On Goldberg’s review of Carter in Washington Post

This short piece exposes an interesting phenomenon at the Washington Post: citizen-soldier-book reviewers. Received via e-mail from our correspondent Brian Hennessey, Dec. 11:

To review Jimmy Carter’s book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, the Washington Post [Dec. 10] chose a Jewish Israeli citizen who willingly moved from his American birthplace to volunteer to become a soldier in Israel, working as a prison guard at one of Israel’s worst prisons, where International and Israeli human rights organizations have documented a lack of process, inhumane conditions and torture for the hundreds of Palestinians (many women and children) who are held there indefinitely and without charge.

It’s possible to learn these facts about Jeffrey Goldberg (which should appear as a boxed editorial warning of conflict of interest) by reading a previous review of his prison memoir, Prisoners, that was positively reviewed in the Post by Haim Watzman, who is also a Jewish Israeli citizen who willingly moved from his American birthplace to volunteer to become a soldier in Israel. In turn, Watzman’s story is divulged in a Post review of his memoir Lonely Soldier: The Memoir of an American in the Israeli Army that was positively reviewed by Michael Oren in the Post. Need it be said that Oren, too, is a Jewish Israeli citizen who willingly moved from his American birthplace to volunteer to become a soldier in Israel? (It’s probably worth mentioning that serving in the armed forces of a foreign government is grounds for loss of US citizenship . . . unless it’s Israel’s.)

All this is relevant because, while Goldberg’s negative review, “What Would Jimmy Do?” Dec 10, attempts (and largely fails) to ridicule Carter’s constructive criticism of Israel, Goldberg lets stand one of Carter’s most controversial statements: “because of powerful political, economic, and religious forces in the United States, Israeli government decisions are rarely questioned or condemned, voices from Jerusalem dominate in our media, and most American citizens are unaware of circumstances in the occupied territories.”

One can see why Goldberg would perhaps let that pass without comment as it seems his review could only endorse Carter’s claim.

Just to use Carter’s Apartheid analogy, is it imaginable that a cabal of self-reviewing white Afrikaner government soldiers would be used to review books about South Africa’s brutal suppression of blacks in the 80s?

See our last post about Carter, and on Israel/Palestine.

  1. Right, and if Goldberg had
    Right, and if Goldberg had reached conclusions more to Hennessey’s liking, his IDF service would be cited as a positive credential. Goldberg has been entirely, copiously public about his time as a soldier and he’s done hard-hitting reporting on the settler movement, but to Hennessey he’s the equivalent of an “Afrikaner government soldier”? Part of a “cabal,” no less? Is Hennessey unaware of what the term “cabal” connotes?

    1. possibly,
      but he didn’t write a positive review; he wrote a very critical review, and that means it’s worth considering Goldberg’s past enforcing the occupation. He did hard-hitting reportage on the settlers, but here in WPost he tries to justify the separation barrier. Hennesey then notes WPost has thrice used Israeli soldiers to review books about Israel — this is not a trend worth noting? Why no Palestinians, for instance, or unaffiliated mideast experts? Why, for instance, did the New York Times quote only Ken Stein, Alan Dershowitz and David Makovsky of WINEP as “academic experts” on Carter’s book when Dershowitz is well-known for his partisanship and Makovsky is the Israel lobby’s point man on justifying the wall to the US public, including misrepresenting the wall to the US Congress? Why does the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Newsday all ignore evidence of Makovsky’s misrepresentation and refuse to comment on it, and still quote him as the no. 1 expert on the Wall? What does it mean when Wolf Blitzer, who worked as a propagandist for AIPAC and then the Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry, interviews Dennis Ross, who works for WINEP, AIPAC’s “educational arm,” about Carter’s claims about the closeness of the Israel lobby to the media?

      As for cabal, he could have chosen a better word.

    2. cabal
      “Cabal” is Hebrew!
      The history of cabal reveals how a word can be transferred from one sphere of activity to another while retaining only a tenuous connection with its past. Ultimately from Hebrew but transmitted to English probably by way of Medieval Latin and French, cabal is first recorded in English in 1616 in the sense “cabala.” Cabala was the name for the Hebrew oral tradition transmitted by Moses and also the name for a Jewish religious philosophy based on an esoteric interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. The notion “esoteric” is central to the development of this word in English, for cabal, probably following the sense development in French, came to mean “a tradition, special interpretation, or secret,” “a private intrigue” (first recorded in 1646-1647), and “a small body of intriguers” (first recorded in 1660). It is probably not coincidental that cabal is found with these latter meanings during the mid-17th century, that time of plots and counterplots by Royalists and Parliamentarians. The word gained a false etymology when it was noticed that the five most influential ministers of Charles II were named Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale.

      1. cabal
        Nice — I make a legitimate objection to the term “cabal” as used to describe American Jewish journalists, and I get back this flippant response.

        So I’ll go on: Hennessey uses the phrase “a Jewish Israeli citizen who willingly moved from his American birthplace to volunteer to become a soldier in Israel” three times in a short piece — as if to emphasize the dual loyalty insinuation.

        It is legitimate to point out Goldberg’s political biases, but this verbiage is loaded and over the top, and really unfortunate at a time when David Duke is taking to the airwaves to denounce everyone and his mother as a Zionist agent.

        1. Diversionary tactics
          Yes, you made an illegitimate attempt at a diversion by bringing up my use of ‘cabal’ (to describe Afrikaner soldiers!). I guess you could’ve listed all possible thesaurus replacements that you’d’ve not found objectionable . . . if it was really just THAT word (and not the concept).

          Because I think everyone got the AIPAC talking points memo about how we must make sure that anyone who questions whether Israel is a racist state must immediately be snuffed out by implying that they are the real racists – “ah-hah and touchĂ©!”

          That way we don’t have to actually debate . . . and lose as Rosner in Haaretz said we surely will because, as he admits, “there is enough material evidence to prove that apartheid exists in the occupied territories.” (And Haaretz used ‘apartheid’ before Carter’s book to describe Israeli policies . . . as has Mandela, Tutu and the white South African architect of Apartheid – who should know.)

          We know that the memo also tells us to combine the Carter Center with Iran’s ridiculous conference at any opportunity and compare David Duke with anyone who buys Carter’s book. Because they’re all the same thing. It’s basically the Carter-Bush Sr.-Ahmadinejad-Duke-Hitler continuum.

          Mostly (and perennially) we’re supposed to further denigrate and emotionally manipulate the enormous and deserved sympathy for the Holocaust by using it to insulate Israel from the kind of international pressure and open criticism that could’ve stopped the Holocaust (a minor irony, I know).

          So, OK, we all read the memo. And you’ve done an admirable job of regurgitating it. Now, could you say something halfway original and real?

          I did bring up Americans who go to Israel to become foreign soldiers in the occupied territories “three times” (as you correctly counted) but that was because there were THREE of them (as in three different people) who reviewed each other’s books and pretended that they’re objective about the conflict. Don’t you think it would’ve been interesting to read the review of a Palestinian prisoner?

          I used the analogy of Afrikaner soldiers being the only ones allowed to review books about the treatment of blacks in the 80s. But let’s try another angle with you: would you question the objectivity (my point) or loyalty (your absurd non sequitur) of an American citizen who willingly went off to fight Israel with Hamas or Hezbollah and then came back to write and review books about the conflict, as if he were a disinterested party? And what you would think of a major American newspaper that managed to find three of these former combatants and put them in charge of reviewing literature about the Middle East conflict?

          1. Excuse me?
            Did anyone here “question whether Israel is a racist state”?

            Not unless I missed something.

            You guys also appear to be playing from a script: paint anyone who calls out anti-Semitism (real or perceived) as an apologist for Israeli crimes.

            If you are going to argue, at least argue honestly.

            Thank you.

            1. reply
              I mentioned not one thing about the Carter Center or any of the rest. It’s BH who is spewing non-sequiturs and trying to pin them on me, when all I did was note that the word “cabal” in *any* Israel/Jewish context is a red flag. It’s exactly as Bill says: evince any concern about antisemitism and immediately you’re mocked as reading from a “memo.” I find there’s a galling lack of introspection about this issue on the part of pro-Palestine activists. But go ahead, use words like “cabal,” employ rhetoric about Jews fighting for a foreign army — rhetoric that could come from the keyboard of any right-wing nativist. Just don’t feign shock and innocence when antisemites crash your party.

              Yes, certainly, Palestinians should be reviewing books for mainstream publications. But my problem was with the *tone* of BH’s original post, and the point stands.

              1. And another thing…
                …about arguing honestly — let’s look at the phrase again:

                “a Jewish Israeli citizen who willingly moved from his American birthplace to volunteer to become a soldier in Israel”

                Do we know that Jeffrey Goldberg and the others in question moved to Israel *expressly* to become soldiers? Or did they wish to become Israeli citizens, knowing they’d accept military service as part of the deal? It makes a difference. BH wants to portray them as eager to pick up guns and oppress Palestinians — as if this and only this could explain an American Jew’s decision to live in Israel.

                1. What I originally posted was
                  What I originally posted was serious, honest and full of substance. The response has been anything but: associating me with David Duke, saying I was questioning the loyalty of American Jews and I was deserving of the label of anti-Semite (“real or perceived” . . . knee-jerk or diversionary . . . projection or hallucination).

                  And yep, plenty of people are discussing whether Israel is a racist state because of Carter’s book about Israel’s Apartheid. It’s really happening.

                  There is a concerted campaign, not to argue (and lose) with Carter’s points, but to discredit him as a racist, with zero evidence. And, by association, anyone who else who dares to question this campaign is similarly tarred and feathered.

                  That’s the overall context we’re talking about. And that’s exactly what happened when I came along here to report that the Post had handed their hyper-critical review of Carter’s book to an American who volunteered to go to Israel to become a soldier, working as a prison guard over Palestinians (ain’t that nice!). I then traced back that reviewer’s history in the Book section of the Post to see that his book was reviewed by another American Israeli soldier. And even that reviewer had his book reviewed by yet another American Israeli soldier.

                  That would be met with interest in many places but here the reaction was to say that I’m playing on the same side as David Duke for having the nerve to bring these facts up (three times, no less) and using the wrong ‘tone.’

                  First, on Goldberg et al. It is abhorrent to accept the racist birthright claim that anyone, anywhere in the world, has the right on the sole basis of his religion to live on land that belonged to another people who were ethnically cleansed. Meanwhile these victims have no right to return or even to be compensated for that land or their homes. To perform this act and then serve in the military that continues to cleanse, kill and colonize this defeated indigenous people should put you in the docket of a war crimes tribunal and not in charge of reviewing books about peace in Palestine. The fact that there are three of these people with exactly the same demographic profile endorsing one another’s views would be close to comical if the results weren’t so tragic (like 500 dead in Gaza).

                  But forget dealing with these facts . . . or any facts at all for that matter. Let’s just all hold hands and pretend that my tone’s all wrong, that I’m dishonest and a racist, too.

                  That would be the honest way to try to argue, right?

                  1. Not necessarily racist, but…
                    …definitely dishonest.

                    What you “originally posted” may have been serious, honest, etc. But that wasn’t what I contested. I am not weighing in on the substance of Adler’s charges of anti-Semitism (hence “real or perceived”). But you responded to his critcism by implying he “question[ed] whether Israel is a racist state.” Which he did not.

                    Please try to pay attention.

                    Implying that use of the word “cabal” cannot be anti-Semitic because it has Hebrew roots is also shameless bunk.

                    1. taking the dis out of honesty
                      You manage to say that I was “definitely dishonest” (with no proof, of course) and then admit in THE VERY NEXT SENTENCE that I was, in fact, “honest” . . . which is self-provingly dishonest.

                      You then say that you are “not weighing in on the substance of Adler’s charges of anti-Semitism,” which would be more important than whatever this is that you are trying to do (just what are your trying to do, by the way?). But the biggest problem is that there is no substance (or sense) in Adler’s charges or any of your follow-ups that attempt to obliquely reinforce Adler’s baseless accusations. Everything has been “connoting,” “implying” and my “tone” and references to me and David Duke.

                      If you take anti-Semitism seriously and therefore wouldn’t want it overused, diluted and eventually made meaningless, can I suggest that you do, in fact, “weigh in” when you see someone using it in a wanton way just so they need not debate in an honest and serious manner. OK?

                      Again, I made a very serious, truthful and substantial contribution of information. What I wrote indicated that there’s a bias in reporting on Carter’s book and other books about Palestine. Luckily, any reader can go back and see what you and Adler have left in response to what I wrote. They can decide if it was deserving of your reaction or if your reaction was diversionary, as neither of you have dealt with any substance at all and made this a series of personal and groundless attacks on me.

                      You then state that I implied Adler “question[ed] whether Israel is a racist state.” But that, too, never happened. It’s folks like me and Carter who are questioning whether Israel’s a racist state. And it’s folks like Adler and you who are questioning if we’re racist for asking such questions. That was very clearly stated and now irrefutable.

                      “Implying that use of the word “cabal” cannot be anti-Semitic because it has Hebrew roots is also shameless bunk.”

                      Not quite as shameless and bunkful as claiming someone’s racist because they use the word (to describe Afrikaners), which was my point and reason for sharing the history of the word . . . to show it’s absurd. Wouldn’t the responsibility be on Adler to prove that the word is anti-Semitic (when refereeing to Afrikaners)?

                      I asked him (to dead silence) and now I ask you, just what word would you’ve suggested in that sentence . . . if the problem was really just that word?

                    2. What I am trying to do.
                      Provoke some honesty. Without much success.

                      I said your original post was honest. It was also informative (if poorly worded). I said your responses were bunk: resorting to etymology and imputing the questioning of Israel’s racist nature to people who didn’t.

                      Your reference to Afrikaners was soley by way of analogy to Jews. There are no actually-existing Afrikaners in this story.

                      I did not question whether you are a racist for calling Israel racist. Nobody here has questioned whether Israel is racist, least of all me. I pointed out bogus arguments and off-color wording, and I offer no apologies.

                      I don’t argue with the disingenuous. You may have the last word.

                    3. 1000th time
                      “Provoke some honesty. Without much success.”

                      You could, of course, start with your own posts.

                      “imputing the questioning of Israel’s racist nature to people who didn’t.”

                      For the thousandth time I never said that Adler or you were questioning whether Israel was a racist state (or even its degree of racism). I said, “anyone who questions whether Israel is a racist state must immediately be snuffed out.” If you read that it’s obvious that I’m talking about people like me, David and Carter, who are questioning and you and Adler who are using diversion and defamation, in the ageold manner of stifling debate about Israel.

                      “Your reference to Afrikaners was soley by way of analogy to Jews.”

                      Jews? Wow, this is spreading. I was analogizing three individual people (not the entire Jewish race) who are reviewing books (including their own) about a conflict that they took sides on.

                      If it was really just this word, ‘cabal’ that has been the problem, I suppose someone would’ve by now answered my oft-repeated (ad nauseam) question: If not ‘cabal’ just which word would I be able to use (to describe Afrikaners) or am I forbidden even discussing the concept that some small selfserving groups of individuals (as many as three people) have an biased agenda that they reinforcing by backing each other up? Or is that verboten if I’ve also mentioned Israelis in the same peice?

                      “I offer no apologies.”

                      I know; I’ve heard.

                  2. further..
                    Since the “racist state” thing keeps getting tossed around, I’ll just say that my view on the matter is not ontological. Israel has enacted racist policies against the Palestinians. But making the broad, all-or-nothing claim that it’s a racist state is part of the problem, I believe, when it comes to how we talk about the middle east. Sort of like those who call Palestine a nascent terrorist state. (And don’t waste your time giving me the “no equivalence” lecture — I’m well aware that Israel is the stronger party.)

                    I didn’t say that BH deserves to be called an antisemite. I suggested that some of his rhetoric could be blood in the water for antisemites, and that maybe, just maybe, that’s worth thinking about. As for BH’s corollary — I believe he’s saying that any American Jew who accepts Israeli citizenship is a racist, and any who serves in the Israeli military is a war criminal — I find it crude, certainly prejudiced, and not worth engaging.

                    1. not sure i agree…
                      Can Israel be a Jewish state and not inherently be discrimantory? I’m not convinced that’s possible. Does it necessarily imply maintaining a Jewish majority? It employs discriminatory means to do so.

                    2. thanks for the tone down
                      First, I want to thank Adler for toning it down a little and dropping the rhetorical incendiary devices. The fact that I don’t feel I have to defend myself against charges of racism may enable a more rewarding conversation. I’ll accept that you didn’t mean to paint me as racist but you’ll’ve seen that Bill’s still ranting in the corner that this is precisely what you did say (not that he’d ever pass judgment on such a thing . . . ‘real or unreal’).

                      I appreciate that you may not want to see Israel as a racist state but I think we can agree that any state that has a hierarchy of rights based on your ethnicity, religion or origin is racist (and Israel is not the only one, I want to quickly add).

                      “I suggested that some of his rhetoric could be blood in the water for antisemites”

                      You know, this comes up a lot. There are many constructive critics of Israel and its lobby (particularly Jewish ones, like Chomsky) who rightwingers link to on their websites and quote at their hatefests. But they also quote Zionists and all kinds of other people. Must we all shut up, so they won’t quote us?

                      That shouldn’t change what we must say, anymore than the fact that the AIPAC pack will condemn us. The best analogy I can think of is: should we kick puppies just because Hitler liked pets?

                      You and I may have different feelings about going up (Aliyah) on a downtrodden people and even serving in a military that is clearly committing war crimes (by any definition, including Israeli). But hopefully we can agree that such persons shouldn’t be used in this country as fair arbiters of the rights of Palestinians and the wrongs of Israel. Another of my unanswered questions (and there have been a whole bunch) was how you’d react to the interrelated reviews of Israel by three Americans who’d been fighting for Hammas?

                      That’s was my one and only point.

                2. on goldberg
                  From an Ethan Bronner review of Goldberg’s book in the NYT:


                  “It is hard to know if Mr. Goldberg, who seems otherwise a reasonably savvy fellow, really was as naĂŻve as he presents himself, or if he uses such a pose as a narrative conceit. He comes across throughout the book as having a rare talent for self-delusion, giving the story momentum through moments of discovery. When he moves to Israel, he seems really to believe it will prove to be a version of Jewish socialist summer camp. He is stunned to find Israelis who are anything but committed to humanity’s highest ideals. Then he gets wise.

                  “In some ways, Mr. Goldberg is a dream adversary for the Palestinians. Intelligent, open-minded and universalist in his quest for justice, he believes not only in Zionism but also in the legitimacy of Palestinian nationalism. And he does not hesitate to report Israeli cruelty and shortsightedness.

                  “In other ways, however, he is an ultimate Palestinian nightmare. As a boy on the South Shore of Long Island, he was tormented by toughs in the parking lot of Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Church and School in a game they called “Bend the Jew.” He regretted being born “too late to kill Germans” and, while lifting weights, fantasized about teaching the world not to mess with his tribe. He had a deep yearning to be part of something big and historic. In other words, he is the sort whose self-loathing can lead to self-aggrandizing, whose desire to shoot the Jew-hating Cossacks of yore could make him an especially unpleasant Israeli soldier.”

                  1. You appear…
                    …to be quoting from the Oct. 28 New York Times review of Goldberg’s book Prisoners: A Muslim and a Jew Across the Middle East Divide (it would have been nice to let the readers know this). This rather argues against the thesis of a monolithically pro-Israel Jewish-controlled media.

                    1. how does it do that, and
                      who made the “thesis of a monolithically pro-Israel Jewish-controlled media?”

                    2. It “does that” by…
                      …dissing Goldberg for you—the same Goldberg whose presence on the Washington Post book review page was presented as implicit evidence of the Zionist Media Conspiracy.

                    3. What it says.
                      Portraying anyone who calls out anti-Semitism as an Israel apologist is also a “great silencer.” I just love it when people accuse me of “silencing” them on a website where I provide a forum for getting the debate out in the open.

                    4. intimidation
                      is the silencing. How can I comment further when I have been accused of providing evidence for the “Zionist Media Conspiracy?”

                    5. No, but…
                      …Brian did Adler.

                      And I am not “intimidating” you. I am expressing my opinion. You are free to express yours.

                    6. Worse yet.
                      You changed the text of your comment after I had replied to it, which is not kosher. You had originally stated that you did not call me out as an Israel-apologist. (Hence “No, but Brian did Adler.”) Anyway, so now you are saying there isn’t a Zionist Media Conspiracy? Then what, pray tell, was the point of this whole item?

                      You may have the last word, this is getting tiresome.

                    7. I did not realize you had replied to it.
                      Yes, I did say that about not calling you out. I never posited whether there exists a grand “ZMC” or not. The point of this whole item is to look at the way we are presented the news about Israel/Palestine, not draw any grand, sweeping conclusion, let alone one that could be so easily burst by a few critical paragraphs from Bronner on Goldberg.

                3. New US olim arrive with army on their minds
                  Dec. 28, 2006 1:49 | Updated Dec. 28, 2006 3:20
                  New US olim arrive with army on their minds
                  By SHEERA CLAIRE FRENKEL

                  Yonatan Cooper always knew that he would immigrate to Israel, but it was the death of his close friend, Michael Levine, in the recent war in Lebanon that prompted the 24-year-old to pack his bags and join 220 olim on a Nefesh B’Nefesh/The Jewish Agency flight Wednesday.

                  “As soon as I get my ID card, I’ll be pounding down the door at the IDF’s registration office,” said Cooper. “I want to be in the paratroopers, like Michael, so that I can take his place there and serve my country.”

                  10,000th Nefesh B’Nefesh oleh arrives
                  With a new sports car, a home adjacent to Beverly Hills, and a job with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Cooper was “living the dream” in Los Angeles.

                  “I knew that my real dream, my real career track was in Israel,” said Cooper. “It was my father’s dream too. He named me after Yoni Netanyahu.” Jonathan (Yoni) Netanyahu was a commander of the IDF’s elite Sayeret Matkal unit and is considered one of Israel’s foremost war heroes.

                  On the flight to Israel, Cooper was joined by 21 other olim who plan to join the IDF within the coming months, and one oleh, Eliyahu Joselit, who has already served two- and-a-half years.

                  Joselit, who joined the IDF as a volunteer in the Nahal Haredi unit, was allowed to keep renewing his time with the IDF. He had served more than two years when he was suddenly told that it was “deeply, deeply against the rules” for him to continue to volunteer and that he must make aliya in order to continue serving in the IDF.

                  “My heart broke, I nearly cried when they told me that I would need to leave my unit,” said the 21-year-old. “I felt like they were taking my whole world away.”

                  Only two days before the flight, Joselit made a final decision to make aliya and sent the staff of Nefesh B’Nefesh into a flurry to get the paperwork ready for him. He is now considering becoming a career soldier in the IDF.

                  “Before I lived in Israel but I didn’t feel a part of it,” said Joselit. “As soon as I joined the army, I suddenly felt like a real Israeli.” He did not, however, speak Hebrew like a real Israeli.

                  “My commander had to teach me Hebrew. He would go over things word by word with me,” said Joselit. “I kept mixing up certain words and he would make me write things a hundred times to remember them. It’s thanks to him that I learned the language.”

                  On Wednesday, NBN, which works closely with the Jewish Agency, brought 220 olim to Israel on a flight from New York, and 50 olim from the UK.

        2. dual loyalty
          I don’t see how Brian is insinuating “dual loyalty.” He is commenting on the discriminatory basis of the Israeli state, whereby Jewish-Americans (or Jews from anywhere else) can go to Israel and claim instant citizenship, and join the army, whereas Palestinian-Americans cannot go back to their homeland if it is inside the Green Line, and only with great difficulty — and there is a current campaign to expel and keep them out — go to the territories. They certainly cannot go and fight the occupation without running afoul of US and Israeli law. This is not about dual loyalties, this is about dual standards — one for Jewish Americans, and one for Palestinian-Americans. Nowhere does Brian suggest Goldberg et al are acting contrary to US interests, or in a position where they have to choose between the two. If anything, Hennesy is talking about Israeli-American collusion against Palestinians.

  2. Some clarifications
    Some pretty heated emotions appear to be in play around this exchange, and some clarifications are probably in order.

    1. It is obvious that there is a consistent pro-Israel bias in the US mainstream media, and deconstructing examples of that bias is a vital activity. The countervailing examples (such as the NYT review invoked here) are still generally the exception—tentative corrective measures or even mere tokenism. As we have argued, Mearsheimer and Walt have convincingly documented the phenomenon, while portraying it as a centralized, coordinated campaign by “the Lobby” (a conspiracy, if you will). The campaign doubtless exists (how centralized and coordinated it is is open to question), but it would not have found such fertile ground if it weren’t for an ingrained cultural pattern—which is a lot harder to fight than a conspiracy. By refering to a “Zionist Media Conspiracy,” I was engaging in smart-alecky short-hand for the error of Mearsheimer/Walt and their apologists. That error has not necessarily been exhibited by either Hennessy or Bloom. So, as Bloom wrote of Hennessy’s use of the word “cabal,” perhaps I should have chosen a better phrase. “Consistent media bias,” would have been less loaded, if less colorful.

    2. That said, those who decry being the target of such invective should be more careful about the use of words like “cabal,” which inherently denotes conspiracy.

    3. They should also be wary of “dual loyalty” arguments, even when not strictly intentional (once again, the difference between conspiracy and a more insidious cultural pattern). Bloom’s defense of Hennessy on this accusation rather dodges the point. Nobody here has contested the “discriminatory basis of the Israeli state” or the absurdity of the reality that American Jews can make aliyah and enlist in the IDF to assist in Israel’s colonialist project. Adler’s point was that in Hennessy’s portrayal the WP was loaning too much of a voice to Americans who had served in a foreign military (a point underscored by his reference to this being grounds for loss of citizenship in other cases). Even if the WP can be accused of loaning a disproportionate voice to Israeli servicemen, surely the fact that they have “willingly moved from [their] American birthplace to become…soldier[s] in Israel” is not what is relevant.

    4. The accusations of “silencing” here are absurd. This weblog exists precisely to get these debates out in the open. This is a forum which stands forthrightly for justice for the Palestinians and against Israeli colonialism; accusations of anti-Semitism are certainly used to silence criticisms of Israel’s real crimes, but not by me. Unfortunately, in too much contemporary “left” discourse, the charge of “silencing” has become a form of silencing honest critiques of anti-Semitism. By way of analogy: red-baiting has been historically used to silence progressive forces in this country (obviously). But doctrinaire retro-commie sects like Workers World today use the charge of red-baiting to silence critics of their unreconstructed Stalnism, which just contributes to the poisonous atmosphere.

    It really is possible to hold more than one idea simultaneously, guys. It’s called “dialectics.” You should try it sometime.

    1. being drafted or volunteering
      Your first paragraph is excellent.

      Your second contradicts it by saying we shouldn’t use words that “denotes conspiracy” when you’d just said “coordinated campaign by “the Lobby” (a conspiracy, if you will).”

      Again, I await (after asking five times) your list of replacement words for ‘cabal,’ as you seem to have a problem with this word but not its meaning.

      No one, other than Adler, ever brought up the concept of “dual loyalty.” As David said, maybe double standards, maybe a lack of a double-blind control study (by having Palestinians combatants write reviews) but this idea of disloyal Americans was nowhere in anyone’s text or mind.

      The fact that these three men have “willingly moved from [their] American birthplace to become…soldier[s] in Israel” is entirely relevant because they, unlike natural-born Israelis had a choice to serve in this military. And that’s an enormous difference. The difference between being drafted against your will and volunteering for military service because you believe in the cause. That was my point and clearly stated and subsequently defended so. I’m saying these three are demonstrably biased individuals who chose to be on one side of this conflict and have now been put in charge of reviewing books about this conflict (including their own) as if they’re fair-minded.

      I don’t think the accusations of “silencing” here are absurd. Any reader can scan these notes and see they have nothing to do with the real and initial subject and instead attempted to cast aspersions on me personally and then later on David as he attempted to bring reason to this debate. I think at least he’s owed an apology.

      1. Last word.
        In addition to not paying attention to grammar (“we shouldn’t use words that ‘denotes conspiracy'”?), Hennessy is neither reading carefully nor thinking clearly.

        I never said you “shouldn’t” use words that denote conspiracy. It’s a free world, do whatever you want. But to complain about being baited as a conspiracy-theorist after using a word like “cabal” is (as Norman Finklestein might put it) beyond chutzpah.

        If you are going to argue for the existence of a conspiracy, have the balls to do so openly.

        You’ve finallly provided a plausible explanation for why it is significant that these citizen-soldier book-reviewers emigrated from America. But don’t complain about your intentions being misconstrued when you use words like “cabal.” (And, by the way, how exactly is the reference to loss of citizenship relevant here if you aren’t arguing a dual-loyalty thesis?)

        I love it when people accuse me of “silencing” them in posts on my own blog. When I fail to approve your posts, you may accuse me of silencing you. Until then, it’s transparent bunk.

        What word should you have used instead of “cabal”? Hmm, that’s a tough one. However, after poring through the dictionary I managed to come up with the following highly esoteric term:


        If that is insufficiently colorful for you, you could have tried:


        There’s an amazing invetion called the thesaurus. You should try it some time.

        Last word is yours, Brian. Adios.

        1. Eric Alterman on “dual loyalties.”
          The Nation, April 3, 2003

          “This is all very confusing to your nice Jewish columnist. My own dual loyalties–there, I admitted it–were drilled into me by my parents, my grandparents, my Hebrew school teachers and my rabbis, not to mention Israeli teen-tour leaders and AIPAC college representatives. It was just about the only thing they all agreed upon. Yet this milk- (and honey-) fed loyalty to Israel as the primary component of American Jewish identity–always taught in the context of the Holocaust–inspires a certain confusion in its adherents, namely: Whose interests come first, America’s or Israel’s? Leftist landsmen are certain that an end to the occupation and a peaceful and prosperous Palestinian state are the best ways to secure both Israeli security and American interests. Likudniks think it’s best for both Israel and the United States to beat the crap out of as many Arabs as possible, as ‘force is the only thing these people understand.’

          “But we ought to be honest enough to at least imagine a hypothetical clash between American and Israeli interests. Here, I feel pretty lonely admitting that, every once in a while, I’m going to go with what’s best for Israel. As I was lectured over and over while growing up, America can make a million mistakes and nobody is going to take away our country and murder us. Israel is nowhere near as vulnerable as many would have us believe, but it remains a tiny Jewish island surrounded by a sea of largely hostile Arabs. Perhaps it was a strategic mistake for America to rush to Israel’s aid in 1973, but given the alternative, I really don’t care. As Moshe Dayan told Golda Meir at the time, the ‘third temple’ was crumbling. Tough luck if it meant higher gasoline prices at home.

          “I can’t profess to speak for the motivations of others, and by the numbers, American Jews seem no more prowar than the US population, and maybe even a little less. But I’d be surprised if the Administration’s hawkish Likudniks were immune to the emotional pull of defending Dayan’s ‘third temple.’ Our inability to engage the question only forces the discussion into subterranean and sometimes anti-Semitic territory. If the Likudniks played an unsavory role in fomenting this war (and future wars), and further discussion will help illuminate this unhappy fact, then I say, ‘Let there be light.’ If something is ‘toxic’ merely to talk about, the problem is probably not in the talking, but in the doing.”

        2. in the sandbox
          This is getting a little childish, isn’t it? You’re now attacking my grammar, my reading ability and even my ability to think (all in one sentence). Just to hop in the sandbox with you for a minute, I will defend and say that I was actually “quoting” your phrase – ‘denotes conspiracy’ – and would’ve had to change your ‘denotes’ to make it grammatically correct. Of course, if I’d changed your words you’d’ve called me out for doing that, too. Because, basically, you’ll talk about anything and the weather before you deal with one real issue.

          “If you are going to argue for the existence of a conspiracy, have the balls to do so openly.”

          Only if you’ll have the brains to see I wasn’t doing that.

          “You’ve finally provided a plausible explanation for why it is significant that these citizen-soldier book-reviewers emigrated from America.”

          It was there all the time!

          “And, by the way, how exactly is the reference to loss of citizenship relevant here if you aren’t arguing a dual-loyalty thesis?

          No one, other than you, is pretending that I ever meant anything about dual loyalty or disloyalty. And to drive the final stake in to this already dead argument, how could I blame these three men for legislation that predates their birth? The fact that this country has an exception to the foreign military service law can’t possibly be a reflection of the loyalty of those three men. I don’t blame them for the law, of course. It was mentioned parenthetically (literally) and obviously to show the bias of Congress to make this exception for only one country.

          “When I fail to approve your posts, you may accuse me of silencing you.”

          Just how would we do that . . . if you wouldn’t post it? Bill, we’re talking about silencing by trying to shame people, not by censoring.

          OK, from your approved list, you are saying it’s alright to say
          “band of Jews,”
          “a bunch of Jews,”
          “a company of Jews,”
          “a conglomeration of Jews,”
          “a coterie of Jews,”
          “a fellowship of Jews,”
          “a pack of Jews,”
          “a platoon of Jews,” or
          “a zoo of Jews.”

          Really? And you’re saying those terms are better than what I said, which was a cabal of Afrikaners?