Thursday, 3 January 2008

Alterman/Rosen Spat in the International Herald Tribune

Here's Eric Alterman on his recent column in the International Herald Tribune and the Letter to the Editor the IHT would not publish.

Because the column was reprinted in the International Herald Tribune, the American Jewish Committee's executive director, David Harris, wrote a nasty letter in reply, which the AJC then put out as a press release, here. I wrote a letter back to the IHT, which, as far as I can tell, they ignored, so I post it below:
To the Editor:
In response to my Nation column, "Bad for the Jews," reprinted in the IHT, David Harris of the American Jewish Committee casts many aspersions, calling my writing "bad for objectivity," calls me an "ideologue" and compares me to my (nameless) "mirror images on the right." What he fails to do amidst all this name-calling, however, is to dispute a single fact I presented in my column. But despite his charge that I "gloss over the survey data that does not bolster [my] case," Harris does not cite a single instance in which I do so.
Nothing in my column suggests that "you are with us or against us," as Harris falsely claims. His primary argument appears to be over the fact that I included his organization among those who have "historically associated itself with the hawkish side of the debate." But here again, he fails to cite a single instance in which his organization has associated itself with the dovish side of the foreign policy debate, save the AJC's rhetorical support for a "two-state solution," a position shared by both George W. Bush and the late Ariel Sharon, and hence, not so dovish. (And for the record, the position of "schizophrenia" and "anguished nuance" to which Harris attributes to most American Jews on the Palestinian question is precisely my own as well, which makes it difficult to see how I might have missed it.)
What Harris also fails to mention, however -- and I don't blame him -- are the decades in which the AJC underwrote Commentary, a magazine filled with extremely vicious and vituperative attacks on anyone -- particularly Jews -- who deviated even slightly from the hardline-Neocon agenda. Indeed, the Commentary considers itself rightly to be the proud birthplace of Neoconservatism itself, something that would have been impossible without the AJC's loyal support. Alas, Harris's protestations notwithstanding, more than three decades' underwriting of the most influential hard-right vehicle that Neoconservatives enjoyed anywhere speaks rather more powerfully than a single letter to the editor.
Eric Alterman
New York, New York

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