Yesterday the Washington Post op-ed page (which has abandoned any concept of balance and is becoming a joke) printed perhaps its worst piece I can recall in my 40 years as a reader. It is this column by the deplorable tag-team of Cornel West and Michael Lerner, called “Unfair Tilt Toward Israel.” Today, Clifford May of National Review Online provides insight into where West and Lerner are coming from, and exposes some of their errors and distortions.
The opening claim of the West/Lerner piece is that the Democratic party stifled debate about the Israel when Howard Dean ran into criticism for suggesting a shift in our Middle East policy. This statement reflects either total confusion (probably Lerner) or total cynicsm (probably West). Dean’s position was debated in the same way that most non-starter ideas are debated during the political primary season — Dean floated his views, they were roundly criticized, Dean backed away. This is the same “debate” that occurred over his statement about reaching out to folks who display the Confederate flag. It’s the same debate that would occur if he advocated a power-sharing arrangement with Saddam Hussein in Iraq or an end to affirmative action. Very little real debate occurs during the nomination process. That which does involves issues where both sides have a critical mass of support (what to do in Iraq) or concerns the mechanics of implementing a general policy that has universal support within the party (what kind of national health insurance system should we adopt).
West, I’m sure, understands this. He has simply used “open debate” as the hook for launching an attack on Israel. Casting the article in this way probably helped get the Post’s attention (although it takes less and less to cause the Post to publish anti-Isreali screeds). Perhaps it also fooled a few readers. In any case, its the attack on Israel that matters, and May does a good job of countering most of it.
One sentence, though, requres additional comment. West and Lerner conclude that, by criticizing Dean to the point that he backed away, the Democrats are “validating misleading stereotypes about Jewish power and money.” This is hate speech. West and Lerner are saying that a Jewish conspiracy is controlling what the Democrats will and will not discuss. Having found the stereotype valid in this instance, calling it “misleading” (not false, just misleading) does not provide even a fig leaf of cover for the anti-semitism being vented on the Post’s op-ed page. (This approach is as unacceptable as saying that low scores by African-Ameican students on a particular test validate the misleading stereotype of black inferiority).
West and Lerner, of course, have the right to make statements of this genre, just as the Post has the right to publish them, if it sees fit. But it doesn’t take a conspiracy theory to explain why the Democrats don’t want to go anywhere near the West/Lerner agenda.
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