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So That Happened

Smith’s column gets quite a response

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Lee Smith wrote a column yesterday, which pointed to several prominent bloggers who are “obsessed with Israel and the machinations of the U.S. Israel lobby” (he didn’t, shall we say, mean it in a good way) and accused them of being “Jew-baiters” (he didn’t mean that in a good way, either). It provoked … well, I am not positive that 211 comments is a Tablet Magazine record, but, I mean, it must be. This was, after all, an article in part about comments and commenters.

First, though, quick-links to the responses of the bloggers whom Smith referred to by name:

• Andrew Sullivan: “There are no substantive arguments in the piece, and there are no quotes in the piece from any of the bloggers and writers concerned that could even faintly be called anti-Semitic. There is just cherry-picking of vileness that often shows up on comments sections (which this blog does not even have). I mean: seriously. [Andrew Sullivan]

• Stephen Walt calls it a “screed.” [Foreign Policy]

• Phillip Weiss looks at our funders and related boards—apparently William Kristol is our distant cousin (and not just from the Old Country)—although he also (graciously) acknowledges that we have “some bandwidth,” for example having published “a pretty good piece today.” Actually, Marissa’s piece is great, not pretty good, but close enough. [Mondoweiss]

• Dan Luban (a Tablet Magazine contributor) wonders, at Jim Lobe’s blog (which Smith mentions), why Smith, “a neoconservative political operative,” gets a column to use “exclusively as an echo chamber for talking points from Commentary and the Weekly Standard.” Answer one: Don’t ask me, I’m just the blogger! Answer two: Smith’s profile of Robert Malley would never run in the Standard. [Lobelog]

Additionally, some unmentioned writers got in on the action.

• “Lee Smith, shame on you,” Tweets (!) Slate Group Editor Jacob Weisberg. “You owe Weiss, Sullivan, Walt & Greenwald apologies.” Weisberg used to publish Smith. [Jacob Weisberg’s Twitter]

• Ron Kampeas says the piece was “sloppy” and that Smith “smeared” the writers he mentioned. [Capital J]

• Andrew Silow-Carroll argues, “Anti-Semitism is too serious a charge to level without defining your terms and assembling your evidence precisely.” [NJ Jewish News]

• Max Blumenthal calls the piece “crude invective.” [MaxBlumenthal.com]

• Richard Silverstein wants to know why he wasn’t mentioned. He’s just kidding! I think. [RichardSilverstein.com]

Plenty more where this came from in the comments, of course, plus some defenses. To take one, from Rob H., writing about Glenn Greenwald (who I don’t think responded directly to the piece—sorry if he did and I missed it):

If people want to tell themselves that he doesn’t traffic in anti-semitism, go right ahead. But just because he doesn’t say anything overtly anti-semitic, doesn’t mean he receives a get-out-jail free card. Greenwald routinely employs the most inflammatory of rhetoric to describe Israel’s actions and supporters. He uses the word “slaughter” so often, one would think it’s a conjunction. Other terms include “psychopathic derangement,” “psychopathic indifference,” “blood thirsty fanatic,” “sociopathic indifference,” and so on.

So, what do you think? There’s a comments section below, you know.

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David S says:

I think all these bloggers are a bunch of fucking lunatics who need to get real jobs.

Daniel mentioned my response in my blog, the Magnes Zionist

http://themagneszionist.blogspot.com/2010/07/company-i-keep.html

I am surprised you didn’t.

Conscientious Objector says:

Indeed, you should update your piece to include a link to Jerry Haber’s thoughtful observation.

But Marc, I think you missed the greater point. This is an issue that people care passionately about. That Tablet is on its way to 300 responses should come as no surprise to Lee Smith (very sloppy article, by the way, well below your meticulous standards), and it’s not because he joined “the open sewer of hate” by blogging about it in the first place.

It is no longer possible to squelch legitimate dialogue about the Middle East. There is a sense that the mainstream media is no longer capable of being an honest reporter on the topic, and the ability of Greenwald-Weiss-Sullivan-Walt-Lobe and others to openly and critically discuss the topic is revolutionary.

Their followers are not 100% rabid anti-Semites . . . to the contrary, they are well-educated, well-informed, and concerned citizens. The intellectually lazy and accusatory tone of Lee Smith’s article deserved the widespread derision it received, just as Leon Wiesenthaler’s weirdly obsessive hit piece on Andrew Sullivan was universally scorned on the blogosphere and diminished his reputation.

As Lee Smith put it: “The genius of the web is its interconnectedness, the facility with which it is capable of making links based on other links, which allows a chain of unbroken and unsubstantiated rumor and innuendo to acquire the stature of fact.” Fortunately, his slander of “Jew-baiting” failed to acquire the stature of fact, despite his pathetic efforts.

If you believe that this fit of antisemitic madness is going to last forever, and that the reputations of those who indulge it or stoke the hatred of the rabble responsible for the epidemic of hate speech on the internet are going to remain untarnished, you are mistaken.

The pattern is the always the same. The tide of Jew hatred waxes and wanes and when it recedes, the racists who orchestrate it are eventually held accountable.

Jews suffer, but justice ultimately prevails. Sullivan, Walt, Weiss, Mearsheimer and their craven, self-abnegating toadies will be recorded in the annals of history as villains, of greater or lesser stature.

But Marc, is Tablet Magazine really agnostic on this question that Lee Smith has raised?

Is its policy simply to offer a venue for writers on Jewish themes, with no ideological parameters at all?

What is so disgusting about the dirt slung by people like Weiss (less so, Sullivan, I concede) is that it’s not even a question of Zionist or antiZionist. These writers accuse Jews of subverting American society, of hijacking the apparatus of government.

Tablet Magazine encompasses a range of opinions from ardent Zionism to anti-Zionism, but is it really acceptable to publish writers who endorse conspiracy theories about Jews? Because neoconservatives, to cite the group most often demonized–it was the peace activist Jews during Vietnam who were crucified–are out of power. They staff magazines and think tanks. They are wholly excluded from decision-making, and yet demagogues like those named in Lee Smith’s piece are still trying to make political hay by stirring up dormant antisemitism.

David says:

I do think Tablet must answer the question of why a right-wing neocon like Lee Smith *did* get to use the bandwidth of this blog and if it’s going to happen again.

You want critics of Israel to stop criticizing it? Then tell the fanatical Zionists running the country to stop persecuting the Palestinians, attacking their neighbors, and shoveling money to the US Congress to do their dirty work for them, first in Iraq and now targeting Iran, while sucking thirty percent of US foreign aid.

The charge of antisemitism is a “get out of jail free Card” to cover up a racist, colonialist, imperialist, illegal, rogue, terrorist state run by corrupt politicians for their own benefit, not the benefit of even their own citizens, let alone the rest of the world’s Jews.

And the degree of shameless lying and intellectual dishonesty shown by the supporters of Israel, Zionism, and the AIPAC crowd is disgusting. They deserve all the opprobrium their critics can dish out.

Richard Steven Hack, the overwhelming percentage of aid to Israel is, by law, spent on American products. It is an American domestic subsidy, just like any other stimulus package. That is why it is durable.

By the way, thank you for proving my point.

Steve from Raleigh says:

You will note that Greenwald NEVER steps outside the protected womb of his own blog over which he has absolute control. But he will probably dedicate an entire column on it to sneering and smearing this one. The thing to remember about Greenwald is that he never ever ever comes up with a new idea. His columns are long boring personal attacks on everything an everyone who disagrees with him.

Anti-Semitism in the guise of hatred of Israel is the ongoing theme of Phillip Weiss – no matter how much guilt by association he slings at Tablet or others.

Weiss regularly demonizes Israel, uses double standards to judge Israeli policies and supports those who deny the legitimacy of the Israeli state. These are the hallmarks of those on the left who disguise their anti-Semitism as anti-Israel.

Weiss;s use of the word ‘sucking’ is very telling. Thats from an old Nazi canard about Jews being ‘blood suckers’ and he uses the term the same way.

Again, such language is inflammatory and certainly proves Smith’s point.

And if the reader’s of the Tablet prefer to stick their heads in the sand and pretend the tide of anti semitism isn’t being pushed along by such writers as Walt then nothing we can say here will change their minds.

I would suggest people look at the blog Elder of Ziyon to see some ideas that fill out Smith’s points.

Bryna Weiss says:

It is not that legitimate criticism of Israel should be questioned, it is that the lies and misrepresentations and the vile and hateful ways these lies are perpetrated against Israel by the likes of those mentioned in Smith’s article, smell of anti-Semitism. Legitimate criticisms of Israel are welcomed, yes, even in Israel. The Sullivans and the Mearshimers of this world, are snakes!

steve says:

Go Lee Smith. Finally some one with the balls to tell it like it is. These guys have been getting a free ride for far too long.

June Getraer says:

While these bloggers may not think that their views are anti-semetic, to what do they attribute the plethora of anti-semetic vitriol in the comments by their readers? I thought that Lee Smith’s article was about providing a “safe” forum for those who are. Thank you Tablet.

Mike N says:

Richard Silverstein was a bit dissappointed he wasn’t mentioned is like a left out kid who wants to join the party and to do so he’ll help his buddies stomp on someone else so he xan then walk around with the in crowd and stick his chest out…. what a pathetic dude that guy is… his own self absorbed ego is so obvious it’s embarrassing and he’s the only one that doesn’t realize it….

TheDevilCanDance says:

Lee Smith is irrelevant, like most of the American circus clown pro-Zionists, He fights the wars for Israel behind the safety of his desk at the Hudson Institute. My 13 yr old sister can do that

Rob H. says:

I completely missed this… but four months later I stumble across it. Belated thanks for highlighting out my comment.

Rob H. says:

Just don’t highlight the grammatically-challenged one above. :)

I discovered your blog’s link put up by a friend of mine on Facebook. Thank you for putting useful info on the internet. It’s difficult to come by these things these days.

I would like to to have the same blog as you but i don`t know how to make it. Maybe you can tell me? I`ve been asking few people but they can`t explain me how to do it.

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So That Happened

Smith’s column gets quite a response

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