In both cases, those who went to work for the Soviets as couriers, spies, or assets were all motivated by the same thing — their belief in Communism and in the Soviet Union and Stalin as leaders of the world revolution. Those who were Jews did so as Communists, and their service to the Soviets had nothing to do with their religion or ethnic identity. Once caught, the Communists sought to gain sympathy and support for the Rosenbergs by arguing that they were targeted because of the anti-Semitism of the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Suddenly, the Jewish religion they spurned became singled out as a ruse to gain support for them from other patriotic Jews whom the defense thought would be motivated to help free the Rosenbergs because they were sensitive to the rampant anti-Semitism of that era.
Beinart disagrees. He writes:
But wait, you say, there’s a difference: It wasn’t their Jewishness that made Jews disproportionately join the Communist Party or their Italianness that made Italians disproportionately join the Mafia. Well, in a sense, it was.(my emphasis) At a certain moment in time, certain aspects of Jewish-American or Italian-American sociology disproportionately predisposed Jews and Italians to certain problematic behavior.
No, Peter. Jewish Communists joined the CPUSA for the same reason as did Christian Communists. They believed in Marxism-Leninism. The majority of Jews, who were politically left or liberal New Dealers, had nothing to do with those who were pro-Communist. Many were exactly the kind of anti-Communist liberal you purport to be.
African-American Communists joined because in the age of virulent racism, in the South especially but also in the North, the Communists alone emphasized black-white unity and fought relentlessly for civil rights — except, of course, during World War II, when black Americans were suddenly told to put their work for black freedom on the back-burner, because the U.S. had to defeat the Axis, and the U.S. could not afford to harm the war effort by raising problematic and divisive issues on the home front. After all, everything — including civil rights — was second to defense of the Soviet Union, which was what any good Communist had as their preeminent cause.
Beinart then concludes that today, although Muslims too might be predisposed to “problematic behavior,” the government should target their behavior, “not the religious or ethnic group.”
Wrong again: All the jihadists come from mosques in which they received inspiration and/or education in the doctrine of radical Islamist thought. All the major terrorist actions that threaten the United States and the West today come from adherents to Islam who have been radicalized. It is true that “not all the terrorist sympathizers in America are Muslim.” Plenty of them are Leftists — but I don’t think that is what Beinart is thinking of. But all of those who have sought to do the most damage, or did so on 9/11, were Muslims.
How do we then prevent future attacks? The answer is clear: by doing just what Rep. King is seeking to do with his investigation. This is not, as Beinart says, “anti-Muslim bigotry.” It is plain common sense. And Beinart should spare us his words about how King’s work stands opposed to the policies of George W. Bush, which Beinart suddenly sees as something to praise. While Bush was in office, Beinart had nothing but derision for him.
Finally, I have a question for Tina Brown. How can you offer Peter Beinart as a columnist for both The Daily Beast and now Newsweek when he consistently comes up with continuing inane platitudes which substitute for wisdom? Can’t you find a smarter liberal to fill his space?