18 November 2007 - Say what?
Anthony Julius begins his review of Ruth Wisse’s Jews and Power in the New York Times with this awful paragraph:
Ruth Wisse has written a book on a topic that excites a great deal of attention now, but she has written it from an unusual perspective. Her book is not about the power that Israel exercises over the Palestinians, nor is it about the power that the “Israel lobby” is commonly thought to exercise over United States foreign policy. Israel and the “lobby” now tend to be regarded in Europe and perhaps also, but to a lesser extent, in the United States, as Jewish projects inimical to the causes of justice and international security. A new book on either of these topics would be but a minor addition to a substantial industry — that Israel oppresses Palestinians by denying them a state, and oppresses Americans by denying them control over their state, has become the received wisdom of the times.
I am reminded that Mearsheimer and Walt claim that "the balance of opinion clearly favors Israel" in the Times and elsewhere.
UPDATE Nov. 19: The comments below have it exactly right--almost. I see now that I read far too much into the opening paragraph of Julius's review. Point taken, and duly noted. However, I think Julius concedes far too much to the views he criticizes. Among whom, for example, is Israeli oppression of America "the received wisdom of the times"? A marginal few, I would venture, even today.
Second update: Well, when you're wrong, you're wrong, and I guess I hit a foul ball here. I never meant to suggest that Julius himself held those views, only that his introduction was ill-conceived, and perhaps all too easily embraced by the editorial staff at the Times. Let me be more specific about my objection to the opening, however: it reads as if it could be a disclaimer to what follows. Wisse's views are often treated in this way--as if some prophylactic rhetoric is needed to protect the author from being associated with her forbidden ideological category. Taking the criticisms below into account, it may be unfair to imagine this is what Julius was doing. But that's how I read the review at first--albeit very early in the morning, which may account for my trigger-happiness.