The Insufferable Daniel Levy

The New Republic

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THE PLANK DECEMBER 10, 2007

The Insufferable Daniel Levy

Daniel Levy is a senior fellow at a liberal think tank called the New America Foundation and also advertises himself as the "lead Israeli drafter of the Geneva Initiative," a peace proposal that was put together outside the purview of the Israeli and Palestinian governments, precisely because it had virtually no constituency among the Israeli and Palestinian people. It was a Dead-on-Arrival proposition, and only to the credulous would someone's association with it seem impressive (and Levy's fans are the most gullible of people). Somehow, in recent months Levy has emerged as an "expert" commentator on the Arab-Israeli conflict in mainstream-media publications and broadcasts. He's become especially popular with the supposed "reality-based community," earning the role of Matthew Yglesias's go-to guy on all things Israel.

Levy recently participated in a bloggingheads.tv segment with David Frum, in which he argued, among other things, that Israel started the Six Day War, that Palestinian suicide bombings in both the 1990's and after the collapse of the Camp David negotiations in 2000 were in response to Israeli aggression, and that Yasser Arafat cannot be implicated in the start of the second intifada. Kooky stuff, to be sure.After watching this spectacle, Noah Pollak wrote an article last week "fact-checking" Levy. It is thorough, steeped in research, and devastating. After reading it, I waited with baited breath to hear Levy's response -- and this takes the form of a post on Levy's blog ostensibly in response to Pollak, but which also, out of nowhere, seeks to smear The New Republic by way of impugning the work of Yossi Klein Halevi, who filed a reported piece last week for us about the Israeli intelligence community's views of the NIE. Except Levy does not bother to respond to a single one of the empirical assertions made in either article. Instead, he resorts to ad hominem attack and crude conspiracy-mongering, declaring that TNR and National Review "both suck" because they are ideologically at home in "the cozy camaraderie of Likud-land" -- and then presumes to expose, for all to see, the sinister financial and ideological connections through which the hatchet-men of Likud-land do their dirty work.

There is an audience for Daniel Levy's writing: the rubes who fall for argumentation that roughly emulates the following: "Michael Ledeen, AEI, Marty Peretz, Bill Kristol, Netanyahu.....AGGHHHH!" This is an accurate reduction of Levy's piece -- read it for yourself. Levy cannot respond to the substantive content of his critics' arguments, so he resorts to the kind of lazy, guilt by association that works wonders with people who go gaga over seeing the acronym PNAC.

Maybe it's asking too much these days to expect American liberals to reject the kind of conspiracy mongering their predecessors derided when it emitted from the John Birch Society. The temptation is too great for the left to fight their policy battles like apparats. But Levy degrades the discourse by inventing history. Those that take him seriously betray nothing less than their own credulity. Who knew the "reality based community" would be such easy marks?

 --James Kirchick

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