Jonathan Chait

Clarifying My Take On Andrew Sullivan

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A little more on Andrew and the charge of anti-Semitism. In my response to Leon, I wrote:

I don't think that Andrew's transformation from overwrought hawk to overwrought dove is driven by, or has brought about, a different view of Jews. It seems instead to be the shattering of a brittle worldview and its replacement by a new worldview, equally brittle.

Andrew replies:

I have no different view of "Jews" than I have ever had.

Having any view of "Jews" is silly.

I guess I didn't write that as precisely as I wanted to. I was trying to say that Andrew's view of Jews have not changed, and his approach to Israel and supporters of Israel has gotten caught up in a broader change in his worldview. Mike Potemra does a better job of expressing what I was trying to say:

Sullivan disagrees with me and Leon on certain aspects of Israeli policy, and becomes very angry about the issue. If I didn’t know the man’s writing generally, I might harbor a certain suspicion: “OK, he disagrees with Netanyahu, but why does have to get so angry about it? Is there something else at the heart of this?” That suspicion would, of course, be very far from proof of anti-Semitism, but it would be a not-unreasonable object for curiosity. The fact is, though, that in Sullivan’s case we see the same level of rage on everything from the national debt to the precise parentage of Alaskan toddlers – so the likelihood that his anger about Israeli policies is rooted in some sort of dark animus against a particular ethnic group is very low.

Actually this is a tad bit unfair -- Andrew isn't always enraged. He mixes rage with a lot of silliness and irony, which is a big part of what makes his blog so interesting. But the basic idea holds.

The main point I was attempting to make in my response is that I find Andrew's recent take on Israel, like his old take, wildly oversimplistic and poorly considered. Like Leon, whose take on Israel I agree with and admire, I've been puzzled and sometimes dismayed by Andrew's sharp reversal. But I'm certain there's no bigotry there at all. In general, I think the political discourse is poisoned by too many accusations of racism and anti-Semitism. (The right mostly complains about the former, the left about the latter, but both fling such accusations at each other too frequently.)

If you haven't yet read Andrew's heartfelt response to Leon, you should.

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