Who's really "pro-Israel"?

Science, evolution, and politics explained.
May 1 2002 5:45 PM

Anti-Safirism

(Continued from Page 1)

What is clear is that this convention is a public-relations godsend for Sharon's supporters. The day after that front-page New York Times story appeared, William Safire published a Times column noting that some prominent Democrats oppose Sharon's policies while most Republicans support them. The column was titled "Democrats vs. Israel."

Advertisement

On the one hand, this is obvious nonsense. Does Safire really believe that Tom Daschle and Joe Biden, whom he mentions by name, are anti-Israel—that they actually want harm to befall Israel? I doubt it. Does Safire want to intimidate them into silence by threatening to stigmatize them in the eyes of Jewish voters? I don't doubt it. (And, as if this scare tactic weren't by itself scary enough, "anti-Israel" is, as Richard Cohen of the Washington Post recently noted, often taken to mean "anti-Semitic." Of course, most people who truly are anti-Israel probably are anti-Semitic—which is all the more reason to be careful about who we say or imply is anti-Israel.)

Yet, however transparently nonsensical Safire's thesis, it follows logically from usage of the term "pro-Israel" in the Times' own news pages—and in the Post's and pretty much every other American newspaper's.

Rules of usage evolve. Presumably the usage czars at leading newspapers have criteria for deciding when it's time to revise a rule. Here's my nomination for a criterion: When blatant propaganda follows logically from standard usage, it's time to make the usage nonstandard.

TODAY IN SLATE

Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

The Jarring Experience of Watching White Americans Speak Frankly About Race

How Facebook’s New Feature Could Come in Handy During a Disaster

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

View From Chicago

You Should Be Able to Sell Your Kidney

Or at least trade it for something.

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Terrorism, Immigration, and Ebola Are Combining Into a Supercluster of Anxiety

The Legal Loophole That Allows Microsoft to Seize Assets and Shut Down Companies

  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Oct. 19 2014 1:05 PM Dawn Patrol Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s critically important 5 a.m. wake-up call on voting rights.
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 19 2014 11:40 AM Pot-Infused Halloween Candy Is a Worry in Colorado
  Life
Outward
Oct. 17 2014 5:26 PM Judge Begrudgingly Strikes Down Wyoming’s Gay Marriage Ban
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 8:32 AM Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy—and a Mess. Can the Movies Fix It?
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 17 2014 6:05 PM There Is No Better Use For Drones Than Star Wars Reenactments
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 20 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Red Planet and the Comet
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.