The New York Times, ever ranged against the perpetuation of conspiracy theories, hosted a fascinating symposium in May called "Jews and Power." If this is how the Sulzberger clan distances itself against nasty but enduring rumors, then Times, Inc. stockholders might consider now a good time to sell. Bad PR! The event — sort of like the New Yorker Festival, except way more open about who's in charge — borrowed its provocative title from Ruth Wisse's well-regarded intellectual history of the subject, published by Shocken Books a year ago as part of its series of volumes dealing with explicitly Jewish themes. (Also not to be missed: David Mamet on why anti-Semites are limp-dicked liberals who can't close). Some of the conversational pairings were rather inspired: Shalom Auslander, the smashmouth Spinoza of upstate New York, kibitzed with Rebecca Goldstein, author of Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity, on what it's like to give up Orthodoxy and any chance of not being hounded to an early grave by your parents. Also, Washington Post journalist Warren Bass, reconstructed lefty Paul Berman, and Mideast analyst Aaron David Miller partake in this fruitful discussion:
Israel came into being at almost the exact time that America plunged into the Cold War. How has the unusual alliance between the global superpower and the regional pariah evolved? What role has Israel played in U.S. foreign policy? Have American interests and values about the Jewish state changed in the post-9/11 world? Why are so many quick to explain U.S. strategy by referring to Israel and "Jewish interests"?
Don't worry if you missed the talk live; it's being syndicated all this month on the Hezbollah premium channel.