This week’s Think Again column is called “The Conservative Class Warfare Against Free Speech” and it focuses on Republican efforts to control academic research and writing, here.
Oh and I’ll be speaking at Vassar College on the evening of April 5th on the topic of “How Jewish Intellectuals became ‘American’ by becoming liberals.” All future appearances, by the way, are here.
“And baby I can guess the rest…”
Jonathan Chait, writing in The New Republic, demonstrates the danger of a little knowledge put in the service of a pundit’s prejudices. Chait, who, together with Ronald Radosh and David Horowitz, was a lonely defender of Marty Peretz’s views of the Middle East, (and James Kirchick’s reporting of it), seizes on this paragraph in Franklin Foer’s review of Irving Kristol’s most recent posthumous collection:
"Israel’s socialistic ethos alienated Kristol. “Truth to tell,” he later recalled, “I found Israeli society, on the whole, quite exasperating.” He was not alone. In 1951, he received a copy of a letter from a Columbia student named Norman Podhoretz. This missive had circulated to Kristol by way of Cohen, who had received a copy from its original recipient, Lionel Trilling. The letter was an account of Podhoretz’s first visit to Israel. “I felt more at home in Athens!” he told Trilling. “They are, despite their really extraordinary accomplishments, a very unattractive people, the Israelis. They’re gratuitously surly and boorish…. They are too arrogant and too anxious to become a real honest-to-goodness New York of the East.” On the basis of Podhoretz’s chilly response to the Jewish state, Kristol recruited him to write for Commentary."
To make this point:
"The truth is that the original neocons were very far from deep, emotional supporters of Israel. They were pro-Israel, but their pro-Israel views stemmed from their general hawkishness rather than vice versa. In any case, the neoconservative ideology was wildly simplistic and intellectually corrupt, as Frank well shows, but this particular understanding of it has always been misplaced."
But if Chait had taken even a moment to consider what he was trying to argue, it might have occurred to him that what a person wrote about Israel in 1951 has virtually no relevance to what he may have thought or written twenty or so years later. Specifically, the June 1967 war changed everything for American Jews and Israel, and note that the date is awfully consistent with the origins of neoconservatism.