J’Accuse! Continued

Previously: How The American Thinker cracked the Obama code With Commentary's imprimatur, the anti-Obama smear campaign has left the realm of anonymous chain emails and moved into the realm of (semi-)respectable conversation. Even so, those following in Pollak's footsteps have … Read More

By / March 3, 2008

Previously: How The American Thinker cracked the Obama code

With Commentary's imprimatur, the anti-Obama smear campaign has left the realm of anonymous chain emails and moved into the realm of (semi-)respectable conversation. Even so, those following in Pollak's footsteps have been careful to maintain the esotericism of the whole enterprise.

Picking up on Pollak's attacks on Samantha Power, Michael Rubin of the National Review gestures at a Power appearance at a conference on ethnic violence, which he points out, apropos of nothing, was partially funded by George Soros. (Ding!) Rubin quotes Power asking extemporaneously why a New York Times story on the Human Rights Watch report on Jenin led with the finding that there was no massacre, rather than the finding that war crimes did indeed take place. (Ding!) Power trespassed the inviolable dictate that one must never voice an articulate string of noises that could even unreasonably be interpreted as suggesting that Israel ever has or ever could do anything the least bit blameworthy. Imagine that: an antisemite cloaking herself from suspicion by spending decades building a career as the pre-eminent expert on genocide and the universality of human rights in the English-speaking world. And she is close to Barack Obama. You know what that means.

Meanwhile, Pollak's fellow Commentary writer Eric Trager, exemplifying marginally more scruples than his comrades, labors under no illusion that tenuous chains of association implicate Obama as an enemy of Israel. He also disavows as "disturbing slander" suggestions that Barack Obama is a madrassa-trained Muslim radical — a neat trick for Trager to pull off, in light of his colleague Pollak's adulatory endorsement of that very claim. Yet the extensive corpus of Obama's professions of adamant support for Israel, of which Trager is perfectly cognizant, might be as nothing in light of a single word Obama once used. "[J]ust as the Palestinians commenced the Second Intifada following Camp David," Obama "called for an 'even-handed approach' to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (Ding!) If Obama should ever advocate a judicious, fair-minded, just, or equitable resolution of the conflict, we'll know for sure he has it in for Israel.

Usually, just restating the Kristol-Lasky-Pollak-Rubin-Trager maligning of Barack Obama and his advisers — or as Pollak might put it, to state declaratively what they only have the guts to imply through innuendo, loaded rhetorical questions, and code words — is enough to expose the logical and factual trainwrecks underlying the whole preposterous effort. Thus the slanderers cannot simply come out and say what they are hinting at, because the conclusions they are trying to foist upon their readers and the public at large are farcical. And the slanderers know that, which is why they steadfastly decline ownership of their smears, instead posing absurdly as journalists asking reasonable questions. From that posture, they can feign innocence when more earnest but less well-heeled political allies of theirs openly promote the idea that Senator Obama is a terrorist-sympathizing fifth columnist. Indeed, by the time such notions take root in the public consciousness, the original slanderers are distant enough to give an empty denunciation of the lies they helped circulate, should they so choose.

The terrific triviality and phoniness of the smear campaign against Obama are its most salient features, because none of it is ultimately about him. The slanderers' real project is an exertion of control over thought and language, by which they seek to maintain the discursive convention that friends of Israel see that country and its affairs exclusively through the optics of uncompromising Israeli expansionism, and that anyone who sees Israel differently is an enemy. Small wonder that they have targeted Obama. As he put it in his meeting with Cleveland's Jewish leaders two weekends ago:

I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have a honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress.

For someone genuinely interested in bringing about a just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — two states, stable, secure, and defensible borders for Israel, human rights and self-determination for the Palestinians, and above all, peace for both sides — Obama's remarks are obvious and uncontroversial. But if his comments were to take root as the basic wisdom that they do in fact represent, the game would be up. There would be no more false dichotomy between a lordly vision of a greater Israel with permanent settlements in the West Bank and resettlement in Gaza on one hand, and antipathy towards the Zionist project on the other.

For those ideologically committed to defending and promoting this false choice, and unscrupulous enough to vitiate minimal standards of honesty and propriety in doing so, the attempt to portray Barack Obama as a closet antisemite is a tactically shrewd means to an end. Sickening as they may be, the defamation of Obama and professional and reputational consequences for his associates are a mere afterthought to the censorious, petrified state of debate over Israel that Obama's slanderers hope to preserve.

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