Clark, Anti-Semitism, Etc.

Jon Chait, somewhat surprisingly, takes the bait here. My response below the fold.

We’ve now got a few separate issues here. First, on Wesley Clark. I conceded that “insofar as Clark was trying to say that rich rightwing Jews could cause a war with Iran all on their own he’s clearly overstating things.” Chait glosses this as, “in other words, I’m right.”

Well, no, I deny that. Chait himself, in his most recent post, characterizes the issue thusly: “Matt wrote a column defending Wesley Clark’s assertion that an American war with Iran is likely because rich Jews are pushing for it.”

I think the difference between the claim that something is likely to happen because Group X is pushing for it and the claim that Group X is capable of making something happen all on their own is clear. It’s the difference between the claim that Group X is influential on its key issues (clearly true of American Jewish organizations and US policy toward the Middle East) and the claim that Group X controls policy on its key issues (clearly false in this instance — if Bush is determined to not strike Iran, the American Jewish community can’t make him do it). That said, look, if all we’re disagreeing about is what claim did Clark make with Jon and I agreeing that one interpretation is objectionable and the other interpretation isn’t objectionable, then the disagreement’s not especially interesting . . . they key questions here are what are major American Jewish organizations pushing for, what are the merits of what they’re pushing, and how influential are they.

On ideological diversity, I certainly don’t think The New Republic‘s ideological diversity is a sign of hypocrisy and I think that would be a silly thing to believe. I also don’t think The New Republic‘s ideological diversity is nearly the unique characteristic of the magazine that Jon seems to think it is — no magazine could possibly function without diversity in viewpoints among its writers and editors. At the same time, every magazine has its red lines in terms of what actually gets published. At TNR, obviously, the main red line is Israel and Israel-related matters.

Which brings us to the question of The New Republic‘s part-owner and editor in chief Martin Peretz. It seems to me, based not just on the one post, that he holds bigoted views about Arabs and Muslims. Indeed, I think that if you look at the totality of his work this is fairly clear. I don’t expect Chait to agree with me about that in a public forum, and really I wouldn’t want him to. Obviously, were he to say he agreed with me he’d just get fired, which would make TNR a much worse magazine. If, however, somebody not employed by Peretz who is familiar with his work wants to seriously deny that he holds bigoted views about Arabs and Muslims I’ll fire up the old Google, Nexis, etc. and put a dossier together for the site. This isn’t really an issue that has anything in particular to do with Chait or anyone else who works there — it’s a question about American society.

To our great credit as a country, bigoted views about African-Americans or Jews are radically less acceptable than they were a few decades ago, while bigoted views about Arabs seem to me to be pretty tolerated unless they’re expressed in an exceedingly crass manner.