Scott McConnell, editor of the American Conservative Magazine has written an extraordinary essay on the importance of Jewish bloggers to the political debate over U.S. policy toward Israel. He focuses specifically on the incident involving Wesley Clark’s interview with Ariana Huffington in which he criticized the Jewish “money people” for trying to take the U.S. to war with Iran. The journalist notes, correctly I hope, that in a previous era, a candidate like Clark could’ve been grievously wounded by such a statement. AIPAC and Jewish donors would’ve come down on him like a ton of bricks. He would’ve been forced to backpedal and abjectly apologize. His campaign might’ve gone into the tank. Something like this happened to Howard Dean four years ago. But it didn’t happen to Clark. And McConnell claims a large part of the reason it didn’t was that Jewish bloggers sprang to Clark’s defense:
But things took a different course, for significant reasons. It hasn’t yet been established that the blogosphere has changed the nature of American politics in any fundamental way…But blogs may foment serious debate about difficult subjects and change the climate of opinion in meaningful ways. In the aftermath of…the Clark episode, it seemed as if this was actually happening.
For within a day or two, one could read in the blogs some surprising assertions that amounted to a truth defense of Wes Clark. It seemed to come primarily from young, or comparatively young, Jewish bloggers. Observations that had been bandied about for years in private seemed to burst forth where many people could see them. This was welcome and suggests a broadening and deepening of the peace movement that so notably failed to stop the Iraq War. Suddenly there were Jewish voices talking about the Israel lobby as an established fact and, to be frank, as a bit of a problem. Significantly, these were not voices from an older and more alienated Chomskyian Left but from an American Prospect-like liberal mainstream.
I’d like to humbly raise my hand here and volunteer myself as one of those Jewish bloggers who came to Clark’s defense in Wes Clark, Are You Ever in Trouble With the Israel Lobby. While I found his phrasing infelicitous, the substance of what Clark said was incontrovertible. And I was happy to say so. It’s about time a candidate can speak the truth about AIPAC and not get whacked over the head with a 2×4.
One of McConnell’s most acute observations is that there is special value for non-Jews like himself who feel passionately about the pernicious impact of AIPAC on U.S. Mideast policy to have Jewish allies in this fight:
…Many Christians won’t enter this battle without Jewish allies or at least will join it with less enthusiasm. It’s not simply that they can’t take the heat. It’s that those who have spent much time in journalism or academia or trying to influence public policy have generally done so alongside Jews and are accustomed to having Jews play significant roles in their personal and professional lives. To fight a battle without Jewish colleagues, or even against Jewish colleagues, is likely to feel rather lonely. But it is this sentiment that makes the new effervescence of Jewish dissent so important for the country at the present moment. It opens a door for Christians to voice opinions they might otherwise keep to themselves—not for fear of what Abe Foxman might say about them, but out of discomfort of being isolated from the urban, “cosmopolitan,” Jewish-influenced milieu of which they have long been part.
This is an enormously supportive statement for a Jewish blogger like me to hear who’s slaved away in semi-anonymity for four years writing on precisely the subject McConnell addresses. It is an absolute necessity for journalists like McConnell to have Jewish allies to take on AIPAC (and it is absolutely essential for Jewish bloggers to have allies like McConnell to validate our message to the wider world). And I was grateful for the Jewish bloggers he singled out for recognition: Glenn Greenwald, Matt Yglesias and Ezra Klein. They certainly deserve credit for fighting the good fight against AIPAC.
But Klein, Greenwald and Yglesias write primarily as political bloggers who happen to be Jewish, while I belong to a group of bloggers who write as Jews who happen to be interested in politics. Our blogs are devoted to the notion that we as Jews must speak out against AIPAC’s pernicious influence; and that we must speak out for a sane & just Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. I’m talking about blogs like Tikun Olam, M.J. Rosenberg, Muzzlewatch, Mondoweiss, Lawrence of Cyberia, the Head Heeb & others.
Many of us are writing almost in the wilderness. We’re read by maybe 500 or 1,000 people on a good day. Journalists like McConnell may not know we exist (though this is slowing changing). But we’d love for the more prominent political bloggers to recognize us as allies in fighting the good fight for a sane, sensible U.S. Mideast policy.
I can get my views published at The Guardian’s CommentisFree blog (in England). A link in Gary Kamiya’s Salon article on the recent AIPAC conference brought thousands of new readers to this blog. But the Jewish/Israeli media generally won’t publish Jewish bloggers advocating Israeli-Palestinian peace for love or money. After almost browbeating the editor of The Jewish Forward to consider publishing a critique I wrote of Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee’s scary keynote address, he rejected it two different times, the first time saying it wasn’t a suitable subject for The Forward and the second saying The Forward rarely published “personal attacks.” How else can one approach the theology of a man who predicts 2/3 of Jews will be killed in a future Holocaust??
We liberal Jewish bloggers are like prophets without honor in our own [Jewish] country. Unfortunately, the same is true of U.S. (non-Jewish) media where my views have never been published, though not for lack of trying. We need to be heard and I hope the popular political blogs and media sites like The American Conservative will help.
John Yorke says
Maybe there is some momentum now in all these verbal or written exchanges. Let’s hope so and it will be well and good if that’s the case. But do they really qualify as pivotal in the wider sense? They have, for the most part, tended either to cancel each other out or merely elected to reconvene, recommence at some future venue. Is anything very much achieved by these activities? I acknowledge that they do represent points of view held, and held passionately, across a broad spectrum of opinion. However, it does take an awful lot to fundamentally change and challenge the mindsets of those currently holding forth on this subject.
If arguing the pros and cons of the situation is unlikely to resolve the matter, at least not with anything remotely approaching finality, then a change of direction and a better utilisation of resources is surely indicated.
My own take on this here has been recorded elsewhere on this website. That approach, while admittedly somewhat mechanistic, is designed to confront the more immediate issues. Tectonic movements now so familiar in the shifting levels of Middle East political strata will continue to throw up more and more problems, problems which will constantly erode whatever measures are taken to address them. Unless we ourselves can harness or highjack these forces, events are likely to move along in their usual negative fashion.
To correct this course, the application of more direct measures may be needed, actions considerably louder than those of words. Sometimes it’s only with the right actions that words can carry sufficient weight and meaning There are times when the best option is to advance upon the beast, draw closer to its centre and grapple more directly with it.
Maybe, in the end, that will be our only option.
And for that to happen with any effect, shouldn’t we be carrying the very biggest stick we’ve got in our armoury?
After all, sticks and stones….
samuel burke says
Richard, i would like for you to know that i find it liberating in a sense, to be able to see jewish bloggers who see the same things i see with regards to jewish involvement in the ginnying up for the war on iraq, and the now on the table war with iran and (or) syria. I would from time to time question myself on the emotions i was having about this jewish american lobby (aipac) and its nefarious doings in the politics of this nation. It is my love for this country and the principles of the constitution of the united states which causes me to rise to her defense and share with everyone i know what i see happening. As a christian i have supported everything israel has done up until a few years ago when i started to discover the underlying structure of the zionist state and its intransigence in dealing with the palestians, discovering the events surrounding the 1967 war, namely the uss liberty served to shock me out of the lovestruck condition i had towards israel. It is good to see the jewish american community being true to their liberal leanings in calling for no war in the middle east and supporting peace for the palestinians, unfortunately the powers that be will try to control the debate but this too will get out of hand for them.
Glenn Condell says
‘We liberal Jewish bloggers are like prophets without honor in our own [Jewish] country.’
Well, you are all on the honour roll at my place. I thank you on behalf of my children, the safety of whose futures has been enhanced by your actions. It sounds corny, but it’s true.