A reader recently e-mailed me a fact sheet about former Congressman Tom Campbell’s “Troublesome Record on Israel.” As I review it and start confirming some of the points on the list, I can’t help thinking of the occasional anti-Semitic tracts (or tracts with thinly veiled anti-Semitism) I have come across in encountering some people in, (but mostly on the fringes of) libertarian pockets of the conservative movement.
It always seemed a bizarre thing that libertarians could harbor such conspiracy theories against followers of a certain faith, but a noticeable number do. Indeed, most of the libertarians (and libertarian-inclined conservatives) I meet are not only the most tolerant individuals, but also the most independent-minded as well, less disposed to judging someone by his “external” characteristics (race, girth, religion, ethnicity) and more likely to judge him by his capacity for independent thought and his ability to engage in spirited discourse.
But, there are some nuts. And Campbell, a very principled libertarian when discussing matters of domestic policy, with his record on Israel, comes to resemble many of them. Indeed, Ron Paul, considering a folk hero, in many libertarian circles, also has a troubling past. Studying newsletters that 2008 presidential candidate Ron Paul once penned and edited, James Kirchick found:
The rhetoric when it came to Jews was little better. The newsletters display an obsession with Israel; no other country is mentioned more often in the editions I saw, or with more vitriol. A 1987 issue of Paul’s Investment Letter called Israel “an aggressive, national socialist state,” and a 1990 newsletter discussed the “tens of thousands of well-placed friends of Israel in all countries who are willing to wok [sic] for the Mossad in their area of expertise.” Of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a newsletter said, “Whether it was a setup by the Israeli Mossad, as a Jewish friend of mine suspects, or was truly a retaliation by the Islamic fundamentalists, matters little.”
While I highly doubt Campbell himself is anti-Semitic, he has a very troublesome record on Israel and associates with many Jew-hating individuals. Campbell can show that he is not a member of this crowd by putting forward a platform on Israel more consistent with a conservative national security policy in the wake of 9/11 and popular support for the Jewish State.
I still need review all the items on the list I have received, but those points I have confirmed trouble me to no end.
All that said, there is a broader issue here, one that has puzzled me at least since I was an undergraduate and one which is probably not related to Mr. Campbell’s personal attitudes toward Jews, yet is related to some of the company he has kept: why do some libertarians have some pretty nutty, conspiratorial ideas about Jews and other minority groups?