I’ve managed to disagree with everything Andrew Sullivan has written about John Yoo without ever thinking Sullivan guilty of anti-Korean animus, and it should be equally possible to disagree with Sullivan about Israel these days without accusing him of anti-semitism.
Sullivan, a career champion of Israel, turned harshly against the Gaza war. That war was right and necessary – and in retrospect, with Hamas quelled and Hezbollah deterred, it looks more justified and successful than ever. As happened in 2002 with the fighting in the West Bank, the Gaza critics repeated disinformation and wrongly disregarded the security concerns of a democratic country under terrorist attack. So if the magazine Sullivan used to edit wanted to challenge him on those grounds, they would have entered a target-rich environment. Why wasn’t that enough? instead, we got this.
Leon Wieseltier’s piece in the New Republic begins by citing a 60-year-old joke by W.H. Auden, reproduced in Andrew’s blog. Wieseltier stipulates that the joke itself is not anti-semitic, but that the decision to reproduce it was. He complains about things that Sullivan has written about Charles Krauthammer and Michael Goldfarb. (Rightly so, too.) You can prove a lot against Andrew Sullivan. But anti-semitism?
Like all Jews, I’m alert to anti-semitism, and well aware that it has spread into new and more respectable purlieus over the past generation. The New Republic has been a valiant voice against this moral vice for as long as I’ve been reading it, and I am glad they are there to challenge it where it exists. But the challenge must begin with the proof. Cite the chapter and verse. Show the context. Get the goods. The New Republic has not done that in its critique of Sullivan’s Israel writing, and as a regular reader of his blog, I know why: Those particular goods aren’t there to be got. Lots of other goods, yes. Not these.
It’s not as if the Jews have so few enemies that we need to pile them up where they don’t exist – or to confuse criticism of Israel that is unfair or wrong with criticism that is malicious and bigoted.