those who defend the respective policies, and not expect to hear "the shrieks of anti-Semitism."
This less convincing part (three or four essays out of 18) of The Politics of Anti-Semitism should not deter the buyer to read the book. Remember, as said in the introduction, "[T]o broach this explosive issue or be brought into it invites passionate reactions, raw controversies, emotional debates, and scorching denunciations. Whatever approach is taken to address the matter makes no difference. One always ends up on the defensive, having to stave off one accusation or the other." The debate then is worth pursuing with a calm and rational voice.
Alexander Cockburn & Jeffrey St. Clair (editors), The Politics of Anti-Semitism, CounterPunch and AK Press, 2003; ISBN: 1-90259-377-7. 178 pages, $12.95.
· · · · · ·
Notes and Resources
1. Bertrand Benoit, "Anti-Semitism falls in Europe but hostility to Israel grows," The Financial Times, April 27 2004 - http://news.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1079420630825 (as of May 1, 2004). (back)
2. "Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism, says Jewish leader," Expatica, 27 April 2004 - http://www.expatica.com/source/site_article.asp?subchannel_id=52&story_id=6977 (as of May 1, 2004). (back)
3. Alexander G. Higgins, "Conference Looks to Fight Anti-Semitism," The Guardian, April 28, 2004 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/worldlatest/story/0,1280,-4031558,00.html (as of May 1, 2004). (back)
4. Philip Blenkinsop, "Criticizing Israel Not Always Anti-Semitic," Reuters, April 28, 2004 - http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=worldNews&storyID=4975642§ion=news (as of May 1, 2004). (back)
5. "The past leaders of our movement left us a clear message to keep Eretz Israel from the Sea to the River Jordan for future generations, for the mass aliya, and for the Jewish people, all of whom will be gathered into this country."
-- Former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir declares at a Tel Aviv memorial service for former Likud leaders, November 1990. Jerusalem Domestic Radio Service.
Source: http://monabaker.com/quotes.htm (as of May 1, 2004). (back)
6. Joel Beinin, "Pro-Israel Hawks and the Second Gulf War," Middle East Report, April 6, 2003 - http://www.merip.org/mero/mero040603.html (as of May 1, 2004). (back)
7. "Every time we do something you tell me America will do this and will do that . . . I want to tell you something very clear: Don't worry about American pressure on Israel. We, the Jewish people, control America, and the Americans know it."
-- Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, October 3, 2001, to Shimon Peres, as reported on Kol Yisrael radio.
Source: http://monabaker.com/quotes.htm (as of May 1, 2004).
(Auhor's note: This quote originated with the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and is most probably false -- a hoax or fabrication. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, CAMERA, took to task Georgie Anne Geyer who used that quote in her May 10, 2002 syndicated column, "Now Isn't the Time for Bush League Moves," published in The Chicago Tribune and The San Diego Union Tribune. In that column Geyer also alleged that there were pro-Israeli ads broadcast on US television saying that "Arabs are all dogs..." See "Syndicated Columnist Georgie Anne Geyer Uses Fabricated Sharon Quote," by Tamar Sternthal, CAMERA, May 20, 2002 (http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=6&x_article=34).
While CAMERA's charge has never been rebutted anywhere chances are there certainly will be ample people who will keep believing that Sharon did say it. After all, look at the shelf life of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion...") (back)
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