Something Much More Unresponsive

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on February 10, 2010

Speaking of Andrew Sullivan, he has posted a long reply to Leon Wieseltier, whose article I linked to. Since I asked Sullivan a bunch of questions, I want to see how he did in answering them; about the only hope I have that Sullivan read my post stems from the fact that Glenn Reynolds was nice enough to link to it. I am not going to go through the whole thing, but certain passages seem relevant.

One key passage in Sullivan’s post is the following:

As evidence of my anti-Semitism, Wieseltier first cites a post in which I distinguish between “Most American Jews [who] retain a respect for learning, compassion for the other, and support for minorities (Jews, for example, are the ethnic group most sympathetic to gay rights)” and those who celebrated the Gaza attack and defend the torture of terror suspects. (I must say I’m relieved that even Leon cannot defend Michael Goldfarb!) This, apparently, to Leon, is dividing Jews between “good” and “bad” which, I am informed, has a “sordid history.”

I’m sorry if Leon immediately saw my distinction between some neocons and many non-neocons as some kind of reference to ancient persecution. But what am I to do if I am trying to describe my support for J-Street over AIPAC on these matters, or for the younger generation of American-Jewish writers as opposed to their elders? Is this analysis something no non-Jew is allowed to even discuss, for fear of offending? How am I able as a writer to make occasional distinctions between American Jewish factions whose views I have come to support and those I don’t? To give a counter-example, in my writing about homosexuals for the past twenty years, I have often distinguished between the gay left and the gay right, between strategies and arguments I support and those I oppose. Are we supposed to think that this is some kind of dark reference to the ways in which totalitarian countries persecute openly gay or effeminate gays and leave the closeted macho types alone? Please. This is searching for animus that simply isn’t there.

None of this tells me why it is that Sullivan never wrote about the “Cheney-Rumsfeld wing of American Christianity,” or the “Sullivan wing of the gay community.” To be sure, Sullivan distinguishes between the gay left and the gay right, but he doesn’t tell us why it is worthwhile to note the difference on issues of foreign policy between the gay left and the gay right. He certainly doesn’t tell us that one side in that divide lacks “respect for learning, compassion for the other, and support for minorities,” but he has no problem telling us that the “Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing” of the American Jewish community is lacking on that front.

I asked the following question in my post: “Why doesn’t Sullivan ever write about other lobbying groups on the issue of foreign policy? Why does he only fixate on the Jewish lobby?” To figure out whether Sullivan is arguing from a position of good faith when it comes to his analysis of the actions of AIPAC and other such organizations, it would help if we could see Sullivan critically analyze other ethnic lobbying groups that seek to influence American foreign policy. Unfortunately, there appears to be no evidence of him doing so, save one story he “ran” at the New Republic concerning the “malign influence” of the Cuban lobby. I can’t find said article on Google, and certainly, I can’t find anything that Sullivan himself has written concerning other ethnic lobbies and the ways in which those lobbies have shaped American foreign policy.

Concerning my fourth question, Sullivan informs us that he regretted his statements about the “decadent Left” serving as a “fifth column.” Fine and well, though that doesn’t answer my question as to whether his comments about the Jewish lobby, the Netanyahu government declaring “war” on the Obama Administration, and his complaint that America is “dictated to” by Israel are meant to make up for that earlier exceedingly emotional statement. More to the point, however, Sullivan offers no justification whatsoever for his beliefs that the Netanyahu government declared “war” on the Obama Administration (a policy disagreement is not a declaration of war), or his belief that Israel bosses the United States around.

As to why Sullivan believes that Israel’s reaction to terrorist attacks constitute “military adventurism,” we get a passage from Sullivan with links to past posts, telling us “how deep, various and open the debate was” at his blog over this issue. He tells us that he has consistently condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks as “war crimes.” Okay, but he doesn’t convincingly tell us why Israel should not have defended itself against these “war crimes” via military action of its own. Sullivan has been somewhat all over the place on this issue; he has posted in the past that he thinks that Israel’s defense did not constitute a just war, and here, Sullivan tells us that if Israeli leaders are prosecuting a war against terrorists with clean consciences, and without electoral concerns in mind, then they are acting justly. But here, Sullivan condemns the “pulverization of Gaza” without noting that it was terrorist groups that subjected Gaza to war via their provocation of Israel–which Sullivan himself referred to as a “war crime”–without noting that terrorist fighters hid themselves amongst the civilian population in Gaza in order to maximize civilian casualties, and without noting that Israel did all it could to lessen the number of civilian casualties by warning residents of Gaza when an attack was forthcoming.

Oh, and to be sure, we certainly are not told why Sullivan’s own statement that he is close to endorsing “a direct American military imposition of a two-state solution,” which would entail “NATO troops on the borders of the new states of Palestine and Israel” does not constitute “military adventurism.”

Whatever issues Andrew Sullivan has with Leon Wieseltier are between the two of them to resolve. But Sullivan has given no one reassurance that his writings concerning Israel and Jews are carried out with objectivity or sensitivity.

  • rvail136

    Mr. Sullivan is something that has become quite normal on the left. He is a bigot.

  • pabarge

    Andrew Sullivan is an anti-semite.

  • rvail136

    Mr. Sullivan is something that has become quite normal on the left. He is a bigot.

  • pabarge

    Andrew Sullivan is an anti-semite.

  • Hugo

    I think you missed something important:

    I’m sorry if Leon immediately saw my distinction between some neocons and many non-neocons as some kind of reference to ancient persecution.

      This seems to explicitly license the sordid innuendo that Neocon=Jew, peddled by the reactionary left and the fascist right. 

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