Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.
In reading Mr. Bret Stephens latest polemic titled ‘Steve Bannon Is Bad for the Jews’ – the reader has to marvel at Stephens’ basic intellectual/moral dishonesty! Mr. Stephens parents are secular Jews, he is a Neo-Conservative and former editor for the Jerusalem Post, one of the propaganda arms of the government of Israel.
The ‘as if’ of his latest column on The Zionist Organization of America inviting and listening to Steve Bannon. That Mr. Stephens as thinker/writer/propagandist, is somehow an ‘objective observer’ of the political present, and the exercise of a reprehensible political conformism of a group of Zionists toward an identifiable enemy of respectable bourgeois politics: this exercise in public shaming of what Mr. Stephens considers an ally, in defense of the Zionist Project is about maintaining both political and ideological conformity.
A rapprochement between Zionists, Bannon and his Aryan fellow traveler Milo Yiannopoulos or even Richard Spencer is not simply a mistake but potentially catastrophic, yet Stephens misses the very central notion of politics making strange bedfellows. What Stephens calls for is a political pragmatism: the care and maintenance of ‘mainstream political support’ for Israel.
If Israel is going to retain mainstream political support, it cannot allow itself to become the pet cause of right-wing bigots and conspiracy theorists. That requires putting serious distance between Bannon and every pro-Israel organization, to say nothing of the Israeli government itself, by refusing to provide a platform for him and his ilk. Personal and national reputations alike always depend on the company one keeps. Not every would-be supporter deserves consideration as a friend.
The rise of Netanyahu, Naftali Bennett of The Jewish Home, Avigdor Lieberman of Yisrael Beiteinu. For more information on Mr. Lieberman and his evolution/shifting political positions,or call it by its name political opportunism, see this Wikipedia entry:
These politicians, and the violent, indeed murderous Settler Movement, prove rather conclusively, that Israel and its politicians are destroying that ‘mainstream political support’ without any help from The Zionist Organization of America !
Mr. Stephens then lapses into a paragraph long admonition about both Anti-Semitism and the clear and present danger of ‘every form of illiberalism’ ! The reader has to pause for a moment, and consider that Neo-Conservatism, from its philosophical foundations in Leo Strauss’ mendacious re-reading of the Western Philosophical Tradition. To the narcissistic ravings of Allan Bloom, in his The Closing of the American Mind, to Samuel P. Huntington’s ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ that brought the paranoia of ‘The Other’ to the status of an American political revelation. The Project for a New American Century found its realization in Bush The Younger’s ‘War on Terror’ that is our 30 Years War. The vaunted ‘repair of the world’ is the maladroit cover for the utterly nihilistic fraud of Neo-Conservatism. Mr. Stephens styles himself as the elusive ‘voice of reason’ if not the modern day prophet of a five thousand year old tradition, that politicized itself into Zionism. Political Judaism and Political Islam have one of many commonalities, the use of violence to achieve its ends, the very definition of illiberalism!
Anti-Semitism is both the socialism of fools and the conservatism of creeps. If the past century holds a lesson for Jews, it’s to beware every form of illiberalism, including the illiberalism of those who purport to be on our side. Repair of the world may not be the central teaching of Judaism. But it’s always wise to stay far from those who wish to tear it asunder.