Tuesday, February 18, 2003

The ugly specter of "dual loyalties." You don't have to support the Bush administration's Iraq policy in order to be worried about the anti-Israel overtones of the burgeoning antiwar movement. Last week, Rabbi Michael Lerner wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal about his being banned from speaking at a peace rally because he (gasp!) supports Israel's right to exist.

Today, a Media Log reader passes along a Washington Post op-ed piece by Lawrence Kaplan on the growing tendency of those who oppose the war to blame it all on the influence of conservative Jews in the US government. Those mouthing such dangerous inanities, Kaplan observes, range from the right (Pat Buchanan, reprising his anti-Semitic rhetoric from the first Gulf War), the left (Kaplan quotes the "respected liberal intellectual Ian Buruma" as blaming it all on "Jewish-American hysteria"), and the center (MSNBC talking head Chris Matthews points to "conservative people out there, some of them Jewish, who are very tough on foreign policy. They believe we should fight the Arabs and take them down. They believe that if we don't fight Iraq, Israel will be in danger.").

Kaplan doesn't mention it, but he could have pointed as well to Slate blogger Mickey Kaus's recent round-up of administration officials who are tied to Israel's Likud government. Asks Kaus: "As someone trying to make up his mind about the war, am I troubled by the unspoken, widely-acknowledged influence of the Likudniks? Yes! ... [I]t's very relevant to us ordinary citizens what conscious or subconscious motives might be skewing their decision in favor of war."

Funny, but I don't remember anyone getting hot and bothered over the assistance that James Carville gave to Israel's previous Labor government. Then again, since Carville's not Jewish, he wasn't open to the ugly smear of "dual loyalties," which Kaus invokes to knock down (going out of his way to note his own Jewish background), and which Kaplan identifies as the "toxic" bit of rhetoric that it is. Kaplan concludes:

Invoking the specter of dual loyalty to quiet criticism and debate amounts to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse. It is the nullification of public discourse, for how can one refute accusations grounded in ethnicity? The charges are, ipso facto, impossible to disprove. And so they are meant to be.

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