From Generation to Generation

Worth noting this past week is an op-ed published on National Review Online by David Feith and Andrew M. Steinberg on why the recent appeal by “some giants of the American political establishment” — namely, “Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, Lee Hamilton, and other former high-ranking officials” — for the U.S. to engage in “genuine dialogue” with Hamas was a “risky, bloody proposition.” The letter, which was sent to Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, did not actually call for a direct U.S.-Hamas dialogue; rather it urged that the UN and/or the Middle East Quartet special envoy begin talking with Hamas. But what interested me more was the authorship of David Feith, currently a junior at Columbia University and the second son of former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (2001-2005), Douglas Feith. (That the article’s publication came amid a brief debate over whether John Podhoretz’ appointment as the new editor of Commentary Magazine, a position held by his father for most of the latter half of the 20th century, constituted nepotism was completely coincidental.) Particularly striking was not only the fact that he had such easy access to the National Review (as Simone Ledeen, daughter of Michael, has had), but also the way the substance article illustrated the generational continuity of views — in this case, the hostility to engagement with Palestinians — that appears so remarkable among a number of prominent neo-conservative families.

As well as his status as the son of Douglas Feith — a man so distrustful of Arabs that he even opposed the Camp David Accords and wrote prolifically against the Oslo process throughout the 1990’s — David is also the grandson of the late Dalck Feith, a Philadelphia businessman and philanthropist, who, as a young man in Poland was a militant of Betar, a Zionist youth movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Betar, whose members wore dark brown uniforms and spouted militaristic slogans modeled after other fascistic movements of the 1930, was associated with the Revisionist Movement that eventually evolved into the Likud Party, currently led by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Dalck’s already hard-line nationalist views were no doubt hardened further by the Nazi Holocaust in which both of his parents, four sisters and three brothers perished. In 1997, He was honored with a special Centennial Award “for his lifetime of service to Israel and the Jewish people” by the extreme-right Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in 1997.

His son, Doug, was also honored by ZOA with the “prestigious Louis E. Brandeis award,” a testament, no doubt, to how zealously he had pursued ZOA’s political agenda. A protege of Richard Perle, for whom he worked in the Pentagon under the Reagan administration, Doug served on the task force that produced the infamous 1996 “Clean Break” paper authored primarily by David Wurmser, until recently Dick Cheney’s chief Middle East aide. Addressed to Netanyahu, the task force, which was chaired by Perle, argued that regime change in Iraq — of which Feith was among the most ardent advocates within the Pentagon — would enable Israel and the U.S. to decisively shifting the balance of power in the region so that Israel could make a “clean break” from the Oslo process (or any framework that would require it to give up “land for peace”) and, in so doing, “secure the realm” against Palestinian territorial claims. (The Perle-Feith family connection appears to be quite strong. David’s older brother Daniel, who graduated from Harvard last year, is credited by Perle and his co-author, David Frum, for helping to research their 2004 (highly Islamophobic) book, “An End to Evil.”)
Doug Feith has long championed the settler movement in the occupied territories (indeed, his law partner was a spokesman for the West Bank branch), writing in a 1996 op-ed: “Israel is unlikely over time to retain control over pieces of territory unless its people actually live there. Supporters of settlements reason: Israelis do not settle an area in the territories, Israel will eventually be forced to relinquishp it. If it relinquishes the territories generally, its security will be undermined and peace therefore will not be possible.”

David, whose screed against Hamas predictably recites all of the most damning reports — confirmed and unconfirmed — about its alleged brutality, its determination to destroy to Israel, and its perfidy, appears to be moving down the same road as his father and grandfather.

“Hamas’ 2006 election,” according to him, “was — like its publication of opeds in American newspapers — a manipulation of democratic means for anti-democratic ends. It has never held internal elections, is not creating democratic institutions, and eliminates internal opposition by means of summary executions — for example, by shooting political rivals and tossing them from rooftops.”

“If the gap between Hamas’s true nature and its op-ed self portraits sounds familiar, it should. Throughout the 1990s, Yasser Arafat gave Americans a first-rate education in bilingual deception, denouncing terrorism in English and celebrating it in Arabic. …If the failure of the Oslo process taught us anything,” he writes, “it was to judge Palestinian groups by their actions, not by their soothing words to the West.”

If all this sounds familiar, of course, it should, because they are echoes of his father’s and ZOA’s arguments against U.S. engagement with the PLO or any Palestinian group that made territorial claims against Israel.

If David, who also serves as editor of Columbia’s “The Current: Journal of Politics, Culture and Jewish Affairs,” indeed continues down this path, however, he will be in good company as younger neo-conservatives often find themselves in revolt against their generation, rather than their parents. Bill Kristol, of course, has carried on the path-breaking work of his neo-conservative parents, Irving Kristol and Gertrude Himmelfarb; John Podhoretz has inherited his father’s mantle; Robert and Frederick Kagan have made their father, classicist Donald Kagan, proud; — to name just a few examples.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Nah, Neoconservatism is merely the state of perpetual Nepotism and the overall weakening, through the handing of jobs to those unqualified for them (John P. Normanson at Commentary, Jonah Goldberg at The House of Buckley and a newspaper syndication outlet, and Simone Ledeen just about anywhere), of America and the meritorious accomplishment that made ours a truly great nation.

    Thanks to the Neoconservatives’ reliance on Nepotism, the days of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett will soon be mere history.

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