I don’t usually like to blog about personality clashes happening in the American blogosphere (the Egyptian already blogosphere and twittosphere provides plenty of amusing clashes) but put up with me on this one.
Leon Wieseltier, the literary editor of the leftish but rabidly pro-Israel magazine The New Republic, has penned a 4,000+ word attack on the prominent blogger Andrew Sullivan (of the centrist but rabidly pro-Israel magazine The Atlantic Monthly) calling him an anti-Semite, apparently because he has lately become mildly critical of Israel, or at least of the Netanyahu government, even though he feels obliged to repeatedly profess his love of Israel.
Only in America.
There’s plenty to dislike about Sullivan — another prominent, pro-Israel leftish American blogger, Eric Alterman, once did a fine hatchet job on his schizophrenia as a liberal Republican in the age of George W. Bush — but he certainly is not an anti-Semite, as many have rushed to point out. I perhaps liked best prominent blogger Matthew Yglesias’ (of the progressive ThinkProgress, which is reasonable on Israel) take:
If you call anti-semites anti-semites, then people who aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism will figure “hey, since my political opinions aren’t motivated by anti-Jewish racism, then I’m safe.” The idea is to put everyone on notice that mere innocence will be no defense.
Yglesias goes on, rightly, to defend the likes of Walt & Mearsheimer from the anti-Semitic label that Wieseltier likes to use. I think this is one of those moments in American intellectual life where everyone, long after having realized it, can actually finally say that the emperor has no clothes, and that the bullying of the likes of Wieseltier, Krauthammer, Peretz and other will simply not be taken seriously at all. Now, let’s get on with the business of criticizing Israel and its influence on American policy in the region (which has plenty of faults that have nothing to do with Israel) as we do so many other countries.
? “Lorsque je commençais mon enquête sur le tourisme au Sahara marocain, je n’imaginais pas être prise à témoin d’échanges sexuels” « Ibn Kafka’s obiter dicta – divagations d’un juriste marocain en liberté surveillée | On sexual tourism in Western Sahara.
? What the "Eurabia" Authors Get Wrong About Islam in Europe – By Justin Vaïsse | Foreign Policy | Critique of Eurabia theory.
? The Trials of Tony Judt – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education |
? U.S. to store $800m in military gear in Israel – Haaretz | To keep in mind in context of Iran.
? Israel and Iran: The gathering storm | The Economist | Interesting story with background on Osirak bombing, Israeli prospects against Iran.
? Executive | Magazine has new books section.
? Strong reaction to warning of coup – The National Newspaper | Iraqis react to UK ambassador's testimony to Chilcot Enquiry that coup to purge Iran influence still possible in Iraq.
? the arabophile | New blog.
? Joe Sacco: Graphic History | Mother Jones | Interview with the cartoonist and author of "Footnotes from Gaza."
? High cost of living means more unmarried in Egypt | Bikya Masr | Stats on why Egyptians are marrying later.
? Arab Reform Initiative | Report on constitutional reforms in the Arab world.
? The architecture of apartheid | SocialistWorker.org | On the bantustanization of Palestine.
? The Venture of Marty Peretz’s bigotry: Arabs, Muslims, Berbers and more « The Moor Next Door | Kal on the New Republic editor's Islamophobia.
? The Forgotten Recantation — jihadica | Interesting post on the recantation of Abbud al-Zommor.
? ‘Bush sold Arab states arms in violation of deal with Israel’ – Haaretz – Israel News | Obama, more pro-Israel than Bush: "The Bush administration violated security related agreements with Israel in which the U.S. promised to preserve the IDF's qualitative edge over Arab armies, according to senior officials in the Obama administration and Israel."
My weekly article in Al-Akhbar: “Fouad Ajami: A Likudnik from South Lebanon.”
Wikipedia entry about Ajami:
Fouad A. Ajami (Arabic: ???? ?????; born September 9, 1945), is a MacArthur Fellowship winning, Lebanese-born American university professor and writer on Middle Eastern issues. In recent years, Ajami has been an outspoken supporter of the Iraq War, the nobility of which he believes there “can be no doubt”. This view has drawn some criticism from others in academia.
Ajami was born on September 19, 1945, in Arnoun, a rocky hamlet in the south of Lebanon. His Shiite family had come to Arnoun from Tabriz, Iran in the 1850s. In Arabic, the word “Ajam” means “non-Arab” or, more specifically, “Persian“.
Ajami arrived in the United States in the fall of 1963, just before he turned 18. He did some of his undergraduate work at Eastern Oregon College (now Eastern Oregon University) in La Grande, Oregon. He did his graduate work at the University of Washington, where he wrote his thesis on international relations and world government.
He is today the Majid Khadduri professor in Middle East Studies and Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of Johns Hopkins University.
Ajami is a frequent contributor on Middle Eastern issues and contemporary international history to The New York Times Book Review, Foreign Affairs, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, and other journals and periodicals, as well.
Ajami frequently appears on PBS and CBS News.
In “The Fate of Nonalignment,” an essay in the Winter 1980/81 issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, Ajami outlines how the Third world has fared in a context of nonalignment in post Cold war politics. In 1980, he accepted an offer from Johns Hopkins University to become director of Middle East Studies at their international relations graduate program in Washington, D.C.: the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). He holds an endowed chair as the Majid Khadduri professor.
A year after arriving at SAIS, Ajami published his first book, The Arab Predicament, which analyzed what Ajami described as an intellectual and political crisis that swept the Arab world following its defeat by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
Subsequently, Ajami has written several other books: The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey (1998), Beirut: City of Regrets (1988), and The Vanished Imam: Musa Al-Sadr and the Shia of Lebanon (1986).
In The Dream Palace of the Arabs: A Generation’s Odyssey, Ajami surveyed the intellectual landscape in the Arab world and Iran, in what was in some ways an autobiography as well as a sequel to “The Arab Predicament.” On Middle Eastern politics, he wrote of “a world where triumph rarely comes with mercy or moderation.” On Pan-Arabism, he described the ideology as “Sunni dominion dressed in secular garb.”
Ajami’s most recent book: The Foreigner’s Gift: The Americans, The Arabs and The Iraqis in Iraq (2006), is about the American liberation of Iraq.
View of Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”
One notable contribution Ajami made in the September October 1993 issue of Foreign Affairs was a rebuttal to Samuel Huntington’s “The Clash of Civilizations?“, regarding the state and future of international relations after the Cold War.
Huntington presents a world divided at the highest level into eight civilizations, and includes a number of countries that are “torn” between two civilizations, arguing that these civilizational divides are far more fundamental than economic interests, ideology, and regimes, and that the world is becoming a smaller place with increasingly close interactions. He further claims that the pre-eminence of a so-called “kin-country” syndrome will provide a civilizational rallying point that will replace political ideology and traditional “balance of power” considerations for relations between states and nations, resulting in a division between the West and “the rest” creating a backlash against Western values (which supposedly “differ fundamentally” from those prevalent in other civilizations).
In his article “The Summoning”, Ajami criticises Huntington for ignoring the empirical complexities and state interests which drive conflicts in and between civilizations. Ajami believes that states will remain the dominant factor influencing the global framework and interaction. He also argues that civilizational ties are only utilized by states and groups when it is in their best interest to do so and that modernity and secularism are here to stay, especially in places with considerable struggles to obtain them, and he cites the example of the Indian Middle class. Ajami also believes that civilizations do not control states; rather, states control civilizations.
Ajami later relented on his initial criticism of Huntington’s theories in the January 6th, 2008 issue of the New York Times Review of Books in an article titled “The Clash” in which he wrote that “Huntington’s thesis about a civilizational clash seems more compelling to me than the critique I provided at that time.”
In recent years, Ajami, an Arab intellectual, has had significant political influence with the Bush Administration. Condoleezza Rice had been known to summon him to the White House for advice, and former Bush Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a friend and former colleague at SAIS, has paid tribute to him in speeches on Iraq
Ajami was a 1982 winner of a five-year MacArthur Prize Fellowship in the arts and sciences.
Ajami is a member of the Board of Directors of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Board of Advisors of the journal Foreign Affairs. Ajami is a founding member of ASMEA (The Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa) and is Vice Chairman of its academic council. Ajami also sits on the editorial board of Middle East Quarterly, a publication of the Middle East Forum think tank.
Support for Iraq War
Ajami has been an outspoken supporter of the Iraq War, which he believes “issued out of a deep American frustration… with the culture of terrorism that had put down roots in Arab lands.”
In an August 2002 speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, US Vice President Dick Cheney sought to assuage concerns about the anticipated US invasion of Iraq, stating: “As for the reaction of the Arab ‘street,’ the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are ‘sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans.’” 
Ajami cautioned the United States about the likely negative consequences of the Iraq War. In a 2003 essay in Foreign Affairs, “Iraq and the Arabs’ Future,” Ajami wrote,
“There should be no illusions about the sort of Arab landscape that America is destined to find if, or when, it embarks on a war against the Iraqi regime. There would be no “hearts and minds” to be won in the Arab world, no public diplomacy that would convince the overwhelming majority of Arabs that this war would be a just war. An American expedition in the wake of thwarted UN inspections would be seen by the vast majority of Arabs as an imperial reach into their world, a favor to Israel, or a way for the United States to secure control over Iraq’s oil. No hearing would be given to the great foreign power.”
But he also goes on to say:
America ought to be able to live with this distrust and discount a good deal of this anti-Americanism as the “road rage” of a thwarted Arab world — the congenital condition of a culture yet to take full responsibility for its self-inflicted wounds. There is no need to pay excessive deference to the political pieties and givens of the region. Indeed, this is one of those settings where a reforming foreign power’s simpler guidelines offer a better way than the region’s age-old prohibitions and defects.
Ajami retained a positive view of the war three years later. In a 2006 book on the invasion and its aftermath, he described it as a noble effort, and argued that despite many unhappy consequences, it was too soon to write it off as a failure.
Vice President Cheney cited Ajami again in an October 21, 2007 speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stating, “We have no illusions about the road ahead. As Fouad Ajami said recently, Iraq is not yet ‘a country at peace, and all its furies have not burned out, but a measure of order has begun to stick on the ground.’”
Eight days after U.S. President Barack Obama took office, a Wall Street Journal op-ed piece by Ajami called Obama a “messenger of the old, settled ways,” claimed that the George W. Bush administration’s diplomacy had had “revolutionary impact,” and chided Obama for not praising the Iraq War.
Okay, this is quoting a story that is clearly classic Washington-style spin with lots of anonymous sources, but Haaretz’ Akiva Eldar is a fine reporter (and no great friend of the Netanyhahu Government), and for what it’s worth, it’s at least worth noting: read the whole thing, but here’s the gist:
The U.S. administration is furious over Israeli incitement against President Barack Obama, Democratic congressmen close to Obama told an Israeli source who returned from a visit to Washington this week.
The congressmen even hinted that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been personally involved.
The source, who met in Washington with administration officials and members of Congress, told Haaretz he was stunned by the level of anger there over attempts to portray Obama to the American public as an enemy of Israel because of his efforts to restart peace talks and freeze settlement construction.“There are people here who are playing with fire by damaging our relationship with the U.S.,” the source said.
I know, it’s a classic Washington no-named-source background leak/spin, but it also suggests that some folks “close to” the Administration are sending a message via “an Israeli source” (governmental? political? journalistic? academic?) that they don’t appreciate some of what’s been coming out of the Israeli governement lately. One exhibit for the prosecution: this piece by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in The New Republic that manages to link the Goldstone Report with Ahmadinejad and Holocaust denial.
I thought ambassadors were supposed to smoothe over rifts, not inflame them. And I thought they were supposed to speak to the broadest number of citizens in the countries to which they have been appointed, not provide inflammatory rants to the already-persuaded. But this Michael Oren piece in TNR abandons any pretense of diplomatic balance.
The premise of Oren’s piece is that Israel faces a new Nazism represented by Ahmadinejad and Holocaust deniers but, to an even greater extent, by the South African liberal, Richard Goldstone, and the United Nations. Oren seems to be arguing that Gaza was a war of survival for the Jewish state and that Israel had no choice but to launch a war that killed, by one conservative Israeli count, 320 children, destroyed 4,000 homes, and up to 80 government buildings. Even if one is sympathetic to the horrific barrage of Hamas rockets that Israeli citizens endured (and what decent human being wouldn’t be?) – every single rocket being a war crime – it helps no one to use language this extreme or to distort history in this manner.
I’m not sure that this is the specific piece Akiva Eldar’s story is aimed at: but it’s a good example of the tone of some pretty official sounding Israeli criticism (e.g. by the Ambassador to Washington) that if not aimed directly at the US Administration, is at least rather inflammatory. I know Oren was an IDF spokesman during the Gaza war, doing reserve duty, but he isn’t that anymore, he’s the Ambassador to the United States. I’ve admired his historical works (the one on the US and the Middle East and the one on the 1967 war), but this is flat out propaganda. It reminds one of the old Victorian quip (Charles M. Doughty quotes it in the opening of Travels in Arabia Deserta) that “a diplomat is sent to lie abroad for his country,” but come on.
Charismatic British-Israeli peacenik Daniel Levy made a remarkable presentation this morning, at a big conference on US-Israeli relations organized by the extremely rightwing, pro-Israeli think-tank, the Hudson Institute.
Luckily Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress’s Wonk Room was there to video and verbally describe the highlights for the rest of us.
If you scroll down Matt’s blog post there to the 6-minute video you can enjoy not just Daniel’s great presentation but also the extreme discomfort of his fellow-panelists Doug Feith and the equally craven Bob Lieber. It is also kind of fun to see Daniel speaking his mind about the disaster of the current Israeli government’s policy while many iterations of the Hudson Institute’s logo are waving around behind his head.
Scroll down even further for the handily provided actual transcript of what he said.
Talk about Daniel in the den of lions, eh?
So okay, here is my big confession. I was actually at that same conference– until just before Daniel and Co. got to speak; but I had to duck out just before their panel started.
I was there, however, for the peroration made earlier by Israeli ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, who until recently worked under some degree of cover as a ‘neutral’ (nudge-nudge, wink-wink) US historian of the US’s Middle East policy.
The heart of what Oren had to say was a fuller, verbal elaboration of the theme he introduced in this recent article in The New Republic:
- Where Ahmadinejad leaves off, the Goldstone Report, or, as it is officially called, the “United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict,” persists…
The Goldstone Report goes further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers by stripping the Jews not only of the ability and the need but of the right to defend themselves. If a country can be pummeled by thousands of rockets and still not be justified in protecting its inhabitants, then at issue is not the methods by which that country survives but whether it can survive at all. But more insidiously, the report does not only hamstring Israel; it portrays the Jews as the deliberate murderers of innocents–as Nazis. And a Nazi state not only lacks the need and right to defend itself; it must rather be destroyed.
Oren is a sad, sad, and deeply wounded guy if he can even imagine such an accusation against Judge Goldstone.
That is why I am really glad that his sick ranting was followed, in short order, by the eminent good sense from Daniel Levy.
I wish Oren could have stuck around to hear Levy. But he, too, had to duck out. His driver nearly ran me down as I biked away from the Hudson Institute.
I agree with Matthew Yglesias that George W. Bush could have found no one more appropriate than James Glassman to head his think tank. Glassman is well-known for his book “Dow 36,000″, in which he predicted in 1999 a future of limitless growth through financial markets. The Dow, then at around 10,000, was supposed to reach 36,000 within five years through tech stocks. (It is currently around 9400.) He is also a former publisher (before Marty Peretz) of the New Republic (why oh why is that magazine described as leftist?), and was involved in other strongly Zionist publications such as The Atlantic and the conservative libertarian website TechCentralStation.
I met Glassman in Cairo a couple of years ago, as part of a roundtable of bloggers invited to meet him in his capacity as Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy. He did not seem too happy with me, and had no answer, when I asked him two questions:
1. Does he think Middle Easterners are stupid and don’t know that the host of al-Hurra’s Dakhl Washington, Robert Satloff, is a die-hard Israel advocate, as I’ve highlighted before? Most inappropriate, I think, to associate him with a US government station.
2. What is the point of Radio Sawa, which mostly broadcasts music and short, bland news briefs? How will it help develop independent local media if yet another government-funded station is competing on the local market? (I thought this would appeal to his free market fundamentalism.)
Needless to say I received no answers.