Joe Klein's outburst about the "Jewish neocons" allegedly pulling John McCain's strings on behalf of Israel reminded me that I've been meaning to blog about the fact that liberals, including (and sometimes especially) Jewish liberals increasingly use the charge of "dual loyalty" to try to discredit, and thus silence, Jewish conservatives.
This is especially clear from Klein's piece, because unlike many writers, he actually shows an understanding of neoconservatism, which he describes, in roughly accurate terms, "as unilateral bellicosity cloaked in the utopian rhetoric of freedom and democracy." There is nothing uniquely "Jewish" about this ideology, and the neocons have applied to everything from the Salt II treaty to Grenada to Bosnia to Iraq, usually in circumstances that have nothing to do with Israel--as I have written, "if Israel suddenly was at complete peace with its neighbors and was no longer an issue of foreign policy concern, I would bet that all of the Jewish neoconservatives would remain neoconservatives, and continue to promote neoconservative views on foreign and domestic policy." And, as I've noted previously, Jews are not overrepresented among neoconservatives relative to their prominence as public intellectuals generally.
The purpose, then, of associating "neocons" with Jews, and neoconservatism exclusively or primarily with concern for Israel, is to delegitimize conservative Jews, just as conservative blacks are called "Uncle Toms" and whatnot. As the National Review media blog notes, "conservatives who aren't 'neo' in any appreciable way — say, Jonah Goldberg — are denounced as 'neocons' based mostly on their surnames."
One interesting aspect of all this is that the standard left-wing "Uncle Tom" attack on black conservatives accuses them of being insufficiently supportive of "their people," while the emerging attack on Jewish conservatives accuses them of being too supportive of "their people" and thus having dual loyalties. Hmm.
UPDATE: In reaction to a previous, more outlandish Klein screed, Shmuel Rosner of Ha'aretz pointed out quite aptly that liberal Jews also argue that the policies they support will help Israel. [And given that Israel is very popular with Americans in general, and American Jews in particular, it would be foolhardy to argue that a policy is good because it would hurt Israel; even the Chomskys and Finkelsteins of the world usually claim to have Israel's ultimate best interests at heart.] But, Rosner points out, it's only the conservative Jews, or at least the ones that are hawkish on foreign policy, including Israel-related foreign policy that get accused by the likes of Klein of dual loyalty:
Here's a little mind game with which to demonstrate my point. Imagine Klein, back in the late Nineties, writing this:
"The fact that a great many Jewish officials in the Clinton administration plumped for this Oslo process between Israel and the Palestinians, and now for an even more foolish summit at Camp David between Ehud Barak and Yassir Arafat, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. diplomatic leverage and money, to make the world safe for Israel."
Can you imagine him writing such thing? Can you imagine him blaming the many-many Jewish members of the Clinton administration for tilting the American agenda toward the peace process only because they want to help Israel?
If you can - Klein is being honest. If you can't - Klein is just using religion to denounce people with whom he has policy differences.