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I Lied

I promised I was finished with this Peter Beinart debate, but I do want to take a moment to correct a bizarre misconception that's gotten loose on the internet as a result of this debate. Peter's last reply quotes Leon Wieseltier writing in 1994 that Jews should hold Israel to high ethical standards and not excuse the crimes of right-wing fanatics. "The man who wrote those words is Leon Wieseltier," concludes Peter dramatically, "We could sure use him today."

Andrew Sullivan then followed up, quoting a fantastic essay Leon wrote in 2002 attacking Jewish panic. (If you're in the mood to reminisce, here's young war-blogger Matthew Yglesias attacking it as "idiotic" for its insufficient hysteria about the threat posed by Iran.) Andrew identified it as being written by "someone once called Leon Wieseltier." The same quote was repeated by Matt Zeitlin.

Yes, Leon has written movingly against Israeli ultra-nationalism in 1994 and 2002. And many other times before and since. He did it a couple months ago. This idea that he has somehow stopped doing so is an ideologically-charged game of internet telephone. No, he hasn't accepted Peter's sudden belief that all supporters of Israel must focus obsessively on the evils of the Israeli right, at the expense of all other evils. But that's another argument altogether.

Update: Zeitlin says he quoted the piece just because it's good, not because he's buying into the notion that Leon would never write anything like it now. My apologies. On the other hand, Steve Clemons repeats Peter's demonstrably false charge that Leon has stopped writing fierce criticism of the Israeli right.