Joe Klein vs. Abe Foxman on Iraq, Iran and “Jewish Neoconservatives”

Friday, June 27th, 2008

James Besser in Washington

Jewish leaders are understandably nervous as they continue pressing for a stronger U.S. and international response to Iran, while trying to avoid stirring up recurrent charges that Jews somehow caused the seemingly endless Iraq war and are now trying to do the same with Iran.

So it wasn’t surprising that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reacted sharply to the charge by Time Magazine analyst Joe Klein that “Jewish neoconservatives” interested mostly in protecting Israel are distorting U.S. foreign policy.

What was a little more surprising is that Klein didn’t take the ADL rebuke lying down.

In his June 24 commentary, Klein wrote that President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq seems to be working, not because of the numbers of additional troops but because of a “change in tactics” and a lot of luck.

But he also argued that “this war is simply too expensive and too exhausting for our military.”

Then he touched a raw nerve for Jewish leaders.

“The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives–people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary–plumped for this war, and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran, raised the question of divided loyalties: using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money, to make the world safe for Israel,” he wrote.

“Divided loyalties?” “Plumped” for war?  Not exactly subtle, and it quickly caught the attention of ADL chief Abraham Foxman, who shot a letter to Klein.

“Whether or not one feels that America’s war on Iraq was justified, the charge that it is being fought by the United States on behalf of Israel is both offensive and categorically false,” Foxman wrote.

The ADL leader pointed out that some of the biggest boosters for the Iraq war “hardly fit the mold of a ‘Jewish neo-con’ – Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell being the most prominent among them.”

And he said Klein’s charge that “‘divided loyalties’ were behind the decision to go to war is reminiscent of age-old anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government, which has unfortunately gained new currency of late.”

But Klein didn’t back down; in an acerbic response, he said that while they were not the “primary reason we went to war in Iraq…Jewish neoconservatives certainly played a subsidiary role in providing an intellectual rationale for the war.”

And now, he said, there is an “even more dangerous tendency among Jewish neoconservatives to encourage a pre-emptive attack on Iran’s nuclear program. Their gleeful, intellectual warmongering-given the vast dangers and complexities of an attack on Iran–is nauseating.”

Then he got personal.

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, by your claim of anti-Semitism,” Klein wrote. “But that’s what you do for a living, isn’t it? I find your ‘outrage’ particularly galling because the people you defend are constantly spewing canards against those who favor talking to the Palestinians, or who don’t favor witless bellicosity when it comes to Iran. Their campaign of defamation has cost people jobs, damaged reputations and careers. I am very tired of having reasonable people accused of being ’soft on terrorism’ or ‘unpatriotic’ or favoring ’surrender’–Joe Lieberman’s favorite-by Jewish neoconservatives who seem to have a neurotic need to prove their toughness.

Foxman’s quickly fired back: “Contrary to your assertion, ADL is extremely careful in making accusations about anti-Semitism and we spend every day in our work all over the country assessing the validity — or lack thereof — of such accusations,” he wrote. “The notion you posited that ADL is looking to find anti-Semites everywhere in no way reflects the reality.”

Neoconservatives, Foxman said, “have the right to make their case without having their religion brought up.”

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.