Jewish Journal

Joe Klein continues defending Jewish dual-loyalty claim

by Brad A. Greenberg

July 31, 2008 | 4:07 am

A month on, Joe Klein is still catching a ton of heat for his claim of Jewish dual-loyalties.

Joe Klein is no Kappo, Just a Low-Life Scumbag,” is the headline from Yid With Lid.

“To say it is a badge of honor to stand in opposition to a person as manifestly intellectually unstable as Joe Klein has become is to understate the case,” writes John Podhoretz, the editor of Commentary, which Klein singled out. “As for his use of classic anti-Semitic canards, I am happy to report that the Jewish people will long survive Joe Klein. The question is, will Time Magazine?”

The “controversy” is all a bit overblown to me, which I stated back when this all began. His main point was that Jewish neoconservatives—there are non-Jewish neocons—led the United States into a needless war in Iraq. While it’s true advisers like Wolfowitz and Feith were prominent voices in President Bush’s head, they were not the only, and they definitely weren’t named Rumsfeld or Cheney.

“More importantly,” I wrote, “American foreign policy for the past almost four decades has held that Israel’s best interest is in the U.S.’s best interest. In other words, if the protection of the Jewish state from Saddam’s whims played a role in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq—an ill-advised act at that—it likely has as much to do with American policy as American Jewish interest or, as Joe Klein called it, dual loyalty.”

I’m sure this all would have blown over, but the Anti-Defamation League’s chief Abe Foxman decided to get involved—Bill Donahue, anyone?—and the folks at Commentary haven’t let it go. Klein, for his part, only seems to be adding fuel to the fire. Here he is singling out his “extremist” foes:

I don’t think a war with Iran is coming, thank God, but this time I am not going to pull any punches. My voice isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things, but I’m going to do my job—and that means letting you know exactly where I stand and what I believe. I believe there are a small group of Jewish neoconservatives who are pushing for war with Iran because they believe it is in America’s long-term interests and because they believe Israel’s existence is at stake. They are wrong and recent history tells us they are dangerous. They are also bullies and I’m not going to be intimidated by them.

For a fuller explanation of why Klein believes what he believes and stands by what he said, check out Jeffrey Goldberg’s Q&A, after the jump.

Jeffrey Goldberg: What did you mean when you used the term “divided loyalty” to describe neoconservatives?

Joe Klein:  I did not mean to imply that they were disloyal to the United States, but I think that, in some occasions and in some instances, especially this incredible push for war with Iran, they aren’t thinking about the consequences.

JG: Do you think this push is coming out of the American Jewish community, or from Israeli leaders at this point?

JK: I think it’s coming out of both.  But I think that if you look at, for example, the Commentary blog, if you look at Joe Lieberman - and McCain is reflecting this quite a bit in what he said, and I think until he was called out on Afghanistan a few weeks ago, he was talking about Iran almost exclusively and he was doing it in the most flagrant way. My big problems with McCain began with a simple question that I asked him at a press conference: “Why do always talk about Ahmadinejad as if he is the leader of Iran when he isn’t?”  And he said, “I beg to differ with you, he is.”  I said, “But you know, the Supreme Leader controls the nuclear policy and the foreign policy,” and McCain said, “But Ahmadinejad is the guy who shows up at the United Nations and the average American thinks he’s the leader.”

JG: Go back to this divided loyalty issue.

JK: Listen, people can vote whichever way they want, for whatever reason they want.  I just don’t want to see policy makers who make decisions on the basis of whether American policy will benefit Israel or not.  In some cases, you want to provide protection for Israel certainly, but you don’t want to go to war with Iran.  When Jennifer Rubin or Abe Foxman calls me antisemitic, they’re wrong.  I am anti-neoconservative.  I think these people are following very perversely extremist policies and I really did believe that it was time for mainstream Jews to stand up and say, “They don’t represent us, they don’t represent Israel.”

JG: You wrote something that suggested you were skeptical about whether Iran actually wants to destroy Israel. You don’t think Iran poses a mortal threat to Israel?

JK: They pick Ahmadinejad specifically because he’s the guy making the wildest antisemitic statements. I think that’s being done for political purposes, to scare the sh—out of my parents. It’s a Broward County strategy, it’s a Florida strategy. On Iran, I think that it’s a love/hate relationship, since Iran and Israel are natural allies.  You know, when I was in Iran, I’d talk to people.  I was talking to one right-winger, and I said, “You know who your natural ally is?” and I was thinking the United States and he said, “Oh, yeah, Israel.”  I think that my reading on the nuclear issue is, given the level of threats that they’ve been getting from the United States, and from Israel, it’s a logical thing for Iran to want nuclear weapons as a deterrent.  I don’t think they’d ever actually use it.  First of all, they don’t actually have it, but if they did have it, they’d contaminate at the very least the third most holy site in Islam, and they’d kill a hell of a lot of Muslims.  So I think that they want it as a matter of deterrence and a matter of prestige. When you look at Iran’s behavior, it has not been irrational.

You can read the rest here, and it’s definitely worth the effort.

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