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Friday, January 23, 2009
The Juicebox Mafia

The continuing war between lefty bloggers and the New Republic magazine continues. Ezra Klein, one of the most influential liberal pundits in the media writes:

I actually agree with one part of Jon Chait's attack on J Street: There is, among liberals, a sort of "narrative of persecution and bravery" attached to criticizing Israel. And Chait is right: This narrative is wrong. It's wrong despite his best efforts, but wrong nevertheless.

Chait notes the case of Stephen Walt, a professor of international affairs at Harvard University, and so will I. Walt is the co-author of The Israel Lobby, a book that has some problems but a whole lot more truth than its critics admit. The thesis of The Israel Lobby is simple, and much of it verges on the obvious. It holds that American policy towards Israel is the result of interest group politics. Just as there is a sugar lobby that shapes sugar subsidies and a Cuba lobby that sustains the embargo, there is an "Israel Lobby" that works assiduously to shape our policy towards Israel. And this lobby, like many other lobbies, has been successful. And the resulting policy hasn't been optimal for either America or Israel.

J Street is discussed by Chait here:

Last year, a new Middle East lobby called J Street was formed to push American Jewish opinion in a more conciliatory direction. "What we're responding to," wrote J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami last year, "is that for too long there's been an alliance between the neo-cons, the radical right ofthe Christian Zionist movement and the far-right portions of the Jewish community that has really locked up what it means to be pro-Israel."

Well, you can imagine what folks like Ben-Ami considers to be "pro-Israel"; basically it means to be pro-Palestine and to decry the influence of the Israel Lobby (AIPAC). Chait points out that there is a narrative popular among the Left that basically says that if you go against Israel you will be derided as an anti-Semite and drummed out of polite discourse. The first part may be true (Klein offers examples) but both Klein and Chait agree that the latter is not.

To me, the Left's fascination with the Palestinians is revealing, but not of anti-Semitism (although there is some of that too). It's more that it reveals the infantile template that Lefties impose on new situations: Oppressor bad, oppressed good. It's a template that sometimes works--the civil rights movement, sexual harassment, etc., but causes quite a bit of mischief when it doesn't. For starters, who's to say the Israelis are the oppressors and the Palestinians the oppressed? I would imagine the citizens of Sderot have felt oppressed over the last several years.

TNR head honcho Marty Peretz has dubbed Klein and other anti-Israel bloggers the Juicebox Mafia, which is a terrific term (so good that Klein is apparently considering marketing it).
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