In her loving tribute to Joseph Sobran, an anti-Semitic writer whom I was privileged to discover only after he died last week, Ann Coulter lists some of her favorite quotes of his.
I found this one to be an interesting inclusion:
On Buckley’s book “In Search of Anti-Semitism”: “Its real message is not that we should like or respect Jews; only that we should try not to hate them. But this implies that anti-Semitism is the natural reaction to them: If it’s a universal sin, after all, it must be a universal temptation. … When he defends Jews, I sometimes feel like saying: ‘Bill! Bill! It’s all right! They’re not that bad!’”
It was Sobran’s pathological hatred of Israel that led to his and William F. Buckley’s parting of the ways at National Review in the 1980s. As the NY Times obituary about him summed it up: “Mr. Sobran’s isolationist views on American foreign policy and Israel became increasingly extreme. He took a skeptical line on the Holocaust and said the Sept. 11 terror attacks were a result of American foreign policy in the Middle East, which he believed that a Jewish lobby directed.”
When Sobran tried to camouflage himself as a “critic” of Israel, Chuck Morse was among those who demonstrated that Sobran goes well beyond legitimate criticism of Israel.
While I get that the Sobran quote’s cleverness lies in turning Buckley’s accusation around on him, the fact is that, yes, anti-Semitism is a universal temptation. But it didn’t occur to Coulter or her dead Jew-hating pal that the pull of anti-Semitism is less a statement about Jews than a timeless fact about the world around them, something everyone was supposed to finally understand after WWII. This is simply how G-d set the Jews up — as a constant test for humanity. Most failed then, and they’ll fail again — even with an information superhighway at their fingertips debunking every myth and libel.
But such is the man whom Ann Coulter is proud to have called her friend. I don’t think she’s anywhere near as bad as Sobran vis-a-vis the Jews, but it appears in this instance that one can indeed judge a person to some extent by the company she keeps. Which takes me back to 2007, when I defended Coulter against charges of anti-Semitism in response to her telling television host Donny Deutsch that Christianity is a perfection of Judaism.
I wrote that it was natural for a practitioner of any religion to be a supremacist for that religion (as long as it doesn’t come at anyone’s expense). That is, Hindus think they’ve got it right; Buddhists feel they have the answers; Jews know that Judaism does; and we know how Muslims feel about Islam. So why should Christians not hold Christianity supreme — the way every other religion holds itself? Especially in the context of the breathtaking and over-tolerated ethnically-coded supremacy movements — often at Christianity’s and traditionalism’s expense — why shouldn’t Christians indulge in a little self-esteem boost like everyone else?
But perhaps Coulter’s 2007 remark was more telling than I realized. This was the other quote that was of interest:
Ironically perhaps, I’ve often used a Sobran observation to explain why I have a greater affinity to Israel than to the Muslim world after 9/11: Watching a death-match fight on Animal Planet once, Joe said he found himself instinctively rooting for the mammal over the reptile.
I take the “ironically perhaps” to be a nod to the fact that her friend was a hater of the Jewish State. But gee, Ann — only after 9/11 do you have a greater affinity for Israel than for the Muslim world? The decades of flying infant appendages as Palestinians sought to inflict maximum casualties on the civilian Jewish population hadn’t otherwise struck a chord with you? Not to mention the by-then countless atrocities committed by Muslims against Americans and other Westerners by 9/11? Prior to 9/11, the Muslim world hadn’t struck you as an entirely foreign culture whose values were quite opposite to ours?
At least she recognizes Jews as mammals. Thanks, bitch.
And for the record, Christianity isn’t a perfected form of Judaism — it’s an easier, watered-down one. Which is why I prefer it myself.
Meanwhile, hating Israel as Sobran did wasn’t very Christian. In contrast, Coulter appears to be a good Christian vis-a-vis Israel, but she’s not particularly a fan of the Jew.
I otherwise noticed, in Coulter’s list of catchy Sobran quotes, that not a single one was about Islam or Muslims. That is, there is nothing in Sobran’s memorable quotes addressing the greatest existential threat of our time. Like most of the rest of our “sages,” Sobran — and Coulter’s tribute to him — steered completely clear of that. Some visionary he was. Sounds about as risk-taking as the latter seasons of “24.”
She did, however, credit Sobran with telling her that “your enemies can never hurt you, only your friends can.” He told her this “in reference to his treatment by Buckley.”
Coulter appears to agree that the “treatment” was undeserved. But it was Sobran who first attacked Buckley in a traditionalist Roman Catholic newspaper for not letting him freely spew about Jews in National Review. And who depicted Buckley, according to the Times obit, as “kowtowing to Manhattan’s social elite.” In response to which Buckley wrote a letter stating that the column “gives evidence of an incapacitation moral and perhaps medical.”
While we’re on the subject of traditional Catholicism, it appears that neither Sobran nor Coulter stopped to think that the “universal temptation” toward anti-Semitism which they laugh about might have something to do with centuries of indoctrination by the Catholic Church (and other churches) to hate Jews.
The “universal temptation” quote ending with “Bill! They’re not that bad!” manages to defend Jews and justify anti-Semitism all in one — at the expense of a man who was better than Sobran and Coulter combined. Not just because Buckley apparently liked Jews, but because he had the ability to not turn hostile to them as a people despite the fact that a vast majority of them had an irrational and bottomless scorn for his way of thinking.
The main effect that learning the name Joe Sobran this week has had on me is to love William F. Buckley. That is the gift of Sobran’s passing.
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