Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I go to pretty regularly and look forward to its reportage, esp. with regard to Europe, where it has done a great job chronicling the rise of anti-Semitism.

I appreciate Adam Kirsch's dutiful wrestling with the Talmud, though the net effect on me may be the opposite of what Kirsch intended. In short, the more I read Kirsch the clearer I am that Talmud is arcane, ancient, and inapplicable.

Then there's Lee Smith, a senior editor for the avowedly conservative Weekly Standard, who, on behalf of the Tablet: "Explains the Middle East."

Or does he?

Let me cut to the chase and say that Smith is a Netanyahu-ite who explains the Middle East as Netanyahu might want it explained. Smith, like Netanyahu, maintains that Obama wants to jettison the historic alliance between Israel and the United States in favor of cementing a new accord with Iran.

There's no question that Iran is at the root of a Shiite axis running from Teheran through Bagdad on to Damascus and Beirut. Of course, as most everyone knows, the United States took out the Sunni buffer to Iran when we invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein.

Smith isn't much interested in such previous misadventures. He wants to keep the United States tied to Israel a la Netanyahu. He doesn't believe there's any sincerity or real commitment behind Kerry's strenuous efforts to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Au contraire, he thinks Obama will do most anything to make friends with Iran.

I don't believe that.

I don't think Obama would sleep easy if Iran got close to getting close to getting close to getting nukes.

Smith is at his worst when he explains away the viciousness of ISIS et al. At least ISIS doesn't work for Teheran, he reasons. And that's what counts for him.

I appreciate Lee Smith, in a negative way, for marking out a negative space. Like Adam Kirsch, in a certain sense, he helps clarify for me what I do not believe. That saves me steps. I wouldn't mind there being a less predictably Netanyahu-ish take on the Middle East from Tablet, but so it goes. There's much else to be gleaned from its writers.

What bothers me much more is a piece I came across in today's Tablet (4/22/15) by Liel Leibovitz, a senior writer for Tablet. Leibovitz is more the voice of Tablet than Smith, so it seems to me, and a good, often persuasive writer. (Yes, he believes in Israel's right to exist and yes he can be critical of its policies.) He's co-authored a book with Todd Gitlin, who often writes for Tablet and cannot accused of any sort of Netanyahu-ishness.

Yet Leibovitz's new post strikes me as the most devious, ultra-conspiratorial  Netanyahu_ish argument  I've come across. He takes as his starting point Obama's espousal of "safe spaces" for LGBT individuals. Leibovitz is not concerned that this is Obama, leading as often, from behind. He could care less. It's more about Obama mustering Jewish liberals behind him — since what Jewish liberal can disapprove of minority rights? —  so that they will thereby be silenced when it comes to selling out to Iran.

Do you think Obama's attention to LGBT rights and to police killings of black people is all about shutting up Jews on the way to a bad deal with Iran?

You think that's what Obama is all about?

If so, boy do I have a bridge or three to sell you.


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