Editors’ Blog

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Are American Jews Caught in a Tide of Anti-Semitism? Prime Badge
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It’s hard to analyze public questions with dispassion and wisdom in today’s brutal cacophony of social media driven public conversations. It’s hard to do that when you bring deeply felt and even personal commitments to the questions at hand, though I seldom write about things I don’t have strong beliefs about. I wanted to share a few thoughts about the current arguments about anti-Semitism and Zionism.

There are a lot of American Jews at this moment who feel like they are seeing a wave of unconcealed anti-Semitism that they haven’t seen in their lifetimes.

Is that really true?

As the Israel-Hamas war grinds forward an emanation of that conflict is playing out in the United States with protests and counter-protests, fights over symbolic public actions, manifestos and public letters. Each in turn spurs a public debate about just what was going on in this or that social media viral video. Social media amplifies and accelerates every cut and thrust. What is anti-Semitic, what is simply protests against a war with harrowing numbers of civilian casualties? We see the same well-worn public debates, or rather yelling matches, about what’s anti-Zionism and what’s anti-Semitism, whether anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.

It may help to start with some definitions and history, their relevance and often irrelevance.

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Listen To This: Off Year, On Message

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss Mike Johnson’s early days on the job and major upcoming elections in Ohio and Virginia.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

When Your Country Has Its Back Against the Wall Prime Badge
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Recently I’ve been thinking about a story I first read decades ago. In his mid-50s Winston Churchill wrote an autobiography covering his life through his mid-20s: “My Early Life, A Roving Commission.” Churchill was born well past third base. He was the nephew of Lord Marlborough, one of the most exalted British noblemen, and ended up a commoner only by a small accident of birth. But in his own world he was something of a reject. And that gives his account a sympathetic or emotional approachability it might otherwise not have.

Churchill’s father found him a disappointment, not bright enough for anything but a career in the army. It was a judgment he took little trouble to hide. When Randolph Churchill sent his eldest son to the Sandhurst military academy, the young Churchill thought his father had great expectations for him as a heroic warrior. He only later realized his father doubted he had any ability for anything else. Churchill’s mother, an American heiress, also had little time for him and spent much of her life in serial affairs. Only later did she take much interest in him, using her accumulated friendships with powerful men to give him critical assists in his improbable ascent. So Churchill is packed off to military school and ends up in India on his first deployment.

In India, he’s generally bored. He begins reading a lot and gets it in his head to be a journalist. Over the next few years, in large part through his mother’s connections and their deepening relationship, he gets a mix of military leaves, postings and journalistic assignments that lead him on a kind of grand tour of the conflict zones of the world. Over a couple years he’s in Cuba for the Cuban war of independence; he’s in Africa for the reconquest of the Sudan after the Mahdi rebellion; he catches one military expedition on what is now the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Who Takes Over Gaza? Prime Badge
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I saw a new poll out today which reports that 70% of Jewish Israelis says Benjamin Netanyahu should resign from office as soon as the war ends. The same poll of Arab Israelis is currently in the field. There’s no doubt it will push that number higher. That represents a major deterioration from the first week or so after the October 7th massacres which had already shown a dramatic decline in public support for Netanyahu’s government. What does this mean exactly?

From following the news closely and talking to many Israelis it seems clear to me that this is about more than accountability for a security failure: ‘You’re Mr. Security. You had one job. You failed.’ There seems to be a much more thoroughgoing collapse of all sorts of basic assumptions about security and whether the status quo can ever really work. Turning on Netanyahu doesn’t mean any lack of support for prosecuting the current war. Fighting the current war seems to have all but universal support among Jewish Israelis though there are, of course, differences of opinion on how to prosecute it. The real questions are what comes afterwards.

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Is A Two State Solution Really No Longer Possible? Prime Badge
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What can be called a “peace process” between Israel and the Palestinians ended with the failure of the Camp David summit and the onset of the Second Intifada in late 2000. Over the subsequent years, as settlement activity continued, it became increasingly common, especially among the more hard-bitten and realist-minded, to say that the time had run out on a so-called “two state solution.” From different quarters this verdict had different meanings. For Israeli maximalists it was a concluding judgment on the folly of the Oslo Accords and refusal of territorial concessions. For Palestinians it signaled a rejection of territorial compromise born of disappointment with the failure of Oslo. More concretely it was a simple statement of the reality on the ground. The West Bank had become so shot through with settlements — not just the large agglomerations along the 1967 border but lines of control reaching much deeper into Palestinian areas — that it simply wasn’t possible to create a viable state even if there was the will to create one. And quite clearly there wasn’t the will to make one.

On the Israeli side, the Oslo Accords had been born of a strategic recognition on the part of significant elements of the Israeli national security establishment. It wasn’t possible to keep the West Bank and Gaza Palestinians in a permanently stateless/occupied status. Nor was it possible to absorb them into Israel since Israeli Jews would cease to make up the overwhelming majority of the population. The years between 2000 and 2008 represented a kind of back and forth holding pattern. Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to power in 2009 was based on a very different premise: that the Palestinian issue could be managed indefinitely rather than resolved and with no major repercussions.

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Paralysis at the Top in Israel

One thing that is obscured into the current chaos and killing in Israel/Palestine is that the current government is essentially paralyzed. Benjamin Netanyahu remains Prime Minister despite a catastrophic loss of public support tied to his failure to prevent the October 7th massacres in southern Israel. In theory there’s a government of national unity now in place, with a war cabinet made up of Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Benny Gantz, one of the two main leaders of the opposition. But just how much control Gantz, a former IDF chief of staff, is exercising is unclear.

Meanwhile many government ministers have been close to invisible since the war started. Some basic news about government policy comes out in the US first and only then gets reported in Israel. I should add that from a distance and without a subtle grasp of the textures of Israeli politics it’s difficult for me to judge the extent of this invisibility. But I’ve asked this question of numerous Israelis whose opinion I trust and all seem to agree with this basic read of the situation.

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Listen To This: Magic Mike

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the ascension of a little-known election denier, and what it means for a House in chaos.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

What’s Up With Speaker Mike Johnson’s Black Son?
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On Speaker Mike Johnson’s first full day in office, half the journalism world was looking into the surprise Speaker’s past. In his meteoric one day rise from four term representative to Speaker there was no time for anyone to vet him. But one part of that past came out of left field. Video surfaced of an interview Johnson did with Walter Isaacson just after the death of George Floyd in June 2020 in which he revealed that he had an adopted black son, Michael. Johnson went on to explain that there was no question that his black 14-year-old son Michael faced challenges that his white fourteen year old Will never would. Many on the leftward side of the political spectrum were struck by Johnson’s empathy and frank recognition of discrimination in contemporary America while right wingers denounced him for his wokeness.

I had only heard this story in passing until this evening when TPM Reader RS flagged something odd about the story. No African-American son shows up in any of the family photographs on Johnson’s House website or on his personal Facebook page. Nor does Michael figure anywhere in any of Johnson’s campaign biographies.

As I went further down this rabbit hole tonight I was a bit dumbfounded. Is Michael made up? Is he excluded from family pictures? I was so baffled that I went pretty far down that rabbit hole trying to figure out what was going on.

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Lewiston, Maine Mass Shooting

We appear to have a very high casualty mass shooting unfolding in Lewiston, Maine. CNN reports that there are at least 16 fatalities and as many as 60 additional wounded. There appears to be a single gunman who opened fire at at least two three separate locations. The gunman is apparently still at large. And the entire city of Lewiston remains under a shelter in place order. There are lots of scattered reports, some of which seem contradictory or poorly sourced. But those seem to be the essential details as of this moment.

Late Update: NBC and Fox are now reporting at least 22 fatalities … the upshot of all the reports is that police in Lewiston were overwhelmed by the situation. They’ve had to call in state and federal manpower to assist with the manhunt. Police from other jurisdictions and states are moving in to assist. If you’re not from the northeast this is very far from anything that can be called a large city. So the time to get there is significant.

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