Earlier, we posted about Glenn Greenwald’s April 3 ‘Comment is Free’ piece titled ‘ Sam Harris, the New Atheists and anti-Muslim animus, in which he attacked noted atheist Sam Harris for promoting what Greenwald claims is “Islamophobia under the guise of rational atheism”.
Whilst others have fisked Greenwald’s specific charge that Harris is a bigot, we commented on a passage in the essay which suggested a moral equivalence between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the rights afforded to women and gays – a risible claim, but one which served to reinforce the Guardian contributor’s oft-repeated narrative that Israel and the West do not lay claim to the moral high ground in their confrontation with Islamism.
When carefully reading the frenetic polemics of Greenwald – who was trained as a constitutional rights litigator – it’s often clear when he’s speaking from expertise and is in his element and, conversely, when he’s engaging in obfuscation and intellectually careless rhetoric. The latter was on display in the following passage from his April 3 commentary:
I, too, have written before about the hordes of American commentators whose favorite past-time is to lounge around pointing fingers at other nations, other governments, other populations, other religions, while spending relatively little time on their own. The reason this is particularly suspect and shoddy behavior from American commentators is that there are enormous amounts of violence and extremism and suffering which their government has unleashed and continues to unleash on the world. Indeed, much of that US violence is grounded in if not expressly justified by religion, including the aggressive attack on Iraq and steadfast support for Israeli aggression (to say nothing of the role Judaism plays in the decades-long oppression by the Israelis of Palestinians and all sorts of attacks on neighboring Arab and Muslim countries).
This isn’t the first time Greenwald has accused a few million Israeli Jews of perpetrating wanton violence against hundreds of millions of Arab and Muslim victims, but this may be the first instance in which the liberal polemicist argued that Judaism itself played a role in Zionist villainy.
Though some ccould impute antisemitism to such an argument, it seems more likely that his allegation regarding the role the Jewish religion plays in the behavior of the Jewish state did not represent a serious critique, but rather was simply a throw-away line to buttress his ideological aversion to any suggestion that some religious traditions, at least in practice, may not be as benign as others.
It’s extremely unlikely that Greenwald – a secular Jew who rarely if ever alludes to his religious background – has ever devoted any serious thought to the question of what role Judaism has played in the policy decisions of Israel’s secular Prime Ministers from Independence till the present day, and the decision by the nation’s leaders to defend against “all sorts of attacks” by “neighboring Arab and Muslim countries” and homicidal terror groups.
We have documented Greenwald’s use of antisemitic tropes quite often and there should be little doubt that the former Salon.com blogger possesses genuine anger towards what he believes is the injurious impact on the US political system of ‘unchecked’ Jewish power, but there is nothing in the passage we are examining which should suggest he also guilty of anti-Judaism, or theological antisemtism.
Nevertheless, in thoughtlessly playing the Judaism card to win an argument, Greenwald is at the very least engaging in dishonesty and sophistry – two of the signature vices of propagandists, cynics and bigots.