Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 25, 2014

The anti-Semitism canard

Filed under: anti-Semitism,zionism — louisproyect @ 7:06 pm

Israel right-wing protesters attack left-wing activists after they protested in central Tel Aviv against the Israeli attack on Gaza, July 12, 2014. (Photo by Oren Ziv/Activestills.org)

A Google search on “Gaza”, “protests” and “anti-Semitism” produces a jaw-dropping 5,300,000 results. Among them, you can find the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, reporting:

Jewish people are being attacked and abused on the streets of Germany as though the country were back in the Nazi era, political and religious leaders warned yesterday.

Escalating violence between Israel and Hamas in Gaza has prompted a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in Europe in the last few days.

Murderous slogans dating back to the days of Hitler have been chanted at pro-Palestinian rallies in Germany. Jewish-owned shops were attacked and burned in riots in France at the weekend.

The Israeli ambassador to Germany, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, said: ‘They pursue the Jews in the streets of Berlin… as if we were in 1938.’

That this sort of thing can be reported while the death toll in Gaza tops 500 strikes me as obscene New York City has about 4 times as many people as Gaza. Can you imagine if bombs and artillery shells had killed 2000 people here in a month? The Zionists direct a lot of their hasbara to New Yorkers, arguing that they should consider what it would feel like if they were being shelled from New Jersey. Since the rockets from Gaza kill nobody, that seems like a piss-poor analogy but what else would expect from a regime drenched in blood and bullshit?

Even more in the spotlight is France, which has experienced the most massive protests against the Israeli blitzkrieg. Vox.net informed its readers:

France has the third-largest Jewish population in the world, after the United States and Israel. It appears to have seen the worst anti-Semitic violence in recent days.

“Eight synagogues in France have been targeted in the past week,” The New York Times reports. Over the July 19-20th weekend, “a radical fringe among pro-Palestinian protesters in the French capital clashed with police, targeting Jewish shops, lighting smoke bombs, and throwing stones and bottles at riot police,” the Times reported.

“They are not screaming ‘death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris, ” Roger Cuikerman, head of French Jewish political group CRIF, said. “They are screaming ‘death to the Jews.'”

According to The Independent, a peaceful protest in the northern Paris suburb Saracelles “degenerated” into anti-Semitic violence. “Several cars were burned,” the Independent reported, and “three shops, including a Kosher grocery, were burned and pillaged. A railway station was severely damaged.”

For an alternative take on France, I recommend this article that appears on the Quartiers Libres blog:

In the hours following the skirmish between protesters and JDL members, more messages were posted by JDL members and supporters saying the JDL had acted out of self-defence using only their bare hands against pro-Palestinian thugs, a version that is fully inconsistent with the many pictures and videos of the scene that were widely circulated by independent media websites and militants.

The JDL is banned in the USA and in Israel on account of its extremism and explicit racism. In France, where it is legal, the organisation is regularly guilty of taunts and attacks, as was the case only the week before, when they targeted a rally in support of Gaza. On July 13, by jeopardizing the safety of people gathered in a Synagogue, the JDL has shown it’s now moving on to a new tactical step. Yet although the street fight outside the Synagogue was all over the media, journalists first failed to so much as mention the JDL’s provocations or even the rally itself, sometimes making it sound as though the pro-Palestinian protesters had intentionally planned to attack a Synagogue.

There was never an attack against a Synagogue in previous pro-Palestinian demonstrations, just like there wasn‘t one on July 13: the skirmish broke out in the street between the JDL and antifascist protesters, and there was never an attack on either the Synagogue or the people inside, which all videos shot on that day bring evidence of.

Why didn’t Jewish authorities and non-extremist organizations such as the UEJF condemn the JDL’s rally and why did the police protect the JDL? Could it be that the French authorities are hoping to criminalize pro-Palestinian support?

Ever since I have been involved with the left, I have heard the charge that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are the same.

Beyond that, there is also a tendency to smear African-Americans as anti-Semitic any time they step out of line. When Jesse Jackson’s campaign was gathering steam, they crucified him for referring to New York as “Hymietown” in an unguarded chat with a Black reporter.

When a limousine carrying a Hasidic rabbi ran over a Black child in Brooklyn in 1991, the protests were routinely labeled as anti-Semitic even though they were primarily directed at Jewish privilege. When a troubled Black youth stabbed a rabbinical student, the press howled at the Black community, treating it as if it were bent on genocide. The hysteria paved the way for Mayor Giuliani’s administration that had the deaths of a number of Black men and the torture of Abner Louima to account for.

Stepping back from the immediate furor over Gaza, it would be worthwhile to examine the question of anti-Semitism in a dispassionate and historical materialist fashion.

When I was in the SWP, I developed an understanding of racism quite different from the one I had absorbed growing up in a relatively liberal household and attending an even more liberal college. The issue was not about “intolerance”; it was about institutions that kept Black people in a subordinate position. This included red-lining that made it impossible to get a mortgage in the Black community, white owned businesses in the ghetto that gouged their customers, police brutality, underfunding of primarily Black public schools, etc. In other words, what might be called institutional racism.

There was a time when Jews suffered from institutional racism. At the turn of the century, Jews lived in the slums on the Lower East Side and could easily identified by their Yiddish accent. They suffered from discrimination and poverty on a level that matched that of Blacks or other oppressed groups historically. In Germany they were less oppressed despite the specious arguments of Daniel Goldhagen. It was only the Great Depression and the massive influx of Eastern European Jews into Germany that allowed Hitler to make use of the Jews as a scapegoat.

All that changed after WWII when Jews moved out of the tenements and into the mainstream. The second generation (my mom and dad’s) opened small businesses, went to colleges (most often state universities), lost their Yiddish accent, and even changed their last name to fit in. Bernard Schwartz became Tony Curtis and Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas. If you were fortunate enough to make big bucks on Wall Street, you didn’t even have to change your name.

I strongly urge those who have doubts about this to get their hands on Lenni Brenner’s 1986 “Jews in America Today”. I wish some of it was online but unfortunately the only place to go to get a handle on his analysis is a 2003 article he wrote for CounterPunch titled “The Demographics of American Jews”. He writes:

Why then is the Zionist lobby so powerful when their own scholars write endlessly about the alienation of their youth from the movement? The answer is simple: the Jews are the richest ethnic or religious stratum in the US. Because their standard of living is so high, they are the most educated. Because they are the most educated, they are the most scientific oriented, hence most inclined towards atheism or religious skepticism. But the true believer minority still has an unbelievable amount of money to throw at the politicians.

In 1991, I interviewed Harold Seneker, then the editor of the Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, for an article in The Nation. I told him that I found Jews, 2.2% of the population, to be about 25% of the 400. He told me that he thought this a success story, both for American capitalism and for the Jews, and that he wanted to write a story on it. But Forbes wouldn’t let him. The then publisher had gone thru the Hitler era, when talking about Jewish money was an anti-Semitic specialty.

This mentality is still common on the left as well, and it is wide spread among elderly Jews. Forbes, much of the left, and old Jews share what must be called a ‘folk Marxist’ mentality. Despite the differences in their politics, they all believe that history repeats itself. Someday there is going to be another 1929 Depression. The capitalists will, once again, call up central casting and get another Hitler to smash the left.

This is fantasy. It’s a projection of the past, and Germany’s past at that, into America’s future. In reality, journalists constantly turn out articles for Zionist publications about how Jewish campaign contributors play a major role in funding both parties and, very rarely, the topic is touched on in the mainstream media. “The Political Future of American Jews,” a1985 American Jewish Congress pamphlet by Seymour Martin Lipset and Earl Raab, declared that “While there have been few reliable statistics on the subject — and some reluctance to gather any — the journalistic and anecdotal evidence is overwhelming that more than a majority of Democratic funds on a national level, and as much as a quarter of Republican funds have come from Jewish sources.” They were referring to private contributions, as was an article in the 1/5/93 NY Times announcing that “Jews contributed about 60 percent of Mr. Clinton’s noninstitutional campaign funds.”

My estimate is that 84 of the latest 400 are Jews. The magazine doesn’t list religious affiliations unless the person involved is distinctive in giving to religious charities, etc. And not all of the Jews are pro-Zionists. Some listees are among the educated disaffiliated we are discussing. But Zionist money is prodigious. James Tisch, chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations isn’t on the list, altho he is CEO of Loews Corp., listed on the Fortune 500 list. But daddy, Laurence, is, at $2 billion, and uncle Preston is worth $2.3 billion. His predecessors at the Conference were Ronald Lauder, $1.8 billion, and Mort Zuckerman, who struggles along with a penny ante $1.2 billion. Chaim Sabon, $1.7 billion, is a University of California regent. Mayhaps he got the job because he gave the Democrats the largest campaign contribution in American history?

If you really care about anti-Semitism in Europe, the place to go is where you would expect it, not in the Paris banlieues but in the neo-Nazi movements that are growing rapidly in a period of economic hardship.

To put things into perspective, the Anti-Defamation League issued a report on anti-Semitics attacks in 2013 that covered the entire world. Not a single death was reported. Most of the incidents were of the sort that turns up in New York routinely, a swastika scrawled on a Synagogue wall or a gravestone overturned. Compare that to the fate of Muslims who face racism and murder every where they look, from Burma to Kashmir.

In the unlikely event that Jews ever become targets of the ultraright again, I would strongly advise my brethren to think twice about whether to align themselves with the POV expressed in the Daily Mail, the tabloid I quoted at the beginning of this article in light of what Wikipedia reports:

[The publisher] Lord Rothermere was a friend of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler, and directed the Mail’s editorial stance towards them in the early 1930s. Rothermere’s 1933 leader “Youth Triumphant” praised the new Nazi regime’s accomplishments, and was subsequently used as propaganda by them. In it, Rothermere predicted that “The minor misdeeds of individual Nazis would be submerged by the immense benefits the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany”. Journalist John Simpson, in a book on journalism, suggested that Rothermere was referring to the violence against Jews and Communists rather than the detention of political prisoners.

Rothermere and the Mail were also editorially sympathetic to Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists. Rothermere wrote an article entitled “Hurrah for the Blackshirts” in January 1934, praising Mosley for his “sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine”, and pointing out that: “Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King’s Road, Chelsea, London, S.W.”

 

January 18, 2014

On Israelis calling each other Nazis

Filed under: Fascism,zionism — louisproyect @ 5:55 pm

NY Times, January 18, 2014

The Opinion Pages|Op-Ed Contributor

Sometimes ‘Nazi’ Is the Right Word

By ETGAR KERET

TEL AVIV — “NAZI” is a short word. It has only two syllables, like “rac-ist” or “kill-er.” “Democracy,” on the other hand, is a long word with lots of syllables that is very tiring to say. It may not be as tiring as saying “freedom of expression” or “social justice,” but still, there is something really exhausting about it.

People in Israel use “Nazi” when they want the most vicious curse possible, and it’s usually directed at someone they perceive as belligerent. It could be a cop, a soldier or an elected official who, in their opinion, is acting like a bully.Such usage is offensive and infuriating. As the son of Holocaust survivors, I find it particularly rankling. This week the Knesset gave preliminary approval to a bill that would criminalize saying “Nazi” under inappropriate circumstances. The government views the word as a weapon of mass destruction no less lethal than an Iranian nuclear bomb, and so it insists on Israel’s basic right to protect itself from the threat.

Many Israelis think that passing a law against a word is stupid and juvenile; others see it as fascist and anti-democratic. Incidentally, saying “fascist” or “anti-democratic” is also seen as insulting and offensive. And I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tried to outlaw those words in the future, too.

Read full article

Watch full version of “Defamation”, from which clip above was extracted.

September 25, 2013

Bill de Blasio and the left

Filed under: Counterpunch,New York,parliamentary cretinism,real estate,zionism — louisproyect @ 3:56 pm
Bill de Blasio: talks left, walks right
Counterpunch September 25, 2013
The Big Apple’s Obama?

De Blasio and the Left

by LOUIS PROYECT

On August 16th I wrote an article for my blog titled “A Dossier on Bill de Blasio”  that mentioned in passing his occasional appearance at NY Nicaragua Solidarity steering committee meetings nearly 25 years ago, something I likened to Obama’s overtures to antiwar activists on Chicago’s South Side—an investment that could pay future dividends. As de Blasio escalated up the electoral ramps in New York, he was careful to retain his liberal coloration even though he became an ally of Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn pol who once belonged to Meir Kahane’s terrorist Jewish Defense League.

When Hikind spearheaded a drive to force Brooklyn College to add a speaker reflecting Zionist policies to a meeting on BDS, de Blasio issued the following statement: “The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is inflammatory, dangerous and utterly out of step with the values of New Yorkers. An economic boycott represents a direct threat to the State of Israel–that’s something we need to oppose in all its forms. No one seriously interested in bringing peace, security and tolerance to the Middle East should be taken in by this event.”

Despite his anti-landlord rhetoric, he also endorsed Bruce Ratner’s downtown Brooklyn megaproject that ran roughshod over the local community’s needs. Originally based on a design by superstar architect Frank Gehry, the project so appalled novelist and Brooklynite Jonathan Lethem that he was inspired to write an open letter to Gehry calling the project “a nightmare for Brooklyn, one that, if built, would cause irreparable damage to the quality of our lives.”

There’s lots of excitement among liberals about the prospects of a de Blasio mayoralty. As might have been expected, the Nation Magazine endorsed him in the primary election as “reimagining the city in boldly progressive, egalitarian terms.” Peter Beinart, a New Republic editor who has gained some attention lately for veering slightly from the Zionist consensus, wrote an article for The Daily Beast titled “The Rise of the New New Left” that was even more breathless than the Nation editorial. Alluding to German sociologist Karl Mannheim’s theory of “political generations”, Beinart sees the de Blasio campaign as “an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism.”

Most of Beinart’s article takes up the question of whether de Blasio’s momentum could unleash broader forces that would derail Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016. Perhaps that analysis can only be supported if you ignore the fact that de Blasio was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager when she ran for senator from New York in 2000. The NY Times reported on October 7, 2000: “At the White House, the president, Mrs. Clinton and her campaign team can often be found in the Map Room or the Family Theater, drilling for her debates, or fine-tuning lines in some speech.” One surmises that Bill de Blasio was there.

read full

June 28, 2013

Israeli Propaganda, With Warts

Filed under: Film,zionism — louisproyect @ 1:00 pm

Counterpunch Weekend Edition June 28-30, 2013

Israeli Propaganda, With Warts

by LOUIS N. PROYECT

Out of a sense of duty to CounterPunch readers, I went to a press screening for “Israel: a Home Movie” that opens at the Film Forum in New York on July 10th. It might be more accurate to say that I went to monitor it since it had all the earmarks of a typical Israeli film geared to the liberal to left audiences at the Film Forum, a premier art house. Unlike “World War Z”, the new zombie movie that apparently includes 10 minutes of full-blast Zionist propaganda (Israel becomes a Zombie-free zone largely on the efforts of a muscular and merciless IDF standing guard at the borders), “Israel: a Home Movie” is anxious to show Israel with warts and all, as the announcement from the Film Forum publicity department made clear:

Israel goes from a young, optimistic, albeit naive nation, to one in which the realities of middle-age (and worse) settle in. There is a description of “shell-shock”; a young soldier who declares “God bless morphine”; images of a relative “killed in a terrorist attack at about age 30″; the demolition of a minaret and discussion of whether it was a holy site; David Ben-Gurion visiting transit camps in 1956, and glimpses throughout of Ariel Sharon, Moshe Dayan, and Anwar Sadat. Perhaps nowhere in the world could home movies so intimately reflect the changing political face of a nation. As early as the late 1970s, one feels that tragedy has become the norm, that life inevitably leads to death and that – in Israel as we have known it – peace inevitably leads to war.

As the title implies, the film is entirely made up of home movies shot  mostly on 8mm film cameras like the kind people used to take on vacation. As such, most of the footage is fairly banal stuff that ostensibly would only be of interest to people who get a kick out of watching strangers frolicking in the ocean or—worse—babies waddling into their parents’ arms. The men or women who made the films or their children provide narration. The perspective is mostly that of old-style kibbutz “socialism” or Peace Now liberalism, just the sort of thing that would resonate with the film’s target audience.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/06/28/israeli-propaganda-with-warts/

May 3, 2013

Voices of the Mizrahim

Filed under: Film,Jewish question,zionism — louisproyect @ 8:35 pm

In doing background research for an article on the Jews of the Maghreb (North Africa), I learned of the existence of a 2002 documentary on Iraqi Jews titled “Forget Baghdad: Jews and Arabs – The Iraqi Connection”. Among Jews, the term Mizrahim (Hebrew for Oriental) is applied to those from North Africa and the Middle East, in contrast to the European Ashkenazis who constitute the ruling elite of Israel.

In some ways the term that makes the most sense is Arab Jews, one that is embraced by Ella Shohat, an Iraqi Jew who is featured in “Forget Baghdad”. Her story, and the story of four elderly Jewish ex-members of the Iraqi Communist Party, is a reminder of the destructive character of Israel’s creation. Not only did it represent a nakba (disaster) for the Palestinian people, it also forced a people deeply rooted in their respective Arab countries to become assimilated into a culture that regarded them as inferiors.

While by no means an attack on the Zionist entity, the 1964 Israeli film “Sallah Shabati” does a fairly decent job of dramatizing the plight of new Mizrahim immigrants. You can rent the DVD “Forget Baghdad” from Netflix while “Sallah Shabati” is a bit harder to get your hands on (I took a copy out from Columbia University’s film library, but Amazon.com has new copies for sale at $15.64). After seeing them side-by-side, you can only conclude that the Mizrahim would have been better off where they came from, a claim that obviously applies to the Ashkenazim as well.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/03/voices-of-the-mizrahim/

February 12, 2013

Eric Alterman: what an asswipe

Filed under: Academia,BDS,zionism — louisproyect @ 3:00 pm

Brooklyn College And The BDS Debate

by Feb 7, 2013 11:45 AM EST

The second, far more difficult question raised by the controversy was what should one’s position be with regard to BDS itself, and by extension, the political science department’s decision to lend legitimacy to a talk at which its arguments would be presented without opposition or clarification from its opponents. Because of the base threats made by the likes of a Brooklyn-based politicians like the demagogue state Assemblyman Dov Hikind, Assistant Majority Leader Lew Fidler, and the semi-supportive position taken of them by the famously argumentative BC alumnus, Alan Dershowitz, many people felt that the content of the BDS platform and the arguments that Barghouti and Butler were less important than the fact of the threats itself. Feeling a degree of heat that it perhaps did not anticipate when the department jumped into the BDS kitchen, political science chair Paisley Currah, sent out an email to all other department chairs asked them to support its decision by joining it as a cosponsor of the evening. That’s when the real debate amongst us began.

History may not repeat itself, but human behavior sure does. Ironically, given the central role that City University (and indeed, Brooklyn College) played in the debates over Communism and in the middle of the previous century, this debate—for BDS opponents—raised many of the same kinds of issues faced by liberal and democratic socialist opponents of the Communist Party and its allies during the McCarthy period. As Daniel Bell explained of their predicament, “What the Communists could have done was say, ‘Yes, I’m a communist, and I will go to jail for my opinions.’ In effect, justify themselves as people having beliefs. But they didn’t. And they were trying to manipulate the situation by scaring the liberals, by saying, ‘You see? We’re under attack, and then you’ll be under attack!’” And the liberals did not know what to do. Issue after issue arose during this period for which liberals had no ready response, given their confusion about principle versus political palatability, coupled with their understandable refusal to appear to be on the side of people who were arguing deceptively on behalf of a cause they found abhorrent, or the naïve idealists they had snookered into embracing their cause. Bell’s friend and ally Nathan Glazer admitted decades later, “we never managed to figure out a good position. By good I mean not one that was politically defensible but that was respectable and moral and responsive to all the complicated issues raised. And I still don’t think we have one.

full: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/02/07/brooklyn-college-and-the-bds-debate.html

* * * *

NY Observer April 13, 2003
The Avenging Alterman
By George Gurley

Eric Alterman, the liberal author of the new book What Liberal Media?, was standing in the middle of Michael’s restaurant, the liberal-media hangout on West 55th Street in Manhattan. After a warm embrace with lefty novelist E.L. Doctorow, he took a seat.

Mr. Alterman reeked of success. Forty-three years old. Four books under his belt, with bold titles like Who Speaks for America? Media columnist for The Nation magazine. A Web blogger who is paid by MSNBC.com to write whatever the heck is on his mind every morning. Degrees from Cornell, Yale and Stanford. Best man at his wedding? George Stephanopoulos. Divorced now, but living with a cool lady-who hasn’t insisted he marry her!-and their cute kid on the Upper West Side.

He’s the kind of guy whom even close friends call “arrogant,” “intolerable” and “asshole”-but always affectionately and always followed by praise.

He apologized for being late for lunch. A reporter for NPR’s All Things Considered had called to interview him. (By the way, according to Mr. Alterman’s book, NPR ain’t so liberal.) He ordered foie gras, the Kobe beef and a glass of pinot noir. Earlier, he’d said he liked his lunches “expensive.” He has a brainy-little-kid quality, with large fish-like eyes behind glasses and a neatly trimmed goatee. He has a distinctive laugh that begins at raucous and ends in high, whinnying hysteria.

He was wearing a gray blazer, a purple button-down shirt and faded jeans, which was dressy compared to his normal attire. That evening Justin Smith, publisher of the magazine The Week , was throwing him a dinner party, which would be attended by liberal pals like Mark Green, writer Calvin Trillin, The Nation’s Victor Navasky and even three ex-models.

Although his book is positioned as a counterweight of sorts to two best-selling books by right-wingers- Slander by Republican blonde Ann Coulter and Bias: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News by Bernard Goldberg, which Mr. Alterman called “a long white-man’s whine”-not all of his targets are firmly on the right. Also coming in for criticism are New Republic editor in chief Marty Peretz, ABC comedian Bill Maher (“foolish”) and filmmaker Michael Moore (“Naderite”).

“I think what’s really valuable about the book is, it’s become such a given that the press is liberal. He’s poked some holes in that,” New York Times columnist Frank Rich told me. “And he’s done it with a lot of research and reportage. On both sides-the left and the right-there’s a tendency just to blather and use invective. On the right, you have an example like Ann Coulter-that The Times should be blown up because it’s such a left-wing den of iniquity. But the left can go over the top, too, about how right-wing the press is, and be driven too crazy by Fox News Channel, which is, most of all, entertainment. This book is a very reasonable , backed-up-by-argument case by someone who I think is a very sophisticated media critic.”

“I think a great many people were waiting for something like this to be said,” said Hendrik Hertzberg, The New Yorker ’s senior editor and a friend of Mr. Alterman’s for 20 years. “It sure has struck a nerve. He’s moved up in weight class. He’s a light heavyweight at least, which is not bad-that’s what Sugar Ray Robinson was.”

Mr. Alterman told me he was “enormously gratified” by the reception to his book (good review in The Times ), but added that he was also disappointed because the book had “been crowded out by the war,” and thus it had been hard to get “traction.”

“I had a lot of reasons to be anti-war, and the book was a small one,” he said. “Everything was dominated by the war, and still is.”

On The Daily Show on Comedy Central, Mr. Alterman told Jon Stewart that he thought there was more diversity in the Soviet Union under Stalin than on American talk radio today.

“Come on now,” Mr. Stewart said. “Now, I may have a great leaning toward your point of view-but Stalin? Now you’re just throwing crazy stuff out there!”

But Mr. Alterman sees himself as battling a huge tide of “crazy stuff”-first and foremost, anything that comes out of Ann Coulter’s mouth or pen.

“Coulter’s book is evil,” he said.

(Ms. Coulter told me she’d “never read anything” by Mr. Alterman and added, “I hear he’s practically become my newest stalker.”)

Mr. Alterman looked around the restaurant.

“Truthfully, I don’t dispute that just about everybody in this room is pro-abortion, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights, pro-campaign finance,” he said. “I feel I’m allowed in here. I mean, I’m not exactly at home . There’s no perfect place for me in the media-I’m the most liberal person in it, or one of them.”

Why was it good to be a liberal in 2003?

“There’s two reasons,” he said. “One is, if you’re a liberal about most things, you’re more likely to be right than not. But here’s an interesting reason: The rest of the country agrees with you. It’s basically a liberal country.”

(Another good reason might be that casting directors from The Sopranos know your name: A few weeks ago, Georgianne Walken e-mailed Mr. Alterman and asked if he would audition; The Sopranos was looking for someone to play a TV reporter. “I said, ‘Sure-provided this is not an April Fool’s joke,’” he said. “They faxed me my lines the next morning.” He auditioned for Sopranos creator David Chase-as did New Republic literary editor Leon Wieseltier and journalist Philip Gourevitch. But the tweedy would-be thespians lost out to a writer from the show, who got the part.)

I told him I saw liberal bias all over the media. For instance, I said, The New York Times actually wants Bush to fail in Iraq.

“I don’t know that,” he said. “I agree that the editorial page is against Bush …. I’m against Bush. I don’t want the war to fail. I want Bush to resign in ignominy-and the war to be a great success.”

What was ever in The Times that could possibly bother a liberal? I challenged.

“Jesus fucking Christ,” he said. “They endorsed George Pataki ! Look at what this man is doing to New York City. I have a daughter in New York City public schools. He’s destroying them!”

After a few more mouthfuls of Kobe beef, I again asserted that The Times under executive editor Howell Raines was a liberal tool.

“Well, why did Howell hate Clinton so much, then?” Mr. Alterman said. “Why did he love Ken Starr and hate Bill Clinton? He liked Ken Starr. You can’t be a liberal and like Ken Starr. He loved Ken Starr. It’s like liking Idi Amin.

“Here’s my question for you conspiracy nuts about The Times, ” Mr. Alterman continued. “Why did Howell Raines ask Frank Rich to stop writing his column? Frank Rich is the most literate, eloquent liberal writer we have. Why would Howell go to the single best writer of all the liberal columnists and say, ‘Stop doing it’?”

Because people were complaining about him?

“Nobody was complaining about him-people loved him. This is New York; this is the Upper West Side! Because there’s no goddamn conspiracy -that’s why!”

Eric Alterman was born in Queens and grew up upper-middle-class in Scarsdale. His mother was a school psychologist, his father a salesman and engineer. Young Eric was a bookish athlete who by age 18 was smoking pot every other day after high school. Bruce Springsteen saved his life, according to a book he wrote in 1999 ( It Ain’t No Sin to Be Glad You’re Alive: The Promise of Bruce Springsteen ). The song “Born to Run,” he wrote, “exploded in my home, in my mind and changed my life.” Once, Mr. Alterman hurled a pair of his hightops onto the stage at a Springsteen show.

He attended Cornell-where he smoked pot once a week-and said he was “all set to be like a New York Jewish literary intellectual.” He did his honors thesis on Jewish intellectuals, including I.F. Stone. The two got to know each other.

“I can’t risk being accused of dropping names of famous people,” he said. “We were very close until he died. I felt enormously lucky for that. We used to go to the movies. I was friends with his wife. He would tell me stories about hanging out with Albert Einstein. He’s sort of my external conscience. I often ask myself, ‘What would Izzy do?’”

Mr. Alterman spent his 20’s between Washington, New Haven and Paris, where he tried to be a writer and attended graduate school at Yale. He did freelance writing for The Nation , Harper’s Magazine , Mother Jones , The New Republic and The Times Magazine , for whom he profiled the late Republican political strategist Lee Atwater.

“I never had any more fun than I had with Lee Atwater,” he said. “He had a genius for the jugular of American politics, and without Lee Atwater there would be no Karl Rove, and without Karl Rove there would be no George W. Bush, and hence we’re all a lot worse off for his influence.”

Mr. Alterman’s first book came out in 1992, when he was pursuing a doctorate in U.S. history at Stanford. It was titled Sound and the Fury: The Making of a Punditocracy . He said he’d expected that his book would make people like George Will “afraid to show their faces in public again, because I had so humiliated and revealed them for the charlatans that they were-but in fact, nothing changed at all. Everything went back to the way it was.”

To promote the book, he appeared on The Today Show and The Tonight Show .

“I was more famous then,” he said. “When I was still in graduate school, I had my 15 minutes. And now I’m not that impressed with myself.”

“I don’t think that he had a sophomore slump after Sound and the Fury ,” said a friend. “But I think he expected to be big and famous after it.”

In 1996, Mr. Alterman became a regular on MSNBC with Ms. Coulter. (“I seem to have made a greater impression on him then he on me,” she told me.)

In July 1997, The Village Voice published an article by Ken Silverstein, in which he called Mr. Alterman’s ascension to the punditocracy “hypocritical,” accusing him of such sins as summering in the Hamptons and fawning over Melanie Griffith in a piece he wrote for Vanity Fair .

“He is incredibly rude and arrogant,” one intern who had worked for Mr. Alterman told The Voice . “He constantly wants to remind you that he’s Eric Alterman, that he knows a lot of important people, and that you’re a lowly intern.”

But he also earned fans. Freelance writer Katie Rosman was an assistant at Elle magazine when she first got to know Mr. Alterman, who was then a contributing editor at the women’s fashion magazine.

“He would call and be relatively demanding about silly little things-messengers for this or car service for that,” she said.

Now they’re close friends.

“I’ll poke fun at him now and say, ‘You were just one of those snotty writers that assistants hate,’” Ms. Rosman said. “And he says, ‘I was just doing it on purpose . I thought I was being funny !’”

“He has shocked me with the things he’s done,” she said. “He’ll call me and his line is, ‘So, do you want to be arm candy tonight?’ I’ll ask him what the event is, and he won’t tell me-I have to decide before. And then he’s taking me to George Soros’ apartment or some New Yorker party, and he introduces me to everybody . So I really admire him for that. He takes me to good parties.”

Currently, Mr. Alterman lives in the tidy Upper West Side apartment he shares with Diana Silver, a research scientist at New York University. They met in high school and worked together at the Bronx Zoo, smoking dope around the corner from the apes. They married other people, divorced them, and had a daughter together in the late 1990’s. Her initials are the same as her father’s; Mr. Alterman calls himself “E.R.A.” and his daughter “E.R.A. 2.”

His place is decorated with the usual “New York semi-single male” stuff-photos of Sinatra, Babe Ruth at bat, Springsteen, arty naked-lady pics, Mets stuff. Hundreds of books arranged by subject. Once a month, Mr. Alterman and Ms. Silver host a salon in his apartment for fellow lefties and “chicks,” he said.

How ambitious is Eric Alterman?

“If my life were about ambition, I wouldn’t have my politics,” he said. “And I would have a reputation for being a lot nicer. I’m just not very political-I make all kinds of enemies that are stupid of me to make.”

One would be fellow Nation columnist Alexander Cockburn.

“We hate each other,” Mr. Alterman said. “I like George Bush and Dick Cheney better than I like Alexander Cockburn. I’m not kidding. They are at least honestly misguided. I just think he’s a disgraceful writer. I don’t think he’s an honest person.”

“He has some sort of obsession with me, which I suppose is flattering,” Mr. Cockburn said. “I’ve never known a fellow to unify so many otherwise mutually antagonistic people in dislike of him. Long ago, I concluded his stuff is worthless-one more bedraggled little plume on the funeral hearse of the Democratic Party. The furthest I’ve gone is to call him a twerp-part brown-noser, part cheeky chappy.

“Eric is difficult,” said Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel. “But behind that difficult, gruff exterior is someone who cares deeply about progressive ideas and democracy in this country.”

“He’s very hard to understand,” said a friend of Mr. Alterman’s who did not wish to be identified. “Because he really is an unbelievable asshole and a really, really great person. He is the worst name-dropper in the world-because he only uses first names. He’ll say, ‘Oh, I had dinner with Paul [Newman] and Joanne last night …. ‘ He is a huge literary starfucker.”

Mr. Alterman was finished with his Kobe beef.

“I’m done,” he said brusquely to a waiter. “I’m done,” he repeated-slightly impatiently, meaning: “Take the plate away.”

He ordered a cappuccino low-fat and bantered with the waitress.

“Another thing I do that liberals don’t do is, I admire the beauty of waitresses,” he said. “That’s a beautiful waitress.”

November 23, 2012

Owen Jones on Gaza

Filed under: zionism — louisproyect @ 11:47 pm

November 21, 2012

A picture is worth a thousand words

Filed under: Fascism,zionism — louisproyect @ 10:33 pm

November 19, 2012

UK Jewish MP: Israel acting like Nazis in Gaza

Filed under: zionism — louisproyect @ 5:22 pm

November 18, 2012

Jews against Zionism

Filed under: zionism — louisproyect @ 1:22 am

Jewish Anti-zionist demonstrators protest near to the Israeli embassy in central London on November 15, 2012 outside of the Israeli embassy in central London.

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