Portrait of a . . . Well . . . You Tell Me How Best to Describe Philip Weiss

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on January 23, 2011

Michelle Goldberg has a profile of everyone’s favorite self-hating Jew, that reveals that self-hatred is not Weiss’s only problem:

. . . In the 1990s, [Weiss] was a staunch Bill Clinton defender. But when Clinton disappointed him, he began a long flirtation with all sorts of anti-Clinton conspiracy theories. His New York Observer columns painted an image of a menacing cabal of thugs sitting in the White House and snuffing out their enemies. As he wrote in 1998, “Everywhere Bill Clinton goes, he makes Chinatowns.” He was particularly fixated on Vince Foster’s suicide, which he was convinced was part of something larger and more sinister. He has more of a paranoid gene than he realizes.

He regrets some of this now. “I have problems with loyalty in life, and I felt little loyalty to the Democrats when I sensed the small-town corruption that hung around Clinton,” he wrote in 2009. “I wanted to expose it. It was the wrong impulse because as John Homans, my friend/editor, used to berate me, You’re arming people who disagree with you on policy matters. Did I help elevate W? … And would Gore have kept us out of Iraq? Maybe. That’s why I feel bad about what I did.”

Friends have suggested that the same impulse that sent him after Clinton may drive some of his writing about Israel. Though his voice can be reflective, he seems to enjoy pulling wild ideas from the fever swamps and giving them a respectful airing. He’s particularly interested in Jewish power, manifestations of which he diligently catalogs.

“Over and over, American presidents have said they oppose the colonization program; over and over these instincts have been nullified politically because of the Jewish presence in the power structure,” he wrote in 2009. “The Senate is dominated by Democrats, and 1/5 of them are Jews, even though Jews are just 2 percent of the population. The Washington Post has said that over half the money given to the Democratic Party comes from Jews. Obama’s top two political advisers are Jewish, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. The news lately has been dominated by Obama aides Kenneth Feinberg and Larry Summers. And what does it mean that the Treasury Sec’y gets off the phone with Obama to confer immediately with Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman and Jamie Dimon of Morgan (Dimon’s Jewish; Blankfein would seem to be)?” He didn’t say what exactly this did mean, particularly regarding Israel—it was just an invitation to conspiratorial speculation. From there, Weiss went on to list Jewish journalists including Ezra Klein, Andrew Ross Sorkin, Terry Gross, and Nina Totenberg.

Now, it’s fair for Weiss to argue that Jews, owing to their success, are far more secure in the United States than they realize, and that their politics should reflect that, just as it’s more than fair to criticize the pro-Israel establishment for its destructive impact on American foreign policy. What’s outrageous is the imputation of a unified Jewish agenda to all these disparate figures, most of whom have nothing to do with Barack Obama’s Middle Eastern policy, and some of whom are far to the left of virtually all non-Jewish Republicans on Israel issues. Netanyahu has reportedly slurred Emanuel and Axelrod as self-hating Jews; there’s certainly no evidence that they’ve urged softness on settlements.

Not surprisingly, some Jew-haters see Weiss as a native informer, telling the plain truth about the Zionist octopus. “Philip Weiss is a unique American Jewish voice—a Jew without all the usual rationalizations and blind spots–at least most of them,” Kevin MacDonald, a leading anti-Semitic theorist, wrote last May. MacDonald has bandied the idea of taxes on Jews and quotas against them in order to “achieve parity between Jews and other ethnic groups.”

Weiss isn’t responsible for his fans, of course. But when he wrote about McDonald’s embrace, there was something notably equivocal in his rejection of a figure who most American journalists and thinkers would find beneath contempt. “I find a lot of what MacDonald has said elsewhere bracing and bold,” he wrote. “He is alive to important sociological trends that few people are talking about out loud.” Only then did he call him out for his open racism and disdain for Jewish suffering.

It is perhaps worth noting that the likes of Stephen Walt seem to think that Weiss is an authority worth relying on for commentary on issues regarding the Middle East, and the state of affairs for Jews. One wonders why Walt won’t try to find less crankish authorities on whom to rely . . . before contemplating the possibility that perhaps Walt isn’t interested in finding less crankish authorities on whom to rely.

(Via 3 Quarks Daily.)

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