James Wigderson - at 2 am - sent an e-mail to Wisconsin political bloggers to place pressure on the Wisconsin Forum to rescind an invitation to columnist Joseph Sobran to speak at the MAC this coming Thursday. Sobran is a former editor of the National Review who was removed from the masthead of that magazine for writings that were deemed to be anti-semitic or, as Bill Buckley once put it, inconsistent with the "welcome" structure of "prevailing taboos" concerning Jews and Israel. James wants us all to pressure the Wisconsin Forum to give Sobran the boot.
I am not unsympathetic to James' position, but, ultimately, I disagree.
Where I come from: Although I am a practising Christian (Anglican; hence use of the letter "s"), I am ethnically half Jewish. My wonderful daughter-in-law is Jewish and intends to raise my outstanding little grandson in that great tradition. When it comes to Israel, I am militant. If the Islamofascists (that word again) want global jihad over the right of little Israel to exist, I'm in. Israel may be, as Sobran says, an "expensive ally" from whom we have little material to gain, but everything that is decent compels that we give her our strong, if not uncritical, support.
I think the idea that Jews have some ill-gotten disproportionate influence in American life is laughable. While it is true that Jews are represented at high levels of certain professions at a level that greatly exceeds their share of the general population (mine is one of them), they have earned it. If you are embarassed by it, shut up and study harder.
There are two perversions of Christianity that just floor me. One is the historic failure on the part of many Christians to recognize the equality of women that screams from the Gospels. Granted it was a completely countercultural, but what do you expect from the Son of God? The other is anti-semitism. I am with John Paul II on this. You cannot be a good Christian and an anti-semite. It's incoherent.
As for Joe Sobran, my impression is that he is an intelligent writer who says stupid things about Jews and Israel. Its hard not to think that there isn't a black part in his heart, although Buckley has denied that this is so.
But I am not a fan of imposing orthodoxies on who can be invited to speak - particularly after the speaker has been invited. There are some people with bad opinions who make no sense. They cannot be engaged because they are uninterested in the rules of rationality. Ward Churchill, Kevin Barry and homophobe (the word fits here) Fred Phelps are examples. There is no point in inviting them to speak because discourse is not possible.
I am not convinced that Sobran falls into that category. I think he is almost completely wrong about what I take to be the premise of his talk, i.e., that "the Jews" (as if they are a monolithic body)have taken over conservatism. But I don't know that he is incapable of linear thought or that the subject itself is beyond polite company.
So I don't think the Wisconsin Forum ought to be pressured to disinvite him.
I do think he was a poor choice. Were I advising a conservative group on who to have speak, I'm not so sure I'd choose someone who makes conservatives look bad. But they did and we're grown-up enough to hear what he has to say.