Blogs > Liberty and Power > Passover and the "Quiz Time" discussion

Apr 12, 2006 10:07 pm

Passover and the "Quiz Time" discussion

I have just returned from our university's annual Passover Seder, a holiday that celebrates the freedom of Jews and the freedom of all people everywhere by recounting not just the Exodus from Egypt, but also all the various times that Jews have had to struggle for their freedom against both the state and the sorts of tropes about Jews that legitimize that state power. Juxtaposing the most libertarian of Jewish holidays against my reading in the "Quiz Time" thread things written by people who I know are lovers of freedom, and who I deeply respect, that are endorsements of a paper that repeats the very same tropes that have been the cause of so much denial of human freedom throughout history, I can't help but be deeply depressed and confused.

And, frankly at this point, I don't care what others think of what I'm saying here (and I'm waiting for the first person to question my libertarian credentials and/or call me a closet Neo-Con). So I will say it again, and tie it to the title of this group blog: To endorse M&W's paper is to endorse a paper that makes use of tropes about Jews that have, for centuries, been used to legitimize the systematic use of state power to deny liberty to Jews (and others!).

Endorsing the paper does not make one an anti-Semite, but it does, in my view, mean that you are endorsing modern versions of views that have a long history of justifying the denial of the very freedoms you otherwise passionately support. If some of my friends and colleagues who I really do deeply respect can't see that, I guess I'm going to have to live with it, but I will continue to loudly and frequently point it out. And I promise to do so in ways that do not call their good faith into question. In the conversation so far, I'm not sure that I've lived up to my self-imposed standards about doing so, and for that, I apologize.

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Stephen W Carson - 4/14/2006

Thank you for your response. That helped clarify for me what you are getting at (and not getting at).

Steven Horwitz - 4/14/2006

If the argument is that there are people who lobby and lobby successfully for Israel's interests, I have no complaint about that. And, like all other lobbying/rent-seeking, there's Tullock-type welfare losses. And Hadar lays that out pretty well. And I do like the distinction between "influence" and "make" that he suggests.

None of that changes the fact that the M&W paper constructs that argument in ways that are suggestive of some of the oldest elements of anti-Semitic literature. As I've said before, I think you can make the argument they wish to make (and, at least in terms of its basic conclusions about what the US should and should not do, I am in agreement with) without the anti-Semitic resonance. Hadar fails to recognize the ways in which M&W's particular argument can legitimately be understood as resonating in those ways.

Stephen W Carson - 4/13/2006

I'm curious what you think of Leon Hadar's Analysis:

It seems to me a very balanced and realistic take on the controversial M&W paper.

Steven Horwitz - 4/13/2006

Thanks Ralph, I appreciate that.

And I do understand the point about the inclusion of non-Jews among "The Lobby." (FWIW, Jews supportive of Israel should be looking at the evangelical Christians who are supportive of Israel with the classic "with friends like that....") Still, M&W are clear to say that "American Jews" remain at the core of "The Lobby" and the accusation of disproportionate influence over the press and the explicit claim of putting Israel's interests ahead of American interests are modern versions of long-standing and troubling tropes about Jews.

And, on rereading it, M&W do attempt to say explicitly that "The Lobby" is not the sort of "intentional conspiracy" one finds in the Protocols, rather more of a "convergence of interests." Fair enough, but it remains the case that, intentional or not, the arguments have a very similar structure.

Finally, the claim that charges of anti-Semitism against them are proof of their hypothesis smacks of the worst sort of conspiracy theory circular reasoning.

Ralph E. Luker - 4/13/2006

Steve, I certainly don't mean to call your good faith into question. There's not anyone over here for whom I have greater respect. My own comments are not intended to endorse the M&W paper, but to question the dismissal of it and contempt for it in ways that make even the discussion of it very difficult. I don't believe that it should be ranked with the Protocals precisely because it doesn't reify "the Jews." If it acknowledges that an evangelical Christian contingency is a major part of the "Lobby" and that many of the neo-cons are not Jewish, as it does, it seems to me that that blows that claim out of the water.