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Posts Tagged ‘National Review’

A Hate-Filled Voice Silenced

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010
Joseph Sobran died last week. Regular readers may recall the Monitor devoting a handful of columns over the years to Sobran’s malicious commentary on Jews and Israel. He was a supremely talented writer with a prose style smooth as silk, but sometime in the mid-1980′s he descended deep into the fever swamps of anti-Semitism and never resurfaced.
Sobran was the kind of man who could complain that “Hitler died in 1945, but anti-Hitler hysteria is still going strong”; who cautioned against “the excessive moral prestige Jews have in the media and the public square”; who decried, in a column following the release of “Schindler’s List,” what he called “all this Holocaust-harping”; and who characterized Nazi genocide as basically an overreaction to the crimes of “Jewish-led communist movements.”
He was also someone who really believed that, as he once wrote, “History is replete with the lesson that a country in which the Jews get the upper hand is in danger. Such was the experience of Europe during Jewish-led Communist revolutions in Russia, Hungary, Romania and Germany.”
And he was a person whose deep-seated hostility to Israel caused him to harbor particular scorn for non-Jewish writers sympathetic to the Jewish state, as when he lamented that “Israel’s journalistic partisans include so many gentiles – lapsed goyim, you might say.”
Though Sobran’s work over the final decade and a half of his life was relegated mainly to the Internet, before that he had enjoyed a remarkably mainstream career as a syndicated columnist, a regular commentator, from 1979 to 1991, on the CBS radio network’s “Spectrum” series, and as a longtime senior editor at National Review.
Sobran’s increasingly negative focus on Jews and Israel led National Review’s late editor William F. Buckley to start distancing himself from Sobran before finally booting him from the magazine in 1990.
In 2002 Sobran wrote a rather lengthy letter to the Monitor responding to a column that had highlighted some of his more outrageous comments on Jews and Israel. It must be said that the tone of the letter was cordial throughout and even charming in terms of its candor, as when he owned up to the realization that he “may sound like an unpleasant sorehead” and confessed, “I wish I thought I had more to be grateful for.”
He also lamented, rather cryptically, that if he had a theme song it would probably be “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and added, disarmingly, “I don’t blame you or anyone else who finds me hard to put up with.”
Obviously this was not a very happy man.
While Sobran chose not to address the Monitor’s concerns about his feelings toward Jews in general, he showed no such reticence in discussing his attitude toward Israel.
“I can’t accept [Israel's] claims,” he wrote. “How could I? I’m a Catholic. I don’t think a U.S.-Israeli alliance is good for the U.S., and particularly for any Sobran boys who may wind up in another war. I’m not especially pro-Palestinian; in some ways I admire the Israelis; but mostly I want to stay OUT of their quarrel. As they say, I don’t have a dog in that fight; I just want to protect my own puppies.”
His argument sounded reasonable enough on its face – a concerned father worried for the welfare of his sons, fearful of losing them over a dispute far removed from his sphere of interest or concern.
Until, that is, one recalled all his comments about Jews being such a negative, even destructive, force and his flirtation with out and out Holocaust denial – he actually addressed the Holocaust revisionist Institute for Historical Review in 2002, asking the audience, “Why on earth is it ‘anti-Jewish’ to conclude from the evidence that the standard numbers of Jews murdered are inaccurate, or that the Hitler regime, bad as it was in many ways, was not, in fact, intent on racial extermination?”
And his claims that his feelings about Israel stemmed from his not wanting “any Sobran boys” to be caught up in Middle East wars rang hollow when one recalled that he had once written: “Israel exemplifies most of the ‘anti-Semitic stereotypes’ of yore: it is exclusivist, belligerent, parasitic, amoral and underhanded. It feels no obligation to non-Jews, even those who have befriended it.”

            No, this was not mere protective parental instinct. Something much, much darker was at work there.

 

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Fact Or Fiction?

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

As the Monitor noted a few years back in a column that drew more than the usual number of reader responses, there’s nothing worse than finding an error of fact in a nonfiction book. It makes the reader wonder whether finishing it is even worth the effort.

The Monitor looked at the following books, ranging from the silly to the more serious, when they were hot off the presses and garnering media attention in May 2005, and found errors aplenty.

Kissing Bill O’Reilly, Roasting Miss Piggy (St. Martin’s Press) is a slender volume of mini-essays by TV critic Ken Tucker. Thumbing through the book at a local bookstore, the Monitor chanced upon a reference to “the late Richard Moll,” the actor who played the towering, good-natured Bailiff Bull in the mid-1980’s hit sitcom “Night Court.” Richard Moll dead? How sad. The news came as a complete surprise, and with good reason. A Google search later that day confirmed that Moll is very much alive. (He’s also the son-in-law of Milton Berle, who happens to be genuinely dead.)

Being an aficionado of old TV shows, the Monitor turned with some interest to Tucker’s chapter on the 1960’s “Batman” series. Talk about an error-filled mess. Tucker has the show premiering in 1964, when in fact it debuted in January 1966. He claims there were “no fewer than three incarnations of Catwoman (Julie Newmar, Lee Meriweather, and Eartha Kitt),” when in fact Meriwether (Tucker misspelled her name) only appeared in the feature-length theatrical release, never in the TV series. And he writes that the show “burned out through overexposure after a mere two seasons,” when in fact it lived on for a third season (1967-68) with the character of Batgirl added to the cast.

A more serious book is Jonathan Mahler’s Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), an account of New York City in the eventful year of 1977 as seen through the prism of mayoral politics and the New York Yankees’ world championship season. Early on, Mahler describes Massachusetts Congressman Tip O’Neill as being “in his final weeks as Speaker of the House” in the fall of 1976. Actually O’Neill first began his tenure as Speaker of the House in 1977.

A Matter of Opinion (also published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux) is a memoir from Victor Navasky, publisher of the left-wing Nation magazine. Twice in the space of two pages he has the rival opinion journal National Review commencing operations in 1956, when in fact it was 1955. Navasky also relates an anecdote in which he has the journalist and Communist-turned-conservative Whittaker Chambers working as a contributing editor at National Review in 1963, when in fact Chambers died in 1961.

Finally, there’s David Harris’s The Crisis: The President, the Prophet, and the Shah – 1979 and the Coming of Militant Islam (Little, Brown).

Harris botches the identification of a television special on Senator Edward Kennedy that, due to its unflattering portrait of the Massachusetts senator and its airing on the evening of Nov. 4, 1979, coincidentally the very day mobs seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, quickly entered the annals of American political folklore. According to Harris the Kennedy fiasco was a segment on “60 Minutes,” when in fact it was an hour-long CBS News documentary that had nothing to do with “60 Minutes.”

But what really convinced the Monitor to forgo the Harris book was a quick read of the epilogue in which readers are brought up to date on the story’s central characters. In one howler, Harris writes that Warren Christopher (a deputy secretary in the Jimmy Carter State Department) “returned to Washington and served eight years as secretary of state” under Bill Clinton, which should come as news to Madeleine Albright, who served as secretary of state during Clinton’s second term.

Harris makes an equally bad mistake in tracking former senator and vice president Walter Mondale, whom he describes as having “returned briefly to the U.S. Senate in 2002 to fill out the few months remaining in the unexpired term of Minnesota senator Paul Wellstone, killed in a plane crash,” when in fact Mondale never returned to the Senate, even for a second – he was merely a candidate during the last week of the campaign, losing to Republican Norm Coleman. Gov. Jesse Ventura had appointed Dean Barkley, a close associate, to serve the remainder of Wellstone’s term.

The moral of the story? If you’re writing a report or an article or merely doing research for your own edification, never trust one source, however authoritative it may seem. Book publishers spend far less effort and expense on fact-checking than the average reader assumes.

Jason Maoz can be reached at jmaoz@jewishpress.com

Buckley And The Jews

Wednesday, March 5th, 2008

(This week’s column is a somewhat expanded version of a post by your trusty correspondent at Commentary magazine’s Contentions blog.)

Among his many other accomplishments, William F. Buckley Jr. made the conservative movement a far less forbidding place for Jews.

Conservatism in the early 1960’s was, fairly or not, largely defined in the Jewish mind as a downscale hothouse of paranoia, racism and resentment fronted by such figures as the Christian Crusader Rev. Billy James Hargis, the anti-Semitic columnist Westbrook Pegler and, of course, Robert Welch, whose John Birch Society was never officially racist or anti-Semitic but attracted a fair number of those who could accurately be classified as such.

By basically reading the more conspiratorial-minded organizations and polemicists out of mainstream conservatism (a story engagingly told by the liberal journalist John Judis in his 1988 biography William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives), Buckley made it that much more difficult for the media to portray the right as a redoubt of angry kooks and Kleagles.

His having done so no doubt smoothed the way for those liberal Jewish intellectuals who would eventually – and at first somewhat ambivalently – make their journey into the conservative camp.

A devout Catholic who wrote with remarkable frankness about the anti-Semitism of his own father, Buckley (who characterized anti-Semitism as an “awful, sinful practice”) always seemed comfortable around Jews. Indeed, several of the editors and writers who helped Buckley launch National Review were Jews; “without them,” wrote historian George Nash, “the magazine might never have gotten off the ground…”

Admittedly, appreciation in this corner for Buckley’s role in making conservatism “safe” for Jews grew gradually over the years; for a time the Monitor even ascribed Buckley’s actions vis-à-vis the Birch Society not to altruistic motives so much as to his personal embarrassment at being lumped together with the Birchers every time the ADL did a study of right-wing extremism in the late fifties and early sixties.

The Monitor also was disturbed that Joe Sobran, an editor at National Review who sometime in the mid-1980’s descended into the fever swamps of anti-Semitism and hasn’t emerged since, was allowed to remain on the magazine’s masthead for several years after Buckley denounced his writings on Jews and Israel.

Even Buckley’s celebrated statement in 1991 about Patrick Buchanan’s alleged anti-Semitism was, the Monitor felt, an artfully constructed study in ambiguity: “I find it impossible to defend Pat Buchanan against the charge that what he said and did during the period under examination amounted to anti-Semitism, whatever it was that drove him to say and do it: most probably, an iconoclastic temperament.”

When it came to Israel, Buckley’s support may have been a little spotty during the state’s early years – in 1958, responding to what he took to be Israel’s slow response to an American request that U.S. military aircraft be permitted to fly over Israeli territory, he snappishly wrote, “If Internal Revenue started to disallow tax exemption of gifts to the United Jewish Appeal, Israel wouldn’t be able to pay the cable-cost of sassing our State Department” – but certainly by the mid-1960’s he was a consistent champion of the Jewish state, a position he maintained for the remaining four and a half decades of his life, despite occasional differences with Israeli policy.

In 1972 Buckley famously proposed that Israel become the 51st American state, pointing out that Jerusalem is no more geographically remote from Washington than Anchorage or Honolulu.

The arrangement, Buckley argued, would forever put to rest Israeli security fears: “If Israel becomes a part of the United States, there is no further question of attacking the state of Israel – as well attack the city of Chicago.”

To expedite statehood, Buckley wrote, a “resolution should be introduced in Congress and a national debate should begin. Put me down in favor.”

A fanciful notion, to be sure, and one that most Jews and Israelis (not to mention Americans) would dismiss out of hand. What cannot be dismissed as easily is the suggestion that without William Buckley, the political right might have remained an untenable – even an unthinkable – destination for those Jews who no longer could, in good conscience, remain faithful to the political faith of their fathers.

Obsessed With Jews

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

He’s the columnist who complained that “Hitler died in 1945, but anti-Hitler hysteria is still going strong”; cautioned against “the excessive moral prestige Jews have in the media and the public square”; whined about “Jews deciding the standards, setting the criteria of humanity”; and observed, in chilling if artful prose, that because Jews “set themselves up as the arbiter, there is, if you’ll pardon the expression, a certain ‘kill the umpire’ impulse.”

He’s the writer who decried, in a column following the release of “Schindler’s List,” what he called “all this Holocaust-harping” and characterized Nazi genocide as basically a German overreaction to the crimes of “Jewish-led communist movements.”

And he’s the commentator who warned that “History is replete with the lesson that a country in which the Jews get the upper hand is in danger. Such was the experience of Europe during Jewish-led Communist revolutions in Russia, Hungary, Romania and Germany.”

No, he’s not Patrick Buchanan, he’s Buchanan’s ideological soulmate, Joseph Sobran, a talented writer who in the mid-1980’s descended into the fever swamp of anti-Semitic polemics and hasn’t emerged since.

Though Sobran’s work is now mainly relegated to the Internet, he’s had a remarkably mainstream career, not only as a syndicated columnist but as a regular commentator, from 1979 to 1991, on the CBS radio network’s “Spectrum” series and as a senior editor at National Review for nearly two decades.

Sobran’s relentlessly negative focus on Jews and Israel led former National Review editor William F. Buckley, in the magazine’s July 4, 1986 issue, to publish an editorial distancing himself from his employee and acknowledging that “any person” who’d read a recent series of Sobran’s newspaper columns “might reasonably conclude that those columns were written by a writer inclined to anti-Semitism.” (Sobran inexplicably managed to retain his title of senior editor at the magazine until 1990 when Buckley finally asked him to step down.)

Sobran was invited to address the Holocaust revisionist Institute for Historical Review in 2002. Among the lowlights of his speech: “Why on earth is it ‘anti-Jewish’ to conclude from the evidence that the standard numbers of Jews murdered are inaccurate, or that the Hitler regime, bad as it was in many ways, was not, in fact, intent on racial extermination?…. I lack the scholarly competence to be [a Holocaust denier]. I don’t read German, so I can’t assess the documentary evidence; I don’t know chemistry, so I can’t discuss Zyklon-B…. Of course, those who affirm the Holocaust need know nothing about the German language, chemistry, and other pertinent subjects; they need only repeat what they have been told by the authorities … the Holocaust has become a device for exempting Jews from normal human obligations. It has authorized them to bully and blackmail, to extort and oppress….”

Sobran becomes annoyed no end whenever anyone dares mention the historical role of the Catholic Church in the persecution of Jews. His reaction to Pope John Paul II’s conciliatory remarks on his visit to Israel in 2000 was to ask, “Where is the corresponding statement of Jewish leaders repudiating and repenting the Jewish role in a cause whose crimes dwarf those of Hitler? Did major Jewish spokesmen or organizations condemn Communism as it devoured tens of millions of Christians?… Even today, how many Jews condemn Franklin Roosevelt for his fondness for Stalin, as they would condemn him if he had shown the slightest partiality toward Hitler?”

It should go without saying that a fantasist of Sobran’s ilk views Israel in much the same negative light as he does “major Jewish spokesmen” and what he’s termed the “anti-Christian” Jewish establishment.

“Israel,” Sobran has written, “exemplifies most of the ‘anti-Semitic stereotypes’ of yore: it is exclusivist, belligerent, parasitic, amoral and underhanded. It feels no obligation to non-Jews, even those who have befriended it.”

And, in a column in which he condemned the “relentless pro-Israel propaganda” of non-Jews like Jeane Kirkpatrick and George Will, Sobran complained that it was due to the enormous power of the American Jewish establishment that “Israel’s journalistic partisans include so many gentiles – lapsed goyim, you might say.”

Should it come as a surprise that Pat Buchanan has called Sobran “perhaps the finest columnist of our generation”?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/media-monitor/obsessed-with-jews/2006/03/08/

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