When people criticize Israeli policy, or U.S. policy toward Israel, there’s an organized network of voices in the media and elsewhere who try to smear them as motivated by anti-semitism. The point of these tactics is not just to try to win an argument, but to actually frighten people who might otherwise be inclined to make such criticisms out of offering them. This smear gang used to be extremely effective across the board, but in recent years there’s been a lot of decline in its efficacy as regards the punditsphere, though it still succeeds in generating near-uniformity in the states views of elected officials and politicians.
Recently, Jon Chait’s been on a somewhat weird quest to simultaneously engage in some of this smearing while also saying that people should stop complaining about the smearing because it’s not as effective as it used to be. I haven’t really wanted to wade into the controversy surrounding his writing on this subject even though my name’s been kicked around a lot in the course of the controversy, because honestly I find the whole thing to be painfully “meta.” I’d much rather discuss what policy steps the United States ought to take in the region. But I basically endorse everything Eric Alterman has to say on the subject.
CORRECTION: To accuse Chait of “smearing” anyone here is much too strong. The New Republic publishes a lot of smear-oriented commentary on Israel’s critics, but Chait’s article and his writing on this subject more generally is much more restrained — I just disagree with his point of view and sense of what’s important in this debate.