To no one’s surprise (I hope)—after the uproar over Max Blumenthal’s Goliath—a book often critical of Israel has provoked a strong backlash and set frequent allies against one another. This time it revolves around the pro-Israel stronghold—at least under former owner Marty Peretz and before the arrival of new boss Chris Hughes—of The New Republic.
Of course, the David Horowitzs of the world had already labeled the book Genesis by John Judis as betraying hatred for Israel and even support for, yes, the Nazis. There were several developments yesterday. After Ron Radosh had attacked the book, Leon Wieseltier, a colleague of Judis at The New Republic, sent Radosh a note going even further; the note was happily published by a right-wing site. This is just one blast:
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…. Remember Rosa Luxemburg’s letter to her friend in which she proudly announced that she had no corner of her heart for the Jews? Judis is her good disciple.
Of course, Wieseltier has proudly picked fights for other staffers before, but he is now the last of the Old Guard there.
This latest hit provoked Peter Beinart (who has been attacked himself for some of his recent musings on Israel) to tweet: “john judis is an old, dear friend of mine. don’t agree w/ him on everything but will stand w/ him when unfairly attacked.” Andrew Sullivan hit Wieseltier here. Excerpt:
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.
Jacob Heilbrunn (himself a former Wieseltier colleague) does much the same at The National Interest.
The truth is that hysterical petulance is at the bottom of much of Wieseltier’s fulgurations. The contrast between the lofty principles that intellectuals such as Wieseltier purport to espouse and the childish sniping is what emerges most conspicuously in his latest fusillade. In the end, the stakes aren’t really that high and, in any case, until recent decades many Jewish intellectuals were, more often than not, indifferent to Israel (Lionel Trilling) or dubious about it. Now Judis has written a mildly critical account that is triggering a furor. That his detractors would respond so extravagantly and violently may say more about their dispositions than his.
Max Blumenthal noted in a tweet: “Judis says Museum of Jewish Heritage has reinvited him to June 1 appearance—after rescinding invite under pressure.”
Judis then replied himself in a piece at The New Republic titled “Conservative Critics Say My New Israel Book Is Anti-Semitic. They Must Not Have Read It Very Closely.”
I have to admit that I found it disturbing that after reading one of these reviews, an old friend called to ask me whether in my book I really advocated the abolition of Israel. The fact is that I don’t believe in the abolition of Israel, nor in half the things that these reviewers have attributed to me.…
[M]any states, including the United States, are products of settler colonialism and conquest. There is no going back in these cases. What Israel’s early history does suggest, though, is that Palestinian Arabs have a legitimate grievance against Israelis that has never been satisfactorily addressed. It won’t be addressed by abolishing Israel—that’s not going to happen—but it can be addressed by an equitable two-state solution that gives both peoples a state and that opens the way for Israel’s reconciliation with its neighbors. If there is a lesson to Genesis—and I happen to believe that history can tell us things about the present—that’s what it is.