The War Lobby’s Achilles Heel

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The campaign to lure the US into attacking Iran has one big problem to overcome before the War Party can taste success: the rather obvious fact that such a war would benefit Israel, and not the United States. This is why Israel's partisans in the US constitute the spearhead of the pro-war agitation, why AIPAC has made this a consistent theme for the past few years, and why the billionaire Sheldon Adelson, aside from funding the Newtster, has poured untold millions into the same project. Hardly a day goes by without some Israeli government official reiterating, once again, that Iran represents an u201Cexistential threatu201D to the Jewish state, and threatening to strike the first blow if Uncle Sam fails to wake up in time, while Israel's amen corner dutifully echoes the same line.

Israel and its more vehement partisans in this country have demanded the US attack Iran, even going so far as to raise the specter of another Holocaust if America fails to act. However, one argument they have failed to make is significant by its absence — they have failed to show how it is in America's interest to launch a military strike. Indeed, they have neglected this part of the equation rather ostentatiously, and yet one can hardly blame them for this oversight for the simple reason that such a case would be impossible to make. An attack on Iran would deprive the world economy of a significant portion of its energy needs, and would likely result in an economic catastrophe in this country — to say nothing of the costs of the war, in blood and treasure. War-weary Americans are not in the mood for another invasion and occupation in search of nonexistent u201Cweapons of mass destruction.u201D This is the War Party's Achilles' heel.

How to get around this is the problem at the heart of the War Party's current project, and in order to do so they are employing the deadliest weapon in their well-stocked arsenal: the accusation of u201Cracism,u201D the most toxic accusation anyone can make about someone in the current political climate. Specifically, they are accusing war opponents of u201Canti-Semitism.u201D After all, if Israel is the Jewish state, and that state's very existence is threatened by the specter of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program (which US intelligence has stubbornly failed to detect), then opposition to US military action is u201Canti-Semitism,u201D pure and simple.

Today's war propagandists have figured out a way to make the issue of American interests, as opposed to Israeli interests, go away, and that is by policing the language of the debate. Are you calling someone who wants to pursue Israeli interests over and above those of his or her own country an u201CIsrael firsteru201D? Well, then, you are u201Canti-Semitic,u201D you are employing the oldest u201Canti-Semitic tropesu201D and echoing u201Cneo-Nazis,u201D who — James Kirchick assures us — are the originators of the phrase. This is the argument made by u201Cprogressiveu201D Spencer Ackerman in a recent issue of the Tablet, in which he joins the neoconservative assault on Glenn Greenwald, M.J. Rosenberg, and four bloggers over at the Center for American Progress who got slapped down for daring to wield (or imply) this supposedly u201Ctoxicu201D phrase.

There's just one problem with this argument: it isn't true. Ackerman cites Kirchick as the authority in this matter, but as a researcher the man Time columnist Joe Klein called a u201Cdishonest pricku201D and a cheap u201Cpropagandistu201D leaves much to be desired. Kirchick claims the phrase originated with Willis Carto's Spotlight newspaper, a cesspool of anti-Semitism, but this is false: it originated, as one can see here, with Alfred M. Lilienthal, an anti-Zionist Jew who wrote several books in the early 1950s and 1960s, notably What Price Israel? Lilienthal's 1953 book was brought out by Henry Regnery, the noted conservative publicist and pioneer publisher, whose press also printed a number of other anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian works, including Freda Utley's Will the Middle East Go West? — which presciently argued American support for Israel would alienate the Arab world — Road to Beersheba, a novel by Ethel Mannin which dramatized the plight of a conquered people imprisoned in their own land, and a collection of photographs and text by the Swedish photographer Per-Orlow Anderson, They Are Human Too, which, in Regnery's words, u201Cbrought us face to face with the tragedy of the Arab refugees, whom he photographed crowded into the inhospitable Gaza strip.u201D Which brings to mind the old saw about u201Cthe more things change.u201D Yet another example of the changeless nature of our politics was described by Regnery, who reported in his Memoirs of a Dissident Publisher:

u201COne unexpected consequence of the book's publication was the visit from an agent of the FBI, who had been sent to make some inquiries about its author.u201D

u201CThis was,u201D continues Regnery, u201Cone of the less serious calls by government agents of one kind or another that frequently followed the publication of a book that displeased some group or individual of influence.u201D Our witch-hunters will surely characterize Regnery's sardonic remark as evidence that he, too, was another one of those awful u201Canti-Semitesu201D — after all, he was implying the Zionist lobby had enough influence to call out the dogs of the FBI and sic them on a mere photographer.

Yet Regnery's views, and those of his attendant authors, were hardly considered u201Csubversiveu201D back then: indeed, theirs was the standard conservative position on the state of Israel, which, back in the day, was an ally of the Soviet Union and a proudly socialist state. It is inconceivable, of course, that the Regnery Publishing Co. of today would put out anything remotely resembling Lilienthal's work: not with the conservative movement of 2012 dominated by warmongering neoconservatives and nutty Christian Zionists who see support for Israel as divinely ordained. In 1949, however, when Lilienthal wrote u201CIsrael's Flag is Not Mineu201D for Readers Digest, his critique of Zionist propaganda was shared by mainstream conservatives as a matter of course:

u201CToday we see Zionists boasting of ‘Jewish’ political strength, Zionist picket lines around British consulates, Zionists demonstrating against Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin when he arrives here to sign the Atlantic Pact, New York stores plastered with posters screaming u2018Do Not Buy British. Made Goods.'

u201CAre these people acting as Americans? Europe's recovery through the Marshall Plan is the keystone of our bipartisan foreign policy, which the Communists are trying to sabotage. Any boycott of British goods, organized or unorganized, helps this destruction.u201D

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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