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Russian-American Samizdat
November 23, 2010

A Tribute to an American Patriot
In Memory of Joe Sobran (1946-2010): Part Two
by W. George Krasnow
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[Note: This is Part 2 of Krasnow’s tribute to Joe Sobran. In Part 1, he described his personal acquaintance with Joe. Here he pays tribute in the context of ongoing ideological struggle for the hearts and minds of American people.]

Attitude toward Jews
“Are you anti-Jewish?” I asked him point blank. “Goodness no,” Joe replied. “I am aware that Jews played a prominent role in Russian revolution. I know how prominent they were in the antiwar and civil rights movement here. Many of them were pro-socialist and pro-Soviet. They never raised the issue of human rights in Russia, Eastern Europe, or China. At that time, they were anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-American. They were not particularly pro-Israel. But I also know Jews who are as American as can be. They are not just my personal friends. They are allies in a struggle against militant Zionists who equate U.S. national interests with those of Israel. I am intellectually indebted to my Jewish friends, and I’d never turn against a Jew simply because he is a Jew.”

Joe made it clear that his case transcended his person. What he endured was indicative of a dangerous social malady — stifling all debate in favor of political shibboleths. Joe asked me if I remembered seeing how the Prime Minister of Israel was received by the joint session of Congress. I did. After the speech was over, the camera showed everybody standing up and applauding, not knowing when to stop and afraid to be the first to sit down. “Didn’t that remind you of the country from which you defected?” Joe asked.

Our conversation ranged over the period from the late 1960s to the fall of communism. We discussed the Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the ‘60s, a book written in early 1990s by Peter Collier and David Horowitz, two former editors of the New Left magazine Ramparts, in which they admitted their philosophy then was “we murdered to create.” Alas, David’s enlightenment did not last long. He became a right-winger, racist, and avowed pro-war Zionist. In 2004, Horowitz and Collier even published the Anti-Chomsky Reader. David’s life curve was typical of many American Jews who, on the road to Damascus, switched from the anti-war radicalism of the 1960s to today’s pro-war propaganda, believing that the war now is in Israel’s best interests.

Religion and Politics
Joe and I met several more times, but eventually we each became immersed in our own daily routines. I knew that he ran as a vice presidential candidate for the U.S. Taxpayers Party (which changed its name to the Constitution Party) in 1999. However, he dropped off the ticket in most states in the Spring of 2000.

Joe and I never discussed the role of religion in foreign policy. The separation of the state and religion has served this country well. Why let religion back into affairs of a state composed of people of different confessions? The Bible has already been abused by narrow-minded people, like Christian Zionists, in support of Israel’s claim to the land, including Jerusalem, on strictly religious grounds. This approach clearly impinges on the freedom of conscience of the majority of Americans, whether religious or not. Joe certainly would not have wanted to see U.S. military adventures slide to religious wars at home and abroad.

Paul E. Gottfried, Joe’s friend and intellectual ally, wrote, “Joe’s fate did not have the consequence that the neoconservatives intended…. Joe’s outrageous reduction to a pariah generated resistance to the bullies who had gone after him…. The young admire him for having fought back, not only against the American global democratic empire but against the neoconservative commissars of the present conservative movement.” [Paul E. Gottfried, The Inspiration of Joe Sobran]

Jon Utley’s eulogy for Joe is just as forceful. As the son of Arkady Berdichevsky, a Russian Jew executed in 1938 during the mass purges of Trotskyites, Jon knows well what it meant to be smeared “anti-Soviet” for no reason but political expediency. That is why he feels special compassion for Joe, who was smeared as “anti-Semite.” [Jon Basil Utley. 2005. “Vorkuta to Perm:Russia’s Concentration-Camp Museums and My Father’s Story.” The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty, July-August]

Israel Shamir, a former Soviet dissident, immigrated to Israel in 1969 and served as an Israeli Defense Forces paratrooper in the 1973 war. Now he is a tireless champion of equal rights for the Palestinians. Lamenting Sobran’s death, he posted one of Sobran’s early articles, entitled “For Fear of the Jews.” One phrase in the article encapsulates what happened in Joe’s life and in the life of America in the past 50 years: “Zionism has infiltrated conservatism in much the same way Communism once infiltrated liberalism.”

Joe Sobran now joins the roll call of honorable people, living and dead, who were smeared as “anti-Semites”:

Professor Albert Lindemann, for his book, Esau's Tears: Modern Anti-Semitism and the Rise of the Jews
Professors John Mearsheimer and Steve Walt, for their 2008 book, The Israeli Lobby
Karl Marx, for his youthful idealist condemnation (too harsh, in my opinion) of “the practical religion of the Jews” as the belief that money rules the world
John Sack, for his book, An Eye for Eye: The Untold Story of Jewish Revenge Against Germans in 1945
Norman Finkelstein, for his 2000 book, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, for portraying Dmitry (Mordko) Bogrov, the assassin of the Russian Prime Minister and reformer Peter Stolypin, as a Jew, which he was
Fyodor Dostoevsky, a Russian novelist, for arguing that revolutionary theories and sentiments attracted a disproportionate number of Jews and for warning, correctly, that the revolution will harm both Jews and Gentiles
Lev Tolstoy, a prophet of nonviolence, for refusing to condone the violence of Jewish revolutionaries, even while condemning government violence
George Steiner, a Jewish scholar, for criticizing Jewish nationalism and Israel
Mahatma Gandhi, for converting Tolstoy’s principle of non-violence to an effective political strategy and censuring the violent foundation of the Jewish state
Albert Einstein, for calling the founders of Israel “fascists”
Patrick Buchanan, an adviser to President Reagan, for stating that the Republican party was taken over by the neocons
Israel Shahak, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, for being an outspoken critic of the Israeli government
Shlomo Sand, a professor of history at Tel Aviv University, for his book, The Invention of the Jewish People
Jimmy Carter, U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize winner, for stating in his 2006 book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, that Israel’s control and colonization of Palestinian land have been obstacles to a comprehensive peace agreement
Cynthia McKinney, a former six-term U.S. Congresswoman, for her fight for the rights of Afro-Americans in the U.S. and of Palestinians in the Middle East.

Many others deserve to grace this list, and I apologize for its brevity and apparent randomness. It is important, though, to note that the majority of Sobran’s intellectual pals are Jewish.

I’d like to nominate Michael Joseph Sobran to be proclaimed an honorary Jew. He was right in the prophecy that the war in which we are engaged, while wreaking death and destruction in the countries for which we are self-proclaimed benefactors, would do nothing good for either Israel or the United States. Like many Jews, he suffered persecution and ostracism, and his prophecy was wholly consistent with the Biblical tradition of a Quixotic man standing alone against the mighty rulers and their numerous sycophants. “I would much rather be in the tradition of great American cranks like Thoreau, Ambrose Bierce, Lysander Spooner, and H. L. Mencken,” Joe wrote in the preface to his Shakespeare book, “than belong to the mass of scholars who, ever mindful of tenure, promotion, grants, and that last infirmity of ignoble minds, respectability, never deviate from scholarly consensus.” Even though Joe lived and died as a faithful Catholic, I am sure he would not mind the title of honorary Jew.

I also propose to declare the words “anti-Semite” and “anti-Semitic” to be outdated, hyperinflated, and unfit for modern use. Incompatible with his dignity, these words should be buried in a cemetery far removed from that of Joe Sobran. Or perhaps they should be cremated and literally turned to dust. Any substantive content found in this dust should be archived for the benefit of future generations.

But won’t we thus deprive English of its richness and expressiveness? As any Shakespeare scholar would vouch, we can still find ample use for such words as anti-Zionist, anti-Judaic, or Jew-hater. Only the first would partially apply to Joe Sobran. He was a person of great integrity; kind, clever, civil, and quietly courageous. He was a positive man of peace. The only “anti” he deserved was anti-extremist.

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Russian-American Samizdat column is copyright © 2010 by W. George Krasnow and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation. All rights reserved.

W. George Krasnow (also published as Vladislav Krasnov), Ph.D., directs the Washington-based Russia and America Goodwill Associates, a non-profit organization of Americans which promotes friendship with Russia.

See his biographical sketch and additional columns.

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