“As A Jew, It Embarrasses Me”

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Here’s a good summary of the key point of John Judis’s new book, Genesis: Truman, American Jews, And the Origins Of The Arab-Israeli Conflict: that some early American Zionists had a blind spot when it came to the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. They just wanted them “transferred” from their homes and land. Their dignity and communities were to be erased, without much serious consideration, in favor of a great utopian scheme.

As if on cue, the literary editor of The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier, has decided yet again to go public in lacerating a colleague for daring to write about Israel without his oversight and permission. An email to Ron Radosh has appeared on the right-wing site, The Washington Free Beacon. Brimming with the usual venom and invective, it’s yet another collegial bridge burned by the Zionist fanatic. Are there any editors of TNR that Leon Wieseltier hasn’t personally trashed, if they dare disagree with him? Again, much of the diatribe is ad hominem, and deploys the usual tropes of the far right in smearing critics:

I am no authority on Truman’s decision (though you are), but I know with certainty that Judis’ understanding of Jewish history, and of the history and nature of Zionism, is shallow, derivative, tendentious, imprecise, and sometimes risibly inaccurate—he is a tourist in this subject. Like most tourists, he sees what he came to see. There is more to be said also about the utter shabbiness of discovering a Jewish identity in—and for the purpose of—criticizing the Jews: it is not only ignorant but also insulting. The magnitude of Judis’ indifference to the fate of the Jews in the very years in which they were being massively slaughtered—the 1940s: now there was a decade of Jewish power!—is quite shocking.

Note the incoherence: Wieseltier does not know the history on Truman with any authority, while Judis has spent years researching it. And yet Wieseltier is still capable of knowing “with certainty” that Judis’ book is “risibly inaccurate.” You can read the highly critical Radosh review here – and, like most of Radosh’s work, has none of the ad hominem poison that is Wieseltier’s lazy hallmark. It does take issue with some factual details but on the critical period analyzed in the book, Radosh writes: “I’m afraid that we see the same facts somewhat differently.” That’s “risible” inaccuracy?

Then there’s an almost text-book case of the Goldberg variations in Wieseltier’s personal attack on Judis: the writer knows nothing; the writer is a phony Jew; the writer is indifferent to the Holocaust; the writer is therefore a self-hating Jew/anti-Semite. These are not arguments; they are insults. And they are as disgusting as they are entirely unsurprising.

A simple question: is there an editor at The New Republic capable of preventing this kind of vicious anti-collegial invective? Not when it comes to Wieseltier, it seems. Chris Hughes and Frank Foer seem to answer to him, and not the other way round.