Saturday, June 18, 2005

Strife Among Democrats

Democratic Congressman John Conyers and some of his colleagues held a meeting on Capitol Hill yesterday. Conyers held the meeting, including invited guests as "witnesses," to discuss British memos about the run-up to the Iraq war and to air anti-war views. The meeting was held in a small room, and people who couldn't get seats watched it on TV in a conference room at Democratic National Committee headquarters.

According to an AP report in The Washington Post, material was distributed at the DNC venue that was critical of Israel and "implied that Israel was involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks."

In addition, an invited "witness" claimed at the meeting that "the war was part of an effort to allow the United States and Israel to 'dominate that part of the world.'"

Later, DNC Chairman Howard Dean angrily denounced both incidents. He said in a statement,

We disavow the anti-Semitic literature, and the Democratic National Committee stands in absolute disagreement with and condemns the allegations. ... As for any inferences that the United States went to war so Israel could 'dominate' the Middle East or that Israel was in any way behind the horrific September 11th attacks on America, let me say unequivocally that such statements are nothing but vile, anti-Semitic rhetoric. ... The entire Democratic Party remains committed to fighting against such bigotry.

Dean rightly called this anti-Semitism, and in this case it was appropriate for him to be publicly angry. I'm certain a significant majority of Democrats join him in condemning anti-Semitism of this or any other kind. As do I.

Unfortunately, these kinds of views are disturbingly common among some on the far left of the Democratic Party, including a distressing number of academics. The Democratic Party seeks to be, and should be, a very large tent. But it shouldn't be large enough to include anti-Semites. As untold numbers of parents have advised their teenagers, "You're known by the company you keep."

This kind of internal strife among Democrats doesn't bode well for the Party's electoral chances. Think of a football team called the "Elephants." They're on their side of the field organized, prepared, and warming up before the game. Their coach, Karl Rove, calmly studies the opposing team across the field, the "Donkeys." They're unruly, dressed in mis-matched uniforms, yelling at each other, and throwing punches at their teammates. Coach Dean is angrily yelling at them, and they're yelling back at him. Coach Karl watches quietly, a hint of a smile on his face.


Blogger Gindy said...

"Unfortunately, these kinds of views are disturbingly common among some on the far left of the Democratic Party, including a distressing number of academics."

This trend seems to be getting worse and worse. The academics part is what disturbes me the most. It pains me to think what our children are learning. What is hard to understand is why the outrage over leftist propaganda like this can barely be heard.

I take my hat off to Dean for taking a stand. Will others do the same?

11:01 AM, June 18, 2005  
Anonymous Kevin said...

While I agree with you and Dean in principle, exactly what constitutes "anti-semitism" varies widely depending on the political axe the definer is grinding. Many pro-Israeli hawks define it so narrowly that even a large minority of Israeli Jews would be considered "anti-semitic" simply because they don't ditto every aspect of the Likud agenda.

Extremists on both sides needed to be called out and exposed for the extremists that they are. Only calling out one side serves no constructive purpose.

11:45 AM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, I agree with you. It definitely qualifies as "extremist" to claim that Israel was involved in 911 and that the Iraq war is a plot for the U.S. and Israel to control the Middle East. I agree with Howard Dean. He should be mad as hell, and he shouldn't take it any more.

Just to make it clear, I would be equally concerned about someone on the far right promoting anti-Semitic propaganda. Holocaust deniers in particular, usually found way out on the right, are my favorite examples of idiots.

11:58 AM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Kevin said...

I definitely agree with you about Dean's very legit reason to be angry.

I guess what I was striving towards was just to point out that not everything that gets labeled "anti-semitism"... is.

American Jews who disagree with the Likud agenda are routinely referred to as "self-hating" and casually dismissed as "anti-semites." I've seen it and been called it many times.

That needs to be called out with just as much anger as the absurd conspiracy theories Dean is angry about.

12:30 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

Kevin, I agree again. Extremist fruitcakes are still fruitcakes, no matter what position they take.

12:48 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Francesca said...

Without seeing these supposedly anti-Semitic documents, it's very difficult to determine how inflammatory they actually were.

I'm with Kevin on this one. I've noticed that if anyone says "Hey, maybe we should think about the Palestinians and how we might be able to help them out," that person is immediately branded as anti-Israel and by extension, anti-Semitic. That is wrong.

I can see how someone could say that US policies with regard to Israel (essentially pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian) could have led to 9/11--Arabs and Muslims the world over upset to see Palestinians in such crisis and they choose to take it out on the US on 9/11. But I personally have never heard any evidence that suggests that Israelis were somehow behind the attacks.

But I'll reserve judgement on these documents distributed at the Conyers meeting until I can actually see the content.

2:07 PM, June 18, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WASHINGTON, Mar 29 (IPS) - IPS uncovered the remarks by Philip Zelikow, who is now the executive director of the body set up to investigate the terrorist attacks on the United States in September 2001 -- the 9/11 commission -- in which he suggests a prime motive for the invasion just over one year ago was to eliminate a threat to Israel, a staunch U.S. ally in the Middle East.

Zelikow's casting of the attack on Iraq as one launched to protect Israel appears at odds with the public position of President George W. Bush and his administration, which has never overtly drawn the link between its war on the regime of former president Hussein and its concern for Israel's security.

The administration has instead insisted it launched the war to liberate the Iraqi people, destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and to protect the United States.

Zelikow made his statements about ”the unstated threat” during his tenure on a highly knowledgeable and well-connected body known as the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), which reports directly to the president.

He served on the board between 2001 and 2003.

”Why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us? I'll tell you what I think the real threat (is) and actually has been since 1990 -- it's the threat against Israel,” Zelikow told a crowd at the University of Virginia on Sep. 10, 2002, speaking on a panel of foreign policy experts assessing the impact of 9/11 and the future of the war on the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation.

”And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don't care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn't want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it is not a popular sell,” said Zelikow.

The statements are the first to surface from a source closely linked to the Bush administration acknowledging that the war, which has so far cost the lives of nearly 600 U.S. troops and thousands of Iraqis, was motivated by Washington's desire to defend the Jewish state.

3:47 PM, June 18, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zelikow is not only neoconservative, he's Jewish. It's not an anti-Semitic opinion, and it's not an extremist opinion, it's just an opinion.

3:48 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

I'm not offering an opinion on Zelikow one way or the other, but don't think that a Jew can't still be anti-Semitic. Look at Noam Chomsky or Norman Finkelstein for example.

As for knowing whether something is anti-Semitic or not, I don't think it's that hard. Kevin, I'm sorry if people have accused you of that because you disagree with Likud. I've never heard of stuff like that happening and you're right that it doesn't make sense.

I think the Dems are in big trouble if they can't successfully distance themselves from that part of the party.

4:46 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger sygamel said...

The literature on Israel's alleged involvement in 2001 suggests Mossad agents spying within the U.S. came upon and followed some of the 19 hijackers, discovered what they were up to and passed this information on to their superiors, information which Mossad did not pass on to the U.S. government.

I haven't read up on this at length, but I am aware that an individual named Justin Raimondo wrote a short book about it in 2003.

Like Kevin, I too make a distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Israeli (or anti-Likud party) opinions/points of view.

4:53 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Francesca said...

Esther, can you please tell me what about Noam Chomsky's writing or work is anti-Semitic?

4:56 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Robert Wright said...

Zelikow isn't anti-Semitic, quite the opposite as a matter of fact. He's pro-Likud, pro-Zion, pro-Iraq war, and very much part of the neoconservative intelligentsia. He ran the 9-11 Commisssion, went back to his think tank, then took a position at State as Condi's right hand. He also co-authored a book with Condi in the mid-90s.

Ray McGovern, who made the offending comments while the Democrats rehearsed their silly fantasy, isn't anti-Semitic. Suggesting an honest premise for war in Iraq was a defense of Israel among other US interests is simple honesty from both Zelikow and McGovern, both of whom are privy to more inside information than any of us.

10,000 Jews, mostly Rabbis from an anti-Zion organization, protested Iraq and made damned clear that they too believed Iraq had a pro-Zion premise.

The only thing that bothers me about this topic is our collective denial as a nation, and the disingenuous accusation that being honest about this is anti-Semitic.

For what it's worth, I'm a bit like Zelikow. I support the Israeli state, I lament the troubles between Israel and Palestine, and I'm not afraid to acknowledge that my country is most certainly acting in the interest of Israel.

This is not part of holocaust denial, white supremacist delusions, or any of that ugly anti-Semitism that flows through the paranoid notion that Jews are somehow running the world. It's all they can do to run an embattled nation, and we're there to help. They're our friends.

If that can of worms is uncomfortable, I'm sorry. It's the truth. Just go back and read the myriad opinion papers bounced around the media and the White House by neoconservatives during the Clinton years. It's long been established that the things McGovern and Zelikow honestly and openly acknowledge are premises for this current war. Many of the same people who wrote those papers for PNAC, AEI and many others are in the White House today.

Tom, I added you to A2's blogroll. I should have done so long ago, it was an oversight not nearly as bad as yours in this post. :)

Seriously, it's okay to defend Israel in the land of terror in which it dwells. ANYBODY paying attention to bin Laden knew damned well there couldn't possibly be any links between him and Iraq. ANYBODY willing to look at informed opinions had a real strong idea that Saddam was long out of the WMD business.

Regime change, istalling a friendly democracy, was always a premise, and always part of Israel's defense. I don't see what the big deal is.

7:13 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger profmarcus said...

there is nothing whatsoever "calm" about karl rove... karl rove is perhaps the most frightening man in america today and i suspect that he may be the most darkly evil one as well... anybody who could make a u-turn from raving socio/psychopath to smiling angel in 30 thirty seconds has something very disturbing going on... take a read... it's chilling...

7:35 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Robert Wright said...

Oh, and I am not defending the "literature" that Dean was upset about. Dean was absolutely right to denounce it, and I should have read you more carefully. Mea culpa.

7:49 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Esther said...

Francesca, what about his writing isn't anti-Semitic? For that matter, he's anti-American too. Check out this excellent piece by Alan Dershowitz ( Here's a sample from it:

Many people know who Noam Chomsky is. The jacket of one of his books describes him, without irony, as “arguably the most important intellectual alive.”[1] But some are also aware of the darker side of his record—including of supporting, praising, and working with neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers. Chomsky’s most notorious bedfellow is Robert Faurisson, who called the Holocaust a “hoax,” denied the existence of Hitler’s gas chambers, claimed that the diary of Anne Frank was a “forgery,” and described the Jewish claims for Holocaust reparations as a “fraud.” Chomsky leapt to Faurisson’s support, praising him as a scholar who had done “extensive historical research” and to describe his lies about the Holocaust as historical “findings.”[2] Chomsky did not see any “hint of anti-Semitic implications” in Faurisson’s claim that the so-called Holocaust was a fraud perpetrated by the Jewish people against Germany. Chomsky, the linguist, assured his readers that “nobody believes there is an anti-Semitic connotation to the denial of the Holocaust… whether one believes it took place or not.”[3] As Paul L. Berman summarized Chomsky’s record on these issues: “Chomsky’s view of anti-Semitism is positively wild. His definition is so narrow, neither the Protocols of the Elders of Zion nor the no-Holocaust delusion fit into it…. I am afraid that his present remarks on anti-Semitism and Zionist lies disqualify him from ever being taken seriously on matters pertaining to Jews.”[4]

Ever since his close association with neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers compromised his credibility on “matters pertaining to Jews,” Chomsky has tended to leave it to surrogates to continue his campaign of vilification against the Jewish community. His primary surrogate is Norman Finkelstein.

8:39 PM, June 18, 2005  
Blogger Tom Carter said...

AlsoZap, I don't question that criticism of Israel is often valid and certainly not anti-Semitic. But I also understand that some attacks on Israel are founded on anti-Semitism.

I think everyone understands, or should, that one of our major legitimate concerns in the Middle East is the security of Israel. Among the main reasons for taking down Saddam was reasonable belief that he had WMD, the fact that he used WMD in a number of instances, and the fact that he fired SCUD missiles at Israel during the war in 1991. No one can doubt that if he had been technically capable of delivering WMD against Israel he would have done so at some point. Considering the threat against Israel as part of our strategic thinking is absolutely valid.

As for the comments at Conyers' meeting that so upset Dean, the statement was that the war was part of an effort to allow the U.S. and Israel to "dominate that part of the world." That's close enough for me; I agree with Dean that it's anti-Semitic.

5:17 AM, June 21, 2005  
Blogger John Walter said...

I hate to admit it, but Howard Dean did and said the right thing in condemning the Conyers meeting and the DNC Headquarters incident.

Oh, no! Now I'll have to give up my membership in the "Secret Conspiracy to Bait Dean at every Opportunity Club."

8:27 PM, June 22, 2005  

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