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In Search of Anti-Semitism Paperback – November, 1993
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From Publishers Weekly
This volume reprints Buckley's lengthy, genteel, circuitous National Review essay, in which he reached the pained conclusion that his fellow conservative Patrick Buchanan, the reactionary former presidential candidate, is anti-Semitic. In the same piece, Buckley levels charges of anti-Semitism at his friend and fellow conservative, syndicated columnist Joseph Sobran, and at left-liberal Gore Vidal, who asserted in a Nation article that American Jews have twin loyalties. Further, Buckley exonerates of charges of anti-Semitism the Dartmouth Review, which in a 1988 article compared Dartmouth's Jewish president, James Freedman, to Adolf Hitler, and which once ran a Nazi slogan on its masthead. Also included is Sobran's indignant, defiant rebuttal, as well as letters to the National Review, praising or condemning Buckley's essay, by Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, A. M. Rosenthal, Robert Novak and others. Buckley's rejoinders to the letters and an afterword round out this colloquy.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
In Search of Anti-Semitism consists of a long editorial essay Buckley wrote examining instances of alleged anti-Semitic writing, primarily from the right; responses from journalists and lay people; and comments on Buckley's comments. He addresses columns by Joe Sobran, formerly of the National Review , and Pat Buchanan; allegations of anti-Semitism in the pages of the Dartmouth Review, a conservative magazine published at Dartmouth College; and a column by Gore Vidal in The Nation . Respondents/commentators include Norman Podhoretz, editor of Commentary, A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times ; and other journalists from various parts of the political spectrum. Buckley attempts to analyze whether the primarily conservative writers he describes are indeed anti-Semitic. While he has his doubts about Gore Vidal, he concludes that the essays under discussion do not reflect anti-Semitism. The issue is a difficult one to define, however; is someone opposed to Israel's policies anti-Semitic? Libraries with collections dealing with anti-Semitism or Jewish issues or those with an audience for Buckley and his philosophy will want this book; most, however can pass.
- Sue Kamm, Inglewood P.L., Cal.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
William F Buckley Jr, a very devout Catholic & a true renaissance man for our times, saw the need to articulate constructively an approach for America, the world, & also individuals, that could order our lives & futures without negativity. Of course, while alive & the nemesis of progressives, liberals, socialists, fellow travelers etc he was demonized by the Left (as was Reagan--whose electoral success can arguably be ascribed to WFB & NR. Now they find it safe to laud him.
This piece addressed Patrick Buchanan's diatribe about Israel's "amen corner" & other such outbursts.
It requires close attention to follow his well-substantiated case; he also reviews Joseph Sobran and comes to similar conclusions.
A must read if you wanna think!
He calls a spade a spade and also attacks liberal anti-Semites. Buckley is also not shy critiquing those cry wolf on the anti-Semitic front.
I love William F Buckley. I think his insight into international relations and domestic politics is unparalleled. And his journalism style is verbose and illuminating. But, this book seems to state the obvious, and drags by doing so.
Anti-Semitism, to me, is just another form of bigotry. Growing up in the suburbs of San Francisco and Silicon Valley, there was a very good healthy Jewish presence. Me, I had no idea what it meant to be Jewish as I was not Jewish. But it seemed like all my smart friends, all my very gregarious friends, were Jewish, save for a few high-IQ Catholic types. Friends I had had for years turned out to be Jewish, and I didn't know they were Jewish. Big deal. Who would care? In all my years on this Earth I have never met a Jewish stereotype. Not ever. I truly have not.
And yet, supposedly, they exist. And, because they exist, people take issue with them for some odd reason.
When I worked in the film industry I noted maybe all of two, possibly three Jewish people. The lady who owned the studio I worked for was not Jewish, but some very blonde and very WASPy protestent type that skipped town when the studio failed and she (a former debutante) ran out of funds to pay the people who tried to make her dream come true. The studio that housed the Running Man special effects crew was not owned nor run by Jewish people. There was one, and only one, Jewish person with the law firm where my lawyer was a partner.
I guess what I'm saying, is that, where I live, in the San Francisco Bay Area, I do not see the earmarks that would lead to anti-Semitism.
Historically, however, apparently people have had issues. Whether it's pro-Israel sentiments, the number of high profile Jewish persons in entertainment media (film, TV, radio), or some other issue, anti-Semitism exists.
Buckley is upfront, and admits to wanting to join his brothers and sisters in a cross burning as a young boy on a Jewish family's lawn. But he stipulates that he (who was completely ignorant of the act), nor his siblings, really understood what it was they were doing, and they were prevented by their parents from engaging in the enterprise.
Buckley then goes on to single out colleagues and rivals alike who had shown what he believed to be anti Jewish sentiments. He cites when they worked for him, what other periodicals they wrote for, and what their remarks were. I personally found it long, occasionally overstated, somewhat over written (though highly verbose), and, to me at least, just overall uninteresting.
Look, I'm very much against bigotry in all forms, but I have to tell you that even I get a little weary of someone saying they were persecuted; either recently or historically. Persecution takes many forms, and it's important to confront it head on, and address it when you see it.
Having said all that, I do get tired of World War Two movies, including films about Anne Frank, or some other reminder about "The Holocaust". As sympathetic as I think that all is, I just don't have any more tears to shed after being reminded of it for over forty years.
The first time I heard, read, or saw something about the Holocaust;
"Oh my god! That's horrendous!"
The second time I heard, read, or saw something about the Holocaust;
"My god, that's just dispicable."
The third time I heard, read, or saw something about the Holocaust;
"Yeah, Nazi Germany was one evil place. Are you hungry?"
The ten-thousandth time I heard, read, or saw something about the Holocaust;
"Okay! I get it! It was bad! GET OVER IT ALREADY!"
And so it goes. Now, does that make me an anti-Semite? Ah, no. But that's coming from a California boy who doesn't have a whole lot invested the history of anti-Semitism. Even so, there does seem to be a mantle taken up by a portion of Jewish society to help prevent what happened to them in Nazi Germany (and elsewhere) from happening in the United States. Much of that effort is from the department of health (or even NIMH) as a measure and tool for healthy social psychology.
Ah, but the layperson who sees a lot of Jewish people in films, or hears them on the radio, or sees news' pieces about US-Israeli relations during the turmoil in the Middle East, I can see getting put out by what might be percieved as a lot of Jewishness in the media. What that person doesn't see is the effort to expose madmen, frauds, and other criminals who would try to seize political power as a self-seeking adventurer, and to plunge a segment (or the whole) of US society into cauldron of potential bloody unrest. And it's not just Jewish people in media fighting to expose criminals, but a cross section of all Americans.
And that's the point that Buckley fails to make. For, for all the citations of anti-Semitism, a skilled man like Buckley, fails address some of the misperceptions by those who earn the anti-Semite label. He occasionally hits on a few, but I think he could have more readily explained why a perception existed that fostered anti-Semitism, and how that perception could have been corrected.
Buckley looks at support for Israel, he looks at (allegedly) high-minded socialites with high intelligence quotients, and tells of how he handled episodes of anti-Semitism at his own publication and elsewhere.
I'm going to lay it on the line; I think if anyone is serious about fighting, exposing, or otherwise addressing things like anti-Semitism, then it would well worth to examine not just anti-Semitism in high profile popular media, but also find the common threads of all forms of bigotry. And this book, and efforts at "uncovering" anti-Semitism fail to do that.
I think in mainstream media today there's a very anti-bigot feeling among most people at the forefront of their thoughts, but that there's an anger stemming from the misperception of why a lot of Jewish people have taken to the media; i.e. I think a lot of people see Jewish people as attempting to control the media for selfish purposes, but when in reality there's a concern to help expose all the facts to the American public to examine.
Buckley goes through various periods in his life, but at some point I just had to put the book down. There were only so many anecdotes of who did what to show they were "really anti-semitic", and even then I had to wonder if Buckey's reasoning was sound, or whether he was caught up in the fad of the time of ferreting out closet bigots.
And that's what I think of this book;. long, overwritten, it didn't tell me I either didn't already know or kind of already suspected. It also didn't address the core roots of anti-Semitism, and, worse yet, the actual repercussions of trying to do good for the American public, but drawing attention to yourself by doing so, and by referncing one's own ethnicity, religious beliefs and culture, which, because of the frequency of said exposure, would lead to inflating anti-Semitim as opposed to stemming it.
Like I say, I couldn't get through it. I simply got burnt out on raedying about who was or is an anti-Semite, why, what they ate, what their favorite opera was, who they dated, what kind of underwear and forth (those last parts are humor). Or, like I said earlier; "The Holocaust was bad! Okay! I get it! Can we move on now?!"
Now, was that last sentence anti-Semitic?
p.s. anti-Semitism is a good measure of the level of prejudice and bigotry there is in a nation. It will always be there. People will always look on one group trying to find a pattern (good or ill) to justify their own preconceptions (usually fear). The reason I gave this book two stars isn't because Buckley didn't do his research on the topic, but because he did not look at the roots of it stemming back to the Roman Empire, nor did he touch on the notion that it is often today used as a deliberate social metric. Otherwise all this book is is a bunch of related accounts of where Buckley himself found anti-Jewish sentiments of varying degrees. Okay, big deal. The real question the book never addresses is "why".
Absorbing and edifying throughout, the essay throws light on a variety of other issues, from the magazine publishing industry to the world of conservative intellectuals. In his elegant prose Buckley is revealed as a perceptive and aware observer of even the most subtle expressions of attitude & an articulate interpreter of the intricacies of language and meaning. The verdict: Buckley, ever so gracious, detects an intense hostility towards Israel in the writing of Sobran but no evidence of Antisemitism. He correctly perceives the presence of the virus in the mind of Buchanan. It has grown more virulent since then as reflected in his columns on various online sites and his books.
The Dartmouth Review is absolved of all charges and shown to have been targeted in a vendetta by the college president. Gore is found guilty and sternly rebuked for his malicious writings in the leftist magazine The Nation. This incident is however the least of his transgressions; abundant evidence of malignant narcissism exists in his work, e.g. the hateful way he wrote about his mother, so his contemptible character has been exposed long ago.
Part Two contains the quantitatively & qualitatively impressive response to the essay in lively letters by a variety of authors from across the political spectrum, including Norman Podhoretz, Irving Kristol, Murray Rothbard and Alan Dershowitz. Buckley replies respectfully to even the minority of exceptions amongst the vast majority of supportive letters.
In Part Three Buckley replies to later contributions and shares his further thoughts on the issue. He was a loyal friend of all Israel in the most inclusive sense of the word but did his best to be as fair and objective as possible in these documents that chronicle the controversy. The book covers many related issues, certain of which have become more pressing in sync with the never-ending conflict in the Middle East. They include US foreign policy in the region, definitions and varieties of Judeophobia, Antisemitism & Anti-Judaism, this last being a supposedly less malignant theological prejudice. I reject this view based on:
(a) the range of hostile attitudes - from arrogance to the condoning of and cold indifference towards Jewish suffering to murderous hatred - evident in the writings of the so-called "church fathers" like Melito of Sardis, Eusebius, Tertullian, Chrysostom and many others. The tragic evidence is available in Christian Antisemitism by William Nicholls, a work of astonishing intellectual honesty (b) The fact that Anti-Judaism's themes migrated to racial Antisemitism. Unfortunately it seems that these myths & themes are deeply ingrained in the darker corners of the Western subconscious.
I consider Augustine's abominable doctrine of replacement theology as the cause of much oppression and view its acceptance by the Reformers as a disaster. Barry Horner's highly recommended work Future Israel: Why Christian Anti-Judaism Must Be Challenged is very informative in this regard. Above all, the loathsome words of Martin Luther disgust me and I cannot accept the excuses. The prejudice may not have been based on race, but the murderous hatred in those words clearly contains the germs of genocide. Over time they brought about the climate and prepared the soil for the Holocaust. These days, Jimmy Carter is doing his utmost to revive that mindset.
Other issues covered include the distinctions between criticism of Israeli policy, Anti-Zionism which denies political rights to Jews as a group and Anti-Israelism which denies the little country's right to life. Buckley's oh so delicate distinctions have lost their validity in the current climate of resurgent Antisemitism. It might not have been thus in 1992, but these days when Israel is singled out as scapegoat & considering the sources of the criticism, at least 90% of it is driven by or contains elements of the plague. To Buckley's credit, amongst all the nuancing it is clear he did consider any attempt at opposing military aid to Israel as Antisemitism.
The extent of Leftist Antisemitism in those days - which Buckley exposes so lucidly - surprised me as I thought it was a recent phenomenon. I suspect it has been migrating from the Hard Left as represented by The Nation to acceptance in mainstream Liberalism as documented by Bernard Harrison in The Resurgence of Anti-Semitism and Phyllis Chesler in The New Anti-Semitism.
From the perspective of 2008, Buckley was right to spotlight the attitude of Buchanan who has moved further along this destructive path. I am disappointed in the conservative media that still carry his columns. Of Sobran I know nothing while Gore Vidal and his scribblings are to be avoided at all times. May William Buckley rest in peace; he was a loyal friend of Israel and the Jewish people and a real gentleman. His noble soul would have grieved to witness the deterioration in the Zeitgeist which brings another mutation of the virus. In pagan times it was the culture, with Christianity it became the creed, then it was the race, now it is the nation that must be wiped out. I mourn for the innocent victims of the virus & even a little bit for the carriers, for I know that Israel will never be uprooted again. Netzach Yisrael lo y'shaker.