The New York Times reports on the Andrew Sullivan vs. Leon Wieseltier controversy. The report is not quite right; it says that Wieseltier accused Sullivan of anti-Semitism, when Wieseltier actually accused Sullivan of recklessly engaging in venomous rhetoric that gives aid and comfort to anti-Semites and stokes anti-Semitism. This may be cold comfort to Sullivan and his defenders, but we might as well get the story right, and the difference is important for reasons discussed below. You can read Wieseltier’s original article here, Sullivan’s response here, and Wieseltier’s rejoinder (much better than his original piece, IMHO) here.
I have a few small contributions to make to the debate. One is that I find it extremely odd that Sullivan is so vociferous in attacking Israel’s defenders (rather than just Israel’s policies) when, as Jonathan Chait points out, he himself rather recently was one of Israel’s most vociferous defenders. If Sullivan himself was once persuaded that Israel’s cause is just, shouldn’t that lead him to some circumspection about attributing Israel’s support in the U.S. to a nefarious cabal of “neocons”, the “Goldfarb-Krauthammer wing” of the Jewish community, AIPAC, and so forth? Maybe a lot of people find Israel’s case compelling for the exact same reasons Sullivan did as recently as eight years ago. But Sullivan is almost uniquely uncharitable to people who hold the views he himself held just a few years ago, so this probably reflects a general “convert going after the heretics” mentality on his part. Plus, given his blogging about Sarah Palin, Trig, et al., is there much reason to think he hasn’t gone off the deep end generally?
Second, Wieseltier’s notes, in his rejoinder, that Sullivan has apologized a couple of times for engaging in rhetoric perceived to be anti-Semitic, and adds, “There is [...]