Jews know the danger of appeasing evil (National Post, March 31, 2004)

You may not recognize the name Adbusters, but it is the biggest-selling Canadian magazine in the United States with 70,000 American subscribers. Its current issue poses the curious question: "Why won't anyone say they're Jewish?" The Jews in question are American neoconservatives, assumed by many conspiracy theorists to be the invisible hand behind current U.S. foreign policy.

In this article, Kalle Lasn, Adbusters' editor, has composed a list of 50 "influential neocons"; 25 Jewish names have black dots beside them. The list includes all the usual suspects: Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, Elliott Abrams, Richard Perle, Joshua Muravchik, etc.

Lasn seems to think he is boldly treading virgin journalistic territory. He says: "Drawing attention to the Jewishness of the neocons is a tricky game. Anyone who does so can count on being smeared as an anti-Semite. But ... we decided to tackle the issue head on."

Not to rain on Mr. Lasn's parade, but if he would trouble himself to Google "Jewish neoconservatives" into his browser, he'd find hundreds of commentators who have also "tackled the issue head on", amongst them the extreme-right wing (and indisputably anti-Semitic) Lyndon LaRouche and Pat Buchanan.

The question is raised continually in mainstream media. The typical allegation is that Jewish neocons are pimping at the White House for hardline Zionists. Michael Lind, an American journalist for The New Statesman calls the neoconservative movement "the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement ... mingled with the far-right Likud strain of Zionism." Stephen Bradshaw, host of BBC's political newsjournal Panorama, says "Some leading neoconservatives, people whisper, are strongly pro-Zionist and want to topple regimes in the Middle East to help Israel ... "

So, sorry Mr. Lasn, but Adbusters' "scoop" is just the latest cookie-cutter rant on the bulletin board at www.jewblamecentral. org/neocons/amerikasucks/dittoisrael.

Full disclosure: I am a Jewish neoconservative. It could be argued that I am overly sensitive on this issue. If there are an unusual number of Jewish intellectuals promoting an ideology that has become associated with the current American action plan in foreign affairs, and if that plan is favourable to Israel's security in the Middle East, why isn't it fair to point that out?

My answer is that there are a disproportionate number of Jews intellectually engaged at every ideological point on the democratic political spectrum, and yet the neocons are the only such group to be singled out as Jews in Adbusters. One could make a much longer list headed by virulently anti-American panjandrum Noam Chomsky, whose Jewish Canadian acolytes alone -- writers, politicians, academics, civil servants -- would be too numerous to list in Adbusters. But since those liberal 'right-thinking' Jews support Kalle Lasn's ideology, he isn't motivated to "out" them.

Wherever freedoms permit, Jews indulge their passion for political ideas, particularly in the field of human rights, and generally with no special benefit to Jewish causes. Jewish neocons pushed George H. Bush for intervention in Bosnia in 1992 on humanitarian grounds when the Bosnian cause was being championed by Jew-hating Islamists. Jews, only 4% of the population, accounted for 50% of the leadership in the U.S. Civil Rights movement, although black empowerment was of no more benefit to Jews than anyone else. Jews are obviously the most passionate Zionists, but Jews are also amongst the most passionate anti-Zionists, many lending truculent support to militantly Israel-hating Palestinian rights' groups.

In fact, most secular Jewish intellectual writing and activism come from the left, not the right. Jews were disproportionately represented in the communist movement, and they still dominate the intellectual left. Ironically many Jewish neoconservatives began on the left but, disillusioned both with failed liberal solutions to domestic problems, and with faltering liberal will in shoring up democracy's fragile presence abroad, they shifted rightwards.

If the voices of Jewish intellectuals today are marked by a singular passion and sense of urgency, it is because Jewish history has given them a more visceral understanding of the dangers that inevitably attend the appeasement of evil. If neoconservative ideas have captured the imagination of the Bush administration, it isn't because it was forced to adopt them, it is because in a post-9/11 world, the neoconservative vision makes sense. And if America's anti-terrorism war benefits Israel, it is because Israel is a besieged democracy with the same ideals and the same enemies as the United States, not because a cabal of American Jews is in thrall to Ariel Sharon.

When I spoke to him, Lasn told me the Jewish neocons have a "magical" hold on President Bush, complaining, "We do not have a free marketplace of ideas" (to which, in his opinion, "the Jewishness of the owners of [the National Post]" contributes). People with concrete, practical ideas -- including the neocons, Jewish and otherwise -- welcome open debate. Instead of constructive ideas, conspiracy theorists compose their little McCarthyite lists to cut off debate -- and their lists expose them for what they are: intellectually corrupt demagogues.

© National Post 2004