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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

A late Joe surge? I'll believe it when I see it. But the chatter from Lamont supporters over the weekend that the race is closer than people thought is at least somewhat borne out by the latest Quinnipiac poll which has a six point spread.

Here's a quick follow-up on my post from last night about the Israel-Lebanon war. In my post I referred to "my core belief in the Zionist project." And a number of readers have written in to ask what I mean by that.

Zionism is too multifaceted and controversial a subject to define here at TPM. And in any case what Zionism 'is' or 'means' isn't really relevant in this case. What's relevant is what I mean or meant when I identify myself with it.

Here's what I mean. I believe in the project of building a democratic and secular Jewish state in Palestine.

Some of Israel's enemies and too many of her friends and advocates use the word to mean in a Jewish state in all of historic Palestine or even, as used to be the Revisionist credo, a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River.

That's not what I believe.

I believe there should be a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza. Not a collection of autonomous cantons but a full state, with the border being the Green Line or some very near approximation of it. As Ben-Gurion saw from the beginning and others like Moshe Dayan realized not that long after, trying to settle the West Bank and Gaza was a terrible mistake, one born of Israeli triumphalism, fed by coalitional politics in Israel and constantly enabled by the intransigence of the Arab states.

Anthony Shadid on the ground in Tyre and Sidon, as refugees return to their homes, resigned to a long war. As is almost always the case, Shadid is one of the best.

As the Israel-Lebanon war has unfolded, there's been an ancillary debate in the blogosphere about why liberal or progressive blogs have been comparatively silent on the subject. I've written more and more on the topic as the weeks have worn on. But, still, I've probably written less about it than other topics. Especially for a topic that has so riveted my attention and engaged my passions.

So here are some thoughts about why that might be.

First, though it likely goes without saying, I can only speak for myself. And that isn't just a throwaway line. Each blog has a different politics and viewpoint. And what might be less obvious, each has a different way in which the author or authors interact with readers.

Having written this blog for almost six years, I've long made it a rule not to cover or comment on every story that's in the news. Sometimes a story has my attention and my interest but I simply don't have anything to add. So I don't write anything, even though that often prompts emails from readers who say I'm giving the topic short shrift.

But as this war has progressed I've realized there's something more at work in my writing process. At first I wasn't quite sure what it was. And then it became clear to me a little more than a week ago.

I'm hearing two streams of conversation about the war -- two whole worlds of conversation and debate, you might say, often as distinct from each other as night and day.

One is the one we all see every day in the mainstream news -- the major papers and news networks and so on. And then there's another -- one I'm exposed to largely, but not exclusively, through email we get at TPM.

And it's this latter conversation that's engaged my attention, rattled me and intensified and deepened my belief in Zionism.

There's a whole detailed and after a while sterile debate about what sort of criticism of Israel amonts to 'anti-Semitism' and what doesn't. Suffice it to say that many of these emails have breathed a tone of hostility and double-standard toward Israel specifically and sometimes Jews generally that have left my head spinning. They range from wild conspiracy theories about the origins of this war to the blanket assumption that every civilian death in Lebanon was an intentional killing of civilians and a war crime. From there -- where to begin? -- we have debates over just when it was that Israel forfeited its right to exist -- the murder of Rabin, through a rather inverted logic, seems to be a favorite -- to where the Israelis should be deported to when the state is liquidated, and so on.

I'd like to say I'm not surprised that these views are out there. But I'm not sure I can quite say that honestly. It is more than I expected. And the intensity and sometimes the violence of it has surprised me.

Now, over the transom email on as emotional and controversial a topic as this is no way to get a guage on public opinion generally. And these are among the more extreme examples. Or relatively so. In any case, my point is not to get into just how widespread this view of the situation is. But it's the one that's caught hold of me, the one I find myself responding to. And in a few posts I've done just that, vented my thoughts on this topic -- here at TPM and also at TPMCafe where these debates have become more public and even led to the banning of a small number of registered users of the site.

But when I have written in response to this vitriol, I realize my response seems out of context and in a sense out of left field. Because what is it exactly I'm responding to? When I attack this or that double standard Israel is held to or the subterranean animus against the Jewish state am I really talking about anything you see in the Post or on ABC News? Hardly. It's almost like responding to an offensive radio broadcast that few of the people around you can here. And it is this disjuncture that I think has held me back from writing about the topic more than I have. Because in the mainstream debate I find myself very critical of Israeli policy on many issues -- particularly on the territories and particularly since 1996 -- and trying to wrestle with and figure out some way to pull the region back from the brink to which this administration has brought it. And then in this other debate I find myself driven back upon my core belief in the Zionist project and Jews' right to fight for their existence. And these are two points of departure for conversation that are, to put it mildly, difficult to speak from at the same time. It's a dissonance that's clogged my writing. But I'm going to work harder to overcome it.

There's no party more smarmily mendacious in the Social Security debate than the Washington Post editorial page. As long-time readers know, for several years the GOP has been trying to fool voters and protect vulnerable incumbents with unpopular positions by continually forcing changes in the name of their policy on Social Security. For literally decades they called their private account policy 'privatization'. But when support for the policy began to go south they insisted that the name for the policy was actually a slur. They even went so far as to say it was a name of denigration devised by Democrats.

Friday's Post editorial on Social Security actually went so far as to ape not only the 'it's not privatization' bamboozlement but even took the GOP's lead banning the phrase 'private accounts' in favor of the better poll-testing 'personal accounts'.

From the Post ...

Yesterday an e-mail sent out on behalf of Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, dismissed Henry M. Paulson Jr.'s comments on "privatizing" Social Security, adding that this policy has been "soundly rejected by the American people."

The Social Security reform that President Bush pushed last year involved personal retirement accounts. But it did not involve "privatization": The accounts, which were to be optional, were to be designed and administered by the government, with no opportunities for Wall Street salesmen to foist enormous hidden fees on unsuspecting workers.


On one level, semantics is certainly not as important as the substance of the underlying policies words describe. In this case, 'privatization', by every relevant standard and criterion, is the appropriate word for the policy in question. But editorial pages are supposed to forums for forceful discussion and advocacy of policy unencumbered by either sides spin and bamboozlement, but especially by one side's intentional efforts to deceive voters. In this case the Post really is an arm of the RNC.

What do you think will happen in Connecticut on Tuesday? Let us know here.

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