As I mentioned last week, I wanted to write something about Valerie Plame, but other news stories jumped in ahead of her in line. Coming out of the weekend, I now have the time. And I'm glad that I waited because it turns out that there is now an update to it all. I'll get to that in a bit. But first --
As you may have seen, there was an online article by Phil Giraldi, “America’s Jews are Driving America’s Wars” that was criticized for being uncomfortably anti-Semitic. Among many other things, it included such passages as – “the issue that nearly all the Iran haters are Jewish has somehow fallen out of sight, as if it does not matter.”
But what has gotten all the attention is not the article itself, but that it was retweeted and supported by Valerie Plame. In the comment section to the article, rather than take the opportunity to explain that her retweeting was all a mistake, she instead doubled-down -- and as a result, someone followed this up by posting an earlier tweet she had sent in 2014 to the same author in which she said that his then-article explains “why I still hate Israel” and is “well-put”. I did a check to see if maybe her account had been hacked, but unfortunately I came across an article about all of this in The Hill, which makes clear that this was indeed really her, and includes more detail from her why she supported it.
And this was all on the High Holy Day of Rosh Hashanah which just added such a warm whimsy of timing to everything.
I did read some defenses of the original article, attempting to explain why it was just stating the facts and really wasn't anti-Semitic at all. Some tried to see the brighter side about it, that it wasn't even about "Jews" as a group, but more an indictment of AIPAC. There are a lot of problems with all these efforts, though, whether well-meaning or otherwise. One problem, for instance, which leaps out is that the author specifically singled out a handful of people who were all Jewish and made it about "the Jews" driving America's wars. Additionally, far from just AIPAC being the center of the piece, they really are only an "also, by the way" in the article, buried later and bunched in with two other organizations. The bottom line is that the title of the article is quite clear -- it doesn't refer to just a few people, it doesn't refer to AIPAC, it says: "America's Jews are Driving America's Wars."
Moreover, the article includes comments like, "Jewish groups and deep pocket individual donors not only control the politicians, they own and run the media and entertainment industries." (The good news is that the individual donors were not described as "hook-nosed" and "greedy.") The reality is that the author could have talked about it being the neocons driving policy. Or he could have talked about The Heritage Foundation driving policy. But he didn't -- he talked about "the Jews" driving policy. He could have talked about George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Trump, their Secretaries of Defense, Secretaries of States, NSC Directors, and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff not only driving policy but directing policy and actually, literally running the wars. Indeed, if Bush/Cheney/Trump listen to advice, it's their choice who they bring into their circle for opinion in order to support their own aims But the author didn't -- he talked about "The Jews" driving policy...and "The Jews" controlling the media. All he left out were the horns. The author could have asked, "Does the Heritage Foundation drive America's Wars?" But he didn't. He made it about "the Jews." And further, though he's writing only about the Iraq War, and possible war with Iran, he indicts Jews on a much wider landscape for driving "America's Wars."
And there was Valerie Plame retweeting the article, offering her support of it and then doubling-down when asked about doing so. And there was Valerie Plame praising the same author, Phil Giraldi, three years ago and writing how that piece in 2014 showed why she still hated Israel.
To be fair, after enough criticism came down, Ms. Plame did finally back off and offer an apology, which I expected, and it’s a reasonably good one, very self-critical. On the surface. The problem is that before reading it, I felt it would need to pass higher standards for a normal apology because of the other things she previously said in defense of her comments, as well as that earlier 2014 tweet, "This is still why I hate Israel." Just throwing yourself prostrate and saying you're so sorry for retweeting doesn't explain the larger perspective that concerned many people.
And this is before even getting to the update of it all, which I'll get to in a moment.
(By the way, I fully acknowledge that there are some American Jews who were prominent on the neocon far right who supported the Iraq War and would like to see war with Iran. BUT -- that's hardly indicative of "American Jews." And it leaves out all the Christians who supported the Iraq War. And all the Jews who opposed. So, before reading her apology, I hoped it would covered all of that.)
And as I said, at first glance the apology is very repentant, indeed very mortified -- on the surface. But there's a very good article on Ms. Plame's apology in Mediate which addresses some of my very concerns, and feels as I do that the apology may not be as genuine as it appears, in that it doesn't address previous comments she's made. But beyond what they write and even more to the point -- at the centerpiece of her mea culpa she says that she screwed up by not reading the article close enough. And y'know, fair enough, that's certainly possible -- but the problem is that Valerie Plame is a former CIA analyst for goodness sake! And even for laymen the blistering anti-Semitism in the piece was incredibly hard to miss...even if you only got as far as the title. If you got all the way to...well, the first paragraph, you saw the author include a quote asked of him that should have set off even more warning bells, "...we all know it’s American Jews with all their money and power who are supporting every war in the Middle East for Netanyahu". And even after she was first criticized for retweeting the article, she defended it. So, while what she wrote has proper words one looks for in a good apology, I remain wary.
Which brings us to the update I've mentioned, and back to the original article itself, that Ms. Plame says she didn't read close enough -- the one with the headline "America's Jews are Driving America's Wars." How truly bad was it? That's where the update comes in. On Thursday, the original article by Phil Giraldi now added an "Update" that says --
"On the morning of September 21st Phil Giraldi was fired over the phone by The American Conservative, where he had been a regular contributor for fourteen years. He was told that 'America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars' was unacceptable."
And CIA analyst Valerie Plame says she just didn't read the article close enough.
By the way, in criticizing The American Conservative for its actions firing Giraldi and defending his article as not being anti-Semitic at all, Giraldi (or whoever wrote the "Update" make things worse for himself. It continues --
"The TAC management and board appear to have forgotten that the magazine was launched with an article by founder Pat Buchanan entitled “Whose War?” which largely made the same claims that Giraldi made about the Jewish push for another war, in that case with Iraq. Buchanan was vilified and denounced as an anti-Semite by many of the same people who are now similarly attacking Giraldi."
When you're using the similarity between your words and Pat Buchanan as proof that you aren't anti-Semitic, you know you're in a losing cause, in a sinking boat with no paddle. That's like quoting Ronald McDonald to show you don't like burgers. To be very clear, the criticism of Pat Buchanan being anti-Semitic didn't start with the first issue of The American Conservative -- or end there. It was a pit stop.
But Valerie Plame says she didn't read the article close enough. And maybe she didn't. The problem is that it didn't take a very close reading. Especially if you're on record of already loving the author's similar writing on the same subject.
When the Giraldi article was initially published, I wrote to my friend Rabbi Jack Moline, who not only is on the Board of Directors here at Elisberg Industries, but almost more importantly is president of the Interfaith Alliance, and I was curious about his reaction to it all. After a few days silence, he wrote back yesterday, and what he noted was --
"I was offline for the holiday and shabbat. But, yeah, Plame's escapade is on my radar. My take, in general, is that whenever 'the' precedes your accusation -- as in the Jews, the Blacks, the Muslims -- you just might be a bigot. If you went there, you need to do more internal work than, 'OMG, I am SO embarrassed!'"
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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