Thursday, October 07, 2004

The paper is fishwrap by now, but I wonder if you noticed the reappearance of a certain canard in last Sunday's New York Times, one that David Brooks put forth and then apologized for back in January: namely, that a lot of people who've criticized the Iraq war have done so because they hate (and blame) Jews.

The reappearance of this canard took place in an overly long Paul Berman review of Philip Roth's The Plot Against America (emphasis mine):

During the last two or three years, large publics in Western Europe and even in the United States have taken up the view that, if extremist political movements have swept across large swaths of the Muslim world, and if Baathists and radical Islamists have slaughtered literally millions of people during these last years, and then have ended up at war with the United States, Israel and its crimes must ultimately be to blame. And if America has been drawn into war in Iraq, it is because President Bush's second-level foreign policy advisers include a few Jews (though all of his toplevel advisers are Protestants), and these second-level figures have manipulated everyone else to the bidding of Ariel Sharon.

This would be somewhat more recognizably McCarthyite if Berman had gone all the way and suggested a specific number of people who hold this vile belief, instead of limiting himself to the vague "large publics." Berman, of course, doesn't bother to identify these "large publics" or suggest where they can be found. Those in America surely must have published statements in English that can be readily quoted to back his assertion, but no such quotations are forthcoming.

And note that there's no hedging -- no "it is at least in part because" or anything of the sort. Berman is saying that large numbers of Americans who opposed the war don't think it took place because of oil, or out of a desire for empire, or as a result of American exceptionalism or Christian messianism run riot, or because administration officials believed phony intelligence, or because the Bushies were simply incompetent, or because the battle for Bush's brain was won by scoundrels and dunderheads of a variety of races, colors, and creeds. Berman -- ignoring virtually everything that's actually been said by U.S. war critics -- asserts that large numbers of Americans think the only cause of the war was the treachery of evil Jews.

Saying this is unconscionable. Believing it is nuts.


I also don't accept the part of the passage that I didn't highlight.

Do war opponents say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the jihadists' grievances? Sure -- but that's very different from saying that "Israel and its crimes must ultimately be to blame" for Islamist terrorism.

Consider the following passage about the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany:

Conditions were ripe for the development of such a party. Resentment at the loss of the war and the peace terms added to economic chaos brought widespread discontent.

That's from the notorious anti-Semitic tract the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Would Berman argue that the Britannica is saying that economic stresses and the peace terms of World War I "must ultimately be to blame" for Hitler? I hope not. That's not how any rational person would read the passage. Hitler rose to power on a wave of discontent, but discontent in no way exonerates Hitler. Nor does the ongoing Palestinian crisis exonerate bin Laden or justify jihadist terror. But it's fair to look at grievances and wonder whether tyrants are able to make use of them in their public appeals, no matter what Berman believes.

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