Saturday, October 06, 2007

Finklestein OTT

Richard Dawkins has set up an organisation to promote atheism in the USA (where only one Congressman dares to admit to being an atheist). He says:

"When you think about how fantastically successful the Jewish lobby has been, though, in fact, they are less numerous I am told - religious Jews anyway - than atheists and [yet they] more or less monopolise American foreign policy as far as many people can see. So if atheists could achieve a small fraction of that influence, the world would be a better place".

When I read this in the Guardian I thought that it wouldn't be long before he was accussed of anti-semitism. But it is a perfectly unexceptional and reasonable statement. Perhaps he exaggerates a tad when he says that the Jewish lobby "more or less monopolise" American foreign policy; it would be more measured to say they have huge influence upon American foreign policy. But that is a small point.

Now comes the inevitable...Daniel Finkelstein in The Times accuses Dawkin's of saying that "Jews control world power" (for all the world as if Dawkins were peddling The Protocols of The Elders of Zion!) and he - Finklestein - is "a little bit frightened". Frightened of what exactly? All Dawkins has done is to say something, by way of an aside, which is plainly true. Ah, but it not permissible to voice this truth (as Stephen Watt and John Mearsheimer discovered when they published their essay on the Jewish Lobby in The London Review of Books). I suppose we will be told that it is not what Dawkins says but what he implies that matters. But it doesn't imply anything; on the evidence of this statement alone Dawkins could be an admirer of the Jewish Lobby, and could envy their wonderful organisation and persuasiveness, which atheists should emulate. Possibly he thinks the Jewish Lobby does have excessive influence and possibly also he thinks that influence baleful (as I do). But this is not what he says or implies here; and in any case it is a perfectly reasonable point of view. I am less frightened by Dawkins than I am by the way the Israel Lobby goes about trying to silence critics by way of innuendo and smear and bullying.


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