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Rock Bottom

Earlier I alluded to David Samuels' dreadful profile of Condoleezza Rice in The Atlantic last year, but now it seems that Samuels has topped himself with a disgraceful and incoherent piece on the state of American Jewry. After classily referring to the "less-evolved" parts of the world, Samuels jumps right into his thesis, which is that American Jews are under constant attack:

Yes, Jewish life in America remains a flowering paradise compared with the realities of being a Jew in contemporary Britain or France. But it is impossible to ignore the fact that America has changed, too. At bookstores in major airports, I am no longer surprised to be greeted by a pictures of a smiling former U.S. president comparing Israel to the loathsome apartheid government of South Africa, or a Harvard professor explaining how a small but powerful coterie of Jews is responsible for the misfortunes that have befallen America in the Middle East.

The horror, the horror--Jimmy Carter has published a bad book. Then this:

Lobbyists for AIPAC are being put on trial for the crime of gossiping with U.S. government officials over lunch, an offense of which every single foreign lobbyist in Washington--and every working journalist--is guilty. Again, the American Jewish community is silent, for fear of making things worse.

Is Samuels implying that the lobbyists were put on trial simply because they were Jewish? There is no evidence for this, but who cares? And anyway, Samuels is busy taking the entire weight of American Judaism and placing it firmly on his shoulders:

Every American Jew has been quietly putting together their own pocket-sized file of stories they would rather not tell the children. There is the story...

"Every" American Jew? That's quite an ambitious statement. Finally:

In private, I hear it is simply too painful and depressing to contemplate the idea that there will be no easy peace between Israel and the Palestinians, that American Jews have become scapegoats for popular unease about terrorism, that political anti-Semitism has become normative thought among large sectors of the global intelligentsia, or that the tension between Israel and the United States will continue to grow as a future administration seeks a way out of the present morass in Iraq and comes to terms with a nuclear-armed Iran.

One wonders who Samuels is spending his time with, and thus who is telling him these things. Regardless, it's an astonishingly bad essay.

--Isaac Chotiner