The problems with the ritual squawking that "anti-Zionism is not anti-Semitism" have rarely been made so clear as in the egregious faux pas just committed by John Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy. Indeed, contrary to relentless propagandistic efforts to conflate them, anti-Zionism is not necessarily anti-Semitic, and a principled anti-Zionism is both possible and necessary. But it is an unavoidable reality that in the real world, anti-Semitism will always be poised to slip into anti-Zionism, and legitimate anti-Zionists must be vigilant about this. The failure to respond to real anti-Semitism is the surest sign that (much of) contemporary anti-Zionism has failed on this point.
We've always maintained (despite the requisite howls of protest) that Mearsheimer's thesis that the Israel Lobby controls (or wields undue "influence" over) US foreign policy is indeed an anti-Semitic trope—a contention, by the way, which bears absolutely no impact on the justice of the Palestinian cause. Now Mearsheimer removes all room for doubt on his (at least) faulty judgement by writing a jacket blurb for the new book by the fairly open anti-Semite Gilad Atzmon, The Wandering Who? The Atlantic's blogger on Jewish issues, Jeffrey Goldberg aggressively goes after Mearsheimer on this. First, he provides the text of Mearsheimer's deeply embarrassing blurb:
Gilad Atzmon has written a fascinating and provocative book on Jewish identity in the modern world. He shows how assimilation and liberalism are making it incredibly difficult for Jews in the Diaspora to maintain a powerful sense of their 'Jewishness.' Panicked Jewish leaders, he argues, have turned to Zionism (blind loyalty to Israel) and scaremongering (the threat of another Holocaust) to keep the tribe united and distinct from the surrounding goyim. As Atzmon's own case demonstrates, this strategy is not working and is causing many Jews great anguish. The Wandering Who? Should be widely read by Jews and non-Jews alike.
Goldberg then goes on to provide egregious examples of Atzmon's abject Holocaust revisionism and Hitler apologism, and spewing of classically fascist Jewish banking conspiracy theories. He later calls out Mearsheimer for issuing a glib denial that accused Goldberg of "falsely accus[ing] me of lending support to a Holocaust denier and defender of Hitler on the basis of writings that I did not read and did not comment upon." As Goldberg documents, at least two of the incriminating Atzmon quotations he cited were from the very book that Mearsheimer had praised!
The problem is that Goldberg himself has predictably pro-Israel politics—as we have pointed out time and time and time again. So, in the usual dilemma, those legitimately concerned about anti-Semitism will see only an Israel apologist coming to their defense, and those predisposed to view anti-Semitism as a mere apparition conjured by sneaky Zionist propaganda agents will be further entrenched in their prejudice.
We are happy to report that the anti-Zionist blog Jews sans Frontieres has also called out Mearsheimer on this affair. But there is one point that Jews sans Frontieres gets just about 100% wrong. They write:
Of course Atzmon is antisemitic. I think a lot of people who steered clear of him, including yours truly, have been loath to say that because of the way this accusation has been weaponized by Zionists, and the desire not to give them any credibility.
The JSF blogger does partially redeem himself, noting, "But that kind of circumlocution quite often has a price." To say the least! The cynical "weaponizing" of the accusation of anti-Semitism to silence critics of Israel does not lessen our responsibility to be clear in calling out real anti-Semitism. On the contrary, it increases it.
Sinister propaganda flourishes in a clouded intellectual climate, and withers in the sun. The cause of clarity is served by ruthless truth-telling, not timid equivocation.