Wieseltier 'Outraged' by Michael Oren’s 'Cheap and Ugly' Depictions

Renowned liberal essayist rejects former envoy’s 'kinky' insinuation that he is a self-hating Jew, saying Oren doesn’t get irony.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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In this Sunday, June 9, 2013 photo, Leon Wieseltier, intellectual and philosopher who has been the literary editor of The New Republic for more than three decades, poses for a photograph in Tel Aviv,
In this Sunday, June 9, 2013 photo, Leon Wieseltier, intellectual and philosopher who has been the literary editor of The New Republic for more than three decades, poses for a photograph in Tel Aviv, Credit: AP
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

The renowned liberal writer and editor Leon Wieseltier blasts his description in Michael Oren’s new book, dubbing it “outrageous,” “risible” and “cheap and ugly.” He said that he is “outraged and offended” for being depicted as a self-hating Jew, and that he intends to “strike back, because that is what we do.”

Wieseltier also disputed Oren’s account of a conversation in which the former New Republic literary editor is said to have conceded that “his hatred of Bibi had become pathological,” as Oren wrote. “Of course I was speaking ironically,” Wieseltier said, “making fun of what Michael thought. My mistake irony left the subject of the discussion about Israel many decades ago.”

Wieseltier’s comments on Oren’s controversial new book “Ally”, reported in Moment Magazine, were made earlier this week during a public interview at the Association of Jewish Libraries, which convened in Silver Spring, Maryland.

He is one of several prominent American Jewish journalists “whose antagonism towards Netanyahu resembled that traditionally triggered by the Jews,” Oren wrote.

“I have disliked and opposed Netanyahu since the day I met him in the summer of 1982 when he was the [Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy] here in Washington. I think that, as a political matter, he’s taken Israel exactly nowhere and probably backwards. These are my views, I’ve been clear about my views the whole time,“ Wieseltier said.

Wieseltier recounted his give and takes with Oren on this matter, which he had assumed was harmless banter. “All jokes aside, I don’t take kindly to being called anti-Semitic and I don’t take kindly to having Jewish self-hatred attributed to me,” Wieseltier responded. “It’s cheap and it’s ugly and he knows better. You know, his problem may be Jewish self-love, but that’s another subject.” At another juncture, Wieseltier describes Oren’s account of him as “kinky”.

Wieseltier also lambasted the attempt to stifle criticism of Israel from the left saying that there was a clear double standard at play. “The taboo against vociferously criticizing Israel in public was broken not by the left, it’s after Oslo, in America, that the right-wing Jews went nuts. They dropped all inhibitions and all of a sudden it didn’t matter who overheard, right? “

Wieseltier said that he is willing to stipulate that criticism of Israel from either camp stems from love of Israel, ahavat Israel, but “insofar as it’s portrayed as the left that wants the Jews to be very moral because they’re afraid of what the Goyim will think, and the right who have the spine and the guts to stand up to the world and defend Israel, I find all that deeply offensive.” He added: “We should stop playing cheap little guilt-mongering games.”

Wieseltier said that he did not think that Barack Obama was an enemy of Israel, though he did make mistakes in his efforts to advance the peace process. As for Obama’s efforts to achieve a nuclear accommodation with Iran, those are depicted by Wieseltier as “a hallucination” and “an ugly fantasy.”

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