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Soros' World

pieceNew York Review of BookswrittenpieceHere'sNYRB

To the Editors: In "On Israel, America, and AIPAC" [NYR, April 12], George Soros seriously misrepresents the substance of my recent publication, "'Progressive' Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism," through an unhealthy degree of tendentious thinking and numerous inaccurate citations. In so doing, he subverts his own claim of being "a fervent advocate of critical thinking." And he moves into the realm of the absurd altogether in suggesting that when he speaks out "with some trepidation" against Israel's policies, he risks provoking the ire of an American university professor, as if the latter truly had the power to stifle his freedom of speech.

Mr. Soros singles out my essay as an instrument of a "pro-Israel lobby" that aims to "suppress criticism" of the Jewish state by denouncing the proponents of such criticism as anti-Semites. In fact, as any careful reader of my work will see, I never call anyone an anti-Semite and never once level a "primitive accusation of self-hatred" against those whose words I quote. Most of these people are passionate anti-Zionists who, by no stretch of the imagination, can fairly be seen as "constructive critics of Israel." They include figures who denigrate the Jewish state as "infantile," "anachronistic," and "bad for the Jews," routinely compare it to Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, accuse Israelis of carrying on campaigns of ethnic cleansing and wholesale genocide, and urge that Israel alone among the world's nations be boycotted, reduced to pariah status, "dissolved," or even "annihilated." Defamatory rhetoric of this sort is increasingly heard these days and does not represent anything remotely like "progressive criticism of Israel's policies." Rather, such inflammatory language feeds a discourse of demonization which, if it continues unchecked, will end up delegitimizing both the Jewish state and its supporters. To expose this danger for what it is and not to "suppress" divergent views on Israeli policies is the sole aim of my work. To see such an effort, as George Soros does, as an "insidious" means of stifling debate is itself a deterrent to open and honest debate. Alvin H. Rosenfeld

Indiana University

Alvin Rosenfeld's letter reinforces the point that he continues to vilify those who disagree with him without providing a single instance where I misquoted or misrepresented him.