… I was going to say “the devil,” but then, I wouldn’t want the person in question to claim I had called him the devil.
The person in question is Eric Alterman, with whom I had an infamous spat nearly four years ago after I zinged him in my Boston Globe column for suggesting that it’s outrageous to expect Muslims and Arabs to pay tribute to the memory of Holocaust victims when so much of their suffering is caused by Jews. The occasion was the British Muslim Council’s decision to boycott the ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz because equal time was not given to Palestinian victims of Israeli “genocide.” Alterman and I had a caustic exchange on the Reason blog, Hit & Run, and Alterman also encouraged readers of his blog not only to pepper me with angry emails (about half of the ones I got were supportive), but also to call my then-editor at the Globe, Nick King. At some point, he also made the bizarre suggestion that I attacked him out of a personal vendetta because he had once defended my ex-boyfriend against unfair attacks (huh?); see more about it from John Tabin, who once greeted me at a party as “Eric Alterman’s Zionist white whale.” As I recall, Alterman continued to take gratuitous swipes at me and/or Nick King on his MSNBC blog for at least six months after this incident; here’s a particularly bizarre one.
Well, just the other day, I was recounting this saga to some people at dinner at the NAS conference and joked about how I felt neglected after the Alterman mentions finally stopped. And, lo and behold… here is Eric Alterman in the newest issue of The Nation, describing his suffering at the hands of the “Middle East Thought Police.” Sayeth Alterman:
For my own trouble, for instance, Andrew Sullivan has compared me to the authors of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, while Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young has accused me of blaming Hitler’s victims for Palestinian misery.
Well, actually, no. I accused Alterman of suggesting that Muslims have a moral right to blame Hitler’s victims for Palestinian misery. Read the exchange, and tell me if I’m wrong.
I will say that, while the Alterman blogpost on the subject was quite deserving of opprobrium, my column did contain something that I, in retrospect, regret: implying that Alterman might be properly called a self-hating Jew. I don’t think it’s appropriate to psychoanalyze people I don’t know on the basis of their political writings. However, I do think that Alterman is effectively an enabler of anti-Semitism — not because he is critical of Israeli policies, of course, but because he has repeatedly suggested that one can’t really blame Arabs and Muslims for harboring hostility toward Jews in general because of Israeli policies — Jews anywhere, whether or not they have any connection to Israel.
I do, by the way, think that the charge of anti-Semitism is sometimes bandied around too freely by some supporters of Israel. (See this post from 2007, and links inside.) But that’s a topic for another day. I do think that what Alterman condones is anti-Semitism.
Finally: I feel somewhat guilty about making a facetious post on a topic related to the tragic events in Gaza right now. Regardless of one’s opinions of the Mideast conflict in general, and Israeli action in this particular instance, any sentient person must grieve for the human suffering we are witnessing. I assure my readers that my levity is directed entirely at Alterman and his grandstanding, and is in no way meant to make light of the situation.