February 18, 2002

Where US planes bomb Afghanistan with $100 bills – and all criticism of Israel is "anti-Semitic"

My theory that the events of 9/11 blew a hole in the space-time continuum and transported us into a world where up is down, and nonsense is reason – advanced here, here, here, and (presciently) here – seems confirmed beyond all doubt by the news that US planes are raining dollars on Afghanistan. And, no, I don't mean $1 bills – but, here, read the Reuters story for yourself:

"U.S. aircraft over southern Afghanistan have scattered $100 bills tucked into envelopes bearing a picture of President George W. Bush, witnesses said on Thursday."


So democracy, Western-style, makes its debut in the skies over Afghanistan: "People pushed and fought with each other to get their hands on the envelopes," the Reuters piece continues, which "bore no message." Ah, but there was a message, albeit one implied rather than stated outright, and it is TITSATAAFL (There Is Too Such A Thing As A Free Lunch).


Not only is there a free lunch, but dinner's on the house, too: each envelope contained two $100 bills. It's a lot more than pennies from heaven – two big ones amounts to around a year's income for the average Afghan, if not more. Now there's an odd way to plant the seeds of democracy: creating an Afghan cargo cult in which George W. Bush is a god.


What could they have been thinking in Washington? This strange illogic, which I referred to in my last column on a theme of wartime mental malfunction as "Bizarro logic," has literally turned the whole world upside down. So that, while the US is engaged in such arrogant exercises in self-parody, spokesmen for one of the worst dictatorships on earth are suddenly sounding almost reasonable. Here is Tariq Aziz, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, telling the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemaine that Iraq may sign on to "some form of inspection" of its military facilities in return for a comprehensive regional approach to the problem of how to curb weapons of mass destruction. The existence of such weapons anywhere in the region ought to be considered a dire threat to world peace, says Aziz – the clear implication being that Israel, too, should be included in the UN inspections regime.


Israel would undoubtedly reject such a demand as an outrageous example of "moral equivalence." In that case, why shouldn't Israel be subject to the same Draconian sanctions as Iraq? Not that anyone doubts the willingness of Ariel Sharon, and the even more crazed extremists to his right, to use the nukes they have. But, according to the Bizarro World logic of the post-9/11 era, we aren't allowed to ask questions that criticize or challenge Israel in any way, for that would be an expression of "anti-Semitism." Oh, yes, "everything has changed" irrevocably, and we now have in force an intellectual version of the "Patriot Act" that banishes certain ideas from the public square.


Writing in Commentary – and put online by the Wall Street Journal – Hillel Halkin has issued this new pronouncement on the alleged "return" of anti-Semitism.

" [O]ne cannot be against Israel or Zionism, as opposed to this or that Israeli policy or Zionist position, without being anti-Semitic. Israel is the state of the Jews. Zionism is the belief that the Jews should have a state. To defame Israel is to defame the Jews. To wish it never existed, or would cease to exist, is to wish to destroy the Jews."


Realizing "this or that Israeli policy" means employing helicopter gunships against rock-throwing teenagers is, by this standard, an anti-Semitic thought-crime. It is "defamation" to speak truth to power, and a hateful act to wish such power had never existed. "This is not something that is as obvious to as many people as it should be," avers Halkin, to which I might add: one can only hope! Yet I'm afraid the shockwaves emanating from Ground Zero have addled even the sharpest minds, and the debilitating mental effects are radiating rapidly outward. The campaign of intellectual intimidation – sparked by Barbara Amiel and her now famous "j'accuse" aimed at supposedly rampant "anti-Semitism" in Britain – has been remarkably successful, its chief success being that anyone takes such obviously self-serving arguments seriously. According to Halkin,

"Only an anti-Semite can think the world would be better off without Israel, just as only a Francophobe can think the world would be better off without France."


Let's get beyond the growing feeling on the part of many that the world would, indeed, be better off without France and get down to Halkin's argument, insofar as he deigns to make one: since Jews have a state nowhere else, this extraordinary immunity from any really fundamental and challenging critique must be granted to Israel. But what about Iran – the only Shi'ite nation? Indicting Iran as part of the "axis of evil," George W. Bush is indeed saying that the world would be better off if it ceased to exist – isn't this wrong, by Halkin's standard? Come to think of it, only a Basque-phobe would imagine the world better off without a Basque homeland, even one ruled by the terrorist ETA. And what about the Zoroastrians? Those poor guys don't even have their own state, so what if they seized one – expelling the original inhabitants, like the Israelis did – and declared that anyone who opposed or criticized them was guilty of anti-Zoroastrian bigotry? Would that be okay? The Mormons, too, must be included, not to mention the Scientologists, the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the followers of Swami Baloney-nanda – why shouldn't each have their own little theocracy, protected from all criticism by a paralyzing political correctness?

As for just how paralyzing, here is Halkin outlining the narrow parameters of acceptable thought:

"Only an anti-Semite can systematically accuse Israelis of what they are not guilty of, just as only an Anglophobe can make such accusations against the English. 'Jewish' and 'Israeli' are not synonymous? No, they are not – but 40% of the world's Jews live in Israel. There are Jews who are anti-Zionist? Yes, there are – and there are Englishmen who revile England."

It is enough to accuse Israelis of crimes they are guilty of to set off denunciations of "anti-Semitism," as Pat Buchanan, former Congressman Pete McCloskey, and Senator William J. Fulbright all learned to the detriment of their careers. As for the little statistic: accepting it at face value, the only possible response is – so what? More than 40 percent of the world's Hindus live in India, and yet Christians have rightly reviled its government as subtly encouraging anti-Christian persecution. More than 40 percent of the world's Mormons live in Utah: does this mean criticism of Utah is bigotry directed at the Latter Day Saints? Probably 100 percent of the world's neo-pagans live in Seattle, and environs – does this give them the right to anything other than the worst weather in the US?


In our age of irrationalism, emotional "arguments" are skillfully rationalized by intellectuals such as Halkin, whose job it is to give the latest outrage against reason all the accouterments of modern science. It was inevitable, therefore, that psychology, with all its murky "drives" and "unconscious" desires, would be introduced into the discussion:

"Can one then be anti-Semitic without knowing it? Of course one can, just as one can be unconsciously antiblack or antigay or a misogynist. When prejudice is socially acceptable, we admit it, first of all, to ourselves. When it is taboo – as, with regard to Jews, it has been in Europe and America since the Holocaust – we often conceal it even from ourselves. The preferred way of concealing anti-Semitism in our times is to judge Israel more harshly than other countries."


But what about judging Israel just as harshly as we do other countries, say, Iraq? By Halkin's own standards, he would have to agree to Tariq Aziz's proposal that UN inspection of Israeli nuclear facilities is merited. Does this mean Commentary will be supporting sanctions against the Jewish state when Sharon refuses to comply? Aside from the obligatory nod to political correctness – does he really mean to compare the condition of Jews to that of gays? – and all the Freudian mumbo-jumbo about "unconscious" anti-Semitism, Halkin's long, fascinating essay presents a remarkably complex argument that culminates in several peaks of unreason of which the following stands out in its brutal honesty. Invoking the "double standard" criteria, which he credits to Norman Podhoretz, Halkin asks:

"Who at London dinner parties makes nasty remarks about Hindus because India has militarily occupied Muslim Kashmir for half a century? What French diplomat calls China a 'big, sh – -y country' because of its occupation of Tibet?"

So an alleged defender of Israel has no compunctions about comparing the depredations of the Israeli settler colony with the genocidal policies of the Chinese Communists in the pages of one of the world's most widely-read newspapers. Such is the arrogance of power. As for nasty remarks about Hinduism, I can't vouch for the London dinner party circuit, never having been there, but I can hopefully point to some of my own remarks about the relation of the Hindu god Shiva, "the Destroyer," to India's nuclear weapons program as the harbinger of a trend.


As Israel launches an international campaign to normalize the horrific, and rationalize its campaign to empty Palestine of the Palestinians, the redefinition of "anti-Semitism" is an essential prelude to any large-scale Israeli military operation. For without US support and financial aid, the Israeli settler colony would sink like a stone in the Arab sea – and may yet even in spite of billions in US tax dollars expended, due entirely to the pressure of demographic trends. This is the ticking time bomb that threatens to blow the Israeli state to smithereens, and the only way to head it off is by a two-pronged attack: one prong, directed at the Palestinians, aims to drive them out of the area altogether, into Jordan, where the Hashemites can deal with them as they please. The other prong is directed at Jews worldwide, a propaganda campaign designed to hype the alleged threat of a nearly non-existent "anti-Semitism," and convince them to emigrate to Israel.


So the debate is reduced, in effect, to a bout of name-calling and racial-religious rancor, with all men of good will caught somewhere in the middle, and, paradoxically, increasingly marginalized in the debate. Believe it or not, I am a centrist when it comes to Israel. For I am excoriated by both sides of the spectrum: Jonah Goldberg once denounced me for having a special antipathy for the Upper West Side of Manhattan that could only be rooted in the rudest Judeo-phobia, while, just as coherently, the notorious nutball Carol A. Valentine, self-styled " Curator" of the "Waco Holocaust Electronic Museum," declares that I'm part of the government-created "fake opposition" whose real goal is to indoctrinate my readers with war propaganda. Ms. Valentine, author of a screed entitled "Let's Discuss Mass Expulsion of Jews from US," among other works, rails that Antiwar.com is pushing the "government lie that justifies this war" – the "lie" being that bin Laden was behind the 9/11 attacks. The US government, you see, really destroyed the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, too – and Antiwar.com is part of a conspiracy by You Know Who to cover up the real perpetrators of this heinous act.

As self-evidently nutty as the pronouncements of Ms. Valentine appear to be, are they any less nutty than the people who take seriously Halkin's elaborate fantasies of secret "unconscious" anti-Semitic conspiracies? On the one hand, we have Halkin, Barbara Amiel, and others who point to an alleged worldwide upsurge in anti-Jewish persecution and anti-Semitism among the European elites, and on the other hand we have Ms. Valentine and her cohorts who say we all live under a "Zionist Occupation Government" and excoriate me for being a philo-Semitic tool of the Mossad.


La Valentine darkly wonders: "Anti-war.com is a well-organized, expensive operation. I wonder who pays for it?" Hah! The answer to that is our readers, of course, whose tax-deductible contributions make our work possible. For as much as we have antagonized extremists of all sorts, a great many people from all over the world support our efforts to bridge the Israeli-Palestinian gap and help create the conditions for a lasting Middle East peace. This effort is rooted in the distinctively libertarian ethos from which our foreign policy stance is derived: the firm belief that any Middle East solution must lead to the creation of a secular, bi-national, free market Palestine, where power is devolved back to local communities – and the nation of Israel, as we know it today, is effectively abolished.


By the new post-9/11 standards imposed by such arbiters of political correctness as the Wall Street Journal and Commentary (not to mention the omnipresent Andrew Sullivan!), such a stance is no less "anti-Semitic" than the platform of the National Socialist German Workers Party. These days, to be against tribalism and "blood-and-soil" ethnic particularism is to be condemned as a bigot, an "unconscious" David Duke. Can the apocalyptic violence of 9/11 really have ripped such a large hole in the space-time continuum that reason itself has fled permanently to another dimension? Will we be trapped, here, in this state of unreason for the rest of our natural lives? There are some hopeful signs that the massive shock of 9/11 is slowly fading, and the wave of mental dislocation that followed in its wake is receding. But, who knows what future shocks await us? It could be that the damage is permanent, and that the ability of the human race to reason is severely impaired forever. In that case, we had all better save our candles, for the Dark Ages are truly upon us.

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Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com. He is also the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (with an Introduction by Patrick J. Buchanan), (1993), and Into the Bosnian Quagmire: The Case Against US Intervention in the Balkans (1996). He is an Adj