Routledge, the respected academic publishing house, has published a book review that is a depressing tour de force of contemporary highbrow leftist anti-Semitism. There has long been a sense that ?anything goes? in such circles, and this review goes a long way toward proving that?an impression that is only deepened by its carrying a ?peer review integrity? logo.
Worse still, the review provides further evidence of the convergence between the increasingly anti-Semitic anti-Zionism of parts of the left intelligentsia, and the increasingly anti-Zionist anti-Semitism of American neo-Nazi ideologues.
The damage is done. The only thing remaining is to see if Routledge and the editorial board responsible for the review belatedly distance themselves from it.
The review is of James Petras? book, War Crimes in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America. It shames the May 2011 edition of Routledge?s peer-reviewed Journal of Contemporary Asia and is written by a former UN official, Frederic F. Clairmont. Both Petras and Clairmont, in addition to celebrity intellectual Noam Chomsky, are on the Journal?s editorial board.
The Petras book, and its Journal review, present a conspiracy theory that has very little to do with traditional Asian themes, but fits resoundingly with the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth-century socialist linkage of Jews with capitalism, now updated and repackaged for twenty-first-century anti-capitalist discourse. Socialist anti-Semitism had nothing to do with biological racism, but exhibited striking resemblances to the subsequent National Socialist propaganda that twinned ?international Jewry? with American capitalism and British imperialism. Soviet anti-Semitism continued this lineage with its combined attacks on Zionism, finance capital, corporations, millionaires, and so on. Today, the trend continues, with far-left and far-right bastardization of the word ?Zionist? providing the cornerstone, and the word ?Jew? lurking in its shadow.
Clairmont?s offending review in the Journal clearly derives from an earlier review by Clairmont, dated September 5, 2010, that can be read in full on James Petras? website. The earlier review is the unexpurgated version: the Director?s Conspiracy Cut, as it were.
The Routledge version avoids some of the trashier anti-Semitic aspects of the original. We can?t know if this editing was done by the editors of the journal or the author. But whatever the case, it is a good representation of how the anti-Semitic aspects of contemporary anti-Zionist hysteria are airbrushed?as if the old anti-Semitic conspiracy theories would have been entirely accurate, had they only coined their own linguistic obfuscation of the word ?Jew.?
Clairmont?s only point of contention with the Zionist Fifth Column book is that he believes Petras should not have used the terms ?Zionist Fifth Column in America? and ?Zionist Power Configuration,? but should rather have called it the ?Zio-fascist complex,? ?so as to throw into sharper relief the horrors of its being.? Clairmont?s contemplation resembles a 2009 posting by ex-Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke on Stormfront, the leading American neo-Nazi website, in which Duke asked his readers,
Maybe one of you might have an idea to describe the matrix of power in America.
Perhaps, the political, financial, media-Zionist matrix
Just the Zionist media, political and financial matrix
Or just the Zionist matrix,
Or just the Zionist complex
Lets work on this, we can create a whole new powerful term that sums up the core of Jewish extremist power in America and the world.
It is most unlikely that this review will propel Journal readers to urgently warn their peers and students that the dangers of Zionism and Zionists are even worse than they had previously believed. It is the insidious nature of such arguments, repeated time and again with varying degrees of extremism, that is the biggest danger. Over time, such incitement is increasingly able to masquerade as academic theory, especially when it is not simply unchallenged, but approved by an academic editorial board.
Nevertheless, the similarity in belief and language between Stormfront and the Journal is more likely a reflection of David Duke having been seduced by James Petras et. al.?by what they get away with saying?rather than the other way around. At any rate, both ideologies have reached the same point, inexorably borne by what is, at root, an anti-Semitic conspiracy narrative.
The Routledge version seems at least (implicitly) cognizant of the dangers of sounding outwardly anti-Semitic. For example, it states, ?…[Israeli] ?settlements? are being funded by the ?donations? of Zionist finance,? whereas Clairmont?s original says, ?…[Israeli] ?settlements? are being funded by the big money bags of Zionist finance capital…? Perhaps an editor at the Journal realized that ?the big money bags of Zionist finance capital? sounded more National Socialist brute than it did Revolutionary Socialist highbrow. Or perhaps Clairmont knew it himself.
Then, in the next paragraph, there is another deletion of a phrase that is redolent of Nazi anti-capitalist anti-Semitism. The Routledge version says, ?Excluding the huge German reparations, since 1950 Israel has received yearly some US $5 billion, and that in a land of about six million.? The original adds in a parenthetical after this statement, ?(that is the private sector payouts from international Jewry plus the US government),? and follows by saying, ?Any move to halt this…would be knifed by the Zionist cabals.?
This is not, however, to say that the Routledge version does not have its own blatant shortcomings. Consider this:
Israel is a brazen fascist monster. The mobilisation of its power in the USA is by elected and appointed Zionist officialdom. A key to its power is that it is a mass grassroots organisation buttressed by the financial support of scores of millionaires, dozens of billionaires and a mass media that is its handmaiden.
The review continues:
In many ways it has paralyzed the US Congress and the Executive. It influences Treasury, State, the Pentagon and all leading Congressional committees that relate to Israeli expansionism…The career profiles of its professionals that are the quintessence of the ?Fifth Column? are to be found in every nook and cranny of Wall street, the globe-girdling corporate law firms, the insurance industry, the big three stock market-rating agencies, the big three accounting firms and the media. As the author makes clear, pro-Israel career patterns and projections of power have established a hegemony of US public life.
How does this conspiracy really differ from David Duke?s depiction of ?the Zionist media, political and financial matrix?? Yes, Duke uses the word ?Jewish? (to be more precise, ?Jewish extremist power?), but the Petras book echoes even that, citing ?Judeo-Zionist hegemony.? (It?s a fantasy term, warmly quoted in Clairmont?s original article: ?he [Petras] emphasizes that ?in effect pro-Israel career patterns and projections of power have established a kind of Judeo-Zionist hegemony of US public life.??)
The above paragraphs may remind those familiar with anti-Semitism of the notorious forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, with its global conspiracy theory and attendant imagery, such as a Star of David?bearing octopus encircling the globe in its tentacles, or a Star of David-bearing spider holding the world in its web, or a grotesque Jewish capitalist squeezing blood out of the world. As if to reinforce the impression, the next paragraph in the Routledge version states that ?the ramifications of the Zionist behemoth is by no means confined to the US political oligarchy. Indeed its tentacles are globalised, notably in all the major EU countries.? (Here, the Routledge version omits Clairmont?s details of how ?the grip? of ?the operational fifth column…is vastly magnified by the stranglehold on the major media outlets notably on the Middle East.?)
Perhaps Clairmont?s peer reviewers were seduced by the relative absence of the word ?Jew? from their actual version of the article. After all, Jews (by name) only appear in their article?s conclusion:
…the preparations for the obliteration of Iran has [sic] gathered speed…The vote in Congress was galvanised amongst others by the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and acclaimed by all the major American Jewish organizations.
The upsurge of Zionism, as Petras notes, is a virulent form of identity linked to a foreign power. Its overwhelmingly successful hegemonic inroads have been abetted by the abject capitulation of the US ruling class. The US political complex and successive administrations with no exception have become part of the interlaced web of Zionist power that extends into every nook and cranny of all sectors of American capitalism.
There is no distancing here of Jews from this ?interlaced web of Zionist power? that holds the ?US ruling class? in ?abject capitulation.? It is ?all the major American Jewish organizations? that are either in the conspiracy or cheering on from the sidelines.
This sudden introduction of ?all the major American Jewish organisations? into the closing section of Clairmont?s polemic really lets the anti-Semitic cat out of the bag. The only surprise is that whoever airbrushed Jews from the original article failed to spot this mention of them. Or, perhaps more likely, the anti-Semitic cat had been squirming so furiously in the anti-Zionist bag that it finally, inevitably, escaped.
[With thanks to Paul Bogdanor]