Iran Deal

Neo-Con Lee Smith Smears Obama Administration as Anti-Semitic

11.22.13 7:30 PM ET

Is the Obama administration a bunch of anti-Semites? Yes, it seems. At least that's what a right-wing writer at the prominent Jewish web publication Tablet seems to think. Lee Smith, a neoconservative columnist for the site, wrote this week that efforts by the Obama administration to warn that new sanctions against Iran could lead to war amounted to anti-Semitic attacks. Why? Because Israel and some of its Jewish supporters in the U.S. opposed such a deal.

The U.S. says if there's no deal, then Iran's program will continue unabated, which could lead to war. Then the Israelis—who have not infrequently been wrong about Middle East WMD programs—said the contours of the reported interim deal proposals would give Iran $40 billion in sanctions relief, which Israel rejects as too high. Or was it $20 billion? The Israelis couldn't keep their stories straight. When the Obama administration pushed back on the Israeli estimates (they say it's around $6 billion), Sen. Mark Kirk lambasted them: he told supporters that Israel's ambassador to the U.S., a right-winger named Ron Dermer, had given him (Kirk) the goods! To Lee Smith, this meant "Sec. of State John Kerry effectively called the Israelis liars."

So what does Lee Smith conclude? That the Obama administration is "trafficking in stereotypes about Jewish deceptiveness and appetite for blood." That's a stunning accusation.

Let's look at Smith's logic a different way. Many (but not all) Israel advocacy organizations in the U.S. oppose the prospect of a reported interim deal with Iran. In addition, the Israeli government has led a public campaign against a deal. So because Israel and the Israel-advocacy organizations are composed mostly of Jews, anyone who dares to criticize their analysis or to point out that following their policy advice could well lead to a war is by definition calling Jews "deceptive" and accusing them of having an “appetite for blood.” Must the Obama administration take Israel and its supporters’ criticisms lying down simply because they are Jewish, even when it believes those criticisms are inaccurate?

That seems to be Smith's conclusion in his post on Tablet. That he would stretch the Obama administration's defenses of its policies into a scurrilous accusation should come as no surprise: Smith has been known to throw such broadsides around lightly. What's more, his analysis of the Iran situation is likewise troubling. Consider some of his own writings on the subject: a piece of his decrying the public debate over the efficacy of potential strikes was headlined "Why the U.S. Could Bomb Iran"; a recent article in the pro-war Weekly Standard, where Smith wondered, "What Happened to Bombing Iran?" (Smith also wrote a whole book trafficking in Arab stereotypes.) No wonder Smith wants to silence those who warn irresponsible policies might lead to a disastrous war.

What, then, would Lee Smith make of a pundit who wrote, in the context of former American officials' complaints about the lack of progress on the peace process, that:

Of course, the Israelis haven’t gotten what they really want either—action on Iran...

Surely, this pundit must be an anti-Semite: How else can you possibly characterize someone who writes that the Jewish state really just wants "action"—a clear euphemism, in the context of their other writings, for war? After all, isn't a "want" just another word for an "appetite"? So what does Smith make of this line, which was written in September 2011, by a writer named Lee Smith?