Moral Squeamishness: A Magazine is Born
by Anthony S. McCarthy
England is ill served by her media. She is not unique in this, nor in the fact that her magazines, with few exceptions, are overwhelmingly trivial, dull and incurious. I do not refer to the mass market magazines, that glut of pornography, celebrity, and prurience, or the newspapers, which, when not imitating the mags, give space to political correspondents who don’t appear to have any meaningful beliefs, and who are practically indistinguishable from one another.
It is the serious magazine market that is almost empty in England. The US, for all its faults, does have some serious magazines. Even First Things, for all its unfortunate politics, publishes important and thought-provoking articles. And there are others out there: The American Conservative, Culture Wars and Chronicles for starters.
There are no equivalents in England. Of the few supposedly serious magazines The Spectator has become increasingly trivial, and the newer magazine Prospect is a pretentious atheist rag which engages more in sneering than in argument (AC Grayling is a regular contributor).
Into this barren landscape a new magazine has come. Edited by a well-educated Catholic (Daniel Johnson) and promising to cut through all of the above (and defend Western values), Standpoint is, one might have hoped, a much needed counterblast against the increasingly decadent and anti-intellectual culture of this troubled isle.
England is not short of good minds and good writers. Many do not get a chance to address a mainstream audience, so the emergence of a new magazine is not a minor event. The magazine was given a lavish launch party at London’s Wallace Collection gallery. Huge quantities of champagne were quaffed by many prominent figures of the media and literary worlds. Paul Johnson, Daniel’s famous father, was conspicuous and a good time was had by all. But who was paying for all this, and indeed for the magazine itself? And why?
The major financial backer of the magazine is one Alan Bekhor, a prominent Zionist and former London metal-trader who is now building a shipping empire. The staff of the magazine is largely Jewish and, one supposes, not of the anti-Zionist or paleoconservative persuasion (if they are they have my sympathy).
Paul Johnson, who appears to be something of a godfather for the magazine, will be known to most readers as a prolific author and best-selling historian. So well-known is he in certain circles that in 2006 he received a Medal of Freedom in the US. Jewish paleoconservative Paul Gottfried used the occasion to reflect:
Paul Johnson should be known as a British journalist who writes long historical surveys aimed at pleasing the usual suspects. Johnson, of course, has many unpleasant things to say about the German people in any time period, and he assails those Arabs who challenge the right of Israelis to occupy territory they had once held. His history of the Jews, which could have been written by John Podhoretz – provided that John could put together enough sentences sequentially – brought Johnson the favor of "our crowd" and their pampered progeny. Since then the obliging Brit has made a new career writing for neocon publications, and he does so more often than I would care to notice.
Gottfried is right. Johnson’s A History of the Jews is a travesty. The book’s inherent anti-Christian bias and persistent, though not total, refusal to mention Jewish as opposed to Christian wrongdoing is there for all to see. Small wonder that the Catholic writer Piers Paul Read was to state, in reviewing the History of the Jews together with Johnson’s slipshod A History of Christianity, “Indeed, reading the two histories together, one gets the impression that he would rather have been born a Jew than a Christian because the Jews were the ‘first to rationalize the unknown’ and are the ‘pilot project of the human race.’” Read goes on to enumerate a few of Johnson’s oversimplifications and outright falsehoods. Two eminent Jewish historians, Elliott Horowitz and Israel Yuval, have recently decried the damage done to Jewish historiography by historians like Johnson. It would seem that they think philosemites, of whom Johnson is a conspicuous example, are not true friends either of the Jews or of scholarship.
As if that weren’t bad enough from this Christian historian, when it comes to Israel Johnson takes misrepresentation to new heights. Just one example: he describes the massacre at Sabra and Chatila in Lebanon as “…a slaughter of Moslem refugees, by Christian Falangist Arabs…This episode was skilfully exploited by Arab and Soviet propagandists and presented in the Western media as an Israeli responsibility…The Israelis wisely ordered an independent judicial inquiry which established the facts and placed some blame on the Israeli Minister of Defence, Ariel Sharon, for not having foreseen and prevented the killings.” All this in the context of Johnson’s measured comments about the 1982 invasion of Lebanon by Israel (“Such Israeli exercises in the right to self-defence were sometimes misjudged or ill executed,” Johnson tells us).
Contrast Johnson’s account with the words of the unimpeachable Zeev Maoz, Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Davis and former director of the M.A. Program at the Israeli Defense Force’s National Defense College. Maoz tells us: “The [Israeli]cabinet’s approval of the entry of the Phalange into the camps – just like its approval of the IDFs entry into West Beirut – was done ex post facto. In his briefing to the cabinet, Sharon explained the need to enter the refugee camps in order to pull out the suspected PLO guerrillas but also the need to get the Phalanges involved in the fighting. The preference for the Phalanges was explained in terms of preventing IDF casualties. The Phalange militias entered the refugee camps and spent nearly three days there. When they left the camps some eight hundred men, women and children were left dead in the streets. The massacre took place under the eyes of the IDF commanders who had been stationed on the roofs overlooking the camps… .”
Paul Johnson is not, of course, Standpoint, although he is a hugely influential ‘conservative’ figure in the States. He is, however, the Daniel Johnson father of the editor and a supporter of the magazine. That said, it is surely wrong to judge the son and his magazine by the father’s writings. Gottfried, in discussing Paul, turns his focus to Daniel, writing:
The mention of Paul Johnson…made me think of his son Daniel, another kept journalist, who is about to launch, with Miriam Gross, a former assistant to Melvin Lasky at Encounter, a British equivalent of the Weekly Standard…I wish his enterprise every possible success, on the grounds that the British deserve this American import, for having pushed us into World War One. We are now returning the favor belatedly by dumping our latest example of toxic waste onto their newsstands. Besides, the neocons claim to adore the Brits, as they dislike the French and detest the Germans. Why shouldn’t they be allowed and even encouraged to put part of their propaganda machine in the British Isles? Perhaps some of our premier neocons can be urged to move across the Atlantic and to devote themselves to Mr. Bekhor’s venture fulltime.
When I first read this I thought it unduly harsh. I had reason to believe that Daniel was a rather more cautious and careful person than his father. I also had reason to believe that he was, unlike his father (who has a fixation about the need for the Catholic Church to ordain women), an orthodox Catholic. These things matter. To have an orthodox Catholic at the helm of such an important venture struck me as a cause for celebration. And I had no reason to share Paul Gottfried’s cynicism, admire him as I do.
Then I read Standpoint.
It is written, though not exclusively, by a motley bunch of anti-Christian neoconservatives who, like Paul Johnson, seem to prize Israel, demonise Muslims and boast of their ‘hawkish’ approach to the “War on Terror”. A quick survey of the magazine finds us in the company of, among others, Melanie Phillips, Julie Burchill, and Emanuele Ottolenghi. There are many more, but let’s just look at these to begin with, as an example of the kind of people Standpoint is employing or commissioning. All three of these people are very concerned about both anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Ottolenghi has been given a regular column. Just as Paul Johnson defends Ariel Sharon from his critics, so too does Mr Ottolenghi. In a jointly written article with Suzanne Gershowitz for the Middle East Quarterly in 2005 Ottolenghi warns:
The growing legitimacy of anti-Zionism has contributed to a resurgence of European anti-Semitism, again often wrapped with and, in many European eyes, legitimized by the caricature of Sharon. Violent anti-Semitic incidents in Europe have risen in proportion to the violence between Israel and the Palestinians, which suggest a relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism.
The article by Ottolenghi and Gershowitz was, unsurprisingly, praised by UK Zionist Melanie Phillips. The article forthrightly asserts a link between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, a theme that Phillips constantly brings up in her own writings. And both Ottolenghi and Phillips draw attention to the prospect of a “new” anti-Semitism and to surveys showing a rise in this “new” anti-Semitism (in Europe). The Ottolenghi article refers to the Manifestations of anti-Semitism in the European Union report to back up its claim of a “new” anti-Semitism (linked with a rising anti-Zionism). Ottolenghi dishonestly whitewashes Sharon’s record and then refers (along with his co-author from the American Enterprise Institute) to a report so ludicrous and propagandistic in its assumptions that, as Finkelstein notes: “If virtually any criticism of Israel signals anti-Semitism, the sweep of the new anti-Semites, unsurprisingly, beggars the imagination.”
I have yet to see any of Finkelstein’s analysis in his book Beyond Chutzpah refuted by anyone. What is one to do with such a man? Ottolenghi knows. Here is what he wrote of this awkward customer, one who actually bothers to dig up the background for Ottolenghi’s ludicrous claims: “Norman Finkelstein provides a blanket cover to Holocaust deniers.”
Got that? The son of Holocaust survivors’ who has campaigned more than anyone to ensure that Holocaust payments to victims actually get to victims (rather than Jewish institutions supportive of the ‘work’ of the likes of Ottolenghi) is basically an enabler of Holocaust deniers. One can only assume he has got the dean of Holocaust studies, the late Raul Hilberg, to endorse his work fully, and has also made sure that his acceptance of Hilberg’s findings with regard to the systematic mass extermination of Jews during the Second World War is well-known, as part of his enabling project. Finkelstein’s condemnation of those who would deny this tragedy is, of course, well-known too. But, for Ottolenghi, it would seem that any critic of Israel can be smeared in this way. Thus does Ottolenghi honour the Jewish dead of World War II. Perhaps he should meditate on the title of Finkelstein’s book on the subject: The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering.
It comes as no surprise that the ubiquitous Melanie Phillips is a fan of Ottolenghi. Not only that, but both were witnesses for the Report of the All Parliamentary Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism (September 2006). This Inquiry, led by the Zionist MP (and member of the Henry Jackson Society) Denis MacShane, took evidence from a list of ideological witnesses that produced exactly what one would expect from such a list. According to Finkelstein: “The report defines an anti-Semitic incident as any occasion ‘perceived’ to be anti-Semitic by the ‘Jewish community.’” So anti-Semitic is the media in Britain that, as far as I could see, the entire mainstream press uncritically covered the report, accepting all of its dire warnings regarding a “new anti-Semitism”. Given that such reports form the backbone for opinion pieces in Standpoint and other neoconservative/Zionist operations, it’s important that Bekhor’s project doesn’t let the truth out. After all, neoconservatives and Zionists badly need these kinds of report. Just as well critics of such reports can be denounced as anti-Semites, not least because there is now no objective test that need be satisfied to qualify for the label.
The whole association of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is, of course, a political manoeuvre used by Zionists and neoconservatives as a way of deflecting attention from serious moral questions and ruining opponents where possible. This should come as no surprise, for, as we shall see, when it comes to serious moral questions our Standpoint contributors are all at sea. The philosopher Michael Neumann, being rather more concerned with moral philosophy than most, easily sees through this tactic. He tells us:
Anti-Semitism…means hatred of Jews. But here, immediately, we come up against the venerable shell-game of Jewish identity: “Look! We’re a religion! No! a race! No! a cultural entity! Sorry – a religion!” When we tire of this game, we get suckered into another: “Anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism!” quickly alternates with “Don’t confuse Zionism with Judaism! How dare you, you anti-Semite!”…Let’s try defining ‘anti-Semitism’ as broadly as any supporter of Israel would ever want: anti-Semitism can be hatred of the Jewish race, or culture, or religion, or hatred of Zionism. Hatred, or dislike, or opposition, or slight unfriendliness. But supporters of Israel won’t find this game as much fun as they expect. Inflating the meaning of ‘anti-Semitism’ to include anything politically damaging to Israel is a double-edged sword. It may be handy for smiting your enemies, but the problem is that definitional inflation, like any inflation, cheapens the currency. The more things get to count as anti-Semitic, the less awful anti-Semitism is going to sound. This happens because, while no one can stop you from inflating definitions, you still don’t control the facts…Through definitional inflation, some form of anti-Semitism becomes morally obligatory. It gets worse if anti-Zionism is labeled anti-Semitic, because the settlements, even if they do not represent fundamental aspirations of the Jewish people, are an entirely plausible extension of Zionism. To oppose them is indeed to be anti-Zionist, and therefore, by the stretched definition, anti-Semitic. The more anti-Semitism expands to include opposition to Israeli policies, the better it looks. Given the crimes to be laid at the feet of Zionism, there is another simple syllogism: anti-Zionism is a moral obligation, so, if anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism is a moral obligation.
Neumann is a secular Jew. What is not mentioned by him is that the vast majority of Jews were either anti-Zionists or non-Zionists when Theodore Herzl was promoting the idea. Are/were they, too, anti-Semites? Presumably the following group of native-born inhabitants of Jerusalem qualify as anti-Semites for proclaiming the following in 1948:
We will not allow ourselves, our wives and our children, to be led to our deaths, God forfend, in the name of Zionist idolatry. It is inconceivable that the impious, the unbelievers, the ignorant, and the irresponsible heretics lead an entire population of hundreds of thousands of Jews, like lambs to the slaughter, God save us, because of their false demented ideas, and that an entire population like an innocent dove, allow them to lead it to be killed.
That a present-day Orthodox Jew like Yakov M. Rabkin can reveal Zionism to be utterly antithetical to his religion must be painful for the Standpoint crowd: all the more so because his vision is actually closer to a Christian one than a neoconservative or Zionist view. Rabkin tells us of pious Jews, accused by Zionists of passivity:
Many of them must constantly call upon all their spiritual resources to ward off the temptation to nationalism. To reaffirm their trust in divine mercy, they strive to live Torah life, for Jewish tradition considers that each good deed has an effect on the entire world…Each deed, no matter how minor, will be weighed on the balance of divine justice, for ultimate redemption. “It should not be thought that the inferiority of the nation of Israel among the nations, and its prostration in exile, can be attributed to ill fortune.” Rather than seeing the history of the Jews as part of the fatalistic turnings of the wheel of history, tradition affirms that the “fate” of the Jews depends only upon heaven’s assessment of their deeds…The Jews were exiled from their homeland in an historical accident; Zionism thus proposes to redress what it perceives as an historical injustice in historical, rather than religious terms…For many pious Jews, Zionism appears as an obstacle to redemption of Israel. Rather then relying on “prayer and the plea for mercy,” the Zionist pioneers resorted to physical labor and armed struggle.
The Jewish convert Israel Shamir reminds us:
Zionism became poison without the Messiah: not in vain did the Jewish religious scriptures (“the instructions to the soldiers”) forbid the gathering of Jews in the Holy Land before the days of the Messiah. The “instructors” knew what we have forgotten: such a gathering, unless by means of accepting the Messiah, would be used by the Antichrist and would poison the world.
So it would seem that those who oppose Zionism and accept the idea of expiatory patient suffering and divine mercy are seen to be in opposition to the messianic way of Zionism and/or neoconservatism – neither of which is too concerned with “moral issues” because, well, we need to get results – and through force if necessary.
Lest the reader think I am assuming too much I offer you Melanie Phillips, who is sometimes portrayed, not without some justification, as a morally upright thinker. Here is Ms Phillips on the question of torture: “Torture is always wrong, and corrupts those who employ it. But the moral squeamishness of the west is also the hole in its defences.” It is worth noting that Melanie Phillips only recently castigated a fellow panelist on the BBC’s show The Moral Maze for saying that torture was inherently wrong. She called such a position immoral and endorsed the use of torture in certain circumstances (her endorsement is not new). So it seems that the statement used in the first sentence is not made in good faith. And we know that anyway, because in the next sentence Phillips uses the term “moral squeamishness.” What on earth is the term supposed to mean? If it means anything at all it seems to mean a dismissal of the idea of moral absolutes – at least as they apply to “always wrong” choices such as torture.
Phillips supports torture, cluster-bombing, and nuclear strikes and, in practice, rejects traditional just war theory. Apparently such positions are in line with what she sees as neoconservatism. Truly her messianism has, as with all false messiahs, led her into antinomianism. I would suggest to this confused woman that there is a way out of all this, but fear that I might be accused of ‘religious’ anti-Semitism.
With this background in mind, I looked at the second issue of Standpoint. Not content with publishing a series of nakedly neoconservative articles, the magazine took it upon itself to publish a person who not only excuses torture but was reportedly himself closely involved in the practice (see below). Since that individual is known as a neoconservative we will turn now to examine this ideology and its oft-ignored theological roots.
What’s a neoconservative? As with many political terms, neither its sense nor reference is crystal clear. Let’s hear what various knowledgeable people have said from geopolitical and eschatological perspectives. Here is a conversation between George H. Bush Senior and his incurious president son:
George W. Bush: “What’s a neocon?” George H. W. Bush: “Do you want names or a description?” “Description.” “Well,” said the former president of the United States, “I’ll give it to you in one word: Israel.”
American academics John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt describe neo-conservatism less tersely as
a political ideology with distinct views on both domestic and foreign policy…Most neo-conservatives extol the virtues of American hegemony – and sometimes even the idea of American empire – and they believe US power should be used to encourage the spread of democracy and discourage potential rivals from even trying to compete with the United States…They tend to be skeptical of international institutions (especially the UN, which they regard as both anti-Israel and as a constraint on America’s freedom of action) and wary of many allies (especially the Europeans whom they see as idealistic pacifists free-riding on the Pax Americana)…neoconservatives believe that military force is an extremely useful tool for shaping the world in ways that will benefit America…Neoconservatism, in short, is an especially hawkish ideology…Virtually all neoconservatives are strongly committed to Israel, a point they emphasize openly and unapologetically. According to Max Boot, a leading neoconservative pundit, supporting Israel is “a key tenet of neoconservatism,” a position he attributes to “shared liberal democratic values.”… In particular, writes [Benjamin] Ginsberg, they embraced Ronald Reagan’s “hardline anti-communism” because they saw it as a “political movement that would guarantee Israel’s security.”…Given their hawkish orientation, it is not surprising that the neoconservatives tend to ally with the right-wing elements in Israel itself.
According to Professor Claes Ryn of the Catholic University of America, evident in this “ideology” or ideological pattern is a large element of neo-Jacobinism. As well as openly endorsing the need for big government (for example, William Kristol and David Brooks), neoconservatives talk of the need for a “a neo-Reaganite foreign policy of national strength and moral assertiveness abroad.” Neoconservative Robert Kagan’s words about his fellow Americans are also noted by Ryn: “As good children of the Enlightenment, Americans believe in human perfectibility. But Americans…also believe…that global security and the liberal order depend on the United States – that ‘indispensable nation’ – wielding its power.”
Ryn says of this ideology, “The neo-Jacobin vision for how to redeem humanity may be less obviously utopian than that of communism. It may strike some as admirably idealistic, as did communism. But the spirit of the two movements is similar, and utopian thinking is utopian thinking, fairly innocuous perhaps if restricted to isolated dreamers and theoreticians but dangerous to the extent that it inspires action in the real world.”
Ryn, a man who knows his history as well as his faith, notes, by way of contrast, that,
Christianity has always stressed the imperfect, sinful nature of man and warned against placing too much faith in manmade political institutions and measures. St. Augustine (354-430) is only one of the earliest and least sanguine of many Christian thinkers over the centuries who would have rejected out of hand the idea that mankind is destined for great progress and political perfection, to say nothing about the possibility of salvation through politics. Although Christianity has stressed that rulers must serve the common good and behave in a humane manner, it has been reluctant to endorse any particular form of government as suited to all peoples and all historical circumstances.
In trying to piece together the different strands of Neoconservative ideology it is useful to listen to what the proudly Jewish thinker Benjamin Ginsberg has written. In discussing neoconservatives and their relation to “paleoconservatives” (traditional conservatives like Claes Ryn, Pat Buchanan, Paul Gottfried and Thomas Fleming), Ginsberg observes:
Few neoconservatives attach much moral significance to the issues of abortion or school prayer and pragmatically advocate doing little to concretely advance these causes in order to avoid alienating middle-class suburban voters. Indeed, many neocons are fond of saying privately that social issues are merely Museful bait with which to attract the votes of the riff-raff. By helpfully reminding conservative Protestants and Catholics of the true character and aims of the Jews (as revealed by the portions of their liturgy they have chosen to overlook in recent years), paleoconservatives can disrupt the improbable alliance between conservative Christians and Jews and bring the former over to their camp….Many neocons were at one time liberal Democrats or, in some cases ,even Socialists or Marxists. One major factor that drew them to the right was their attachment to Israel…In the Reaganite right’s hard-line anticommunism, commitment to American military strength, and willingness to intervene politically and militarily in the affairs of other nations to promote democratic values (and American interests), neocons found a political movement that would guarantee Israel’s security.
Ginsberg, however, seems to think that for paleoconservatives to point out what he has done is somehow anti-Semitic, telling us that “This is why, after a long hiatus, anti-Semitism has once again become a significant phenomenon on the political right. The most noteworthy expression was, of course, Pat Buchanan’s charge that the Persian Gulf War was promoted by the Israeli Defense ministry and its ‘amen corner’ in the United States. …”
If Ginsberg is right, then it would seem that social issues such as abortion, which many people have regarded as extremely important, for the neocons take a back seat to foreign policy considerations, especially US support for Israel. And, of course, this ideological pattern is in many ways the antithesis of the notion of the Social Kingship of Christ that those who profess to be followers of Christ are duty-bound to promote. In fact, despite the many Christians who see themselves as neocons or fellow-travelers with neocons, this ideology seems something very far from Christian.
Melanie Phillips certainly thinks so, telling an audience of her fellow-Jews at the Limmud conference:
If the neo-cons aren’t really conservative, they differ even more strikingly from their Christian co-counter revolutionaries. For the neo-con view of the world is a demonstrably Jewish view. Christians see man as a fallen being, inherently sinful. The neo-cons have the Jewish view that mankind has a capacity for good or ill. Christians believe humanity is redeemed through Christ on the cross; the neo-con approach is founded on the belief that individuals have to redeem themselves. Christians believe in transforming fallen humanity through a series of mystical beliefs and events. Neo-cons believe in taking the world as it is, but encouraging the good and discouraging the bad. It is this impulse to tikkun olam or repair of the world, this belief that the world must not be allowed to fester but can be persuaded to change for the better, that gives the neo-cons the optimism that so distresses old-style paleoconservatives when the principles are applied to world affairs. For it was the neo-con belief that good can prevail over evil, that pre-emptive strikes against rogue states are justified and that regime change into democracy can transform a terrorist state into a model world citizen, that lay behind the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.
Phillips makes quite explicit the idea that neocons have a “Jewish view of mankind.” She is to be commended for bringing into discussion the theological dimension of political movements. It would be nice, however, if she allowed others to bring in that dimension too. The BBC filmmaker Adam Curtis made a series of films entitled The Power of Nightmares about neoconservatives and radical Islam. Not only was Israel not mentioned, but nor (if I remember rightly) were the words Jew, Jewish or Judaism. I regarded this as a striking omission. Still, at least no one could accuse Mr Curtis of anti-Semitism and perhaps he too thought this. Melanie Phillips, however, thought differently, writing of Curtis in her blog: “You obviously can't overestimate the creative imagination of a pukka conspiracy theorist. It's not enough willfully to invent a conspiracy by sinister neo-cons, aka Jews, in Washington to subvert American foreign policy.”
Apparently only the likes of Melanie are allowed to delve into these esoteric areas. The rest of us will have to make do with whatever exoteric message is given us, and stop imagining things that just aren’t true. Perhaps it’s easier to live with double standards if one adopts the neoconservative view which, according to Phillips, effectively denies the reality of Original Sin - or at best admits its existence but de-emphasizes it in the name of the belief that “the world…can be persuaded to change for the better”, a belief to be contrasted with a robust belief in Original Sin. We can all share Phillips’ unexceptionable wish to “encourage the good and discourage the bad” without being quite so sanguine about the results.
Phillips does not, of course, believe in the redemptive power of the crucified and resurrected Christ. Human suffering as it relates to Christ’s sacrifice is, for her, meaningless. But Phillips the neoconservative goes further than most. Not only does she reject outright the New Covenant which forms the New Israel that is (so Catholics believe) the Catholic Church, but she thinks that anyone who believes that the New Covenant has superseded the Sinai Covenant is necessarily anti-Semitic (her article on the matter is entitled “Christians who hate the Jews”). Assuming that Ms Phillips knows the history of this view (an incautious assumption) she is condemning as anti-Semitic Christ Himself, St Peter, St Paul, all of the Church Fathers, all of the Popes, all Saints, and all orthodox Catholics. Not only that but, as Jewish convert Israel Shamir points out,
Her insufficient grasp of ideas calls it ‘replacement theology invented by a revisionist Palestinian theologian.’… A genuine article is ‘replaced’ with a substitute, while an outdated idea is ‘superseded’ by a newer one. It was indeed invented by a ‘revisionist Palestinian theologian,’ but his name was not Canon Ateek, as she claims, but Prophet Isaiah. He spoke of the New Covenant that will supersede the Old one. Afterwards, this idea became the cornerstone of Christianity, as the New Covenant between God and the Church (Israel of spirit) superseded the Old Covenant between God and Israel of flesh. Ignorant Jews present it as an act of “hatred of Jews.” But it was just the opposite: the act of eradicating hatred between Jews and non-Jews.
Had Phillips listened to the man who is now Pope she would have learned that “The Torah of the Messiah is the Messiah, Jesus, himself…To imitate him, to follow him in discipleship, is therefore to keep the Torah, which has been fulfilled once and for all. Thus the Sinai covenant is superseded.”
Rejection of the New Covenant is rejection of Christ. If to follow Christ and His Church is necessarily anti-Semitic and if neoconservatism is a Jewish movement (even if rejected by most Jews) then it should come as no surprise that critics of neoconservatism, especially if they are Christian, are accused of anti-Semitism. In being thus slandered, they are in good company.
Thus far I have quoted various people’s views on what the word neoconservatism denotes. In so doing I have aimed to give an impression of some common themes which roughly identify the aims of any movement that might be called neoconservative. I started with geopolitical concerns and moved on to theological assumptions. With regard to the latter, we have those like Melanie Phillips openly identifying neoconservatism as a Jewish (or Jewish-inspired) movement. Promoting the central goals of such a movement/ideology, as she describes it, is surely incompatible with living a good Christian life. For a start, the doctrine of Original Sin can never be downplayed – it is absolutely central to the Christian life and to any understanding of the Gospels, Sacraments etc. To minimize or ignore this doctrine is to invite upon oneself some of the greatest disasters of history.
Standard Christian teaching holds that the Incarnation came about because of Original Sin. And through the Incarnation the God-Man Christ, the Second Adam, chose through love to embrace suffering on the Cross in order to bring about an atoning sacrifice offered to all mankind. If a Christian believes in the doctrine of Original Sin, he also believes in the need for Redemption through a Second Adam, the perfect Son of God.
Can’t one deny or downplay Original Sin, brush it away, talk of some vague need for ‘healing’? The tiqqun olam to which Phillips refers was popularized through the Lurianic Caballah. The Jewish historian Gerschom Scholem explains:
The realm of qelippah, where the sparks are held in bondage, is a distinctly political realm ‘represented on the terrestrial and historical plane by tyranny and oppression.’ The purpose of man’s existence on earth became tiqqun or healing, restoring the lights in their original place in the universe before the breaking of the vessels had released the forces of sin and evil. The messianic king, far from bringing about the tiqqun, is himself brought about by it: he appears after the tiqqun has been achieved. The cosmic redemption of the raising of the sparks merges with the national redemption of Israel, and the symbol of the ‘ingathering of the exiles’ comprises both.
This form of Gnosticism has little to do with Original Sin but everything to do with a worldly messianism, the very kind of messianism that caused the earth-shattering ruptures at the time of Christ. And it is this toxic messianism that many neocons seem to be obsessed by. If the neoconservative movement - or loose group of convergent interests - cannot excommunicate someone like Michael Ledeen (in fact he is cherished) then I think we can safely say that the movement is a form of revolutionary messianism. Ledeen tells us:
Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our own society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity, which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. Seeing America undo traditional societies, they fear us, for they do not wish to be undone. They cannot feel secure so long as we are there, for our very existence – our existence, not our politics – threatens their legitimacy. They must attack us in order to survive, just as we must destroy them to advance our historic mission.
The program of those who would choose Barabbas over Christ has seldom been put so succinctly. No surprise, then, that this same man, a leading neoconservative thinker, tells us, in writing, approvingly, of Machiavelli, that: “There are several circumstances in which good leaders are likely to have to enter into evil: whenever the very existence of the nation is threatened; when the state is first created or revolutionary change is to be accomplished…” To such a man, and his fellow-travellers as described below, these words of Elizabeth Anscombe were addressed:
But if someone really thinks, in advance, that it is open to question whether such an action as procuring the judicial execution of the innocent should be quite excluded from consideration‑-I do not want to argue with him; he shows a corrupt mind.
III. Squaring the Circle
So apparently neoconservatism is a Jewish-inspired movement advocating messianism, revolution, and a downgrading of the importance of ‘social’ moral issues and, of course, war, war, war. While there is more to neoconservatism than support for Likudnik Israeli policies, a general adherence to these seems to be a necessary condition for being regarded as a “conservative” by this group. No surprise that an aversion to Christ is present among a good number of adherents of this ideology, even if it isn’t politic to admit to it. How, then, do people square the circle between Christ and anti-Christ.
In the light of these reflections, having read the July issue of Standpoint on the neoconservative mindset I fired off a letter to Daniel Johnson, the Catholic editor of the magazine. I asked him why the magazine welcomed the thoughts of certain influential US figures such as Paul Wolfowitz, a man who has not only advocated torture, but micro-managed it, as Major Michael Thomspon informed a US court in stipulated testimony. In 1978 Wolfowitz was investigated for providing a classified document to the Israeli government through an intermediary, and in 1992, as Undersecretary of Defense, promoted the export to Israel of advanced AIM-9M air-to-air missiles, despite knowledge that a previous version had been handed on to the Chinese by Israel.
What kind of ideas will flow from a character formed by such actions? No surprise that Wolfowitz promotes Robert Kagan, a co-signatory of the famous letter to the President on September 20th 2001 urging to remove Saddam Hussein from power, “even if evidence does not link Iraq directly to the attack…” No surprise that in typically neoconservative fashion Kagan’s book essentially argues that due to remote and or/fabricated (and easily resolved) dangerous geopolitical possibilities, the US must follow costly and dangerous policies in the present.
Having noted two of the more openly extreme neoconservatives in the review pages (as reviewer and book author) I turned to Melanie Phillips’ feature article which, while rightly drawing attention to a possible fraud [the al-Dura case involving the alleged faking of TV footage regarding the killing of Palestinian youth by Israeli forces] neglects to mention the numerous and well-documented cases of child-killing carried out by IDF soldiers over the years. Whether such killings are directly intentional or barely considered side-effects of rash and needless actions, they are absolutely wrong. That so many have been documented, including by Israeli human rights groups, surely deserved a mention.
Back to the review pages, I noted David Pryce-Jones talking about Nazis, whose crimes he takes so seriously he has equated them with Hezbollah’s but not with IDF’s ‘proportionate’ dropping of 1.2 million cluster bomblets in south Lebanon, an issue that has bothered neither Pryce-Jones nor columnist Douglas Murray. Douglas Murray is a young neoconservative who takes all of the usual morally degenerate positions. While calling himself a ‘conservative’ he tells us that he is “pro-abortion, pro-gay rights” and spends much time criticising Islamic groups (sometimes fairly) while utterly ignoring anything Israel might do.
With the exception of the Aidan Nichols’ fine piece, extolling a truly Christian solution to social problems, Standpoint has shown us that it stands, in many ways, in opposition to what Nichols is envisaging.
Only in passing did I note Nick Cohen, a follower of Christopher Hitchens who has has travelled the same very short journey that Hitchens has. Cohen hates religion and is a keen abortion advocate. He is also capable of such brilliant arguments in favour of military intervention in sovereign nations in contravention of international law as: “If you say it is illegal to overthrow a genocidal tyrant…then you have to say genocide is legal.” Enough said.
Finally, I did not mention an extraordinary article in the July issue of Standpoint entitled “Barack Obama, Isolationist” by James Kirchik of The New Republic. Aside from the absurd premise (Obama is affiliated with The Council of Foreign Relations) the author clearly thinks that “isolationism” is a terrible, terrible thing, especially when there are messianic wars to be fought. That it is this (and not, say, his support for infanticide, prostration before AIPAC etc.) which is the one thing Kirchik (and Standpoint) choose to criticise him on tells us all we need to know about the worldview and priorities of Standpoint.
My letter to the editor provoked no reply and nor was it published (in common, no doubt, with many others). After a little pestering I eventually received an email from the editor Daniel Johnson. He informed me that the letter was not published because it was too long (doesn’t Standpoint employ copyeditors?) and reassured me that he saw our disagreement as political rather than moral.
Along with “moral squeamishness” the idea that torture is somehow a merely ‘political’ issue suggests a moral confusion that is depressing coming from a Catholic. Johnson did try to point to future “Christian” articles but then proceeded to name a series of largely Christian-lite writers who undermine rather than bolster Christianity. This was in response to my praise of the one excellent article by Aidan Nichols in the July issue, extolling a truly Christian solution to social problems.
The following issue of Standpoint published another column by Julie Burchill, a woman who hates the Catholic Church and Islam and boasts of having had five abortions. Other than that, she is famous for washing, at tedious length, her (very dirty) linen in public and producing lesbian “chick lit”. What qualifies her to write for Standpoint? Well, she is utterly in love with Israel and in her column she literally wraps herself in the Israeli flag. Such are the moral standards of this “conservative” magazine.
Still, at least no Wolfowitz in this issue. No Wolfowitz; instead John Bolton, the neoconservative who ludicrously denies he is a neoconservative (despite not differing in policy views one iota from self-described neoconservatives). He uses his column to object to the fact that some people think he is a war criminal. Bolton, who has become something of a regular on UK TV, is a notorious Israel-firster and hardline hawk who did everything he could to facilitate the Iraq war and block any possible ceasefire in the Israel-Lebanon conflict. Furthermore, as Tom Barry informs us, “According to news reports, including the highly respected Jewish magazine Forward, Bolton took part in unauthorized meetings with Israeli officials, including Israeli intelligence agents. He met with officials of the Mossad intelligence agency without first seeking "country clearance" from the State Department's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. In its May 6, 2005 article on Bolton's practice of manipulating intelligence and violating government protocol, Forward also noted that Bolton is "known as a strong supporter of Israel's position that Tehran is coming alarmingly close to being able to weaponize its nuclear material." Not surprisingly, when he was the US ambassador to the UN he was called “Israel’s secret weapon” by his Israeli counterpart.
To top it all, this issue contained a prominent piece by Rabbi Sidney Brichto on - you guessed it - anti-Semitism and that insidious form of it, anti-Zionism (he refers to the absurd Parliamentary Report on Anti-Semitism noted above). As well as inflicting on unwary readers a completely false impression of Israeli history (see Maoz) and the 1967 war this Rabbi has the chutzpah to tell us that nowadays “History is dismissed as irrelevant”. Certainly irrelevant is Rabbi Brichto’s statement that: “Zionism – and its creation, Israel – gave that prejudice the excuse to breathe again. Deep down in the European consciousness, there lingers a conviction that the world would be better without the Jews. But as anti-Semitism is now an unfashionable tool for achieving this goal, the way to do it is by destroying the ‘Zionist entity.’”
Such extraordinary statements contrast with the statement of the pre-eminent Zionist Walter Lacquer who informs us, rightly or wrongly, that “anti-Semitism in Europe is predominantly Muslim in character.” Brichto’s statement regarding the conviction held ‘deep-down’ in European consciousness, together with his use of the now capacious term anti-Semitism is an appalling and irresponsible piece of armchair socio-cultural psychology that manages to be both tragic and deranged. This kind of paranoid mindset (his statement has yet to be condemned by Melanie Phillips or Douglas Murray, both of whom accuse Muslims of paranoia and scare-mongering) is reminiscent of the distinguished Jewish playwright David Mamet’s comment upon seeing a bumper sticker reading “Israel Out of the Settlements” (S’s transformed to dollar signs). The playwright said that such a slogan could best be translated as “Hook-nosed Jews Die.”
This paranoia is not merely a propaganda tactic, but is in least some cases, a genuinely distorted view of the world and as such a kind of sickness. One does not help the sick by encouraging them to indulge in pathological behaviour. It isn’t moral, and it certainly isn’t Christian.
IV. The Cure
The cure to these problems, in the Christian understanding, is, of course, to replace messianism with a recognition of the true Messiah. At the very least, the beginning of the cure is to reject the antinomian idolatry that the contributors to Standpoint indulge in. I do not know how much influence the editor has over the magazine. To co-operate formally or materially (in a way that cannot be morally justified) with the morally bankrupt pronouncements of the neocons can never be acceptable. Mr Johnson must either stand up to his funders and remove such obstacles to his faith or leave this sordid venture. As things stand, Johnson is allowing Zionists to keep Jews from the Way, the Truth and the Light, and the neocons to continue in their overturning of people’s appreciation of the natural moral law. The one thing that both groups cannot bear is the Cross. Daniel Johnson, along with all of us, needs to embrace it again, and in doing so lead others to do the same.
Anthony S. McCarthy can be contacted at email@example.com.
This article was published in the February 2010 issue of Culture Wars.
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 A few choice examples can be found in the endnotes in E. Michael Jones, The Revolutionary Jewish Spirit and its Impact on World History (Fidelity Press 2008).
 Elliott Horowitz, Reckless Rights: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (Princeton University Press 2006) and Israel Yuval, Two Nations in Your Womb: Perceptions of Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (University of California Press 2006).
 A History of the Jews (Perennial Library 1988) p.580. See also Modern Times: The World From The Twenties To The Nineties (Harper Perennial 1992) p. 710. Johnson is so caught up in his idea that the Jews are constantly blamed for the world’s ills that he manages to write the following in his book Intellectuals (Harper Perennial 1990) while discussing the world of counter-revolutionary Abbe Barruel: "... Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobitism [sic] (London 1797-1788)…attacked not just the Illuminati but the Masons, Rosicrucians and Jews.” (p. 32). Unfortunately for Johnson, Barruel famously did NOT attack the Jews. Barruel (like Adam Curtis – see above) never mentioned Jews despite the vastness of his tome: see Jones pp. 539-560.
 Defending The Holy Land: A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security and Foreign Policy, (University of Michigan Press 2006) pp. 201-202 (and refs therein). See also Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel & The Palestinians (Pluto Press 1999) pp. 362-370, 373-375, 383-386, 397-398, 404-405. Chomsky makes the provocative point that those who would defend the Israeli army’s actions at Sabra and Chatila should, if they are consistent, excuse the Czar’s police and army for the famous Kishinev pogrom. Chomsky bases his account of Kishinev on S.M Dubnow’s History of the Jews in Russia and Poland. That account is disputed by Solzhenitsyn (see Jones pp. 671-674). For more on Sabra and Chatila see Robert Fisk, The Great War For Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East (Harper Perennial 2006) pp. 623-624 and pp.1020-1026 and Terrorists, collected in John Pilger (ed.), Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs (Vintage 2005) pp. 255-284.
 http://www.meforum.org/article/743#_ftnref80 The footnote to this quote from the paper refers to Manifestations of Anti-Semitism in the EU 2002-2003 (Vienna: European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia, 2004), p. 98.
 http://www.melaniephillips.com/diary/?p=996 Phillips dismisses the claims of Muslims that they are discriminated against in England and also suffer. Her dismissals must be seen in the light of her willingness to sign up to the ludicrous and fundamentally dishonest Parliamentary Report, which by its very methodology exaggerates the problems Jews in Britain may face.
 Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (University of California Press 2008) pp. 37-38. The report can be accessed at: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-semitism/report_index.html
 Quoted in Yakov M. Rabkin, A Threat From Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism (Zed Books 2006) p.118 (and ref therein).
 Rabkin p. 92 (and ref therein).
 Shamir p. 395.
 Claes G. Ryn, The Ideology of American Empire, collected in Neo-Conned Again: Hypocrisy, Lawlessnes, and the Rape of Iraq ed. D. L. O’Hullachain and J. Forrest Sharpe (Light in the Darkness Publications 2005) pp.66-67.
 Benjamin Ginsberg, The Fatal Embrace: Jews and the State (University of Chicago Press 1998) pp.231-233. For more on neoconservatism as a Jewish movement, and its relationship to traditional or “paleo” conservatism see Murray Friedman, The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy (Cambridge University Press 2006); Kevin MacDonald, Cultural Insurrections: Essays on Western Civilization, Jewish Influence and Anti-Semitism (Occidental Press 2007); Stephen J. Sniegoski, The Transparent Cabal: The Neoconservative Agenda, War in the Middle East, and the National Interest of Israel (IHS Press 2008).
 For a concrete electoral example of this see Jones pp.1037-1040.
 http://www.melaniephillips.com/diary/archives/000857.html Keeping with the now standard Zionist practice of condemning any comparison of the activities of the Israeli state with Nazism/the Holocaust (or the Holocaust with abortion etc.) but reserving such comparison for Arab leaders and critics of Israel, Phillips tastefully entitles her entry on Curtis “Goebbels grotto”. And that was for someone who didn’t even mention Israel or Jews!
 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Many Religions –One Covenant (Ignatius 1999) pp. 70-71 (my emphasis). Of course the Abrahamic Covenant is a covenant of grace and is still active in that it has been made part of the New Covenant. The Old Covenant referred to by Phillips is the Sinai (Mosaic) covenant. It should be remembered that St Paul (Romans 11.28-29) refers to the gifts and calling which are the spiritual blessing God wants to give Israel. That call remains to the Jewish people.
 For a concise methodology identifying a Jewish intellectual and political movements see Kevin MacDonald, The Culture of Critique: An Evolutionary Analysis of Jewish Involvement in Twentieth-Century Intellectual and Political Movements (1st Books 2002) p.v-vi.
 There is much more to say with regard to the neoconservatives. In many cases it can certainly be argued that the ideology basically consists of implementing a War Game which takes a disgustingly dismissive attitude to human death and misery. In any event, neoconservatism’s supposed good intentions (spreading democracy, freedom etc.) aren’t borne out by neoconservatives actions (prioritising Israel, the Military-Industrial Complex, Oil etc.) which betray a conscious (or possibly unconscious) hypocrisy. Maintaining the idea that one is ‘good’ in upholding this hypocrisy is, of course, much easier to do if the reality of Original Sin is denied.
 Quoted in Jones p.443.
 Quoted in Jonathan Cook, Israel and the Clash of Civilisations (Pluto Press 2008) p. 92. Of course not all societies/polities that the neoconservatives seek to overturn need be Christian, traditional etc. The point here is that the means used (together with the messianic presumptions) show a contempt for certain eternal values which constitutes a serious menace to the world.
 Michael Ledeen, Machiavelli on Modern Leadership: Why Machiavelli’s Iron Rules Are as Timely and Important Today as Five Centuries Ago (St. Martin’s Press 1999) p101-102. Kevin MacDonald notes that Ledeen has been suspected of spying for Israel and was regarded by the CIA as “an agent of influence of a foreign government: Israel,” and was suspected of spying for Israel by his immediate superior at the Department of Defense, Noel Koch (see Cultural Insurrections: Essays on Western Civilization, Jewish Influence, and Anti-Semitism (Occidental Press 2007) p 184 (and refs. therein). MacDonald also notes John Laughland’s thought that Ledeen’s revolutionary ideology stems not from Trotsy or Marx, but from his favourable view of Italian fascism as a universalist (non-racial) revolutionary movement (p. 185 and ref. therin).
 Andrew Cockburn, Rumsfeld: His Rise, Fall, and Catastrophic Legacy (Scribner 2007) p. 195.
 MacDonald, p 174.
 See http://www.counterpunch.org/barry07272006.html. Bolton characteristically saw a huge moral asymmetry (in Israel’s favour) between Israeli actions against Lebanon and Hizbullah’s actions against Israel. The evidence suggests otherwise – see Jonathan Cook, Israel and the Clash of Civilizations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press 2008) and the reports on the conflict by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. See also Finkelstein (2008). For more on Bolton see http://dir.salon.com/story/news/feature/2005/10/14/neocon/index.html
 See Maoz (2006); Tom Segev, 1967: Israel, the War, and the Year that Transformed the Middle East (Metropolitan Books 2007).
 The Changing Face of Anti-Semitism: From Ancient Times to the Present Day (Oxford University Press 2006) p.18.
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