Truth Hurts

December 14th, 2011 at 4:38 pm David Frum | 51 Comments |

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In my column for The Week, I discuss the recent debate in the left-wing bloggosphere over former AIPAC spokesman Josh Block:

A blogosphere spat is revealing an important fracture in the Democratic Party and liberal institutions.

The spat erupted nearly a week ago. The website published a story reporting that Josh Block, a former spokesman for AIPAC, America’s pro-Israel lobby, had collected a trove of provocative quotes from anti-Israel bloggers.

Here’s Justin Elliott’s breathless Salon lead:

The former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is shopping a 3,000-word trove of opposition research against bloggers critical of Israel to friendly neoconservative journalists.

I’ve obtained an email sent by Josh Block to a private listserv called the Freedom Community, in which he throws around accusations of anti-Semitism against liberal bloggers and calls on other list members to “echo” and “amplify” his assault and “use the below [research] to attack the bad guys.”

You might wonder: Where’s the story here? AIPAC exists to support Israel and refute attacks on Israel. In order to refute attacks, you have to keep tally of those attacks. As for “throwing around” accusations of anti-Semitism — well, here’s what Salon goes on to say. (Some of the references will be a little obscure, but we’ll circle back and clarify as the story unfolds.)

He [Block] wasted no time throwing around more accusations of anti-Semitism.

“This kind of anti-Israel sentiment is so fringe it’s support by CAP is outrageous, but at least it is out in the open now — as is their goal — clearly applauded by revolting allies like the pro-HAMAS and anti-Zionist/One State Solution advocate Ali Abunumiah and those who accuse pro-Israel Americans of having ‘dual loyalties’ or being ‘Israel-Firsters’ — to shape the minds of future generations of Democrats,” Block writes. “These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.”

Click here to read the full column.

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51 Comments so far ↓

  • heap

    If every aspect of your political reasoning were filtered thru a ‘What’s the effect on Canada?’ lens, I’d have no issue labeling you a Canada firster.

    The fact I can’t say the same about your affection for Israel in the same context without a charge of antisemitism is just freaking tiresome. I could really give a flip what religion the occupants of that country follow, nor do I see any real benefit in dissecting any criticism of a nation into a scope of what religion that country’s occupants follow.

    If that doesn’t sum it up, I care as much about the concerns of an Israeli lobbying group as I do that of Belgium’s lobbying enclave. The thing is, I can openly discuss the short comings of Amero-Belgian relations without being labeled a chocolate hater. If that seems a goofy comparison to you, consider how goofy the whole subject is to somebody absolutely unconcerned with religion.

  • _will_

    just curious – has Frum ever once been even mildly critical of Israel?

  • Ray_Harwick

    It’s just so… what’s the word… unhinged for Israel’s main block of American support, larger even than the block of American Jews who outnumber Israelis, to come from a group who simultaneously want’s Armageddon hastened while they refer to Jews as Christ killers. One wonders, with that source of support, what serious good Israel gets when its supporters merely want Israel preserved in preparation for world annihilation. That is what makes the right-wing dangerous.

    They’ve been shipping red heifers to Israel for at least a decade. Rod Dreher, once a senior writer for National Review once asked, on the occasion of the birth of a red heifer, “”Could this little calf born last month in Israel bring about Armageddon?” He was SERIOUS and apparently disappointed when the calf in question was disqualified. See? Evangelical Americans are sitting on the edge of their seats anticipating 1) the rebuilding of the temple which can’t take place until 2) the ashes of a perfect red heifer are sacrificed, so that 3) Armageddon – the final war of all wars – can take place. I wonder how comfortable Jews are with knowing this is the single motivation behind their largest group of American supporters.

    • Raskolnik

      Rod Dreher is Eastern Orthodox, not Evangelical. I don’t dispute that many Evangelicals are supporting Israel for stupid and/or irrational reasons, but Rod is neither irrational nor stupid.

      • Ray_Harwick

        Okay then: Eastern Orthodox IN ADDITION TO Evangelicals. I’m not surprised. I had an Eastern Orthodox say my 8 years of honorable military service to the United States Air Force was sickening to Christians because I’m gay. So, yeah. Consistent with the insanity of the largest group of pro-Israel supporters. We’re both probably missing another 75 Christian sects who can’t wait for the bloody war of wars to commence.

      • Traveler

        Hey Demosthenes, is that you? Glad you like this handle better. Regards.

    • Baron Siegfried

      Of course they know; they’re working the evangelicals like the useful idiots they are. And I can’t really say I blame them. After all, when a fool shows up with a bag of swag, you’d be an even greater fool not to take advantage of the gullible goyim; that would be a sin!

      I don’t have a problem with Jews, but I think Israel has gone from being a scrappy underdog worthy of admiration to a brutal, oppressive regime in the style of pre-Mandela South Africa. In the finest tradition of karmic irony, they have become that which they most hate. I have no great love for the Palestinians, don’t find them particularly admirable, but I do feel pity for them, and sincerely wish they had greater freedoms and their own nation.

      I’m an American. I place American interests first. Personally, I don’t think of Israel as an ally, as allies support one another. From what I can see, we send them lawyers, guns, and money and get lectured and manipulated in return. Might I ask in all sincerity what we get from Israel in return for our support that does not serve their interests first and foremost?

      I think they have far too much influence over our own gov’t, and are quite willing to engage in activities that would cause outrage were it any other nation. Some of us still remember the USS Liberty, and find Israel’s ongoing efforts to spring Pollard the spy more than a bit annoying. AIPAC’s influence is both onerous and more than a bit insulting. We are a superpower, in fact the last reamining superpower on the planet. How is it that a pipsqueak country that’s smaller than many counties in this country can drive our foreign policy? In short, I don’t think they’re our friends, they’re miking us for all they can get while enjoying the protection of our military umbrella. I understand that they’re surrounded by people who don’t like them, but they’ve done nothing to alleviate this dislike.

      I really couldn’t give a platypus poot for Israel anymore, to be very honest. At one time I did, but their increasing levels of intransigence, zionist & fundamentalist fanaticism, and brutality towards the Palestinians have pretty much eradicated what respect I once had for them. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the dominant power in the region, they have the largest military, the largest economy, and a sizable nuclear arsenal. We need to to wean them off our teat, and they need to stand forward on their own. It’s been 66 years since WWII and the horrors of the Nazis. They’ve been an independent nation for 63 years. Enough!

      • anniemargret

        Beautifully and articulately said. Bravo. You said it much better than I ever could. Whatever sympathy I had for Israel is now gone. The world is much more dangerous place and Israel is shooting from the hip, almost begging a confrontation which will be the death knell for that part of the world, while bringing down us with it.

        Enough. We’ve seen thousands of very young (18 and 19 y/o’s) die in Iraq and Afghanistan. For what? To install a Pax Americana where it is not really wanted? Oil? What did they die for?

        Enough. We need to let the Israelis figure out what to do with their neighbors bar nuclear catastrophe. We don’t need to give them a pat on the back to do that, despite these christianist numbskulls who are lusting for Armageddon or for the Zionists here. No more American soldiers or our treasure go to that part of the world. Ron Paul is right on this one.

        • Primrose

          This is where I get frustrated with critics of Israel. They go from one extreme to the other. It is one thing to say that the settlers are out of control, it is another to say compare it to apartheid South Africa. You all do know that Palestinians have the right to vote and hold office in Israel? Or that the ANC, Unlike the old PLO, and Hammas, always fought for a diverse, non-racial society. The ANC was not trying to drive the boers out ever. I was even surprised to hear a Zulu ANC friend of mine say that the Afrikaners were absolutely lovely people “except for this one little problem.”

          The establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation commission shows this was not just talk. There is no comparison to the two and there certainly is no comparison of the Israeli’s to the Nazis.

          I am not suggesting (as Mr. Frum and the author do) that there is nothing to criticize Israel for, particularly now when Nethanhayu is being too cynical for words. (Indeed my initial post was going to be ‘come on, Israel can be legitimately criticized’.)

          However this instantly going to the other extreme really frustrates me. A philosophy professor of mine once taught a course comparing the moral pain of the African-American experience to the Jewish one. His theory was that African-Americans bore the pain of patronization (Many years later I decided I disagreed. I think it is the invisibility of social death, see Orlando Patterson and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.) Jews on the other hand bore the pain of being judged irremediably evil. I still agree with this one.

          The world thinks Jews have to prove their morality to them, thus if they are not perfect morally then they are classified as irremediable evil, such as has just been outlined. And this dynamic is clearly anti-Semitic. (How else did the Nazi’s justify throwing babies at bayonets?)

          I’m all for criticizing certain forces in Israeli leadership and disapproving of the settler movement. But I am also for applying the same criteria towards the Palestinians who are just as culpable, just as idiotic in their approach.

          It is a messy situation. There won’t be any heroes and plenty of villains to go around because as I’ve said many times before, there is no fair. No peace, no resolution will ever be just. It can’t.

          We would do well to take a lesson from the Africans and understand that. Sometimes, all you can do is be honest, acknowledge the past, and as a society move on.

        • Reflection Ephemeral

          I mostly agree with you, Primrose. I made that same argument, about voting and serving in the Knesset, at this post: Also at that post, though, I noted that while I wouldn’t use that comparison about a hypothetical future, as it’s inflammatory and distracting, there are folks on the inside who fear that’s where the math is heading:

          Former PM and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak, February 2010: “The simple truth is, if there is one state” including Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, “it will have to be either binational or undemocratic. . . . if this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.” Then-PM Ehud Olmert, November 2007: If the two-state solution collapsed, Israel would “face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, and as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished”.

          And below, I linked to Jeffrey Goldberg saying much the same thing.

          I’m sure there are many horrible things that some critics of Israel say. But the horrible things are, happily, far from anything remotely resembling power in the United States. Unfortunately, so are the reasoned critiques. Whereas GOP frontrunners can say that citing longstanding US policy on settlement construction & the peace process are “throwing Israel under the bus” (I addressed Romney’s lie here: ), or that Palestinians are a made-up people, as Gingrich has recently emphasized.

      • armstp

        I would add that if we left Israel to their own devices it might hasten them making peace with the Arabs and the Palestinians. It is our support, money and guns which holds back the peace.

  • nitrat

    I think that Mr. Block, Mr. Netanyahu and you, dear David, need to face the cold hard fact that the further we get from the creation of the state of Israel, the less inclined many Americans will be to just automatically support every single thing it does.

    Despite having blind support from hard right Christian fundamentalists (who are only interested in the establishment of the state because it means the Second Coming is near), many Americans are not religious and not interested in doing what they can to facilitate the Second Coming. Personally, I think the good Lord can handle the Second Coming on his own without the help of American Christians influencing our foreign policy.

    The longer the Israeli-Palestinian situation goes unresolved, it gives Americans more time to reflect on the injustice of the Palestinians being driven from their homes and how that is morally similar to what has happened to the Jews over the centuries. This results in more ambivalence about our nation seeming to support only the Jewish side, since that seems to have played a part in creating Palestinian and other Muslim terrorism against thse USA.

    There comes a time when complaints of anti-semitism pale against some Americans’ desires to look out for their own country’s best interests first.

    • doubter4444

      I think this is a really important and oft overlooked point: As Israel matures the needs and desires or it as a nation must change and will necessarily diverge from that of the US.
      It would be nonsense to believe otherwise. That means that US interests and those of Israel will be different, and even though we are allies, differences are inevitable.

      I love Israel and have been there a number of times. I’m Episcopalian, but I’ve done work for Jewish organizations and support groups over the decades, and have friends in country.
      I certainly don’t default to thinking that an Israel-First pov is anti-Semitic.
      I’m American. I want things done in the interest of America.
      To the extent they aline with other countries and allies, great, to the extent not, too bad.

      To put it another way: If an American of importance (say, an elected official or high ranking military person) puts the interests of another country before those of the US, I’d call his actions borderline treasonous. Wouldn’t most?
      Given the special circumstances of our relationship with Israel it’s different, I know, but that too is changing, and I think that’s ok.
      Additionally, this:

      The Middle East is a dangerous place — and not merely for people who live there. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in this country to take a position sympathetic to the Jewish state and in favor of the continuation of America’s historic strong alliance with Israel without being called “an Israel First” and charged with “dual loyalties.”…

      These odious charges have been around since Henry Ford in 1920 said “wars are the Jews’ harvest,” Charles Lindbergh in 1940 condemned Jews for conspiring to plunge America into World War II, and “Jewish neocons” were charged with colluding with Israel to cause the 2003 Iraq War.
      Is hyperbolic nonsense.

      And It’s becoming increasingly difficult in this country to take a position sympathetic to the Jewish state and in favor of the continuation of America’s historic strong alliance with Israel without being called “an Israel First” and charged with “dual loyalties.”… is a flat out lie.

  • LFC

    Sorry, but this is the pro-right-wing Israel crowd (i.e. the Netanyahu firsters) playing the same victim card that the right-wingers in this nation play all the time. Maybe there’s something about religious extremism that gives people such massive persecution complexes?

    I think Israel has a right to exist. I think Israel needs to stop settlement development immediately. They need to pull out of a bunch of existing settlements, define defensible borders, and disengage from the Palestinians. This puts me at extreme odds with Netanyahu who is following policies that could very well destroy Israel as we know it. (The coddling of religious extremists over there is already changing how Israel functions.) Does that make me an antisemite and anti-Israel? I don’t think so. In fact I think it makes me more pro-Israel than Netyanhu and AIPAC which backs virtually every think Netyahu says or does. But I’ve watched the antisemite charged tossed at the drop of a hat, to the point where it is ceasing to lose its power or meaning.

    • Frumplestiltskin

      exactly. Look at this quote from the article: Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in this country to take a position sympathetic to the Jewish state

      No mention of how Netanyahu and his policies are making it more and more difficult, somehow he and Avigdor Lieberman are above reproach. I consider myself a very strong supporter of Israel and supported the Barak/Clinton peace offering wholeheartedly and was gravely disappointed in the stupidity and cowardice of Arafat to not take the chance.

      “I think Israel needs to stop settlement development immediately. They need to pull out of a bunch of existing settlements, define defensible borders, and disengage from the Palestinians.” I agree 100%, and if the Palestinians insist on lobbing rockets then a military occupation is legal and rational, but colonization is not. The US could certainly have won in Iraq if we invaded and colonized it and drove Iraqis into settlement camps. As bad as we screwed up there we never considered doing this, yet Israelis think if you say Judea and Sumeria then hey, it was their 2000 years ago so it makes it theirs now, then it is doomed. Why not just give it back to the Hittites or whoever was there before the Israelis?

      And then we have Gingrich saying Palestinians are not Palestinians, they are Arabs, so I take it that he is in favor of all the Arabs in the Middle east creating ONE country from Morocco to the borders of Iran and Turkey? Is that his solution?

  • Secessionist

    “These are the words of anti-Semites, not Democratic political players.”

    No, those are the words of perfectly reasonable people.

    Clearly, there is a difference between expressions of anti-Jewish sentiment and founded criticisms of the policies of the Israeli government and their supporters in the United States. If you and your fellow neocons are the only ones who don’t recognize that, you might want to consider the possibility you are the one with the flawed perspective here.

    David Frum asks in a portion of the article not quoted above:

    If charges of “dual loyalty” and “Israel first” do not count as anti-Semitic tropes, what does?

    Here are some examples of what counts as anti-Semitism to rational people: calls for pogroms, discrimination, and the ostracism of Jews from public life.

    The Simon Wiesenthal Center commented in a portion of the article not quoted above:

    [blockquote]The Middle East is a dangerous place — and not merely for people who live there. Unfortunately, it’s becoming increasingly difficult in this country to take a position sympathetic to the Jewish state and in favor of the continuation of America’s historic strong alliance with Israel without being called “an Israel Firster” and charged with “dual loyalties.”…

    These odious charges have been around since Henry Ford in 1920 said “wars are the Jews’ harvest,” Charles Lindbergh in 1940 condemned Jews for conspiring to plunge America into World War II, and “Jewish neocons” were charged with colluding with Israel to cause the 2003 Iraq War.[/blockquote]

    The Iraq Wars were started in 1991 and 2003. In point of fact, many Jewish neocons who also happen to be staunch supporters of Israel did push for the Iraq war. What is it about this statement that isn’t true?

    Douglas Feith. Paul Wolfowitz. Richard Perle. William Kristol. Charles Krauthammer. Norman and John Podhoretz. David Frum. Just to name a few. All Jewish.

    Now, of course, many prominent non-Jewish neocons such as Dick Cheney also pushed for the war, and many Jews such as Noam Chomsky opposed the war. But Dick Cheney, as execrable as he is, is not hurling accusations of anti-Semitism, nor is Noam Chomsky.

    The bottom line is that the anti-Semitism charge is a canard.

    Joe Sobran once said that in modern American political discourse, an anti-Semite is not someone who hates Jews so much as a person certain Jews hate.

    It was true then, and it is true today. Certain Jews do hate informed criticism of Israel and its apologists such as this Block person. Hence, their use of the canard.

  • Rabiner

    The story is in the Freedom Community listserv which seems to be beyond scrutiny but the Journolist listserv that Ezra Klein created became some cause of concern to the conservative media.

    Personally I don’t care about journalist servers to get information out in an email blast, I use them for work all the time. But my issue is that an Israel lobbyist is colluding with the media to attack other parts of the media. Shouldn’t media in general be unbiased and fact based without taking words out of context? And there is a HUGE difference between antisemitism and criticizing Israeli policy (something many on the pro-Israel side don’t seem to understand).

    • Nanotek

      “And there is a HUGE difference between antisemitism and criticizing Israeli policy.”

      + 1

      they know it, I suspect; equating the two changes what anti-semitism means to most people, a meaning that should never be adulterated — why smart and well-meaning people would do that seems perplexing

      it’s like American conservatives equating any criticism of the invasion of Iraq as anti-American or unpatriotic … controlling the labels given to things always seems task # 1 in politics

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      Yep, this is the key point. This is discourse-policing, pure and simple.

      As Glenn Greenwald pointed out a while back: “the very same right-wing advocates who scream “anti-semitism” at anyone, such as [Joe] Klein, who raises the issue of devotion to Israel themselves constantly argue that American Jews do — and should — cast their votes in American elections based upon what is best for Israel.” (In fact, the latter is Stephen Richer’s entire purpose at this website).

      It’s funny, Frum is now capable, ten years too late, of evaluating the invasion of Iraq in terms of costs and benefits. He is constitutionally incapable of applying that rationale to the current structure of our relationship with Israel. Should we be sending a successful country $3 billion per year? What, if anything, should we get in return? Are we getting it? Are Israel’s current policies in our best interests, and in Israel’s best interests?

      We never, ever get that from Frum– just a bunch of complaining about Israel’s critics (never the specifics of their criticism) and the Palestinians.

      And Frum’s attitude is, frankly, a betrayal of Israel. Because these are serious times for that country. As Jeffrey Goldberg (a leading US supporter of Israel) put it:

      I think we’re only a few years away, at most, from a total South-Africanization of this issue. And if Israelis believe that the vast majority of American Jews — their most important supporters in the entire world — are going to sit idly by and watch Israel permanently disenfranchise a permanently-occupied minority population, they’re deluding themselves. A non-democratic Israel will not survive in this world. It’s an impossibility. So Israel has a choice — find a way to reverse the settlement process and bring about the conditions necessary to see the birth of a Palestinian state (I’m for unilateral closure of settlements but the military occupation’s end will have to be negotiated with the Palestinians) or simply grant the Palestinians on the West Bank the right to vote in Israeli elections. … It will be extremely difficult for any number of reasons for Israel to leave the West Bank, but it will be impossible for Israel to survive over the long-term if it remains an occupier of a group of people who don’t want to be occupied. …

      Claiming that critics like Jeffrey Goldberg are anti-Semites is the height of absurdity, to put it mildly, and a frank admission that there is no legitimate defense of the current structure of the US-Israel relationship or of Israel’s current policies, particularly in expansion of settlements.

  • ConnerMcMaub

    Israel should remain our ally as it has been since 1948. I still wonder why a wealthy and successful country like Israel is our biggest recipient of foreign aid. Egypt is the second biggest as a continuing thank you for their peace with Israel. We don’t subsidize England, Canada, Australia, Japan, or any of our other first tier allies. Why can’t we sell them weapons instead of giving it to them. If they were a poor ally that couldn’t pay for it’s defense it would make sense. Israel has incredible military forces and technology, why do we treat them as a charity case? This is coming from someone who has pictures of his grandfather with Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, and David Ben Gurion. Our forces in Japan, Germany, South Korea, etc… could (and probably should) be seen as subsidizing our allies, though it’s not quite the same as giving billions directly. Reducing their reliance on us would be healthy for everyone, as long as it’s done gradually over a long enough time period that our allies could replace our forces. We can’t afford it anymore.

  • Sinan

    Personally, I don’t get why we are so tied to Israel. While they served a purpose during the Cold War, they hardly do us any favors in the region and their insistence on treating the Palestinians like chattel is keeping our nation and the world from moving on and creating a better Middle East. I was tired of this subject by the time Camp David came around in the late 70s. By now, I am exhausted by it. The peoples of that region could lead the entire Middle East into a new era if they just got around to acknowledging that the current path will never, ever lead to peace. It’s time for us to be an honest broker again. I ask many who disagree with me to answer a simple question : Where is the quid pro quo for our unabated support of Israel over the years?

    • Ray_Harwick

      I don’t disagree with you but the quid pro quo can be found at the First Southern Baptist Church of Dallas or any other branch in any city of any size. Israel gets their support and the Baptists get the plains of Armageddon to bleed red like they’ve hoped for since 1609 when John Smyth started the first franchise.

  • JR272

    There really isn’t anyone in America who is specifically anti-Zionist or Anti-Israel, save for the fringe radicals and communists on the left and the fringe fascist sympathizers on the right. The fact that Israel is a liberal Jewish democracy in a VERY tough neighborhood is reason alone to support it.

    Two facts lie at the heart of this issue:

    1) Auschwitz is still very fresh in the minds of many Jewish parents and grandparents. The deep-seated fear that their children are moving steadily away from Judaism because of intermarriage and assimilation has been affirmed by statistics. Thus, you have a slew of organizations specifically catering to American Jewry: AIPAC, AJC, RJC, ADL, , Simon Wiesenthal Center, Jewish summer camps, Birthright trips, Hillel on campus, JDate, etc. Now, you even have Israeli-sponsored ads trying to convince those who have not already done so to make aliyah, and for expats to move back home.

    Why? Well, one truth is that Jews compose a tiny fraction of the American population, and unless Jewish young adults find each other and reproduce, our culture may not survive into future generations. Unless Jewish identity and values are actively inculcated, our posterity may grow up to be apathetic or ignorant of their heritage and culture. This engenders, not only a decline of Judaism in America, but an apathy or even a hostility to Zionism in the younger generation. Of course, this only encourages the radical mullahs of the world to move one step closer to their goal: a repeat of the Shoah.

    2) Nearly 60 years of perpetual warfare and threatened extinction has hardened Israelis and instilled in them strong survival instincts. It has also forced many of them to abandon idealistic goals and embrace practical politics. In other words, Liberalism is a luxury Israelis just can’t afford right now. Right and center-right parties in Israel enjoy unprecedented support. In America, political support for Israel is fast becoming a rubber stamp for Likud and even mild criticism, of say, the eviction of Palestinian families is deemed Antisemitism.

    This is dangerous not only for America, but Israel as well. Israel is fast bifurcating into two societies: one cosmopolitan, slow-growing and supportive of liberal policies and secular laws, and the other, ultra-Orthodox and Russian, fast-growing and supportive of ultra-nationalist policies and religious laws.

    Looking out to the horizon, Israelis see an Islamic republic on the verge of nuclear status, a secular Syrian Baathist regime on the verge of civil war, fractured Lebanese and Iraqi parliaments stocked with Iranian affiliates, a rogue Prime Minister in Turkey turning on its ally, a unified Hamas-Fatah coalition seeking nationhood status, and an inevitable end to the 30-year Egypt-Israel peace treaty.

    In the near future, Israel could soon be reduced to Avigdor Lieberman and the Haredim on one hand, and on the other, Arab neighbors that seek to end Zionism simply through population growth. In any case, the future for an Israel that is both Zionist and liberal isn’t too bright.

    • zaybu


      Most Americans don’t know that Israel has been at war since 1947, and can’t imagine what that means. As long as the Palestinians continue their armed struggle, the Israelis will continue to elect their most hawkish leaders as they live under existential threat every single day. Most Israelis are fed up with the war. They want to live normal lives in a normal country. But that decision does not lie in their hands but in the hands of the Palestinians.

    • Reflection Ephemeral

      Nearly 60 years of perpetual warfare and threatened extinction has hardened Israelis and instilled in them strong survival instincts.

      It has also corrupted their judgment. This is a very brief excerpt from a lengthy series of errant predictions:

      October 1992: “Warning the international community that Iran would be armed with a nuclear bomb by 1999, Peres told France 3 television in October 1992 that ‘Iran is the greatest threat [to peace] and greatest problem in the Middle East … because it seeks the nuclear option while holding a highly dangerous stance of extreme religious militantism.’” Source: Then-Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in an interview with French TV, as described in the book “ Treacherous Alliance .”

      November 1992: “But the Israelis caution that a bigger threat to Middle East serenity — not to mention their own country’s security — lies in Teheran, whose regime they say is sure to become a nuclear power in a few years unless stopped.” Source: New York Times, “Israel Focuses on the Threat Beyond the Arabs — in Iran”

      January 1995: “Iran is much closer to producing nuclear weapons than previously thought, and could be less than five years away from having an atomic bomb, several senior American and Israeli officials say.” Source: New York Times, “Iran May Be Able to Build an Atomic Bomb in 5 Years, U.S. and Israeli Officials Fear”

      1995: “The best estimates at this time place Iran between three and five years away from possessing the prerequisites required for the independent production of nuclear weapons.” Source: Benjamin Netanyahu, in his book “Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat the International Terrorist Network”

      Now, Iran has an awful, tyrannical government. There’s no doubting that. But spending a few decades in (unwarranted) fear of imminent annihilation isn’t exactly conducive to rational, long-term strategy. If Armageddon is always around the corner, then it’s always time to be a hair trigger away from war. That’s fine, except that Israel is a country of about 8 million people in a rough neighborhood. The long-term plan simply can’t be, “let’s do whatever we feel like doing forever.” Israel holds all the cards now, but they won’t always. So now’s the time, no matter the pathologies of Palestinian politics, for Israel to work really hard to achieve a peace regarded as legitimate.

      That isn’t exactly Netanyahu and Lieberman’s highest priority, though.

      • zaybu

        Regardless that they sounded the alarm as far back as in the 1990′s, Iran IS getting closer to a nuke. So you can’t frame this alarminism as if it was paranoia.

        Secondly, the cards are not in Israel’s hands but in the hands of the Palestinians. As long as they persist in their armed struggle, there’s nothing that Israel can do to achieve a successful peace.

  • abc123

    Can someone explain to me why I should care? I know of no other foreign coutry that one can speak out against and be considered unpatriotic. They’re an ally.. we have lots of them. What is the logic here?

  • WaStateUrbanGOPer

    I didn’t really find anything damning or sinister in the list of comments provided by Mr. Block. The swipe at Jennifer Rubin was a bit caustic and unfair, but nothing worth bawling about.

  • Watusie

    FF proclaims itself to be “dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement”.

    When was the last time the founder of FF posted something relevant to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement?

  • valkayec

    Mr. Frum, I’ll be totally honest with you. I never listen to AIPAC; I ignore anything they have to say and I do not support them. I have chosen to align with J St. and wholeheartedly support that organization.

    FYI, several years ago I worked with a creative director at an agency who not only was Jewish but also the son of a Canadian Ambassador. He grew up all over Europe, but you would have never known he was Jewish except from his company biography. One day I made the mistake of using a using a common but derogatory (Shakespearean) colloquialism in a conversation on pricing. Later, the other person in the conversation reminded me that my comment was derogatory, even though it had not meant to be. I immediately went to my Creative Director and friend and apologized. He waved it off as irrelevant. To me, that’s the difference between J St. and AIPAC.

    J St. is more willing to forgive – or ignore – normal human errors whereas AIPAC is exceptionally strident and unforgiving. J St. can see the errors Israel makes. AIPAC refuses to admit Israel makes any mistakes.

    I will never support AIPAC but, at this moment in time, I believe I will always support J St.

  • nepr

    Mr Frum

    You must have created this column in write-only mode. I can’t believe you actually read it, then recommended that others do the same. It’s petulant, childish, and really really lame.

  • Aaron

    I like a lot of David Frum’s columns on Israel, but this is not one of his best. As others have said, charges of dual loyalty and “Israel Firster” are not anti-Semitic per se. They would be anti-Semitic if they were aimed at Jewish-Americans as a group, but they rarely are. They’re almost always aimed at individuals based on specific public words and behavior.

    Mostly, the terms are just another instance of the obnoxious exaggeration you hear on all sides. As for the substance, it’s undeniable that Israeli and US interests sometimes conflict. I also doubt Frum would deny that Jewish-Americans tend to support Israel at least partly because Jewish-Americans are, uh, Jewish. Similarly with Cuban-Americans being anti-Castro, etc. If America’s Cuban policy were as important as its Israel policy, those Cuban-Americans might be accused of dual loyalty as well. Given all that, it mostly comes down to a matter of tone.

    Frum’s right that this AIPAC guy is just doing his job and his critics should lighten up, but Frum should lighten up as well.

  • Nanotek

    These LG ads have totally hijacked FF … makes the site nearly unworkable even for my Mac … can’t even read the comments

    • Traveler

      I have a PC using Firefox with adblocker. I don’t even know what everyone is talking about. One of the few times a PC and Firefox seem worthwhile. FWIW…

  • Secessionist

    David Frum’s essay should not be viewed in isolated terms.

    The American right-wing Jewish neocons have been running this anti-Semitism con for a long time.

    In a fascinating essay published in The Nation in 1986 (25 years ago), Gore Vidal recognized the con and was the first person to explicitly level the now famous “dual loyalty” charge against America’s Jewish neocons.

    The historical context needs to be kept in mind. In the mid-1980s, the annual wealth transfers from the US treasury to the Israeli government were justified in part because “the Commies were coming” (Vidal’s language). It is the same principle Israel’s partisans use today, except now it is because of “terrorism” and that “the Muslims are coming.”

    Anyway, the point is that this anti-Semitism crap is not a new tactic; for at least 25 years now, it has been peddled as a means for suppressing all criticism of Israel and the neocon foreign policy agenda.

    When Gore Vidal questioned the loyalty of two prominent Jewish neocons, they responded with — what else? — whines about anti-Semitism. William F Buckley, Jr., their non-Jewish ally in the conservative movement, later joined in the attack on Vidal and called him an anti-Semite too.

    The kicker is that the neocons in question, Norman Podhoretz and Midge Decter, are the parents of John Podhoretz who currently writes for National Review Online. John turns up on TV every now and then.

    Because the parallels with our own times are so striking, I’m going to quote Vidal’s 1986 essay in its entirety (the bold is my emphasis if you just want the pudding).

    Edit: Turns out the essay while short, is too long to post in a comment. Here is the link.

  • gmat

    What is the benefit to the US of the alliance with Israel?

  • The stratigic use of “anti-Israeli” label in US politics – +972 Magazine – Independent commentary from Israel and the Palestinian territories | Israel En -

    [...] American election year is officially here. Two democratic organizations – Center for …Truth HurtsFrumForumExploiting the anti-Semitic smear now [...]

  • lnexus01


    I find the topics of US/Israel relations, Jewish influence at all levels of government (as well as the influence of blacks, gays, fundamentalists, Hispanics, women, corn-growing concerns, and corporations), anti-Semitism, the perennial turmoil of Middle Eastern politics, the militaristic impulse of our country and the ugliness of the human heart to constitute a subject of permanent interest.

    I read your column (I confess I didn’t read Block’s in full), and I read all of the comments of your readers. I’m left wondering if you expected the response you got. Best guess? Not.

    In the interest of a real conversation, the posting seems to demand further published reflections from you, both on the topic itself and on the exchange with your readers here at

  • Bahumuth

    If charges of “dual loyalty” and “Israel first” do not count as anti-Semitic tropes, what does?

    Gee, I don’t know, how about attacking a person based on their race or religion — you know, the dictionary definiton of anti-Semitism?

    Frum here is basically calling Eric Alterman a self-hating Jew for criticizing Israel.

    I also believe the U.S. addiction to oil causes an over-reliance on the corrupt Saudi regime. Does that make me anti-Arab as well?

    Frum has done some good work taking the Right to task but he has to understand that the Left criticizes Israel over sympathy for Palestinians, not hostility to Jews.

  • LFC

    Reading many good comments here and thinking about this topic more, I’ve come to understand the reason why AIPAC and its supporters play the victim so often.

    Israel’s behavior has become less and less defensible intellectually. I’ve defended them in the past for not allowing free movement of Palestinians in much of Israel and for building the walls. These were sane responses to the situation. Netanyahu’s behavior, however, has pretty much run off the rails for any justification other than he’s rolling the dice for Greater Israel. Most of the rest of the world has no problem calling him on his crap.

    Since there’s no decent intellectual defense left then the best defense is playing the victim card, crying at every opportunity that everybody is out to get them. I have noticed that the frequency and stridency of the antisemite charge have gone way up, and the level of perceived offense has pretty much dropped to the point of disagreeing with Netanyahu’s tie choice.

  • adamcarralejo


    The bottom line is that there is absolutely no consensus that “dual loyalty” or “Israel first” are anti-Semetic. You can’t write as if it’s self-evident because it’s not.

    I can see a valid argument that they are anti-Semetic – not that I totally agree. The fissure on the left is a debate over whether this kind of language is in fact anti-Semetic or legitimate talking points. What concerns me is that you, like Josh Block, don’t even bother engaging in this debate – you can’t win this talking point if you can’t/won’t explain why “dual loyalty” or “Israel first” are anti-Semetic.

    You should be concerned that superficial name-calling is actually legitimizing the anti-Israel crowd and will underscore it’s growing significance – much in the same way O’Reilly’s “Conservative Intellectual” talk only legitimizes and underscores your own growing significance.

  • jdd_stl1

    In reading this piece and the comments a couple of parallels come to mind.

    The first parallel is with the current GOP Party-First attitude. It seems like Mr. Frum
    mostly agrees that the Republicans are hurting themselves by almost always
    putting party politics ahead of helping middle-class Americans. But in criticizing
    his own party for that is he Anti-GOP? No. He’ll still vote for them.
    Similarly, those on the left who may have used the terms “Israel-firster” or
    “dual-loyalties” probably still accept the bottom line that we are Israel’s ally
    and we have their back if they need it.

    The second parallel is to parenting a difficult child. You can coddle them,
    protect them and try to keep them out of trouble for years and years. But
    there comes a time when they have to stand on their own and face up
    to their problems and deal with them. At some point, tough-love is the best

  • DeathByIrony

    Simply being jewish does not render you immune to Godwin’s Law. Nothing does, really.

  • Reflection Ephemeral

    Where did the following deeply anti-Semitic bit of propaganda appear:

    It seems that the Administration’s unceasing public chastisements of Israel and its meek approach toward Iran do matter to American Jews. And this, in turn, should matter to Obama. American Jews, though only four percent of the vote, finance a good chunk of the Democratic political engine.

    Was it David Duke? Was it some left-wing figure you view as a “self-hating Jew”, like Philip Weiss or Eric Alterman?

    No. It was Stephen Richer, here at Frum Forum:

    So stop with this “heads we win, tails you lose” approach. You can’t, on the one hand, say that Obama must back whatever it is that Avigdor Lieberman feels like saying today (“Support Putin, or you hate Israel!”) or risk losing Jewish support; and on the other hand say that anyone who argues that many American Jews should or do feel some attachment to Israel is an anti-Semite.

    (Incidentally, Richer was wrong at that post, for reasons explained by Jonathan Bernstein here: “of course some past Obama supporters don’t like him as much now! He’s less popular than he was then! To know whether any of these stories is actually news, it’s absolutely necessary to compare Obama’s decline within the group in question to his overall decline.”)

    Botched, thumb-on-the-scales psychoanalysis of critics is a very poor substitute for rational, cost-and-benefits-based analysis of US policy.

  • LFC

    Greenwald lays out this current situation very well. Screaming “antisemite!” at every person who does not instantly fluff the most extreme elements of Israel is now the AIPAC M.O., and it seems to be very effective.

    The most extreme and unstable right-wingers effectively have destroyed our nation’s ability to do what is good for America. Israel? Whatever they want, and give them billions while we’re at it. (Unfortunately, David appears to be sitting firmly in this camp.) Taxes? Cut, cut, cut. Medicare and Social Security? Cut, cut, cut. Sane regulation? No on OUR watch!

    The right-wing is winning the majority of these battles, and the collateral damage on America and its people is massive. And no matter how wrong the right-wing policies prove to be wrong over and over and over again, these people never retreat or wonder what went wrong. They always just blame somebody or something else that really had little or nothing to do with the fallout. It seems that the melding of the Republican Party and Fox News is complete, and they create their own reality.

    And Reaganism is dead.

  • TheFish

    Long-time reader, got an account specifically to write this.

    Mr. Frum writes,

    “If charges of “dual loyalty” and “Israel first” do not count as anti-Semitic tropes, what does? ”

    How about ACTUAL anti-Semitic tropes? This is casual BS on his part, conflating one’s support for a foreign entity with their religion. There is no connection between the two.

    It’s sad to see an otherwise great writer and political observer fall to such an error. And, if one doesn’t think it’s an error, I would point out that the same logic would have those who criticized Obama being racists; which I doubt Mr. Frum would agree with.