19 November 2007

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.

Say what?

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.


At 1:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Careful not to jump the gun: Julius, as you might already know, led the fight against the British academic boycott campaign. He begins the review's second paragraph, "A book, on the other hand, that celebrates the Jewish return to sovereign power, in all its promise and complexity, is as unusual as it is welcome."

Could be that you're less than thrilled to see the views in the first paragraph - even if they're presented as foils to the author's own - expressed as though they represent an unfortunate consensus. Could be that my reading comprehension's taken a hit. Could be, finally, that we're just not on the same page.

All in all, though, your blog's been indispensable.

At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You may be reading too much into Anthony Julius' lede. I think he is trying to highlight – inelegantly, I will grant – the oddity of a book titled "Jews and Power" being anything other than an anti-semitic tract. I don't think he wants the reader to take the opinions stated in his lede as his own view.

At 10:09 PM, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

"Among whom, for example, is Israeli oppression of America "the received wisdom of the times"? A marginal few, I would venture, even today."

I think you misread Julius's opening. When he speaks of "received wisdom" he is speaking deliberately with some ironic exaggeration, to accentuate the absurdity of the claim. I'm quite familar with his views and ain't no way he is agreeing with any of it.

Here is aquote from an article he authored:

" [They]control America, and through America work for Israel’s domination of the Middle East and Jewish domination of the world.

Ideas about illegitimate and conspiratorial Jewish influence over national governments have thus been floating around for some time. Though they are integral to the worldview of the modern antisemite, they also have a currency among the merely ignorant and uninformed. This second, much larger group is made up of proto-antisemites — that is, people with the disposition to believe the worst of Jews, if told suitable lies by persuasive or ostensibly authoritative individuals.....

The lies related by these individuals can be lethal in their ultimate effect, because they encourage non-Jews to believe that the Jews have them under attack. This in turn leads non-Jews to take hostile action against Jews in what they consider to be their own defence. There is a short line, then, between the lie and the assault, between the word and the deed."



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