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In Search of Anti-Semitism

In Search of Anti-Semitism - William F. Buckley This book, written by the late William F. Buckley circa 1992, purports to evaluate whether the accusations of anti-Semitism against the conservative writers Pat Buchanan and the late Joe Sobran, and the conservative publication Dartmouth Review, are fair and true. It largely fails, because it provides very little insight into the personalities of Buchanan and Sobran, providing very little personal background on them and apparently assuming the reader is already very familiar with both of them. I'm reasonably familiar with Buchanan but not familiar with Sobran: he left National Review magazine some years before I started reading it, and all I know of him is that he was a paleoconservative. The book is also clearly aimed at people who probably read not only NR but the other political and current events magazines the book mentions (such as Commentary and New Republic).

So, the book tries to answer its question (whether the people in question are genuinely anti-Semitic) mostly by analyzing what happened (the alleged anti-Semitic statements they made and the responses from other writers) rather than analyzing the people and what they believe (which is what I expected). There would be much less to say if the book mainly analyzed the people, but the controversy is fairly boring and the answers are relatively simple. (Sobran, Buckley says, was often annoyed at Israel's lobbying influence on the United States, so is Buchanan, who also has a long history of making obnoxious anti-Semitic-sounding comments. But Buckley insists Sobran--his friend and colleague at NR--was no racist. And Buchanan? Buckley spends little time actually explaining Buchanan's beliefs except to call him "mischievious" and too insensitive to Jewish sensibilities. I was disappointed by that, as Buchanan has been ubiquitous in conservative media at least since I was a teenager and I did want to figure out whether he is a bigot of some sort. The answer one can tease out from Buckley's analysis seems to be "no," but he offers no more constructive explanation of Buchanan's somewhat puzzling opinions. Therefore, I don't recommend this book.