Dual Loyalty And The New Republic
07/20/07
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Eric Alterman, the media analyst, has always been sensitive, touchy even, on the question of “dual loyalty,” the belief that somewhere an anti-Semite is keeping tabs on the extent to which an American Jew’s support for Israel justifies Jew hatred.Few anti-Semites, though, have been as persistent, even merciless, in exploring dual loyalty as has Alterman, a Jew who admits to a dash of dual loyalty all his own.A columnist for The Nation, and a professor of journalism at Brooklyn College, in 2003 he essayed a column on Iraq in which he was concerned that the “primary intellectual architects” of the Iraq war “are all Jewish neoconservatives. So, too, are many of its prominent media cheerleaders,” prompting “the ‘Jews control the media’ problem.”Jewish “hard liners” on Values To Heal America Iraq appeared, said Alterman, “at least from a distance, to be behaving in accordance with traditional anti-Jewish stereotypes ... to the delight of genuine anti-Semites of the left and right.” Surely, Alterman worries so much because he loves us, not unlike other fierce critics of Israel who are Jewish, such as Tony Judt or the Rabbis for Human Rights, even if their roses are all thorns, no petals.Of course, at The Nation, the leftist publication for which Alterman writes, no one would dare suggest that Iraq was the fault of American blacks simply because Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell were actually in the inner sanctum of the war counsels, with more influence and higher rank than any Jew.Elsewhere in the Alterman files, he published a column for MSNBC in which he speculated about the media’s pundit-ocracy, a field “dominated by people who cannot imagine criticizing Israel.”Among those who “can be counted on to support Israel reflexively and without qualification,” include George Will, Charles Krauthammer, just about everyone at The Wall Street Journal and The New Republic’s longtime publisher Martin Peretz and his Israel correspondent, Yossi Klein Halevi.Alterman writes in The American Prospect (June 18), “My Marty Peretz problem — and ours, if you happen to care about the respective fates of American liberalism, Judaism, or journalism,” is that Peretz has taken the historically liberal New Republic and turned it over to politics “in thrall almost entirely to an Israel-centric neoconservatism ... it’s difficult to understand how the magazine’s politics might be considered liberal anymore.”What we have is the journalistic equivalent of the Joseph Lieberman situation, with Peretz and his publication being liberal on all domestic issues, and liberal on significant foreign issues such as Darfur, being run out of the liberal town for demanding military action in response to the genocidal threat against Israel, let alone the terrorist threat to the United States.Alterman admits that TNR under Peretz has been, overall, “a truly terrific little magazine,” and Peretz has published “the views of people with whom he disagrees,” but Peretz had the temerity to publish writers with whom Alterman disagrees, on Iraq and on Israel, though as a liberal Alterman fancies himself more tolerant than “neocon” Peretz.Alterman asks, “Is it possible that Israel’s leaders,” from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu who have supported the Iraq war, “are always right?”Is it possible that the saintly Yitzchak Rabin was always right? What of the American Jewish writers who criticized Oslo as a Trojan horse, and criticized the Israeli leaders who were its architects? Or is there only nobility in criticizing those Israeli leaders when Alterman shares the critique?In fact, two writers who’ve appeared in TNR and been criticized by Alterman — Krauthammer and Halevi — have been highly critical of Israeli leaders. In 2006, in the wake of the Second Lebanon War, Halevi wrote, “However hard Ehud Olmert tries to spin it,” the cease-fire agreed to by Israel’s leaders “is a disaster for Israel.” No government “was ever less qualified” to manage a war, he continued.Last month, Krauthammer criticized Israel for failing to deter “unremitting rocket attacks” from Gaza. Not only that, Israel’s government was “supplying food, water, electricity and gasoline to a territory that was actively waging hostilities against it.”To paraphrase Lenin, Israel is providing the rope that will be its noose. But it is the left, not the neocons in the Peretz orbit, that has refused to criticize Israeli leaders about this.Last week, in his blog on TNR site (July 8), Peretz criticized Israel’s abandonment of Sderot to Palestinian rockets. He compares the Tel Aviv boulevard, Sderot Rothschild, where the elites “are drinking cappuccino and eating luscious deserts,” to the Negev’s Sderot, “a poor town with poor economic prospects and mostly poor people living where Gaza Palestinians find it convenient to shoot their rockets.”One would think it is a reflection of The New Republic’s liberalism that it cares about the poor and helpless, but if there is any other liberal publication that has cared about the humanitarian crisis in Sderot as much as the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, we’re still waiting to see it.Alterman charges that to the dually loyal Peretz, the interests of Israel and the United States are identical: “support both for the Iraq war and, now, for yet another war against Iran.” For example, writes Alterman, “In a February 5, 2007, cover story entitled ‘Israel’s Worst Nightmare,’ Israeli writers Yossi Klein Halevi and Michael B. Oren failed even to mention America’s interest in going to war against Iran; they made their case purely on the basis of an allegedly existential and unavoidable threat to Israel.”Halevi told The Jewish Week via e-mail: “Alterman’s critique is typical of how he twists the facts to suit his ideological argument. What he calls a TNR ‘cover story’ was in fact listed on the very bottom of the cover of the magazine.” As for only considering Israeli interests, “The stated point of the article was to offer a specifically Israeli view on Iran. ... Other TNR writers weigh in on the American interest; that is not my job as the Israeli correspondent of TNR.” Alterman finally damns Peretz for his “obsessive and unapologetic hatred of Arabs, the evidence of which is visible nearly every day.” The evidence? Peretz has called Palestinians or Arabs in general, “violent... unreliable... cruel, belligerent, intolerant.” Imagine that. In other words, Peretz calls the Palestinians what Fatah has called Hamas and what Hamas has called Fatah. The “netroots” — Internet-mobilized activists — of the left, adds Alterman, “see no reason why they should make special dispensations for Peretz’s racism.” Nevertheless, it is not the Peretz-supported Israelis but the Alterman-supported Palestinians whose “racism” dictates that no one may live or even walk in Gaza or Nablus because of that person’s religion, even if that religion is Alterman’s own.

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