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Thursday, February 1, 2007

'Liberal' now means anti-Zionist

In the lexicon of the New York Times, 'Liberal' is now a codeword for anti-Zionist. That appears to be the case from the headline of an article that discusses anti-Zionist Jews. The essay criticizes 'liberals' like Neturei Karteh rabbi David Weiss, who attended the Holocaust conference in Iran along with David Duke and other 'liberals.'
One of these 'liberals' commented:
Over the telephone, the dinner table and the Internet, people who follow Jewish issues have been buzzing over Mr. Rosenfeld's article. Alan Wolfe, a political scientist and the director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College, said, "I'm almost in a state of shock" at the verbal assaults directed at liberal Jews.
The essay itself is worth reading, though the author probably goes a bit far in lumping together different people who have criticized Israel or Israeli policies for very different reasons.
It is only available in PDF, sorry:
Published: January 31, 2007
The American Jewish Committee, an ardent defender of Israel, is known for speaking out against anti-Semitism, but this conservative advocacy group has recently stirred up a bitter and emotional debate with a new target: liberal Jews.

An essay the committee features on its Web site,, titled " 'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism," says a number of Jews, through their speaking and writing, are feeding a rise in virulent anti-Semitism by questioning whether Israel should even exist.
The essay comes at a time of high anxiety among many Jews, who are seeing not only a surge in attacks from familiar antagonists, but also gloves-off condemnations of Israel from onetime allies and respected figures, like former President Jimmy Carter, who titled his new book on the Mideast "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid." By spotlighting the touchy issue of whether Jews are contributing to anti-Semitism, both admirers and detractors of the essay agree that it aggravates an already heated dispute over where legitimate criticism of Israel and its defenders ends and anti-Semitic statements begin.
The essay, written by Alvin H. Rosenfeld, an English professor and the director of the Institute for Jewish Culture and the Arts at Indiana University in Bloomington, castigates a number of people by name, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, the historian Tony Judt, the poet Adrienne Rich and the Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, in addition to a number of academics.
Mr. Judt, whose views on Israel and the American Jewish lobby have frequently drawn fire, is chastised for what Mr. Rosenfeld calls "a series of increasingly bitter articles" that have "called Israel everything from arrogant, aggressive, anachronistic, and infantile to dysfunctional, immoral, and a primary cause of present-day anti-Semitism."
A historian at New York University, Mr. Judt said in a telephone interview that he believed the real purpose of outspoken denunciations of him and others was to stifle harsh criticism of Israel. "The link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is newly created," he said, adding that he fears "the two will have become so conflated in the minds of the world" that references to anti-Semitism and the Holocaust will come to be seen as "just a political defense of Israeli policy."
The essay also takes to task "Wrestling With Zion: Progressive Jewish-American Responses to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict" (Grove Press), a 2003 collection of essays edited by Mr. Kushner and Alisa Solomon. Mr. Kushner said that he and Ms. Solomon took great care to include a wide range of voices in their collection, including those of Ms. Rich, the playwright Arthur Miller and various rabbis.
In his essay he says that "one of the most distressing features of the new anti-Semitism" is "the participation of Jews alongside it." Like others, Mr. Cohen of The Washington Post complained that the essay cherry-picked quotations. "He mischaracterized what I wrote," he said. "I've been critical of Israel at times, but I've always been a defender of Israel." He did add, however, that a wide range of writers were named, some of whom have written inflammatory words about Israel. "He has me in a very strange neighborhood," Mr. Cohen said.
The dispute goes beyond the familiar family squabbling among Jews that is characterized by the old joke about two Jews having three opinions on a single subject. Bitter debates over anti-Israel statements and anti-Semitism have entangled government officials, academics, opinion-makers and others over the past year, particularly since fervent supporters and tough critics of Israel can be found on the right and the left.
Mr. Wolfe, who has written about a recent rise in what he calls "Jewish illiberalism," traces the heated language to increasing opposition to the Iraq war and President Bush's policy in the Middle East, which he said had spurred liberal Jews to become more outspoken about Israel.
On this point Mr. Rosenfeld and Mr. Wolfe are in agreement. "It's going up a notch or four or five," Mr. Rosenfeld said in an interview. "One of the things that is clear," he said of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel attacks, "is that what used to be on the margin and not very serious is becoming more and more mainstream."
Mr. Rosenfeld, who has written and edited more than half a dozen books as well as other publications for the committee, emphasized that policy disagreements were natural and expected. Opposing Israel's settlement of the West Bank or treatment of Palestinians "is, in itself, not anti-Semitic," he writes; it is questioning Israel's right to exist that crosses the line.
But Mr. Judt said, "I don't know anyone in a respectable range of opinion who thinks Israel shouldn't exist." (Mr. Judt advocates a binational state that is not exclusively Jewish, something that many Jews see as equivalent to dissolving Israel). He contends that harsh complaints about Israel's treatment of Palestinians are the real target.
Last year Mr. Judt came to the defense of two prominent political scientists, Stephen M. Walt at Harvard and John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, after they were besieged for publishing a paper that baldly stated (among other things) that anyone critical of Israel or the American Jewish lobby "stands a good chance of being labeled an anti-Semite."

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


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