A Jew-Firster Spat About Israel-Firsters
There's been a controversy raging over the past month or so that I've avoided writing about mainly because it has a Groundhog Day quality to it. It began with this very interesting Ben Smith piece, but lately it has become tiresome. Apparently, it is not tiresome to other pepole, because it just keeps going. The seemingly most urgent question to emerge from this controversy is whether or not the term "Israel-firster" is anti-Semitic. The term is used by Media Matters, the left-wing advocacy group, to describe American Jews with whom it disagrees on American Middle East policy, and it was also used by staffers of the Center for American Progress, the important liberal think tank, to describe same. CAP has disavowed the language, and apologized on behalf of the staffer who used the term; Media Matters doesn't seem to care.For non-jews the "controversy" has been tiresome all along - it's just the latest episode of jews debating jews about what's best for jews. The obsession with arguing about whether this or that is "anti-semitic" is symptomatic of a jew-first attitude. The trope here is the jewish conceit that they may freely exhibit such attitudes while everyone else must act as if they're incapable of noticing.
So, is "Israel-firster" anti-Semitic? Its origins are certainly anti-Semitic, and the idea that Jews are incapable of being loyal to the country of their citizenship and are only loyal to world Jewry, or the Jewish state, is an age-old anti-Semitic trope.
The next day Goldberg had more to say. A Question From Glenn Greenwald, 20 Jan 2012:
I don't think CAP is anti-Semitic (it's pretty hostile to Israel, but it's not as if it has called for the Jewish state's destruction), but the term "Israel-Firster" is originally a neo-Nazi term (Willis Carto's fascist Liberty Lobby was a big proponent of its use, as is David Duke), and it is meant to raise questions about a Jewish person's willingness to be loyal to America (this is merely the local variant of an ancient anti-Semitic trope). CAP, to its credit, acknowledged the anti-Semitic nature of the term, and apologized. (I wrote about the controversy here.)This is why I'm taking the time to write about this latest tiresome episode of jew-firstiness. Did you catch what Goldberg did right there? Did you notice how he used the terms "neo-Nazi", "fascist", and "anti-semitic" to describe someone with whom he disagrees? How he indirectly explained that he doesn't mean for it to open a discussion, or advance an argument, but to demonize his opponent?
Obviously, use of the term "Israel-Firster" to describe someone with whom you disagree is not meant to open a discussion, or advance an argument, but to demonize your opponent. When Jews use it, as Joe Klein does, it is particularly unfortunate, because it is a term specifically designed to marginalize Jews in the American political discourse, and people like Joe Klein will eventually reap the whirlwind, in one form or another. The mainstreaming of hostility toward any group of Jews leads inevitably to the mainstreaming of hostility to Jews generally. And of course it's probably a sound idea for Jews to avoid using neo-Nazi-derived slurs to describe other Jews.
Words are not the problem, it's facing what they mean that Goldberg can't handle. "Israel-firster" is literally more descriptive than any of the terms he uses to demonize his opponents. To the extent "neo-Nazi", "fascist", and "anti-semitic" mean anything it amounts to "anti-jew" - which is exactly the kind of thing a jew-firster would be concerned about. Jefferey Goldberg is both a jew-firster and an Israel-firster. Israel and jews literally come first in his mind.
A few days later Goldberg was happy to quote someone else regurgitating his jew-first views. A Straight Line From Lindbergh to 'Israel-Firster', 23 Jan 2012:
[C]urious minds want to know whether the Gingrich campaign will continue to reap the largesse of Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who seems an unlikely Gingrichian. To explain it, some critics have taken to calling Adelson an "Israel-firster." That ugly term has been applied, not just to Adelson, but to other supporters of current U.S. policies regarding Israel, as Atlantic Monthly writer Jeffrey Goldberg describes.Yes, it is a crude maneuver to demonize people in this way, for example, as "haters from both extremes come together on the dark side of the moon".
Bashing Jews for their supposed disloyalty to their nation is a crude maneuver that has been employed long before Israel existed. It has been a tactic of both the far-left and far-right, almost as though haters from both extremes come together on the dark side of the moon.
Demonizing people in this way is always a nasty form of argumentation, but in our country it is particularly disquieting when this kind of discourse seeps into the mainstream of our major political parties. Lately, that seems to have happened within certain Democratic circles, as Ben Smith reported in Politico. In Charles Lindberg's time, the intolerance on display by the "America-First" crowd was mostly (but not exclusively) Republican.
The difference is that the America First "crowd", including Charles Lindbergh, openly identified themselves and their interests, whereas jew- and Israel-firsters pretend they aren't and intolerantly demonize anyone who calls them on their pretense.