Liberals and Israel

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 27, 2006; 7:40 AM

Usually, bloggers get hammered for what they say. These days, liberal bloggers are being denounced for what they aren't saying.

As I've noted before, most of the lefty blogs are avoiding the Middle East war. Some of those puzzled by the relative silence have suggested that these bloggers don't want to wade into this particular crossfire. Some of the bloggers have noted that they have no particular expertise on the subject.

Now the debate has taken a new turn, with the accusation that the liberals are really just hiding their anti-Israel views. I have no idea whether this is true or not--the bloggers are not exactly reticent on other subjects--and there are some liberal commentators who have certainly not shied away from criticizing Israel.

Still, conservatives are ramping up the argument that there's a game of camouflage going on, and the back-and-forth is revealing.

David Adesnik at Oxblog declares:

"Clearly, something else besides complexity is preventing liberal bloggers from writing about Israel. I would suggest that there is a part of the online left which is so viciously anti-Israel that moderates have been intimidated into silence. Let's hope that this kind of viciousness never migrates off line, where it might threaten bipartisan support for Israel."

At the liberal TPM Cafe, Matthew Yglesias dismisses that charge, but then concedes some of Adesnik's points:

"I have to say that David Adesnik's account of why a number of major liberal bloggers have eerily silent on the Israel-Lebanon war strikes me as a bit absurd. He thinks the problem is that extreme anti-Israel voices on the interweb have intimidated more moderate folks out of expressing their more-supportive-of-Israeli-policy views which he imagines are akin to the lockstep support of Israeli policy that one hears from Democratic Party elected officials. I can't say for certain since I don't read minds, but I'm almost positive this is false.

"Suffice it to say that I know lots of liberals and talk to them. The number of rank-and-file liberal people who agree with the sorts of things Democrats have been saying about this is vanishingly small. And, indeed, what Israel is doing is certainly incompatible with the general liberal outlook on use of force questions. The Democrats aren't expressing a mainstream liberal view of the situation, they bowing to pressure from the Lobby That Must Not Be Named. If we heard more from liberal bloggers, we'd be hearing commentary that ranged from somewhat critical to very critical. So why don't we hear more?

"Two things, I think. For one thing, a lot of the liberal blogosphere is primarily interested in partisanship rather than robust ideological conflict. Support for Israel isn't a partisan issue in American politics, and liberals (like me) who criticize America's Israel policy are ginning up trouble for the Democratic coalition. So you're not going to see DailyKos and blogs with a similar mentality making a big deal out of this. The other thing is that David's right to see an intimidation factor at work. But annoying and even maddening as hard-core Israel-bashers may be, there's nothing especially intimidating about a group of powerless and marginal email-senders and comment-writers. Israel's hard-core supporters in the United States, by contrast, are extremely powerful and in the habit of mounting broad-brush smear campaigns against people they dislike."

In the Weekly Standard, Dean Barnett does a content analysis of the most popular liberal blog:

"When the bombs began to fall in the Middle East, the Daily Kos had a problem. And the Daily Kos's problem could soon be the Democratic party's problem . . .

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