My book has finally gained recognition: it has been condemned as anti-Semitic (and conspiratorial) in a not-insignificant publication called The Public Eye. So I now join the ranks of Jimmy Carter, James Baker, and Pat Buchanan – well, at least as a very junior member. The Public Eye is the publication of Political Research Associates, which describes itself as “a progressive think tank devoted to supporting movements that are building a more just and inclusive democratic society. We expose movements, institutions, and ideologies that undermine human rights.” And certainly a book that connects American neoconservatives and Israel to America’s Middle East war policy would be regarded as a threat to “human rights,” at least in some quarters.
The author is Michelle Goldberg, a “consultant investigating Islamophobia and antisemitism on campuses for Political Research Associates.” She was a former contributing writer at Salon.com and currently is a blogger at the popular “The Huffington Post.” Her articles have appeared in Rolling Stone, The New York Observer, The Guardian, and Newsday. Her political views are conventional left-liberal (“progressive”), and she has been a strong backer of Barack Obama. One of her central concerns is the alleged danger of the Christian Right–her book, Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, is a New York Times bestseller. She sees herself as an anti-war, liberal Zionist, who is critical of the existing Israel Lobby and the rightist Zionists who currently run Israel. (http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2009/03/justin-elliott-has-a-fabulous-interview-here-with-michelle-goldberg-following-the-92d-street-y-event-the-other-night-goldber.html)
But like many liberal Jewish critics of Israel and its right-wing American supporters, Goldberg becomes defensive when the criticism comes from gentiles, and goes beyond certain (undetermined) bounds. For example, Goldberg lambasted the brilliant work, “The Israel Lobby,” by John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt — so I am in good company. Regarding their original paper, Goldberg wrote: “This is not just a case of brave academics telling taboo truths. In taking on a sensitive, fraught subject, one might expect such eminent scholars to make their case airtight. Instead, they’ve blundered forth with an article that has several factual mistakes and baffling omissions, one that seems expressly designed to elicit exactly the reaction it has received. The power of the Israel lobby is something that deserves a full and fearless airing, but this paper could make such an airing less, not more likely.” (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/04/18/lobby/)
In labeling The Transparent Cabal anti-Semitic, Goldberg — at least in the beginning of her review, charmingly titled “The Taboo Truths of the Conspiracy Minded” — acknowledges that the “antisemitism in The Transparent Cabal is quite subtle — so much so that many readers probably won’t see it, and will likely dismiss criticism of it as yet another attempt by the Likud lobby to silence its foes.” It would seem that the professional detectors of anti-Semitism, such as Goldberg, have to be somewhat like wine tasters or, even better, modern art experts who must instruct the hoi polloi what to think. Expressions of anti-Semitism in The Transparent Cabal must be so subtle that Goldberg does not cite any actual evidence of them, if such a term means prejudice against Jews qua Jews. One wonders what kind of harm the undetectable kind of “anti-Semitism” can possibly do to Jews. Staying within her “anti-Semitic” paradigm, Goldberg fails to mention evidence in the book that would militate against it. For example, two of the three names (in addition to mine) on the front cover happen to be Jewish: Paul Gottfried, who wrote the introduction, and Mark Bruzonsky, who is described as “former Washington rep., World Jewish Congress.”
While failing to cite concrete examples of anti-Semitism, Goldberg exhibits a propensity to mix truth with distortions of the truth to arrive at numerous false attributions. For example, she writes: “Sniegoski has fashioned a monocausal narrative in which Israel and its American supporters are the preeminent drivers of American foreign policy and the sole font of turmoil in the Middle East.” While it is correct that the neocons, with Israel in a supporting role, were the “preeminent drivers” of American policy in the Middle East in terms of the war agenda — though, as I show, they have been checked by other forces in their drive to expand the war beyond Iraq — I do not describe the motivation for that policy as “monocausal.” “Monocausal,” of course, means one cause, while “preeminent” means most important or greatest, which presupposes the existence of other, less important, causes. I devote an entire chapter to the auxiliary causes, which I point out were necessary for the implementation of the neocon plan to attack Iraq. More effort needs to be devoted to investigating the auxiliary causes. But all books have to be limited in scope. My narrative focuses on the neocon/Israel war agenda and does not purport to thoroughly describe the other causes.
Many of the positions that Goldberg fabricates for me are of an outlandish variety. For example, nowhere in the book did I say or imply something as bizarre as that “Israel and its American supporters” were the “sole font of turmoil in the Middle East.” The book actually mentions animosities and wars among Arab and Islamic states that were not caused by Israel and Israel’s American supporters — the Iran/Iraq War, Saddam’s attack on Kuwait, animosities between Shi’tes and Sunnis. In fact, the book tends to agree with the Likudnik view that most of the Middle East countries are composed of hostile ethnic and sectarian groups which are held together by dictatorial regimes. While my book points out how Israel often has some type of involvement in these conflicts, this hardly suggests that Israel caused the conflicts or that such conflicts would not take place without the actions of Israel. Of course, since the book has Israel, particularly Likudnik policy, as one significant focus, it naturally deals with Israeli involvement in war and war planning, as opposed to, let us say, comparable activities undertaken by Egypt or Saudi Arabia. The book obviously does not presume to be a study of conflicts in the Middle East.
Perhaps Goldberg’s need to construct straw men to slay (of which additional evidence will be shown later in this essay) stems from the fact that she actually expresses agreement with the book’s major points. She writes: “Sniegoski aims to show that U.S. neoconservatives masterminded the Iraq war in the service of Israeli hegemony, a proposition that has plenty of truth to it.” She continues along these lines of agreement: “It is important to be clear here. Neoconservatives inside and outside the George W. Bush administration deserve tremendous opprobrium. They helped erect the ideological justifications for war with Iraq and seized control of the public discourse, bullying anyone who urged patience and diplomacy. Most importantly, under Vice President Cheney, a group of neoconservatives played a crucial role in distorting American intelligence to make it seem as if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Qaeda, creating a fallacious casus belli. Neoconservatism is a movement famously founded by ex-leftists — many of them Jewish — who lost their youthful ideals but not their radical (and sometimes rigidly ideological) habits of mind. The revolutionary callousness they displayed in their grandiose plan to reshuffle the Middle East has been catastrophic for people around the world.”
And she writes: “Nor is it any secret that the neoconservatives have longstanding ties to the Israeli Right. Despite what Sniegoski seems to think [incorrect mind reading here: I never even implied that "A Clean Break" was a secret or unknown], it is well known that, in 1996, leading neocons prepared a report for then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu titled ‘A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,’ which advocated replacing Middle Eastern regimes hostile to Israel with more pliant rulers. Neoconservatives are aggressive American nationalists, but they conflate the interests of the United States and Israeli Right. The policies they’ve pushed have undoubtedly weakened the United States and made a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict more elusive than ever.”
Such overall agreement on a book’s major points by a reviewer would in normal cases constitute a favorable review. But Goldberg offers a serious caveat, in which she totally eliminates the significance of my book on the grounds that these major points are allegedly well-known and apparently expressed quite openly in books and the mainstream media. She contends: “There’s nothing new in The Transparent Cabal — indeed, it’s a kind of clip job. Most of its material about the neoconservatives derives from mainstream media reports and well-known books.” One wonders what Goldberg expects here: White House documents, letters from the Richard Perle Manuscript Collection? Now, I explicitly state that I got most of my material from mainstream sources, which include both secondary and (ignored by Goldberg) primary sources — the writings of the neocons themselves. Goldberg, who according to Wikipedia has a master’s degree in journalism, seems to imply that I do not understand the proper method of writing history, though I do have a Ph.D. in that field and though a number of history Ph.D.’s, some from academia, actually read and approved my manuscript or book. (See: http://home.comcast.net/~transparentcabal/blurbs.html)
Contrary to Goldberg’s allegations, I never claimed to be dealing with “secret” material or even new material. What I did do was to tie all the public material into a coherent whole and provide mounds of evidence to show, as best as possible, the validity of this still, much-disputed thesis regarding the seminal role of the neocons and Israel in the Bush II Middle East policy. Clearly acknowledging that this idea did not originate with me, I devote one chapter in the book (Chapter 2—”The ‘Neocon-Israel’ Claim: Bits and Pieces”) to a variety of significant people who have presented this view. Very few ideas in the field of history, or even science, are totally new. What The Transparent Cabal does is to provide extensive evidence to show that these allegations are true. I explicitly state this in the book: “As noted earlier, the thesis here presented is neither novel nor particularly original. What is newly presented, however, is the extensive evidence, from matters of public record, necessary to evaluate the claims . . . [which] up to now typically been dismissed as lunacy, bigotry, or both.” [p. 23]
As Tom McPherren, a critic of the neocons who is quite familiar with the general story, puts it in a brief review on Amazon.com: “Dr. Sniegoski has relentlessly mined public sources to make his case, and I urge the reader to focus on two words I’ve just used: ‘relentlessly’ and ‘public.’ If he were investigating, for example, the causes of the Second Punic War, much less evidence would be expected; but in light of the taboos, doublethink, and nonthink deployed to hamper analysis of the Bush War, he has had to be relentless in marshaling his evidence. The result is a case that is armor-plated and triple-riveted.” Similarly, Bill and Kathleen Christison, write in their very favorable review of my work in CounterPunch (of which Goldberg alludes in her review): “Stephen Sniegoski has had the persistence to ferret out mountains of impossible-to-challenge evidence that this Israel-U.S. connection is the driving force behind virtually all Middle East decisionmaking over the last eight years.” (http://www.counterpunch.org/christison09202008.html)
And contrary to Goldberg, the information she claims to be so well-known is unknown to most educated Americans and completely disputed by important intellectuals and scholars who deny the influence of the neocons, and claim that oil and “corporate” interests or other factors played the major role in shaping American Middle East policy. Those leading authors and intellectuals who deny the centrality of the neocon/Israel motive include such critics of United States policy as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Stephen Zunes, and Andrew Bacevich.
Some books touch upon aspects of what I write, but what other author has compiled all the evidence I have? I did not just make assertions but provided extensive documentation to back up my arguments. The obvious fact is that what Goldberg claims to be well-known is not expressed in public; in fact, many of the views I express are considered taboo. Somehow, the people who have written extensively on the neocons — Philip Weiss, Bill and Kathy Christison and Paul Gottfried — thought differently from Goldberg.
In discussing the neocon network, Weiss writes in his blog (May 18, 2009) that “The best unfolding of this conspiracy inside our politics — and yes, it is a conspiracy, in precisely the way that the slave power functioned as a ‘conspiracy’ in American politics in the 1850s, as then-obscure Abraham Lincoln stated when he raised up the Republican Party to smash it — is by Stephen Sniegoski.” (http://www.philipweiss.org/mondoweiss/2009/05/the-neoconservative-network-still-unreported.html)
Paul Gottfried, who has focused on the neoconservatives for years, writes: “The Transparent Cabal showers its reader with a wealth of details, which are available in the footnotes as well as in his text. . . . In his narrative, Sniegoski throws light on the intricacies of neoconservative relations, which even I, perhaps the world’s foremost authority on this world-historical misfortune, did not know until I read Steve’s galleys” (http://www.takimag.com/blogs/article/the_transparent_cabal/)
It is not apparent that Goldberg, a few years ago, accepted what she now claims to be so well-known and accepted as truth. In her 2006 review of Mearsheimer and Walt’s noted essay, “The Israel Lobby,” she chastised them for not mentioning oil, citing some (questionable) evidence that she believed showed the importance of oil as a motive for war. She wrote that the oil evidence “does suggest that oil was at least a factor, casting some doubt on Walt and Mearsheimer’s assertion that ‘the war was due in large part to the lobby’s influence, especially the neoconservatives within it.’” (http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/04/18/lobby/print.html)
So in 2006 Goldberg believed that there was some doubt that the war on Iraq was due “in large part” to the neoconservatives, but she now claims that such a belief is so well-known and accepted that there is absolutely no need to try to prove it. One wonders what books came out during the intervening two-and-a-half years (roughly the publication date of The Transparent Cabal) that enlightened her so.
In actuality, despite her allegation that I simply parrot well-known truths, Goldberg still seems to hold to some version of the war-for-oil thesis. I devote an entire chapter (along with additional information interspersed throughout the book) to disproving the oil argument, the disproval of which is quite central to the overall neocon/Israel thesis. She picks up only a small part of my argument when she writes: “He dismisses the idea that oil was part of the motive for war by arguing that if it had been, the United States would have made more of an effort to secure [Iraq].” She leaves out the fact that I also point out that the oil interests and the traditional foreign policy elite were actually against the war. She holds that “the notion that the war-planners believed their own propaganda … is somehow impossible for Sniegoski to accept.” I assume she is equating “war-planners” with the neoconservatives because, as I point out, expert U.S. government opinion (and that of the Israeli Likudniks) expected post-Saddam Iraq to be unstable, hardly an ideal environment for the American oil industry to extract oil. The neoconservatives sometimes made utopian claims about an instantly democratic Iraq that would welcome the United States, but they were hardly consistent in that view, as I show in the book. (pp. 215-17) In all likelihood, claims about a quick emergence of a stable democratic Iraq were intended simply as propaganda for war — just like WMD, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that would spray poison gas on American cities, and Saddam’s nuclear program.
Goldberg argues that the book peddles conspiracy theories; in fact, “conspiracy” is in the title of her review. A “conspiracy,” of course, refers to something done in secret. In my book, however, I make a great effort to show that the neocons worked in the open. For example, I write: “The book has been entitled The Transparent Cabal because the neoconservatives have sometimes been referred to as a cabal, and, in fact, the term has been taken up by neoconservatives themselves. By implying secret plotting, the aim of such a term is often to make the whole idea of neoconservative influence appear ridiculous. For while the neoconservatives represent a tight group devoted to achieving political goals, they have worked very much in the open to advance their Middle East war agenda. Thus, unlike a true ‘cabal,’ characterized by secrecy, the neoconservatives are a ‘transparent cabal’ — oxymoronic as that term might be. The neoconservatives quite openly publicized their war agenda both before and after September 11, 2001. In developing this history, the author has relied heavily on published sources produced by the neoconservatives themselves. In fact, it is the very transparency of the neoconservatives that has allowed this work to exist.” (pp. 5-6)
In one of her few illustrations of my alleged conspiratorial mind-set, Goldberg claims that the author “strongly suggests that the war on Afghanistan was motivated by the United States’ desire to build a pipeline through that country.” How that equates to a conspiracy is beyond me. In fact, citing an economic motive for war would seem to be something with which a “progressive” would concur and not denigrate as a conspiracy theory. If every historian who cited unpublicized motives for government actions were a “conspiracy” theorist, then very many, if not most, historians would fall into that category.
She claims that I “hold there are no accidents,” but I certainly point out how the neocons were obviously not fully successful in implementing their war agenda. She claims that I “don’t bother to address” how the neocons’ desire for regional instability meshes with the “increased strength of Iran that resulted from the Iraq war.” In actuality, I bring that out throughout the latter part of the book. After the occupation of Iraq, the neocons expected to take on Iran and other countries, in what they termed “World War IV.” I show throughout the latter part of the book how the neocons have tried and failed to get the United States to expand their war agenda beyond Iraq, especially toward Iran. Chapter 13 is titled “Neocons’ Post-Invasion Difficulties,” which should dispel any notions of neocon omniscience or omnipotence.
I do argue, however, that the neocons held quite realistic views of the Middle East, in line with Israeli and American Middle East experts, and that when they espoused quasi-utopian views–cakewalk victories, instant democracy–it was generally for the tactical purpose of advancing their agenda and not believed by them as objectively true. In short, my portrayal of the neocons is quite different from the one that shows them as gullible naifs whose claims and predictions ineluctably turn out to be wrong—while their financial backers nonetheless keep supporting them to the hilt.
Goldberg sometimes makes charges that are obviously erroneous and should be easily recognized as incorrect after even a cursory reading of the book. For example, she writes that “The former Vice President [Cheney] is barely mentioned.” A quick search of the e-copy of my book shows that Cheney’s name appears 116 times, far more than that of most neocon individuals. In fact, I observe that “it was Vice President Dick Cheney, with his long-time neoconservative connections, who played the major role in bringing them into the administration and thus shaping American foreign policy.” (p. 113) Of course, my point is that Cheney simply played an important role in bringing about the implementation of a war agenda developed by neocons, and even that implementation would not have taken place without the powerful neocon network, inside and outside the Bush administration.
Goldberg is not averse to sometimes tossing out gratuitous negative comments without feeling the need for any evidence or explanation. Thus, without offering proof or even clearly stating what she means, she simply asserts that I have a “Manichean view of the world,” which she claims is a mirror image of the neoconservative worldview. That alleged conflict of good versus evil would presumably imply that I present Israel and the neocons as all-evil (though she explicitly applies that only to my alleged view of Israel), and that I present the neocons’ foreign policy adversaries — the traditional foreign policy establishment and Israel’s Arab and Islamic enemies — as being totally good. In reality, however, The Transparent Cabal depicts the traditional foreign policy establishment as supportive of any regime in the Middle East, no matter how dictatorial and oppressive, as long as it promoted stability in the region, which served to facilitate the flow of oil to the United States and the West. That included support for Saddam Hussein against Iran in the 1980s and involved assistance in his use of poison gas in the war. While that is the opposite of the neocons’ and Israel’s goal of regional instability, it is not apparent that the book’s depiction of the traditional foreign policy approach emerges as particularly beneficent. Moreover, the idea that I present neocons in a totally negative light is also incorrect. For example, I mention that they played a significant role in America’s winning the Cold War.
Regarding Israel’s enemies, it is hard to see how I present Al-Qaida, Iraq, or Iran as being all-good. That they usually don’t do all the malevolent deeds that neocon and Israeli propaganda allege does not make them beneficent. My basic point is that they are too weak and too distant to be real threats to United States national survival (though they can commit acts of terrorism that are exacerbated by militant U.S. policy), but I do not deny that Israel’s enemies threaten the existence of Israel. (e.g., p. 210) However, my contention is that the threat to Israel is of a demographic rather than military nature, for Israel is much too strong to be threatened militarily.
Goldberg somehow thinks that I “demonize” Israel and see only the “diabolical in Israel.” Now, the idea of “demonic” and “diabolical” implies the doing of evil for the sake of evil. The Bush administration’s claim that the Islamic terrorists hated the United States because of its goodness approximated that concept. However, in The Transparent Cabal, I provide rational reasons for the Likudniks’ actions — maintaining that they see the survival of Israel as threatened by Palestinian demography. Nowhere do I claim that this threat to Israel is a fantasy rather than real (see especially pp. 210-11). No doubt I mentioned many things regarding Israel, and especially the Israeli Right, that might have appeared baleful, but it would have been interesting if Goldberg had cited a few of the good things I should have included about Jabotinsky, Shamir, Begin, Sharon, Netanyahu, and the Irgun.
Goldberg also has a tendency to deal with thoughts, including her own imaginings, rather than sticking to what is actually written in the book. For example, she writes that “To read this book, one would think Israel started every war it ever fought.” Since the book does not review Israel’s wars over the past 60 years, I don’t know why the reader would necessarily think this, but perhaps Goldberg has her own personal reasons.
In the thought-crime area, Goldberg ascribes “Holocaust revisionism” to me because I tried to accurately state Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s rather fluctuating views of the Holocaust. Can thought-policeperson Goldberg really believe that my stating someone’s expressed views indicates assent, especially since she applies that standard only selectively and never when it involves the neocons or Israeli figures? My topic in this part of the book was foreign relations, and I pointed out that Ahmadinejad’s “inflammatory remarks” on the Holocaust and other subjects “undoubtedly helped fuel the campaign by Israel and the neoconservatives to depict Tehran as a dangerous ‘rogue regime.’” (p. 263) I wrote the entire book in a dispassionate manner and did not morally condemn various crimes committed by the United States and Israel, such as wars of aggression (the greatest of all war crimes according to Nuremberg), torture, bombing civilians, and mass expulsions of civilians. Some anti-war readers (and my publisher as well) saw that as a flaw.
Goldberg, like some others, might believe that the Holocaust is an evil nonpareil and that its memory should be treated with the utmost reverence, unlike the lesser mass killings and atrocities going on at present. However, it is evident that the government of Israel itself does not allow questioning the Holocaust to interfere with its security policy: it has recently been close to Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate president of the Palestinian National Authority, who, in the past, wrote a book that questioned key aspects of the Holocaust. Abbas has never recanted. Israel, and its supporters, including those devoted to the memory of the Holocaust, have tended to treat Abbas’ views in a Orwellian fashion, by essentially throwing them down the memory hole. [http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/40370]
If Israel can treat the Holocaust in that manner, it seems that it should be acceptable for me to simply state the facts and avoid dwelling on the evil of those who might intentionally downplay it. Needless to say, as I point out, Israeli and neocon policy has nothing to do with any malevolent ideas of Ahmadinejad, who has been exploited as a propaganda tool. Since the United States in the past has conducted diplomacy with various dictators who not only said horrendous things but did them (such as Joseph Stalin and Mao), it would not seem that the historical views of a government figure who does not even run his country should really have an impact on American policy.
Instead of calmly assessing my book, Goldberg seems to have simply searched it for anything she could twist or distort into a weapon with which to discredit me. Sometimes she ferrets out the book’s most minor points to achieve that purpose. For example, without any evidence whatsoever she claims that I join “the far Left and the far Right in sympathy for Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbia.” The only thing I write regarding Serbia is to imply that some of the claims made about the Serbian atrocities were exaggerated in the West, which is clearly true but does not denote sympathy for Milosevic’s regime any more than pointing out that the Bush administration claims about Saddam’s WMD were false denotes sympathy for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Goldberg abhors my one reference to Kevin MacDonald, and labels him an anti-Semite. She writes: “To quote MacDonald on the subject of Jewish dual loyalties is roughly equivalent to appealing to the wisdom of David Duke in an argument over affirmative action.” As in a number of other cases, Goldberg misses the context of this quote. It does not deal with “dual loyalty” but is intended to illustrate that there was a general consensus of opinion that the neocons transformed American conservatism. In that context, I also cite pro-neocon figures, such as Murray Friedman, author of The Neoconservative Revolution: Jewish Intellectuals and the Shaping of Public Policy, who made very favorable comments about the neoconservatives. It is hard to believe that Goldberg actually believes that I identified with all of the content of MacDonald’s quotation, because she does not interpret the preceding quote by Murray Friedman in that manner. The Friedman quote reads: “The idea that Jews have been put on earth to make it a better, perhaps even a holy, place continues to shape their worldview and that of many of their co-religionists.” [p. 42] Goldberg does not remark that I also exhibit Judeophilic tendencies. It seems that instead of merely being weak in reading comprehension, Goldberg deliberately sought to smear me as an anti-Semite and fished through the book to find words that could be distorted to achieve that end.
Another of Goldberg’s misinterpretations used to impute anti-Semitism to me involves her charge that I identify “people’s Jewish heritage whether it’s relevant or not. He [Sniegoski] notes, for instance, that British Foreign Minister Jack Straw is ‘of Jewish ancestry.’” She points out that Straw is a “Christian who had one Jewish grandfather, though both Islamist and White supremacist websites frequently identify him as a Jew.” Goldberg thus connects me with “Islamist and White supremacist” anti-Semites, although my description of Straw was not the same as theirs, and, was, in fact, accurate. And while I do refer to Jewish ancestry, not only in the passage in question but throughout the book, I obviously do so to point out Jews who were in any way hostile to the neoconservative position. I intended that as a proactive effort to counter expected smears that my depiction of the neoconservatives implied a monolithic Jewish conspiracy. (For example, I also point out that neocon critics Senator Carl Levin and George Soros are Jewish.) The reference to Straw’s Jewish ancestry is in conjunction with his conversations with Secretary of State Colin Powell in the fall of 2002, in which the two men expressed views that were quite contrary to the unilateral war goal of the neocons. I see my effort to mention the existence of anti-neocon Jews failed to achieve its intended result with Goldberg. But I have a distinct feeling that if I referred only to neocons and their supporters as Jewish, that would not have gone over well with her either.
In fact, Goldberg is willing to concede only that I hold that “not all Jews support the neoconservative agenda or the Israeli Right.” Of course, I say far more than “not all Jews support” the neocons, which literally could mean that just one Jew does not support them. In fact, I point out that in late 2005, polls showed that a large majority of Jews opposed the war on Iraq, and that in 2007 polls showed that a much greater majority of Jews than gentiles believed that the war had been a mistake. (p. 371)
Goldberg then describes my publisher as an anti-Semite, in an apparent effort to connect me to all of his possible views. “If Sniegoski has picked up on antisemitic memes, perhaps it’s because he has placed himself in an antisemitic milieu. The Transparent Cabal was put out by Enigma Editions, an imprint of IHS press created specifically for this volume.” She points out that the IHS Press “was described by The Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the ‘most nakedly antisemitic organizations in the entire radical traditionalist Catholic pantheon.’ Sniegoski’s book fits in there nicely.”
Goldberg, in short, makes use of the “guilt by publisher” concept. But why would an author adhere to the views of his publisher? President Barack Obama spent many years with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who was charged with anti-Semitism and all sorts of unpopular views, and was his good friend. Obama was indeed attacked for that connection. However, Goldberg, a staunch supporter of Obama’s, has not attributed Wright’s views to Obama. It is remarkable that she does not, for the connection of an author to his publisher is infinitely less than President Obama’s past very close connection to Reverend Wright. In my case, I was searching to find a publisher for my manuscript and received very few offers — in fact, I received no other offer to publish my entire manuscript without significant reductions.
But does the IHS Press actually focus on attacking Jews? One might look at its website to determine how “anti-Semitic” it is. IHS Press lists descriptions of its leading books on its home page, and the word “Jew” is not mentioned. It does proclaim its dedication to the social teachings of the Catholic Church. (http://www.ihspress.com/index1.htm)
The publisher does not seem to have an absolute litmus test in choosing books and authors for publication. It does not appear that all writers published by IHS Press have been anti-Semitic, traditional Catholics, or even Catholics. Certainly such a litmus test is lacking for the authors of its two Neo-Conned! anthologies on the Iraq war–Neo-Conned! and Neo-Conned! Again. The Neo-Conned! anthologies include such authors as Noam Chomsky, Claes Ryn, Kirkpatrick Sale, Alexander Cockburn, Justin Raimondo, and Robert Fisk. Does Goldberg regard all those men as anti-Semites? Since my book deals with the same subject, it is those writers with whom I should be compared.
The fact of the matter is that within IHS Press the writings of those men are favored far more than my book. If Goldberg had done a modicum of checking she would have seen that The Transparent Cabal is not even listed in the IHS catalog at the IHS website. Goldberg notes the creation of a special imprint for my book — Enigma Editions. Did she notice also that the name “IHS” appears nowhere? There is no reference to IHS in the bibliographical listing for The Transparent Cabal at the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) catalog of books (WorldCat) used by librarians and researchers for inter-library loans among 60,000 libraries world-wide. (http://www.worldcat.org/)
Perhaps Goldberg was too incurious to delve into the enigma of Enigma Editions — or perhaps she feared finding something that would undercut her “anti-Semitic” insinuation. The fact is that the publisher regarded my manuscript as insufficiently critical of the neocons and too hostile to America’s and Israel’s enemies, and sought changes and additions that I was unwilling to make. Just before the book was supposed to be sent to the printer, the publisher was refusing to publish the book for those reasons, and he finally did so only after much contentious argument — and then only with the stipulation that the book would not be identified with or promoted by IHS Press. For Goldberg to claim that “Sniegoski’s book fits in there [IHS Press] nicely” is an assessment that is totally contrary to the opinion of the IHS Press publisher.
One can also wonder how my book, as Goldberg has depicted it, could fit into the SPLC description of IHS. Early in her review she describes the anti-Semitism in The Transparent Cabal as “quite subtle — so much so that many readers probably won’t see it.” In contrast, the SPLC uses the phrase “nakedly anti-Semitic,” and suddenly, in her review, Goldberg appears to agree with that evaluation. But “subtle” and “naked” are virtually antithetical.
In conclusion, the numerous errors in the review indicate that Goldberg did not intend to give a fair evaluation of the work, but simply sought to discredit it by any means possible. Her misunderstandings of what I wrote — misunderstandings not apparent to any of the many people who read the manuscript — slant only in a negative direction, mainly toward the ascription of anti-Semitism. That lethal designation serves to silence rather than to foster analysis.
Goldberg accepts the fact that the designation of anti-Semitism is often used unfairly, but she claims that it not only exists but can be legitimately applied to books such as The Transparent Cabal. However, she does not show how authentic anti-Semitism differs from false charges of anti-Semitism. She does not provide any examples of people who have been falsely charged as anti-Semites. One wonders where someone such as Jimmy Carter or James Baker would fit. Goldberg does not bother, either, to furnish examples of people who make false charges of anti-Semitism, beyond attributing such smears to the “Right.”
In point of fact, the most potent charges of anti-Semitism come not from the Right but from leaders of major Jewish organizations. Let us look at such charges as leveled by Abraham Foxman, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League. As I mention in my book, Foxman has maintained that pointing out that the neocons played a significant role in the war on Iraq and that they had connections to Israel is “reminiscent of age-old, anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government.” [quoted on p. 20] From his description, it appears that Michelle Goldberg herself expresses anti-Semitic views in her review of my book! Does the head of the ADL make false charges of anti-Semitism, whereas Michelle Goldberg’s opinion is correct? Yet, since Goldberg fails to set a distinct boundary between legitimate criticism and anti-Semitism, no one could really address the subject with any assurance that Goldberg would not label them anti-Semitic.
As I point in my book, “The ‘anti-Semitic’ charge is often an effort, and usually a very effective effort, to silence public discourse on issues displeasing to some influential Jews. But it is necessary to move away from the question as to whether the argument (in fact, any argument) is ‘anti-Semitic,’ to the question of whether it is true. This requires free inquiry unimpeded by prohibitions and taboos.” (p. 372)
Goldberg shows little concern about the truth content in The Transparent Cabal, giving mere backhanded assent to what she claims everyone already knows — material that actually encompasses the major themes of the work. While she misrepresents various references, fabricates positions for me (often ignoring contrary information in the book), and guesses at my thoughts and motives, nowhere does she indicate anything actually in the book that is factually untrue or a distortion of the evidence.
While I think I provide an accurate interpretation of the evidence, which no one has yet shown to be false, I do not claim to provide every fact about the neoconservative/Israel war agenda or express any ultimate, unchangeable truth. Where freedom of inquiry is allowed, historical interpretations can, and usually do, undergo revision. As I write in my book, “Of course, no work can be definitive, especially one dealing with a contemporary issue that is still unfolding. Obviously, much information is yet to come, especially with the future release of archival collections. Evidence undoubtedly could appear that would alter this work’s interpretations. All historical interpretations are only tentative. However, it would seem impossible to find new evidence that would remove the neoconservatives and Israel from the picture concerning the American war on Iraq and the succeeding developments in the wider Middle East. As George Packer, a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, asserts in The Assassins’ Gate: “The Iraq War will always be linked with the term ‘neoconservative.’” (p. 9)
Early in her review, Goldberg provides what she anticipates as a reaction to her review by observing that readers, not detecting the alleged “subtle” anti-Semitism in The Transparent Cabal, “will likely dismiss criticism of it as yet another attempt by the Likud lobby to silence its foes.” In writing that, Goldberg offers a near-perfect description of her review, except for the fact that the effort to silence is not solely the preserve of the “Likud lobby.” We must hope, however, that many other writers, especially those with scholarly reputations, will dare to deal honestly and openly with this taboo topic and not be turned aside by expected charges of anti-Semitism by people such as Michelle Goldberg.