Saturday, June 25, 2005

Howard Dean on Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theories

(by Jeff Weintraub)

(Guest-posted on the weblog of Norman Geras - Normblog)

A statement issued last week by Howard Dean, former presidential candidate and current Chairman of the National Democratic Committee, is especially useful and pertinent right now. It is an unambiguous declaration that attempts to blame the Iraq war on the Jews - whether in crudely direct ways or in more indirect and convoluted versions - are anti-semitic garbage and ought to be condemned as such:
Yesterday members of the Judiciary Committee held an important hearing on the so-called Downing Street Memo and its implications. Unfortunately, some members of the audience took it upon themselves to distribute anti-Semitic literature at the Wasserman Conference room where an overflow crowd observed the proceedings on television. We disavow the anti-Semitic literature, and the Democratic National Committee stands in absolute disagreement with and condemns the allegations.

As Americans we believe in the right to free speech, and as Democrats we open our doors to a variety of opinions and perspectives from our fellow Americans... But anti-Semitism and bigotry are unacceptable and un-American, and they have no place in civil political discourse. As for any inferences that the United States went to war so Israel could 'dominate' the Middle East or that Israel was in any way behind the horrific September 11th attacks on America, let me say unequivocally that such statements are nothing but vile, anti-Semitic rhetoric. The inferences are destructive and counter productive, and have taken away from the true purpose of the Judiciary Committee Members' meeting.

(See also here.) All this might seem almost too obvious to be worth emphasizing - except that these kinds of Jewish-conspiracy theories about the Iraq war, in multiple versions that range from crude to convoluted, are not restricted to lunatic-fringe sectarians. The unfortunate reality is that they are not uncommon in mainstream discourse in some west European circles. And, of course, they are widely propounded and believed (or at least taken seriously) in much of the rest of the world.

We are living through an era of resurgent anti-semitism (sometimes disguised as, or shading off into, hysterical 'anti-Zionism') in much of the world. If only for this reason, people who opposed the Iraq war (and especially those who oppose continued US involvement in Iraq now) have a special responsibility to repudiate and condemn these Jewish-conspiracy theories about it - just as supporters of the anti-Taliban war in Afghanistan, for example, had a special responsibility to repudiate any efforts to link it to anti-Muslim bigotry. Let Howard Dean serve as an example. (Jeff Weintraub)