I’ve got a new "Think Again" column called "Kill Me Before I Sing Again," and it’s here.

My new Nation column is called "Zinn-ophibia at NPR" and it’s here.

I could kill Leon Wieseltier for turning Andrew Sullivan into a victim and an object of genuine sympathy. The whole mishegos puts me in mind of Harry Truman on or around 22 June 1941.(Look it up.) Since Leon is widely recognized by those who know him to be a brilliant man and one of America’s greatest living editors, and a man who knows a great deal about Judaism and anti-semitism, the most obvious conclusion is that he has simply lost his mind. As frequent-but-critical admirer of his genius, I find this genuinely sad. I mean he has 4,300 words to make his case and he fails to convince anyone, even lifelong anti-Sullivanites like myself, Brad Delong and Matt Yglesias. Listen, Sullivan is a jerk. He lives his life in a state of permanent hysteria over this or that Crime Against Humanity even though he frequently changes his mind 180 degrees about just what the crime was and who is guily. One day he loves George Bush and Dick Cheney and wants to put myself and Susan Sontag into a concentration camp. The next day he hates Bush and Cheney and wonders what all the fuss was about. It’s as bad as Hitchens, but it happens apparently once a day. But what Leon is doing here is seeking to criminalize the kinds of criticism of Israel of which he does not approve. His boss, and patron, Marty Peretz, long ago lost his mind—and the respect of everyone whois not on TNR’s payroll—over exactly this issue, turning himself in to a comically neurotic old Jewish man who spouts anti-Arab hatred on the magazine’s website as if seeking to incite a daily race riot. Together with young Kirchick, who as a Jew-obsessed gay Neocon jihadist–and hence, might fairly be viewed as the evil spawn of Peretz and Andrew-in-his-earlier-incarnation, their achievement lies in their ability to destroy not only the value of the term "pro-Israel" as I wrote here, but now, sadly, the value of the actual accusation of anti-Semitism evenwhere it might be real.

Anyway, perhaps there’s something in the water they serve in the office. Jonathan Chait was, once upon a time, immune to this kind of thing and was a fine liberal writer. But he’s caught the disease now as well. With considerable political dexterity, he embraces Wieseltier’s thesis while distancing himself from the particulars. But here’s the bottom line. "His obsession with the singular power of the Israel lobby, writes Leon "has a provenance that should disgust all thinking people." Agreed. But just because an idea has a revolting provenance, it does not follow that everybody who subscribes to any version of it shares the same motive." Got that? Andrew may not be an anti-Semite but anyone who is concerned with the Israel’s lobby’s ability to thwart the peace process or interfere with the conduct of a sensible policy toward the region is guilty of holding an idea of "revolting provenance" and hence, is only asking to be described this way, true or not. Remember inside TNR Walt and Mearsheimer are literally treated as the equivalent of David Duke and Louis Farrakhan. Jimmy Carter will go down in history primarily as a "Jew-hater." Etc, etc. And if you, yourself find any cause for concern in the actions of the Israel lobby, prepare to find yourself similarly smeared.

Glenn Greenwald has a bunch of useful links here.

My heart genuinely goes out to TNR’s smart, honorable writers who have no sympathy at all for this kind of thing, but can not afford to lose either the income or the megaphone this deeply disgraced publication continues to provide.

The following is behind a pay wall at The Nation.

‘Cut the Theme Music’

According to Eric Alterman ["Focus on Israel," Jan. 11/18], colonialism and occupation are simply problems of human friendship, to be solved when Palestinians and Israelis join hands, look into each others’ eyes and say "Hey, until now I didn’t know you were human." Imagine the black population living under apartheid in South Africa being instructed tojust (cue the AT&T theme song) "reach out and touch someone," and the problems of colonialism and oppression magically evaporate.

Alterman assumes a referee status between right and left thinkers on the conflict, when actually he is a sweet-talker for one of the longest-running, most brutal occupations in history. Eric, cut the theme music. Let’s work to end the confiscation of land, eviction of families from East Jerusalem, unequal distribution of resources and illegal imprisonment. Then we might wake to a world where human beings, allotted an equal humanity and self-determination, can share and flourish.


Prospect, KY

If Eric Alterman’s point is that it is hypocritical to vilify Israelis, or that they are making some good films these days, I agree. However, his larger point reminded me of the way my parents used to think about the South, where they lived in the postwar years. Southern attitudes toward race struck them as surprisingly varied. My parents were friends with whites who were shocked by lynch justice and touchingly partisan for the black folk, whom they knew affectionately. How ignorant and unjust, thought my father, to condemn the white South in sweeping terms. As far as I know, none of them took part in the civil rights movement.

I was surprised that Alterman echoes the argument that Israel’s critics lack a sense of "proportion." I could argue that German militaristic nationalism in 1914 was, proportionally speaking, not so bad compared with its British and French equivalents. And Serbian nationalism, the spark that set off the world conflagration, may have been even more excusable. By the same token, the wrong done to Alfred Dreyfus was surely trifling compared with an Eastern European pogrom or compared with the crimes perpetrated in Africa by the French army, in which Dreyfus was implicated. So didn’t Zola and the Dreyfusards get a little carried away in their righteous zeal?

We can apparently agree that criticism of Israel can include ignorance, self-righteousness and hypocrisy. Can we also agree that Israelis deserve not only the respect accorded to white South Africans–a people with a rich history and culture, with humane authors and valiant opponents of racial injustice–but also the sanctions that helped bringdown the apartheid system?


Bloomington, IL

Eric Alterman takes exception to Roane Carey’s remark that "if the [Palestinian Authority] collapses…it will strip off the mask that there is anything in the territories beyond Israeli occupation." In Alterman’s view, Carey is oblivious to the comforting state of contentment among the occupied territories’ Palestinian citizens. According to a recent survey, 63 percent of those citizens believe their safety is "secured" or "completely secured."

This must be a contingent sort of security, though, in light of the fact that 77 percent of those respondents were "worried" or "very worried" that they or a member of their family could be hurt by Israel in their daily life or that their land would be confiscated or home demolished.To help us find the fair and balanced tipping point along the "one-dimensional picture presented by both left and right," Alterman prescribes some Israeli movies, of which I’ve seen two. Waltz With Bashir is indeed a good flick, but it’s entirely about Jewish angst; not exactly on point. The Lemon Tree is on point, however. It’s a moving dramatization of precisely what Carey is claiming: that occupation is at the core of existence in the territories, and that the phony "peace process" the PA has so disastrously bought into has no hope of reversing the relentless trajectory of oppression, dispossession and state violence. Ehud Olmert, co-architect of the Gaza atrocity, articulated the "leftist bugbear" Carey quotes and Alterman tries to hide: that Israel will soon "face a South Africa-style struggle for equal voting rights. As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished." Come on, Eric! In all other contexts you hate "fair and balanced." Why is this context different from all other contexts?


Columbia, MO

Alterman Replies

I’ve been writing for The Nation for twenty-seven years now. I just turned 50, so with luck, I have another twenty-seven or so years in me. During that time I hope, just once, to read someone other than myself in this magazine observe that the Israelis do not bear responsibility for absolutely every misfortune that has befallen the Palestinian people. And that in fact, the Palestinian leadership, and those who call themselves "militants"–but the rest of the world calls"terrorists"–bear significant responsibility as well. I guess today is not that day…


New York City, NY

This week on Moyers:

Long Listing 02.12.10 On Lincoln’s birthday, Bill Moyers Journal takes a unique look at our nation’s 16th President–through the eyes of critically acclaimed, veteran dance artist Bill T. Jones. In a groundbreaking work of choreography called "Fondly Do We Hope…Fervently Do We Pray," Jones reimagines a young Lincoln in his formative years through dance. Bill Moyers speaks with Jones about his creative process, his insights into Lincoln, and how dance can give us fresh perspective on America’s most-studied president. "The number of ways in which one could ask the question ‘Who was this man?" is less interesting to me than ‘Can we see that man anywhere in ourselves or around us right now?’" says Jones.


The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season [Blu-ray]

I don’t know about you, but to me, the ability of Matt Groenig and company to maintain incredible standards of intelligence, knowingness, backbone and good humor in "The Simpsons" is one of the greatest cultural stories of the second half of the twentieth century. SeasonTwenty is just as good as Season Two. In fact, topicality aside, it really doesn’t matter which season you watch, the standard is so consistent. If you are the kind of person who has time to revel in DVD extras, then you are going to be disappointed with this set. It’s got basically nothing. (And boy are the commenters on Amazon pissed. I guess they’ve been spoiled in the past.) Some ofthe season is in HD, otherwise, it’s just the funniest, smartest, most consistent show on television for like, I dunno, hours and hours. You can watch this one or watch an older one. Really, what do I care? You call.

JD Allen live at the Village Vanguard:

I also went to see this fellow hailed by the Times as "tenorsaxophonist with an enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style," last week at the Vanguard and for about ten minutes I felt the presence of God (and John ) in the room. The man can think and play. But someone needs to tell this guy that it’s just nasty not to say a word to the audience during your entire performance, and to play without any break whatever or introduction to any of the works. Jazz is demanding enough already. To refuse to explain song titles, thoughts, inspirations, to give the audience any guidance at all, is counterproductive. It mightwork for those who are already deeply committed to the artist inquestion, but it ruins the show, in my view, for just about everybody else. I’m not familiar with Allen’s extensive oeuvre but he sure has been getting good reviews. So if mid-late Coltrane is your thing, you’ll like this guy… with a little work.

The Mail:

Name: Steve Thorne

Hometown: Somewhere in California

Mr. Lambert’s note about finding Mr. Pierce’s book in "self- improvement" reminds me of the time I saw a book about all the little critters that live on our bodies, consuming dead skin, etc. The title was something like "What Lives on Man."

Name: Steve Nelson

Hometown: Kent, WA

All Hail Pierce. The Bluedogs do have nothing to do now but the right thing! The smile lines on my face are taut with the joy of the suggestion.

Name: Greg Hilliard

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

"I see Darren Sharper going 50 yards the other way with an interception, and every step he takes is a tribute to how much I love New Orleans."

Close, Charlie, so close, but I think you’ll take Tracy Porter and 74 yards. But with every step he took, the talk of Peyton Manning as the greatest ever got more distant. It’s all about championships. And I was pulling for Manning and the Colts.