Glenn Greenwald accused Cantor of pledging allegiance to Israel over the U.S., and Greenwald's accusations were amplified with accusations by other left-wingers that Cantor was a traitor.
The dual loyalty charge against American Jews has an ignominious history. This Time magazine editorial from 1941 discusses how it's done, Jew-Baiting:
Last week freedom-loving U.S. citizens —heirs of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and a great host of heroes—had genuinely good reason to fear that Freedom might perish from their land. For last week Charles Augustus Lindbergh and Gerald Prentice Nye cast aside all but the last veil of pretense and, in the pattern established by Adolf Hitler years ago, sought to make the Jews a public national issue in the U.S.
Hitler showed how attacks on the Jews can be used as a prime device for promoting discord, inciting bitterness, destroying tolerance and ultimately overthrowing the basic principles of civil liberties and personal freedom. Last week, continuing to divide the nation, Hero Lindbergh attacked the Jews as being one of the "three most important groups who have been pressing this country toward war.'' The other two groups: the British and the Roosevelt Administration.
It is no news that Jews heartily dislike Hitler and would gladly see him frazzled. They would be less than human if they did not. Hero Lindbergh, piously declaring that "no person with a sense of the dignity of mankind can condone the persecution of the Jewish race in Germany," offered U.S. Jews advice: they should suppress their natural opinion. He added: "The Jewish groups in this country should be opposing it [war] ... for they will be among the first to feel its consequences." The plain implication was that the Jews will be blamed for war if it comes and will be persecuted because of it when opportunity arises. If this was not a threat it was the next thing to it.Read the attacks on Cantor chronicled in my prior post, and you will see that these themes are repeated with great frequency: American Jews push us towards war in the interest of Israel, serve their own interests not those of our country, and the "Israel lobby" has too much influence.
Next to blaming the Jews for a war (especially if lost), the most effective anti-Jew talk is to accuse Jews of having more than their share of wealth and influence.
The irony, or sickness, of how the dual loyalty charge is made in 2010 is that Jewish leftist bloggers are at the forefront.
In addition to Greenwald, M.J. Rosenberg, who works for Media Matters, is quite blunt and unapologetic in using the charge of dual loyalty against Cantor and other pro-Israel American Jews:
AIPAC officials never, ever, say that when push comes to shove their loyalty is with Israel not the United States. In fact, the accusation that this is the case is the charge AIPAC hates most.Rosenberg misrepresents Cantor's statement, but it really doesn't matter to him, because he understands the power of accusing American Jews of disloyalty.
But the soon-to-be Majority Leader came right out and said it: Israel, right or wrong.
So too does Philip Weiss, who unlike Greenwald and Rosenberg, is honest enough to state that Cantor being Jewish is fair game and essential to making the dual loyalty charge stick:
Does it matter that Cantor is Jewish? All the commenters step around this fact. (Except Laura Rozen: Cantor "is set to become the highest ranking Jewish member of Congress in history.") They don't want to feed anti-Semitism; some of them are Jews, they obviously believe that you can be Jewish and American and not be biased toward Israel. And that's true, you can...
And as to dual loyalty, Eric Alterman and John Judis both explained that dual loyalty is part of support for Zionism. So did the anti-Zionist Rabbi Elmer Berger 70 years ago. So did Herzl's rich English hosts 110 years ago when they told him to get lost, they were doing fine in England.
And the reason it's vital to talk about these things now is that you can't unpack the disastrous American decision to invade Iraq or the push now to go to war with Iran (or indeed the unending support for Israeli colonization of the West Bank, or the defeat of the right of return in the 40s and 50s when American presidents were demanding the return of the refugees) without talking about the lobby and the construction of Jewish identity. I submit that not acknowledging the Jewish piece of this is a kind of forcible political stupidity that inhibits genuine understanding.It is fair to criticize Israel, supporters of Israel, and the incoming Majority-Leader of the House. But make your case to the American people on the merits, not by stoking charges that Jews are not loyal to the United States.
It is precisely because these leftist Jews have not been able to make the case against Israel to the American people that they resort to the dual loyalty smear. And it's time to start calling them out on it.
Update: M.J. Rosenberg responds that I Am Just A Member Of The Tribe.
Also, David Bernstein at Volokh Conspiracy points out that another of Greenwald's arguments, that the U.S. should stop giving aid to Israel because Israel has a higher standard of living, also is false.
And, Cantor's spokesman also has written a column decrying the blatently false characterizations of the press release he wrote:
More concerning, however, is that not one of the individuals mentioned here inquired, called or emailed about the intent Eric’s remarks. Not one took the time to ask for additional details about this part of their conversation before putting their own words into his mouth, resulting in accusations of being a traitor or committing felonious acts.While the spokesman's explanation makes perfect sense, it is somewhat beside the point. Greenwald, Rosenberg, Weiss, and the others couldn't have cared less about a fair reading of the press release drafted by Cantor's spokesman.
In the four days since the original post, the charge has been repeated hundreds of times. This kind of echo chamber is not only sloppy, but terribly dangerous.
Update 11-20-2010 - My response to Glenn Greenwald's response, Glenn Greenwald Plays Victim.
Glenn Greenwald Does His Israel-Firsters Dance Again
The "Israel-Firsters" Slur Rears Its Ugly Head
What Does The "Israel Lobby" Have To Do With The Discovery Channel Hostage Taking?
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