Philip Weiss flags a post by Conor Friedersdorf under the title “Why bloggers avoid writing about Israel.” Friedersdorf describes having passed on a link regarding Rand Paul’s proposal to put U.S. aid to Israel on the proverbial table. The link was to a post by a certain Philip Giraldi, the writer of a somewhat notorious 1999 letter regarding the “Holocaust industry” in the U.S. The mere act of mentioning Giraldi seemed to be enough for another reasonably well-known blogger, Pejman Yousefzade, to launch a tirade against Friedersdorf, the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan, and the various horses they rode in on. Weiss agrees with and amplifies Friedersdorf’s main argument: That a blogger going about his bloggy business can easily take a “wrong” step in the Middle Eastern intellectual minefield.
Friedersdorf seems to have a point on this one. In fact, he almost always has this same point. As much as one might side with him against the overdone and “vile” accusations from Yousefzade, as at other times against Limbaugh, Levin, or whatever intemperate-to-lunatic voice on the far right, the argument borders on a plea not to be taken seriously.
Anyone who does not make Israel or Palestine or the Middle East a full-time job, but has spent any time at all arguing the issues, has likely had to endure some fearsomely better-informed and very highly motivated and invested partisans taking over whatever conversation on both sides. That’s what the example, absurd on its face, of “not knowing about the Giraldi letter” stands for: The fear of being exposed as a dilettante – i.e., of being just another blogger. The other fear, of being branded an anti-semite, subjected to letter-writing campaigns, and so on, stands for something else: Knowing oneself to be unequipped or unwilling to follow one’s own thoughts to their logical conclusions, regardless of the cost.
Not everyone can recite from memory (perhaps as augmented by Wikipedia and Google), and debate with devastating polemical purpose, the claims and counter-claims of Middle Eastern history from the origins of the origins to every effect of every cause, but it’s never a bad time to wonder how much your presumptions, your very modes of thinking and perhaps your ambitions, have already pre-determined where you’ll end up on any topic of significance… over and over again.