The soul of Juan Cole

Professor Efraim Karsh is the prominent British historian of the Middle East at the University of London. In a column for the New Republic, Karsh turns his sights on “Juan Cole’s bad blog.” Cole is the University of Michigan history professor who has made a name for himself with a blog devoted to the Middle East. Karsh’s critique of Cole exposes the heart of much of what passes for criticism of the alleged “neo-con” influence on Bush administration foreign policy:

Cole may express offense at the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion], but their obsession with the supposed international influence of “world Zionism” resonates powerfully in his own writings. How else can one describe his depiction of U.S. foreign policy as controlled by a ruthless Zionist cabal implanted at the highest echelons of the Bush administration and employing “sneaky methods of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of intelligence” to promote its goals? And what of Cole’s claim that the pro-Israel lobby aipac, in alliance with the Christian Right, represents a sinister force controlling congressional decisions on policy toward Israel? “The Founding Fathers of the United States deeply feared that a foreign government might gain this level of control over a branch of the United States government, and their fears have been vindicated,” Cole laments.
The chairman and CEO of this imaginary Zionist cabal is Israeli premier and Likud leader Ariel Sharon, whom Cole despises–so much so that he cannot bring himself to refer to Sharon without resorting to the vilest invectives. He is the butcher of Beirut, a mafia don, war criminal, land grabber, starver of children, and so on. “Couldn’t he shut his enormous pie hole[?]” Cole wonders of Sharon. “Apparently [Bush] has fallen for a line from the neo-cons in his administration that they can deliver the Jewish vote to him in 2004 if only he kisses Sharon’s ass,” he writes in another post. And all this comes from a historian priding himself on his dispassionate and evenhanded approach.
Cole is of course not the first nor the last to argue that U.S. foreign policy has been hijacked by the Jewish state (one recalls Pat Buchanan’s description of Congress as Israel’s “amen corner”). But, while most anti-Israel (indeed, anti-Jewish) critics tend to hide behind the more neutral term “neocons,” Cole does not shy from labeling prominent Jewish members of the Bush administration (or, for that matter, anyone not overtly hateful of Sharon) as “Likudniks.”
Conscious of the racist overtones of his criticism, Cole attempts to present it as purely businesslike. “Some have attempted to argue that the very term `Neoconservative’ is a code word for derogatory attitudes toward Jews,” he writes. “This argument is mere special pleading and a playing of the race card, however, insofar as only a tiny percentage of American Jews are Neoconservatives, and only a tiny percentage of Neoconservatives are Jews.” True enough. But then why the substitution of the term Likudniks for neocons? And why is it that the Likudniks who most obsess Cole all have names like Wolfowitz, Feith, Perle, Adelman, Ledeen, Gaffney, Wurmser, Pipes, Rubin, or Kristol?

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