This post is a joint effort by RL and Elisa Vandernoot.
‘So how can they be ashamed? How can you be ashamed of a country that’s not yours?’ Treslove was truly puzzled.
‘It’s because they’re Jewish.’
‘But you said they’re not ashamed of being Jewish.’
‘Exactly. But they’re ashamed as Jews.’
‘Ashamed as Jews of a country of which they are not citizens…?’
Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question
Last week Ron Radosh wrote an excellent piece entitled: David Remnick Joins the Israeli Haters and the Leftist British Intellectuals . Radosh laments the great writers, the ‘New York Intellectuals’ of the 1940s and 1950s; writers such as Irving Howe, Irving Kritsol, Mary McCarthy, Lionel Trilling and others. These men and women were giants in their day.
Today, what passes for ‘New York Intellectuals’ are writers paid very well associated with big name publications such as the New Yorker and the New York Review of Books.
Both publications pay their writers well, and their editors and writers on the staff get high salaries, many perks, and have great influence on the culture at large. Both of them, although the NYRB is more similar in its leftism to The Nation, while The New Yorker makes a pretense of being more independent and gives off a pretentious air of would-be objectivity and nuance, runs pieces by people like the discredited Seymour Hersh with regularity, and is outspoken as the single most pro-Obama magazine in existence.
He criticises current editor David Remnick who is both a journalist and writer and the latest, amongst ‘liberal’ thinking Jews to join the fashionable Israeli haters of British Intellectuals. Remnick recently gave an interview to the Hebrew daily Yediot Ahronot about his forthcoming book on Obama and decided to take a nasty swipe at Israeli policy in the process:
A new generation of Jews is growing up in the US. Their relationship with Israel is becoming less patient and more problematic…How long can you expect that they’ll love unconditionally the place called Israel [sic]? You’ve got a problem. You have the status of an occupier since 1967. It’s been happening for so long that even people like me, who understand that not only one side is responsible for the conflict and that the Palestinians missed an historic opportunity for peace in 2000, can’t take it anymore.
Radosh rightly condemns Remnick for his arrogance and hostility towards Israel and the fact that he doesn’t deny that the Palestinians themselves missed an opportunity for peace in 2000.
Of course Remnick, chants the mantra of the left about Israel being the occupier. Nowhere does he consider that Arabs were hostile to a Jewish State before the 1967 war, (where Israel was attacked), and that the so called Oslo Peace Process has been a disaster from the start, the PLO still has textbooks and TV shows calling for the death of Jews, naming streets after terrorists who killed Jews, and refusual to recognize Israel as a Jewish State. All of that would just get in the way of his impatience.
What Radosh doesn’t mention is that there are some Jewish intellectuals of the leftist persuasion that have broken from the ranks, such as Paul Berman whose book The Flight of the Intellectuals was released last year to great reviews and also happens to have published articles in the New Yorker and the NYRB. In 2008, the French Jewish intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy released the book Left in Dark Times: a stand against the new barbarism. Though they are few in number and a small minority, they still deserve praise and recognition.
Alas, the majority of liberal Jewish journalists and writers like Thomas Friedman, David Remnick and Jeffrey Goldberg don’t have the fortitude, conviction and integrity of their elders. Instead of having independent minds, they have shown themselves to be driven by their peer group. (NB: I have changed the text here in response to Jeffrey Goldberg’s criticism.)
Today’s New York intellectuals are a pale imitation of their ancestors. The original group had a fidelity to the truth, and to bold assertions they believed to be true, regardless of whom they offended. Today’s group, of which Remnick is most typical, runs to join their fellow leftist herd of no longer independent minds in Britain, assuring them of their loyalty to the influential in group of journalists and opinion makers, and if they are Jewish, making their assurance known by joining in the stampede to dissociate themselves from defense of Israel. Is it no wonder that so many of us no longer can take David Remnick seriously?
A recent, unfortunately undocumented account of a meeting between an Israeli diplomat and members of the NYT staff (including Tom Friedman) reveals the same phenomenon. When the diplomat tried to present Israel’s perspective, they responded, “You just don’t get it that we are sick of hearing about that.”
Sick and tired of hearing what? That the fault doesn’t lie exclusively with Israel? That the Palestinians are not interested in their own state at all, but rather in destroying the Israeli state? Remick may be impatient with a peace-process that goes nowhere. But why pick on Israel?
Because… it’s easier for narcissists to dump on their friends and family. As Caroline Glick comments about a conference we both attended, the Israeli peace camp (which shares the orientation of American liberals) has nothing to offer but fantasy. Wouldn’t it look bad if we dumped on the Palestinians? What would people (other progressives) think of us? ASHamed Jews unite: we have our amour-propre to defend!