If you were an anti-Semite dedicated to spreading your hatred of Jews, what charges exactly would you make in 21st century America?
You would avoid the blood libel—too medieval to write of sacrificing Christian children to make Passover matzo. That kind of stuff circulates in Arab lands or Pakistan, but won’t sell in suburban America. And the “Christ-killer” material is also dated, what with Vatican II, Evangelical support for Israel, and the like.
There are two charges you would make. First, the rich Jews control our government. Second, those Jews are trying to push America into war so your sons will have to fight for Israel.
In the last week that is exactly what we have seen. First came the Thomas Friedman column in the New York Times: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Perhaps it was jealousy from seeing Walt and Mearsheimer sell all those books with this line, but Friedman here tips right into the swamps.
And now we have Joe Klein, in Time magazine, in a section accurately entitled “Swampland”: “Iowa Republicans are not neoconservatives. Ron Paul has gained ground after a debate in which his refusal to join the Iran warhawks was front and center. Indeed, in my travels around the country, I don’t meet many neoconservatives outside of Washington and New York. It’s one thing to just adore Israel, as the evangelical Christians do; it’s another thing entirely to send American kids off to war, yet again, to fight for Israel’s national security.”
Now, Klein has chosen his medium well: Time has a history of anti-Semitism, illustrated by its famous 1977 story about Israel’s prime minister that began “Menachem Begin (rhymes with Fagin).” But Klein’s thoughts are about as ugly as ever appear outside of Pat Buchanan’s publications. “There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East-the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States,” Buchanan said in 1990.
How different is that from what Klein just wrote? After all, Klein is saying (1) neoconservatives are Jews, and Jews are neoconservatives; (2) Evangelicals like Israel but they are real Americans who put their own country first, unlike Jews; (3) and what those Jews/neoconservatives really want is to send American boys off to fight Israel’s wars, sparing Israeli kids and of course their own kids, who are apparently not “American kids” and anyway do not fight for their country. Of course Klein simply ignores the possibility that concern about the Iranian nuclear program does not make one a warmongering neoconservative, and actually extends even to Christians. Yesterday Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said, “The United States does not want Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us and that's a red line, obviously, for the Israelis. If we have to do it we will deal with it....If they proceed and we get intelligence that they are proceeding with developing a nuclear weapon then we will take whatever steps necessary to stop it.” Bought and paid for? Sending American kids off to fight for Israel's security?
These two recent statements are as vicious as it gets in the mainstream media, and here we have two Jews—Friedman and Klein—spreading the two major themes of contemporary American anti-Semitism. Why? Why now?
Why does it matter? Perhaps it is their hatred of Israel’s right of center government, or of modern Israel, or of the rise of Orthodoxy in Israel and in the American Jewish community. Let us not descend into such analyses when what matters is not abnormal psychology but the bounds of public discourse. Once upon a time, William F. Buckley banned Pat Buchanan from the pages of National Review and in essence drummed him out of the conservative movement for such accusations. Today, where are the Anti-Defamation League, and the American Jewish Committee, and all the Jewish “defense” organizations? Where are all the Jewish groups which have given Klein and Friedman awards, demanding them back? Where are Jewish Democrats in Congress, who have no doubt wined and dined both Klein and Friedman in a thousand dinner parties, and Congressional leaders from Nancy Pelosi to Harry Reid? And what about our other supposed moral leaders, religious, intellectual, or political?
It isn’t a small matter, because as we have learned the hard way with Walt and Mearsheimer, once the infection of anti-Semitism enters the mass media and the academy, it grows and grows. What begins as a “controversial statement” ends up on every reading list. Klein and Friedman, whatever their personal motivations for these statements, are helping popularize and make acceptable anti-Semitism in America. Their own publications will no doubt reward them for their advanced thinking. Will the rest of our society?