General Antisemitism

Meet “progressive” U.S. blogger, Glenn Greenwald: An American Guardianista


Let me introduce you to someone who can give CiF’s Michael Tomasky – their American columnist – a run for his money.  In fact this blogger who, oh yes, happens to be Jewish, actually exceeds Tomasky in that, in addition to his visceral malice towards most Americans, he also employs, without inhibition, classic anti-Semitic tropes.  If the Guardian ever wanted to replace Tomasky, they would be well advised to seek the services of one of the U.S. blogosphere’s most popular commentators, Glenn Greenwald, who blogs at Salon.com.  Much like the Guardian, Greenwald’s blog is highly influential among the left-wing activist elite:  His blog – apart from Salon’s general traffic – is typically ranked in the top fifteen (in overall traffic) among all liberal blogs, and in the top twenty in a category including all print and online bloggers/columnists. On 22 January 2009, Forbes named Greenwald one of the “25 Most Influential Liberals in the U.S. Media.

Greenwald’s anti-Americanism

Greenwald’s brand of anti-Americanism is truly legion – he seems to truly regard the United States as something approaching a force of evil in the world. He has argued that one could compare the U.S. war in Iraq with the Nazi conquest of Europe.  And made the incredible assertion that the liberation of the Kurds which (which should be celebrated by civilized people everywhere), can be compared to the Nazi seizure of the Sudetenland:

Greenwald said:

“It’s difficult to find an invasion in history that wasn’t supported by at least some faction of the invaded population and where that same self-justifying script wasn’t used.  That’s true even of the most heinous aggressors.  Many Czech and Austrian citizens of Germanic descent, viewing themselves as a repressed minority, welcomed Hitler’s invasion of their countries, while leaders of the independence-seeking Sudeten parties in those countries actively conspired to bring it about.”

As fellow liberal blogger Joe Klein even argued:

“This is obscene. Comparing the Kurds, who had been historically orphaned and then slaughtered with poison gas by Saddam Hussein, with Nazi-loving Sudeten Germans is outrageous. Comparing the United States to Nazi Germany is not merely disgraceful, but revelatory of a twisted, deluded soul.”

Greenwald’s anti-Americanism has continued recently, when he meditated on the similarities between the Taliban and the U.S.:

“…there are areas — significant ones — where the actions of the American Right (and, for that matter, many Democrats who supported them) are literally comparable to the Taliban and Muslim extremists generally.”

Greenwald adds:

“In what universe is it “obscene” to compare the architects of the Iraq War, the torture regime, and endless War with Muslims “to killers and terrorists”?  The comparison is true by definition.  The people who launched the attack on Iraq are guilty of an aggressive war — what the Nuremberg prosecutors condemned as the “kingpin crime” that “holds together” all other war crimes — which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings, turned millions more into refugees, and destroyed an entire nation.  The aptly named “Shock and Awe” was designed to terrify an entire civilian population into submission.”

Later in the column, he says:

“There are countless examples of America’s political leaders espousing a core mentality indistinguishable from those of the Islamic villains who are endlessly paraded before us…the similarity between the American Right’s aggression, tribalism, and violence and those of the Islamic extremists who are endlessly demonized in American political culture is an important one.”

“[Its ridiculous to argue that] Americans — even when they engage in violent, destructive and inhumane acts — are intrinsically good, well-intentioned, and even superior, and thus no comparison should be tolerated between them and those foreign [terrorists].”

Background: Greenwald’s anti-Semitism

I’ve documented Greenwald’s use of anti-Semitic tropes, such as “dual loyalty” and “excessive Jewish power”, in essays, here, and here. But, here are some examples (citations on all Greenwald quotes can be located on my original JCPA essay):

On the power of the Jewish/Israel lobby to harm U.S. foreign policy:

“So absolute has the Israel-centric stranglehold on American policy been that the U.S. Government has made it illegal to broadcast Hezbollah television stations.”

“Not even our Constitution’s First Amendment has been a match for the endless exploitation of American policy, law and resources [by the Israel lobby] to target and punish Israel’s enemies.”

“The real goal [of the Israel lobby], as always, was to ensure that there is no debate over America’s indescribably self-destructive, blind support for Israeli actions. [Charles] Freeman’s critics may have scored a short-term victory in that regard, but the more obvious it becomes what is really driving these scandals, the more difficult it will be to maintain this suffocating control over American debates and American policy.”

“The point is that the power the [Israel lobby] exercises [is] harmful in the extreme. They use it to squelch debate, destroy the careers and reputations of those who deviate from their orthodoxies, and compel both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans; that is principally concerned with the interests of a foreign country; and that results in serious cost and harm to the United States. In doing so, they insure not only that our policies towards Israel remain firmly in place no matter the outcome of our elections, but also that those policies remain beyond the realm of what can be questioned or debated by those who want to have a political future.”

Greenwald on the charge that Jews aren’t loyal American citizens

“large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.”

Greenwald’s response to my criticism:

After revealing his shameful history of engaging in ad-hominem attacks on Jewish Americans, and at times advancing explicitly anti-Semitic tropes on his blogs (Dual Loyalty and Jewish Power), he attacked me by name in a recent blog post. Ok, he just says, “someone named Adam Levick”, but, hey, I still appreciate the shout out!

Just to be clear, my inspiration to write about him was based on what I still see as his uncanny ability to maintain such a large influence in the progressive world, while at the same time managing to engage in hateful commentary about Jewish supporters of Israel – as well as his anti-Americanism – with seeming impunity.

My commentary on Greenwald consisted of prominently mentioning him in my Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) piece on anti-Semitism in progressive American blogs, and in a guest blog post on Z Word, the blog of the American Jewish Committee (AJC), here.

An increasingly popular meme among many progressives – at the Guardian and other “leaders” of liberal thought – is that American Jews who support Israel smear anyone who criticizes Israel with the charge of anti-Semitism, and Greenwald and his supporters (some of whom commented on the Z Word site following my post) have honed this to an art. Greenwald, in the column criticizing me, as well as in other posts on the same topic, used the title term “taboo” to describe the critiques he claims you “just can’t say” about Israel and her supporters – and, I continue to marvel at how Greenwald always is able to say such things (to the over one million unique monthly visitors to his blog) that, according to him, you just can’t say.

In reality, they would be hard pressed to find many supporters of the Jewish state who accuse folks of anti-Semitism merely for opposing Israel’s policies. Further, I was careful to use exact quotes in the proper context when quoting Greenwald, and really don’t see how anyone who takes opposition to racism seriously could defend the quotes I’ve used.  The quote which particularly stands out, which I cited above, is:

“Large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups are the ones agitating for a U.S. war against Iran, and that is the case because those groups are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests.”

It does seem rather remarkable that progressives, of all people, would defend such an ugly passage – one which seamlessly joins both the “dual loyalty” trope with rhetoric warning darkly of excessive “Jewish power,” and one which is nearly indistinguishable from paleo-conservative suspicions regarding the national loyalty Jewish Americans enunciated by figures such as Pat Buchanan. (Indeed, as I’ve noted, remarkably, Greenwald has penned essay’s for Buchanan’s magazine, The American Conservative)

In his March 15th post criticizing me, Greenwald, apparently part of the Alanis Morissette clique of folks who comically misunderstand the meaning of the word “Irony”, says:

“with extreme, unintended irony — Adam Levick lists this as his biography on his Twitter account: I’m an American who just made Aliyah (moved to Israel), and love America and my new country.'”

But he then proceeds to acknowledge that:

“There’s nothing wrong per se with harboring cultural affections for other countries — many individuals in the culturally diverse U.S. do.”

Gee, thanks Glenn!

Greenwald himself once conceded:

“Spending substantial time in another country does not make one an “expatriate.” And even those American citizens who do give up American residence and live abroad retain full rights of citizenship.”

But, he then goes on to add:

“but, stridently denying what is so obviously true, and smearing those who point it out, does more than anything else to make something innocuous seem nefarious.”

Conclusion:

Like the millions of other Americans who hold a passport to another country allied with the U.S. – Canada, Britain, France, Germany, etc – the rights and responsibilities of American Jews aren’t downgraded due to Israeli citizenship.  More importantly, there’s something quite comical about being lectured on patriotism by a blogger – as I’ve noted above – who compares his own country to Nazi Germany and the Taliban!

Second, he’s just being dishonest when he says that American Jews, more broadly, deny their passion for Israel. The point we typically make is that such loyalties are not relevant to the foreign policy debates about Israel and the Middle East. And, if it’s so “innocuous”, as he says, why does he speak about such attachments using such extreme vitriol? His rhetoric “revealing” American Jews’ love for Israel is often advanced using dark, conspiratorial narratives, such as, when commenting about Conservative Jewish commentator Charles Krauthammer, he says:

“It is difficult to find someone with a more psychopathic indifference to the slaughter of innocent people in pursuit of shadowy, unstated political goals than Charles Krauthammer.”

Boy, I wonder, what shadowy political goals he possibly could be talking about?

So, it seems that he’s aghast when critics of Israel are “smeared” by their opponents, but he’s a paragon of good taste and moderation when he accuses the Jewish columnist of possessing “psychopathic indifference” to the suffering of innocents, and being motivated by “shadowy” political goals.”

The larger point Greenwald and the likes of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer are always making is that, unlike American Jewish supporters of Israel, their political opinions are uncompromised by such ethnic or religious loyalties. They, unlike us, engage in merely cool, detached analyses of the issues of the day, taking into account nothing more than what’s in the best interests of the nation. They stand above “ethnic” Americans – enabling them to stand in judgment like some Platonic philosopher king, unburdened by the irrational thoughts, and raw emotions of us mortals.

And while it might indeed be interesting to engage in a psychological analysis of political commentators to reveal who is biased and who is logical – and, thus, free from the corrosive effects of such primitive loyalties – ultimately such an argument, by its very nature, is ad hominem. That is, people can, and often do, opine on issues of the day from any number of biases. But, what ultimately matters is, not the purity of their thought but, rather, the logic and facts of their position.

If my argument in favor of continued U.S. support for Israel is flawed, then those who think so should attempt to dissect the error in my opinion, and engage in a refutation of my reasoning – letting it all play out in the marketplace of ideas. To argue that my opinion may be faulty merely because of my ethnic loyalties is inherently a personal attack rather than a refutation of my position and is, therefore, anti-intellectual. Is there really any doubt that many people hold the right position for bad reasons, and that others hold the incorrect position for admirable reasons?

Smearing Jews as impure of thought and unpatriotic due to their background is something, as I’ve previously pointed out, that is historically associated with the xenophobia of the far right, and I continue to marvel at the ideological evolution at play which allowed such a noxious opinion to transfer to the left.

Should Glenn Greenwald, due to the fact that he splits his time living in both the U.S. and Brazil, recuse himself from commenting on American relations with South America?

Jews who advocate for Israel of course act to a large degree out of their concern for the survival of the only Jewish state in the world, but also because they are convinced that such advocacy is in no way inconsistent with their American identity or the values and interests of the nation. This belief about the shared values of the U.S. and Israel is one which is also shared by an overwhelming majority of non-Jewish Americans.

So, if someone wants to make the case that such Israel advocacy is wrong-headed, that U.S. policies which serve to enhance Israel’s security are inherently inconsistent with America’s security, then fine, make the case and let the political process play out, just as it does with countless other issues facing the nation.

But, I think the onus is on those wishing to change the historic support American has given to Israel – support, after all, that is based primarily on shared democratic values and common strategic interests – to honestly demonstrate why the U.S.-Israeli alliance should be downgraded, based on facts and logic, not by such scurrilous attacks on Jewish Americans.

Glenn Greenwald, whose blog was initially called “UNCLAIMED TERRITORY,” styles himself as a bold new thinker, and a brave dissident who is willing to explore “taboos” (about the national loyalty of Jews and their corrosive effects on the American body politic) where others dare not go – a narcissism, CiF Watch has noted, shared by many of the Guardian’s Jewish contributors . His narrative, however, full of poisonous, old, and tired tropes about the dangers of collective Jewry, is as ancient as the Jewish diaspora itself.

That Greenwald, a former Constitutional lawyer and Civil Rights litigator, could simply be ignorant of the lethal history of this facile narrative about Jewish power he so frequently engages in is certainly possible.   But, one thing is certain. Sixty-five years after the Holocaust, with Jews representing roughly 2% of the American population, it is horribly dispiriting that the charge that organized Jewry is too powerful and is pushing the United States to war is once again becoming fashionable.

Wieseltier, in his New Republic essay (which focuses on Andrew Sullivan but is even more relevant in the context of analyzing Greenwald), characterizes such bloggers as belonging “to the party of Mearsheimer and the clique of Walt…to the herd of fearless dissidents who proclaim in all seriousness, without in any way being haunted by the history of such an idea, that Jews control Washington.”

Make no mistake, Greenwald’s odious territory has been claimed before.

7 replies »

  1. Totally agree with your take on Greenwald and good to see someone undermining his reputation as a sensible progressive voice. But please don’t compare him with Michael Tomasky, whom I heard speak when I was in the US and whose wry, middle of the road liberal commentary is one of the few things left worth reading in the Grauniad (unless you have evidence to the contrary…?).

  2. Greenwald’s claim that the Israel lobby compels “both political parties to maintain strict adherence to an agenda that is held by a minority of Americans” is quite absurd.

    Does he really think a small lobby group, however influential, could force the US to adopt policies that the majority of it’s citizens disapprove of? How would they actually do that? He is clearly a bit of a twat.

  3. Tomasky is pretty weak, really – a sort of poodle trying to be a Doberman. Greenwald sounds like the real thing – though I must admit, I had never heard of this “influential” character.

    Good work, Adam.

  4. To equate critique of Israel (and the US for its blind support) with anti-semitism is just ridiculous! This site is a joke!