New York, Friday, November 4, 2005
BEHIND THE HEADLINES
Some wonder how neo-con's faith impacts leak
By Ron Kampeas
by David Bohrer/White House: Lewis Libby,
right, next to Vice President Cheney,
takes part in a meeting in the Presidential
Emergency Operations Center minutes after the
Sept. 11 attacks.
Nov. 2 (JTA) -- When Joshua
Muravchik, perhaps the pre-eminent expert on
the interventionist foreign policy that has become
known as neo-conservatism, was looking for
non-Jewish neo-cons to prove that the movement
isn't pervasively Jewish, he naturally included
"Non-Jews figuring prominently in current
foreign-policy debates and today called neo-cons
include Libby, (John) Bolton, American
Enterprise Institute president Christopher
DeMuth, and Gary Schmitt of the Project
for the New American Century," Muravchik wrote in
Commentary magazine two years ago.
"Go easy on me,"
told a reporter this week, after it emerged that
the man at the center of the White House leak
scandal indeed is Jewish.
resigned last Friday as Vice President Dick
Cheney's chief of staff just hours after his
indictment on perjury charges related to the
leaking of the name of a CIA operative married to a
prominent Bush administration critic.
Across the blogosphere,
anti-Israel conspiracy theorists were quick to tie
Libby's Jewishness to his role in selling the Iraq
war, imagining once again a neo-con cabal that has
a singular agenda: promoting Israel at all
"One more Jewish Neocon Traitor," headlined the
White Civil Rights Web site, which features the
writings of David Duke.
Yet the fact that many people in Washington -
including neo-conservatives -- had no idea that
Libby was Jewish underscores how tenuous the
Jewish-neo-con link actually is, said Muravchik, a
resident scholar at the American Enterprise
Institute and Jewish himself.
"One key measure of the falsity of the argument
is that the non-Jewish neo-cons are equally
pro-Israel as Jewish neo-cons," he said.
In addition to DeMuth, Schmitt and Bolton -- who
now is U.S. ambassador to the United Nations --
prominent non-Jewish neo-cons include Bolton's
predecessors Jeanne Kirkpatrick and
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former CIA chief
James Woolsey and former Education Secretary
Conversely, polls have found that a majority of
American Jews embrace liberal and centrist views.
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, last
year's Democratic presidential candidate, won up to
77 percent of the Jewish vote
Kerry had boasted of his Jewish roots; that did not
play too well with the rest of the electorate, it
turned out ]
Muravchik's mistake was one a lot of people have
made. Two other prominent Jewish neo-conservatives
insisted to JTA last week that Libby was not
Libby's Jewish profile at the White House was
low, according to Jews who have worked with the
administration. Other Jewish staffers knew he was
Jewish, but he was not one of the highly identified
Jews, such as Tevi Troy, the deputy
assistant policy adviser to the president, or
Joshua Bolten, director of the Office of
Management and Budget.
The low profile was attributable in part to
Libby's general reserve and to his closeness to
power. After Karl Rove, Bush's top adviser,
he was considered the most powerful unelected
official in the White House.
Not every Jew who works in the White House likes
to wear his identity on his sleeve, said Jay
Footlick, the Clinton White House's liaison to
the Jewish community.
Where do they get these names? ]
"If they didn't choose to self-identify as a
member of the community, if they didn't express a
concern on a particular issue or ask to be a part
of a meeting when a Jewish organization came into
the White House, then we might have known they were
Jewish, or we might not," Footlick said.
Some of the misapprehension apparently has to do
with Libby's persona. His Andover prep school
education; his nickname, "Scooter"; and the Jr.
tacked onto the end of his full name as it appears
in the federal directory -- I. Lewis Libby, Jr. -
seem to indicate a non-Jewish
In fact, Libby, 55, for years has been a member
of Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, Va., a
five-minute drive from his home in McLean, a
wealthy suburb known for multimillion homes housing
top lobbyists, lawyers and Bush administration
Officials of the Reform movement and the
synagogue were reluctant to discuss Libby's
involvement. Acquaintances don't remember seeing
him at shul, aside from High Holy Day services.
Libby's membership in the Temple guide lists his
wife, Harriet Grant, a former staffer for
congressional Democrats, and two school-age
"His name never even came up when talking about
Jews in the administration, not even as part of the
so-called 'neo-con cabal,' " said one Reform
official who asked not to be identified.
The Jewish Virtual Library, a Web site, listed
Libby as Jewish, though its sourcing was
Libby's only other ostensible Jewish involvement
was with the Republican Jewish Coalition, and only
since he joined the Bush administration. He made an
appearance at the RJC's 20th anniversary
celebration last month.
LIBBY is known as a workaholic but he has a busy
private life which could have kept him from
spending much time on extracurricular Jewish
activities. He's an avid skier, plays touch
football on weekends and has written and published
an erotically charged novel set in Japan.
[Website comment: From
extracts we have seen , it is vilely pornographic,
wallows in paedophilia and other such
A number of Jewish leaders told JTA they didn't
think Libby's Jewishness would become a factor in
the leak scandal that has obsessed Washington, but
his name already appeared on numerous
anti-Semitic Web sites
long before JTA published an item over the weekend
reporting his synagogue membership.
Muravchik said it's an old
ploy to ascribe ulterior motives to
neo-conservatives having to do with the Jewish
origins of some movement leaders.
"It's certainly a slur that has been repeated by
people who are enemies of neo-conservatives or who
are enemies of Jews," he said.
The underlying argument is that the movement led
the Bush administration into war with Iraq in hopes
of protecting Israel. That argument ignores the low
Jewish profile of many other Jewish neo-cons.
It also ignores the essentially American origins
of a movement that seeks to spread democracy
The sympathy for Israel is simple, Muravchik
"It's a lone
democracy in the
Middle East, and it was a chief target of the
Soviet bloc," opposition to which helped shape
neo-conservatism. "It was also the chief
inspiration of dissent in the Soviet bloc at the
time when there was very little in the 1970s."
[Website comment: The
writer forgets or omits that for many years Israel
was a pro-Soviet ally. ]
Referring to a 1996 paper by three prominent
Jewish neo-conservatives that pressed Benjamin
Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister at the time,
to engage against Iraq, Muravchik wrote in
Commentary that it would "make more sense to
say that, in preparing a paper for Netanyahu, they
were trying to influence Israeli policy on behalf
of American interests than the other way around.
Indeed, most Israeli officials at that time viewed
Iran, the sponsor of Hezbollah and Hamas, as a more
pressing threat to their country than Iraq, and
(then as later) would have preferred that it be
given priority in any campaign against
In an interview this week, Muravchik noted an
emerging split between American neo-cons and
members of Israel's ruling Likud Party over the
movement's enthusiastic backing for President
Bush's Middle East policies, particularly his
support for Palestinian statehood.
"I've had numerous private and public exchanges
on this topic with Likudniks and non-Likudniks who
say, 'You Americans are nuts, you don't know these
Arabs. We know them; the idea that they can resolve
differences peacefully is hopelessly farfetched,' "
Muravchik said. "I've been in rooms where Americans
were talking about democracy for the Arabs, and
Israelis were ridiculing it."
dossier on the origins of anti-Semitism