Tuesday, January 16, 2007

More on James Traub's Jewish Problem

*From James Kirkick's "The Plank" in The New Republic:
James Traub has a profile in this week's New York Times Magazine of Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Traub had a great time making fun of a man he views as an old-fashioned chicken little obsessed with Jews. He sullies Foxman as "the hanging judge of anti-Semitism" who is a "one-man Sanhedrin doling out opprobrium or absolution for those who speak ill of Israel or the Jews." Foxman's demands for an investigation into the murder of a young French Jew last year was an example of his proclivity to "stage public rituals of accusation." The piece amounts to little more than a hit job.

Traub accuses Foxman of frequently (and presumably erroneously) smearing individuals as anti-Semites. Other than Professors John Mearsheimer and Stepehn Walt (who have written of their belief in a Jewish conspiracy reaching into the highest levels of the press and the government), Traub does not once name a supposed victim of Foxman's descriptive wrath other than Jimmy Carter, whom Foxman never labeled anti-Semitic--just "bigoted."

Another prominent victim of Foxman's Inquisition is the oft-persecuted Tony Judt, whom Foxman allegedly prevented from speaking at the Polish Embassy last year. Yet Traub ends up exonerating the one-man Sanhedrin and shows that it was the Poles themselves who eventually realized that, given their own history with Jews, hosting a man who has called for the end of Israel might not be the greatest idea for a diplomatic mission.

Traub writes that it is "tempting to compare Abe Foxman with Al Sharpton, another portly, bellicose, melodramatizing defender of ethnic ramparts." Has Foxman ever instigated race riots, used bigoted language to describe blacks, or libeled police officers?

Yes, Foxman can be shrill. But even Traub confesses that his heart is in the right place. And at least Foxman errs on the side of vigilance. At one point in the piece Traub writes tiredly of Foxman's "shouting about Auschwitz and six million." How obnoxious!

What's more telling is that the paper of record - which ignored the first Holocaust - decided to devote 5,000 words to maligning and mocking a man who has made it his life's work to avert a second.
*From Soccer Dad:
James traub has a semite problem
(h/t Judeopundit, My Right Word)

James Traub profiled Abe Foxman in this week's NY Times magazine in piece titled Does Abe Foxman Have an Anti-Anti-Semite Problem?.

Assuming a mocking and dismmissive tone toward his subject, Traub paints Foxman as a petty autocrat who's looking for antisemites under every bed. If one sentence sums up Traub's opinion of Foxman it's:

The A.D.L., for all its myriad activities, is a one-man Sanhedrin doling out opprobrium or absolution for those who speak ill of Israel or the Jews.

In contrast, Foxman's critics and opponents are described in complimentary terms. Tony Judt is "highly regarded"; J. J. Goldberg, is the editor of a "leading" American Jewish weekly; Mearsheimer and Walt are "distinguished figures."

Aside from the snide tone pervading the article, it's filled with mistakes and omissions.

One of Traub's themes is that antisemitism is no longer problem. The need for the ADL is therefore diminished if not gone therefore:

The A.D.L.’s world became increasingly binary — “good for the Jews,” “bad for the Jews.”
with Foxman becoming sole arbiter and - shock of shocks - moving to the right.

To dispove the notion that antisemitism is a problem Traub writes:

And yet a Pew Global Attitudes Poll in 2004 found that anti-Semitism had declined in much of the West and was lowest in the United States. A Pew poll last year found American support for Israel as strong now as at any time in the last 13 years.

According to the FBI's uniform crimes statistics for 2005 there were 900 hate crimes classified as anti-Jewish and 3200 hate crimes classified as anti-Black. Given that there are roughly 7 times as many Blacks as Jews, that means that Jews suffer hate crimes at nearly twice the rate as Blacks in the United States according to the most recent statistics.

And while anti-semitism has clearly not disappeared in the United States, it is mild compared to the rest of the world. Three years ago a survey in Europe chose Israel as the biggest threat to world peace. And let's not forget the Durban conference on racism. There is plenty of antisemitism still around and citing two Pew polls doesn't refute that.

Traub like any good liberal finds fault with Foxman for making common cause with evangelical Christians while being cool to Black leaders and ignoring the great alliance between Jews and Blacks.

While it is true that at one point Foxman did foster evangelical support for Israel, that seemed to come to an end in 2005.

And as far as the black-Jewish alliance it's folly to blame it on Foxman for moving right and away from civil rights. In recent years, the civil rights movement has made common cause with the likes of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Louis Farrakhan. All have shown varying degrees of antipathy to Jews.

(In a particular inapt comparison, Traub equates Foxman with Sharpton. Yes, I remember when Foxman led a threatening protest outside a Black owned business in Flatbush that ended in a massacre.)

But what's really bothering Traub isn't Foxman. It's Walt and Mearsheimer. It's not that Walt and Mearsheimer were antisemitic, but that they were right and no one seems to realize that except for objective observers like Tony Judt and Jimmy Carter.

Traub describes the effect of the publication of the Israel Lobby like this:

“The Israel Lobby” slammed into the opinion-making world with a Category 5 force. The article loosed a flood of fevered editorials, labored rebuttals and bare-knuckle debates.

In truth it came in like a whimper. Yes the New York Sun and New York Post weighed in right away. But the NY Times and Washington Post were very circumspect. The Times for its part published an article buried on page B8 about "The Israel Lobby." It followed with an essay defending Walt and Mearsheimer by Tony Judt and then about 8 letters.

(One letter, by a Chad Levinson put it brilliantly:

Taboos are things people avoid out of fear of ostracism. Here, it seems to me, people proudly proclaim their intention to criticize Israel, noting the dangers they face in shattering this supposed taboo, reminding everyone that it's not necessarily anti-Semitic to do so.

Quite the opposite of being a taboo, criticizing Israel resembles a kind of intellectual ritual, with its distinct pattern and style.

And then they congratulate themselves for their self-proclaimed courage.)

Traub overstated the impact that "The Israel Lobby" had. I suspect that even the editors of the NY Times and Washington Post realized how indefensible the paper was and so avoided it. The Post eventually did an in-depth article on The Israel Lobby in the middle of the summer and it was quite unsatisfying.

He also neglected to mention that David Duke gave an enthusiastic review to the Israel Lobby. It would have been a lot harder for Traub to argue that the paper wasn't antisemitic if Duke's inconvenient endorsement was taken into account.

Traub spends a lot of time arguing that Foxman more or less proved the point of Walt and Mearsheimer by getting the Polish consulate to cancel a talk to be given by Tony Judt. He never mentions that Foxman claims that he never demanded that the talk be canceled.

Though Foxman is not above criticism, the viciousness with which Traub goes after Foxman is astounding. . Given the sloppiness of his reporting, it's fair to ask whether it is Traub who has a problem. With semites.