What is It Good For? (Again)

››› ››› ERIC ALTERMAN

Politics of the moment section:

1) On Iowa and New Hampshire: Never has the phrase "Nobody knows nothin' " been so widely applicable. Let's just wait and see, shall we? Won't be long now ...

2) On Pakistan and Benazir Bhutto: While some people do, in fact, have insight into this issue, I'm not one of them. Good luck figuring out who does, though. I sure can't.

Anybody notice this, from Americans Against Escalation in Iraq? "2007 Deadliest Year Yet for American Troops in Iraq: Troops' Families, American Public Say War is Not Worth the Cost":

At least 899 American troops have died in Iraq in 2007, the AP reports.

[...]

In another sign that support for President Bush's endless war has eroded, nearly six out of every 10 military families disapprove of his job performance and the way he has conducted the Iraq war, according to a recent Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll. Among those families with soldiers, sailors and Marines who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, 60 percent say that the war in Iraq was not worth the cost, the study states. The views of the military community -- including active-duty members, veterans and their family members -- mirror those of the rest of the country. Nearly seven in 10 favor a withdrawal within the coming year or "right away," according to the poll.

I'm pleased to see my Nation column on the misrepresentation of Jewish views by Jewish organizations and Jewish neocons cited by a Reconstructionist rabbi, here, because though I generally to go Reform shul, I am philosophically a Reconstructionist, and not merely in religious terms but also honest theological ones.

Rabbi Rosen raises the following disagreement:

Although Alterman found American Jewish attitudes on this topic to be "impressively sensible," I find them to be troubling. I'm not sure what to make of them, actually. According to most surveys over the past decade or so, the American Jewish community has been firmly supportive of the concept of a Palestinian state. Even though that this current survey technically indicates a plurality is still in favor, the percentage is actually down ten points or so from last year's study.

I don't blame the rabbi for finding these views "troubling." I do too. But that's because I find the reality troubling. While Israel's policies toward the Palestinians are genuinely awful and should be challenged and changed, that does not mean the Palestinians are ready to assume responsibility for a state willing to live in peace with Israel. I don't think they are even close. And therefore I think the nervousness among American Jews about support for an independent Palestinian state in the near future is entirely justified, even though it's probably the only long-term solution that can give Israel the security it ultimately craves, and the justice and right to self-determination the Palestinians deserve.

Because the column was reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, the American Jewish Committee's executive director, David Harris, wrote a nasty letter in reply, which the AJC then put out as a press release, here. I wrote a letter back to the IHT, which, as far as I can tell, they ignored, so I post it below:

To the Editor:

In response to my Nation column, "Bad for the Jews," reprinted in the IHT, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee casts many aspersions, calling my writing "bad for objectivity," calls me an "ideologue" and compares me to my (nameless) "mirror images on the right." What he fails to do amidst all this name-calling, however, is to dispute a single fact I presented in my column. But despite his charge that I "gloss over the survey data that does not bolster [my] case," Harris does not cite a single instance in which I do so.

Nothing in my column suggests that "you are with us or against us," as Harris falsely claims. His primary argument appears to be over the fact that I included his organization among those who have "historically associated itself with the hawkish side of the debate." But here again, he fails to cite a single instance in which his organization has associated itself with the dovish side of the foreign policy debate, save the AJC's rhetorical support for a "two-state solution," a position shared by both George W. Bush and the late Ariel Sharon, and hence, not so dovish. (And for the record, the position of "schizophrenia" and "anguished nuance" to which Harris attributes to most American Jews on the Palestinian question is precisely my own as well, which makes it difficult to see how I might have missed it.)

What Harris also fails to mention, however -- and I don't blame him -- are the decades in which the AJC underwrote Commentary, a magazine filled with extremely vicious and vituperative attacks on anyone -- particularly Jews -- who deviated even slightly from the hardline-Neocon agenda. Indeed, the Commentary considers itself rightly to be the proud birthplace of Neoconservatism itself, something that would have been impossible without the AJC's loyal support. Alas, Harris's protestations notwithstanding, more than three decades' underwriting of the most influential hard-right vehicle that Neoconservatives enjoyed anywhere speaks rather more powerfully than a single letter to the editor.

Eric Alterman

New York, New York

I reiterate for the record that while calling me names, Harris disputed nothing of a factual matter in the column. What's more, he professed to interpret for readers what my views of the Palestinian conflict were with absolutely no evidence, and did so incorrectly. "McCarthyism" may or may not be too strong a word for that, but it is dishonorable behavior no matter what you call it. (I noticed that somewhere a Pajamas Media blogger did the same thing by the way, but I didn't recognize his name so I think we can let it go, time-wise, at least.) I'll be reprinting Alan Dershowitz's wonderful letter and my response after The Nation does, and say this for Alan: The guy is nothing if not reliable ...

Two lists:

Less deliberately deceitful, less McCarthyite, and less frequently totally, completely wrong conservatives who would have been available to The New York Times other than William Kristol:

1) John DiIulio

2) Chris Caldwell

3) Ramesh Ponnuru

4) Rick Brookhiser

5) Pat Buchanan

6) Robert Kagan

7) Irving Kristol

8) Everyone employed at National Review except Jonah Goldberg

9) Everyone else, as far as I can recall, employed at The Weekly Standard except John Podhoretz

10) Ahmed Chalabi

Equally deliberately deceitful, McCarthyite, and frequently totally, completely wrong conservatives who might have been available to The New York Times had Kristol turned them down:

1) George W. Bush

2) Dick Cheney

3) Donald Rumsfeld

4) Condoleezza Rice

5) Richard Perle

6) Douglas Feith

7) Tom DeLay

8) Ann Coulter

9) Rush Limbaugh

10) Michael Savage

11) Bill O'Reilly

12) Norman Podhoretz

13) John Podhoretz

14) Midge Decter

15) Elliott Abrams

16) Charles Krauthammer

17) Andrew Sullivan

18) Fred Barnes

19) Daniel Pipes

20) Marty Peretz

21) "Jamie Kirchick"

22) David Horowitz

23) David Duke

24) David Berkowitz

25) Darth Vader

Odds and Ends:

I see Marty Peretz is offering what he calls "Advice for Obama." Unless it involves how to divorce one wealthy woman and marry a second, even wealthier woman, and use her money to buy liberalism's most important magazine, and then proceed to turn it over to neocons who almost (but not entirely) destroy it, before being forced to cut the salaries of its editors and then sell it off to a Canadian corporation, well, I'm not exactly sure what Marty's qualifications would be to be telling people how do things. ... (Oh, I see it's telling Obama to get rid of America's only black governor as his adviser. I take it all back. Great idea, bub ...)

Horror story. Mature audiences only.

Smart review of It's a Wonderful Life by James Agee from the February 15, 1947, issue of The Nation.

And what a sad place is Washington, D.C. ... in that David Broder is considered a "wise man." (Ezra is good on this ...)

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Larry Howe
Hometown: Oak Park, IL

Eric --

After 20 years, I've cancelled my subscription to the NY Times. Their hiring of William Kristol has given credence to one of his many opinions: in a 2003 column he pronounced the NYT "irredeemable." When an opinionista who has been consistently wrong about everything gets one right, it's time to hold someone accountable. Granting Kristol's opinions the imprimatur of a once good newspaper sullies the slogan "All the news that's fit to print."

Name: Brian Donohue
Hometown: http://dailyrevolution.net

Tyner, Jarrett, Evans, Peterson ... in the pantheon of jazz pianists, there are but a few who would appear on just about any music lover's list (in addition to the above, Jamal and Zawinul are personal favorites of mine). I can't recall when I last saw Oscar play ... it was at least 20 years ago, somewhere in the West Village. One thing that can't be forgotten, though, is that signature sound, the effortless virtuosity that was always put to the service of the music's feeling, its heart-sound. He was a consummate artist, and anyone who ever heard him play will never forget him.

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