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Ron Radosh

When J Street Cries ‘McCarthyism!’

March 13th, 2012 - 9:05 am

When J Street cries “McCarthyism,” you can be certain of one thing. They don’t have any good argument for the case they are presenting.

The person whom they charge with “McCarthyism,”– the familiar refrain of the Left used against anyone who makes an argument they disagree with — is Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens. Last week he penned one of his most incisive and cutting weekly columns, a sharp critical take on President Obama’s claim that he can be depended upon to have Israel’s back.

He describes the president’s “disingenuousness when it comes to Israel.” He did it particularly well, more so than others. But what got J Street’s goat — on the eve of its national conference next week — was that he took information from the president’s major supporter, journalist Peter Beinart, who — as Stephens writes — was a liberal hawk “who has reinvented himself as a liberal scourge of present-day Israel and mainstream Zionism.”

He uses the figures Beinart brings up in his book — a group of “far left Chicago Jews” — as a group that was important to Obama as he developed views about the state of Israel. In his recent New Yorker editorial, David Remnick used the same group to make much the same point. Calling Obama a “philo-Semite,” he bases his judgement on what he says on the fact that his “earliest political supporters were Chicago Jews,” who Netanyahu thinks are “the wrong kind of Jew.”

Identifying them, he calls the late Rabbi Arnold Wolf a man “most closely associated with the civil-rights movement and other social-justice causes.” A good man, indeed. What irks Remnick and J Street is that in Stephens’ column, the WSJ writer calls Wolf something akin to the opposite. Rather than just a supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr., which is what Remnick calls Wolf, Stephens reports that he was a supporter of the extremist Black Panther Party in the 60s, a man whose group met with the PLO when it backed terrorism, and an opponent of building the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Stephens went on to reveal that the other Jews on the list were all left-wing activists. In other words, the “kind of Jew” that American leftists all like.

So, what we see is that it is fine to single out these people when the list of their names can be used as a mechanism to praise Obama and to get American Jews to back him. It is not alright to use these same people’s names when their political views are more clearly brought to light, and are used to show the disingenuousness of Obama’s claim of having a pro-Israel point of view.

Hence, the leaders of three groups — J Street, the New Israel Fund, and Americans for Peace Now, the holy trinity of the left-wing of American Judaism — wrote the following:

We are outraged by Bret Stephens’ attack yesterday on President Obama as “untrustworthy” on the basis of the President’s association with people involved in our organizations. His attack — grounded in a litany of guilt-by-association charges — fits well with the tradition established in the 1950s by Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The guilt by association, as we have seen, was first used by Beinart himself, and then by Remnick. So if anyone is guilty of McCarthyism — defined as “guilt by association” — it is Beinart himself.

Finally, the triumvirate reveals their real concern: to attack those they call “the right wing of the American Jewish community.” Do not pause long to ask what that concern might be. At a moment in time when there is a very real international effort to delegitimize Israel as a valid nation-state that has a right to exist, the group has another concern: not that of worrying about the international effort to delegitimize Israel, but rather, what they say is the campaign to “delegitimize President Obama.” (My emphasis.)

So I have only one question for them. Doesn’t it occur to these erstwhile peaceniks that if anyone has delegitimized President Obama on his views about Israel, it is the president himself? Perhaps they should re-read Bret Stephens’ column. It is not Stephens who owes Obama an apology. It is the leaders of these three groups who owe one to Bret Stephens.

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