Journalist and blogger Matthew Yglesias rightly challenges a recent article on the Israel lobby:
Okay, I can’t resist. Here’s a novel thought I had on the issue inspired by Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece on Walt and Mearsheimer. According to Goldberg, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy “represents the most sustained attack, the most mainstream attack, against the political enfranchisement of American Jews since the era of Father Coughlin.”
This is an interesting rhetorical move. Rather than defending specific policies, or the policy views of specific groups and individuals, Goldberg has positioned himself as the defender of “the political enfranchisement of American Jews” as such, thus capturing the high ground in, among other things, the intra-Jewish debate about Israel and American foreign policy. Lots of Jewish relatives of mine who probably wouldn’t approve of AIPAC’s efforts to remove legislative language constraining George W. Bush from attacking Iran certainly do approve of “the political enfranchisement of American Jews” so if we shift the debate to that issue, Goldberg wins.
The trouble, of course, is that Goldberg has no particular interest in the political enfranchisement of American Jews as such. He’s not talking about empowering Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein and Eric Alterman and Harold Meyerson and Josh Marshall and MJ Rosenberg and Daniel Levy. He’s talking about empowering Jeffrey Goldberg and Alan Dershowitz and Martin Peretz and Charles Krauthammer. Which is fine. Obviously, you’d expect Goldberg to want to see people who agree with him empowered vis-à-vis those who disagree with him, but this has nothing to do with empowering “the Jews” and everything to do with empowering some Jews whose ideas have not, over the years, served the United States or Israel very well.
Goldberg’s essay on the Mearsheimer and Walt book is riddled with anger, frustration and outright horror. He simply can’t understand how the poor Jews could be challenged by, shock! horror!, non-Jews. Jews in America are uniquely powerful and influential. This is a statement of fact. They have every right to use that power to support Israel, but others have an equal right to challenge whether Israel is being best served by a never-ending wet kiss. Besides, one senses that Goldberg just doesn’t like anybody discussing Jews outside of Israel.
Get used to it, sunshine. Mearsheimer and Walt are just the latest – best-sellers, it should be said – and there are plenty of other individuals who want to discuss these issues. Simply labelling them anti-Semites or anti-Zionists may feel good, but it doesn’t have any political capital and is sensibly ignored by most citizens.
The fear of such labelling is coming to an end.