Gottfried’s Believe It Or Not

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by Paul Gottfried

In his comment "Jews and the War: Listening to Ugly Losers" (NRO March 13, 2003), Jonah Goldberg comes closer to sounding coherent than he does in any other piece of his that I’ve read until now. Not to say that he’s developed the dispassionate discourse style of a C.S. Lewis or a George Santayana. But in comparison to the boilerplate Likudism served up with global democracy that gush out of Cal Thomas, Mona Charen, or John Podhoretz, Jonah seems in this polemic to epitomize intelligence.

Some of his statements do show the usual Jonah, that is, a childish self that it behooves us to point out for his improvement. If Jonah wants to insult Chris Matthews, who notices neoconservatives in the administration, should he be comparing Matthews to Joe McCarthy, who "talked about communists in the state department"? That there were communists in the state department in 1950 is clear enough. Indeed Jonah’s patron WFB wrote about this problem in detail in his conservative incarnation, as have Arthur Hermann and M. Stanton Evans in heavily researched and recently published books on McCarthy’s career. (Hermann, by the way, is not identifiably on the right.)

Moreover, I do have trouble figuring out how David Frum is "not a neoconservative" but is a "Jew, a foreign policy hawk, and in the pay of the Weekly Standard." Having spoken to Frum and having read his essays and tried to digest one of his books, I would be hard pressed to distinguish what he is from what Jonah says he is not. Besides, in his previous writings Jonah, in the manner of Frum and Max Boot, has insisted that there are no neoconservatives but only reasonable types who support Israeli nationalists, a global democratic foreign policy, the presumed civil rights vision of Martin Luther King, minus quotas, etc., vs. neo-Nazis and Neanderthals. How can Frum belong or not belong to a category that Jonah refuses to recognize, even by implication, in this essay?

Furthermore, after coming clean that "Jewish-American conservatives might see the world a bit differently than (sic!), say, Irish-American ones," Jonah falls back into old tricks. In regard to Congressman Jim Moran, who asserted that the "Jewish community" has been a major force behind the movement toward war, Jonah insists that while some Jews are pushing hard for this struggle, it is not because of their Jewishness. "Rather, it’s because the moral arguments are such that American Jews are persuaded like most everyone else, ideological differences notwithstanding, by the president’s case. A rising moral tide lifts all boats, even Jewish ones."

How much would Goldberg bet that if tomorrow the president called for prayers in public schools or for state-aid to parochial schools, at least eighty percent of the Jewish community would oppose him, no matter what the "rising moral tide"? And how much would Jonah bet that, with the possible exception of Evangelicals, Jews are the group most concerned on every level with Israel? Finally, to round off my rhetorical questions, does he really believe that his friends love Israel, an ethnic state in which his own parents could not have been married, because it is the kind of democracy that Jewish neocons would like to see in a Western Christian country?

By the way, how much diversity does Israel practice, a country in which the political-military class not only excludes Christians and Muslims but also is predominantly made up of Eastern European Jews — who are a minority of the country? Needless to say, all this is the business of Israelis, and for all I know, they may be right to do as they are doing. But neocons should not lie by depicting Israel as a polity that resembles what the US has now (sadly) become.

And the attempt to present the Israeli Right, which is made up of ethnic nationalists with roots in the explicitly expansionist Heirut Party and in the Revisionist Zionism of the interwar years, as a society of purely defensive global democrats, is breathtakingly dishonest. In the thirties the forerunners of the Likud, as Italian historian Renzo De Felice explains in his history of Italian Jewry, were avid admirers of Mussolini and trained in fascist Italy to conquer a greater Israel, on both sides of the Jordan. They made no attempt to conceal their view that Arabs, like the Abyssinians Mussolini was conquering, were racially inferior to their would-be conquerors.

During World War Two elements of the Zionist Right, particularly the Irgun Leumi, to which Begin and Shamir were both connected, took arms (yes) from Nazi Germany to drive the English from Palestine. David Yisraeli discusses this phase of Zionist politics in his monograph The Palestine Problem in German Politics (Ramat Gan, 1974); and Israeli military historian Amos Perlmutter devotes considerable space to it in his biography of Menachem Begin (Doubleday, 1987). Note I make these comments not as a professional anti-fascist and certainly not as an opponent of Israel, but to clear the air of the stench of neocon hypocrisy.

While still on this dismal subject, I trust neocons Peter Beinert, David Horowitz, and Charles Krauthammer will stop making exaggerated contrasts between the global democrats in the Israeli Right and the supposedly wicked pre-African National Congress government of South Africa. The Israeli regime, which had close ties to Pinochet’s Chile and to the pre-black majority leaders in South Africa, would have been no doubt mystified by such doctrinaire hair-splitting.

Moreover, some of the foreign policy advice that neocon advisors of this administration gave to leaders of the Israeli Right and which Buchanan cites in his lead essay in The American Conservative, indicates something more than a philosophic predilection for "the only democracy in the Middle East." In 1996 Richard Perle, together with AEI resident scholar David Wurmser, provided the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with detailed plans for launching war against various Arab countries in order to "secure the realm." The same advice is now being recycled as a plan to spread democracy in the Middle East, by first attacking Iraq and then going after other countries that are unfriendly to the "only democracy in the Middle East."

Goldberg keeps coming back to the red herring that Jews are being singled out as "string pullers" and "manipulators" each time he brings up the charge that lots of journalists and organizations are producing together certain policy outcomes. But no one who is sane is claiming that all Jews are collaborating with Richard Perle and Bill Kristol. What is being correctly observed is a convergence of interests in which neoconservatives have played a pivotal role. At this point they control almost all Beltway "conservative" thinktanks, the "conservative" TV channel, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, and several major presses, together with just about every magazine that claims to be conservative.

Media personality Rush Limbaugh sounds like a neoconservative when he is not simply shilling for the Republican Party. A critical conservative issue, immigration, disappeared from the movement conservative agenda because neocons associate opposition to immigration with nativism and anti-Semitism. It would take entire volumes to explain how this pattern of domination was established, but that it was did not come about because of a Jewish conspiracy.

The neocons absorbed the Right, and here Goldberg is entirely on the mark, because most of the putative Right ran to serve them and to take the money that neocons were piling up from conservative donors.

And Goldberg is also correct when he reminds us that the Weekly Standard crowd would happily bomb the rest of the world to achieve their vision of American empire. It is not just Iraq they intend "to bomb before breakfast." And this may be the scariest side of what these masters of the bogus Right want to do and which Buchanan discusses (but then drops to get on to Israel) in his audacious commentary "Whose War?"

What make neocons most dangerous are not their isolated ghetto hang-ups, like hating Germans and Southern whites and calling everyone and his cousin an anti-Semite, but the leftist revolutionary fury they express. Buchanan’s quotation from Michael Ledeen starting with the lines "creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad" sounds like something a Russian nihilist might have written in the 1880s. Why anyone would mistake these crackpots whom Buchanan quotes for conservatives defies my comprehension. They are ranters out of a Dostoyevskian novel, who are out to practice permanent revolution courtesy of the U.S. government.

March 20, 2003

Paul Gottfried [send him mail] is professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author of, most recently, the highly recommended Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt.

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