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As someone who was recently called an anti-Semite (elsewhere) for an honest, confessional critique of Israel (on this site), I was heartened by Robert Wright's forceful rejection of a similar tactic used within the pages of his own magazine.

Wright, a senior editor at The Atlantic and a Pulitzer-Prize finalist, has come to the defense of Alex Kane, who writes for Mondoweiss, after being smeared with a false anti-Semitism charge within The Atlantic's pages.

I highly recommend that you read Wright's entire piece, for it boldly pushes back against usage of the (all-too-common) anti-Semitism smear that is thrown at progressives who dare to critique Israel or American policies in the region.

Here is how Wright begins:

The charge of anti-Semitism is starting to lose its force. The reason is that over the past few years it's been applied with less and less discernment, largely by people who want to stigmatize Israel's harsher critics. As Sarah Wildman has noted in the Forward, this is very unfortunate, because there are real anti-Semites in the world, and they benefit when the label they deserve to bear no longer has the power to stigmatize.

Wildman said this six months ago while writing about a slew of smears, such as the attempt to stigmatize the Center for American Progress via half-truths and McCarthyite guilt-by-association. Now there's another example of this neo-McCarthyism, and I'm sorry to say that it appeared on this website.

Wright then goes on to describe how an Atlantic writer, Armin Rosen, yesterday attacked Kane as an anti-Semite who should be banned from writing for mainstream outlets, such as The Daily Beast (where Kane had just published this post). Why? Not because Kane had actually demonstrated any anti-Semitic tendencies, but because he is a staff writer at Mondoweiss, which Rosen says "gives the appearance of an anti-Semitic enterprise."

Wright rejects this fully.

Rosen doesn't adduce a shred of evidence that Kane--the man whose reputation he's trying to besmirch and whose career he's trying to damage--is anti-Semitic. No complaint is filed about anything Kane has ever said or written. Rather, the allegation is just that Kane works for a publication that has featured articles, written by other people, that, in Rosen's judgment, gave off anti-Semitic vibes.

The term for this maneuver is "guilt by association," and it has an unfortunate history in American politics and intellectual life.

This tarring of Kane by virtue of his association with Mondoweiss would be lamentable even if Rosen produced a convincing indictment of Mondoweiss, showing that it indeed evinces anti-Semitism. Does he do so? All I can say is that I clicked on the [eleven] links to Mondoweiss that Rosen provided and--though I didn't read every single post with utmost care--I did reach a point where I could safely conclude that Rosen has a looser definition of anti-Semitism than I do.

Wright ends first by making clear that, in his opinion, Rosen's piece was McCarthyite, and second by apologizing to Kane on behalf of The Atlantic.

This unequivocal rejection of the anti-Semitism smear, by a senior editor at a mainstream publication, demonstrates two things:

A) The existence of real anti-Semitism is still taken seriously by serious thinkers, and
B) Those in the mainstream are beginning to feel comfortable confronting false smears.

In recent years, we have seen a precipitous rise in the throwing around of the "anti-Semite" charge as a silencing tool, as a way to discredit those with valid (and sometimes edgy) critiques of Israel.

And just as it did in McCarthy's time, using these false charges worked -- in the beginning -- to stigmatize writers who were anything but anti-Semitic. And just as we saw with McCarthy, fear of the word (then "communist," now "anti-Semite") is being replaced by anger at its misappropriation.

And this is only a good thing, for open debate on Israel -- an incredibly important foreign policy arena for any American president -- can only occur when that debate isn't silenced by McCarthyite smears.

And real anti-Semitism can only be combated when the charge of "anti-Semite" is no longer diluted by those looking to score political points.

Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

Originally posted to Writing by David Harris Gershon on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 07:21 PM PDT.

Also republished by Adalah — A Just Middle East.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I read that. Good piece. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Troubadour

    I'm a big fan of Wright generally. The Evolution of Despair (essay, available online in full) and Non-Zero (book) were both great.

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 07:26:19 PM PDT

  •  I have difficulties with a writer who liberally (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    throws out terms like 'Jewish Establishment'...but hey.  Maybe that's just me.  He also doesn't seem to think anti-Semitism least he only addresses it as a 'tired but powerful' canard.  

    It's real, dude--and it's real among  many in the BDS crowd.  Having lived in Europe for 5 years, I've seen it first hand--AND OFTEN AMONG CLOSE FRIENDS!!  (You mean--Jews DON'T own the media??  I don't buy it! [This from a good friend from Greece--not kidding here'])

    So yeah--anti-Semitism is thrown around too much for right-wing political gain, I agree.  But it's very  much extant and hasn't gone anywhere, either.  The writer cited--Kane?-- goes way over the line, in my opnion.

  •  Woody Allen Started This (8+ / 0-)

    He thought people were being anti-semites when they asked him if he had eaten.

    This aggression will not stand, man.

    by kaleidescope on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 08:14:02 PM PDT

  •  my dad once told me (3+ / 0-)

    that if you swear too often the words lose their power and when you really need them they won't mean anything anymore.

    i guess it's the same thing with accusations of anti-semtism.

    hope springs eternal and DAMN is she getting tired!

    by alguien on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 08:23:22 PM PDT

  •  I missed your last diary (8+ / 0-)

    and I'm sorry for the heat you got for it. It's good to see that you fight back against it.

  •  Just because someone joins a political movement (0+ / 0-)

    that is also embraced for different reasons by numerous anti-semites does not make him an anti-semite.  The fact that someone is encouraged by perceptions of Israel as another North Korea or Iran does not him an anti-semite.  It simply makes him a fool.  I hope no one considers my assessment of Kane to be a neo-McCarthyite smear.

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Sun Jul 15, 2012 at 10:37:23 PM PDT

    •  Just because someone who is not anti-semitic (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      poco, Terra Mystica, Celtic Merlin

      joins a political movement that is embraced for different reasons by numerous people who also are not anti-semitic does not give those who disagree with said movement carte blanche to throw around the anti-semitism card, in any form. Or to engage in other forms of personal attacks.

      Are there people who embrace BDS for anti-semitic reasons?  I'm sure.  Is the Israeli government controlled by right-wingers?  I'm sure.  But it's no more accurate to say that BDS is anti-semitic than it is to say that Israel is a right-wing country.

  •  The smear campaign (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Terra Mystica

    is MCCarthyesque.  

    Its like when Limbaugh calls women feminazis or Beck calls Obama a Socialist.... political activists are using the term "anti-semite" as an attempt to shut down dialogue, and make any criticism be seen as coming from an "evil person."

    It lessens the power of the word.

    We, on the left, in turn should not call all Republicans racists as some do.

    The fact is?  There are real racists, real anti-semites, and using a broad brush cheapens the word.

    I am a Socialist.  McCarthy would have hated me.  Obama is not; I wish he was!

    "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist.”
    ― Hélder Câmara, Dom Helder Camara: Essential Writings

    I ascribe to the idea in the quote.  Wanting everyone to be fed and cared for is not anti-semite, its pro-human.


  •  What's ludicrous... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Celtic Merlin, Terra Mystica when these right-wing neo-Zionist types mostly accuse Jewish Americans of anti-Semitism. I'm for the state of Israel, but I support a fair state for Palestine, too, so by their definition, that makes me a self-hating Jew. Imbecilic and immoral. The Nazis killed my great-grandparents. THAT'S anti-Semitism. Not wanting human rights and fair treatment.

    •  Yes, it's ludicrous when that happens. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      ...when these right-wing neo-Zionist types mostly accuse Jewish Americans of anti-Semitism.
      And this diarist has had that happen to him.  Quite recently.  The right-wing-types you mention gather at this website and they called The Troubadour many nasty things there - including self-hating.  Read the comments below the piece.  This is what he meant by "(elsewhere)" in the very first sentence of this diary:
      As someone who was recently called an anti-Semite (elsewhere) for an honest, confessional critique of Israel (on this site) . . .
      When you look at the list in the upper-right-hand corner of the web page titled, "Who Am I", you will see a list of DKos regulars.  All or almost all have self-identified as Jewish.  The author of the horrible attack article itself goes by "Reuven" there, but has admitted several times here on DKos that he posts here as "Mets102".

      I have met The Troubadour and I like the man.  He is a genuinely good person.  I would defend him with word and, if need be, with deed.  To see him libeled there by people who dare show their faces here on this website is repulsive to me.

      I'm for the state of Israel, but I support a fair state for Palestine, too, so by their definition, that makes me a self-hating Jew.
      I support and want very much to see a vibrant state of Israel at peace with its neighbors.  I also strongly support a fair and just state for the Palestinians.  I guess that one could also call ME a "self-hating Jew" over that position on the issues were I Jewish, but I am not.
      Imbecilic and immoral.
      Yes, sir, it is.

      Please remember those names from that other blog as you move about this website.

      Celtic Merlin

      Struggle with dignity against injustice. IS there anything more honorable that a person can do?

      by Celtic Merlin on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 07:57:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary, raising important issues... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    poco, Aunt Martha, Terra Mystica

    There's no doubt that antisemitism exists, that some (too many) folks hold an irrational racialized hatred for Jews, often framed in terms of vast conspiracies and cosmic evil. There's also no doubt that some (too many) accusations of antisemitism are deliberately wielded as a means to stigmatize individuals (and the entire set of their ideas / opinions) and excise them from discourse as "untouchables."

    Most people of good will recognize the extreme instances; the problem lies in the "grey zone" where criticism of the policies of Israel, criticism of the project(s) of Zionism and the nature of Israel qua the Jewish State interact. Are some criticisms of Israel and/or Zionism a veneer of respectability for a deeply-seated and peculiar hatred for Jews? Undeniably so. Are all? Undeniably not the case, though there is great utility in framing them as such. We see those sweeping accusations here (the diarist is, imo, being too polite when he elides the motivated accusations of antisemitism we've witnessed on dKos) and elsewhere.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 06:31:30 AM PDT

  •  Ummm no.... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    As someone who was recently called an anti-Semite (elsewhere) for an honest, confessional critique of Israel (on this site)
    You were not called an anti-Semite for your "honest, confessional critique" of Israel. Your criticism of Israel has/had absolutely nothing to do with that charge. The Levy Committee report was an awful document and is a real stain on the history of Israel.

    AND it is true that the term anti-Semitism has been mis-used by the political right to nail people on the left and even in the Center by the hard right. I have been called an anti-Semite and enabler of Nazi's AND Jihadi's by the lunatics on the Right.

    That said, it is also a term that is important to recognize that when folks go hand in hand with those who do espouse anti-Semitic tactics and meme's they do enable anti-Semitism to gain power and traction.

    Alex Kane's article quoted here is not anti-Semitic. However, Armin Rosen DOES make a good point. That is that by simply turning a blind eye to the anti-Semitism in the movement that he is part of, Kane is complicit. By being a staff writer at a hate site (a site where the comments trashed the diarist here btw), Kane lends himself to the cause. Rather than take a position against hatred when it appears at Mondoweiss (which yes is a daily occurance too often to count), he simply sits in silence lending his argument to those who would abuse it.

    Anyway, let's just be clear... In my opinion and in the opinion of almost everyone I know, it is not criticism of the Government of Israel that is considered anti-Semitic. That simply isn't true.

    "'Touch it dude' - President Barack Obama"

    by volleyboy1 on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 09:16:04 AM PDT

    •  You're right! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      You were not called an anti-Semite for your "honest, confessional critique" of Israel.
      But you did call the man just about everything else you could think of for his critique of Israel.

      If you deny this, I could post selected quotes for you (and so many others) to read.

      Struggle with dignity against injustice. IS there anything more honorable that a person can do?

      by Celtic Merlin on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 08:09:05 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank you, the troubadour! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It is important to push back against smears and neo-McCarthyite tactics -- as Wright and you have done.

    It isn't nice to go to jail ... but if that's freedom's price

    by Rusty Pipes on Wed Jul 18, 2012 at 12:38:45 PM PDT

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