American Jews Dan Fleshler Israel Israeli occupation Transforming America's Israel Lobby

Is praise from Philip Weiss the kiss of death?

Uh oh. Philip Weiss had nice things to say about me and my book in a recent post. Did he just ruin my life? Walt and Mearsheimer, let us remember, were castigated because David Duke promoted them on his web site. Should I worry for similar reasons?

I am sometimes deeply offended by what Weiss has to say, and am even more offended by the acolytes who have gathered around his blog, some of whom are openly anti-Semitic. I have expressed those concerns here, sometimes with a great deal of anger.

Part of what energizes his critique of Israel and American Jews is not only an objection to the occupation and those who passively accept it. He has also been staking out a position as a proud “assimilationist.” He is angry that Jewish ethnic loyalty has created an ethos that justifies anything Israel does (I’m angry, too) But it is not just the byproducts of ethnic loyalty that bother him and some of his fans. Weiss seems to object to the very idea of Jewish peoplehood as most Jews define it, which includes a sense of fellow-feeling when in the company of other Jews and an attachment to the land of Israel (for a host of reasons, from religious feeling to an appreciation of the simple fact that many Jews live there).

He appears to be bothered by any self-defined ethnic or religious community, because he worships “fluid identity,” he extolls an America where old distinctions are breaking down and being replaced by, well, uh…it remains to be seen. For example, he loved the kids who worshipped Obama because they gave him an “oceanic” feeling, a sense of no boundaries. “All our hideous classifications,” he has written, “are about to go out the window, race and class and the geography of us and them, including in the end the good-for-the-Jews stuff I grew up with and that has been rationalized and bolted down by endless militarism…”

I could go on, and on and on, about why Weiss is often wrong and sometimes dangerous. That said, there is an admirable moral core to the man. And I share much of his anger and his anguish about Israeli behavior. And his persistent questioning of Zionism and everything connected with it has prompted me to check longheld assumptions at the door and think carefully about the price of tribalism and particularism. He also happens to be an old friend and a nice guy. So what should I do with his endorsement? Should I announce, “Thanks but no thanks, MondoWeiss?” Should I compile everything Weiss has ever written, come up with a point-by-point refutation, and send it to Mort Klein so he doesn’t bother me?

Or should I act like a grown-up?


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