Neocons Gather To Fete Iraq War Godfather Bernard Lewis

Letter From The Pierre Hotel

Neocon Bash: Bernard Lewis, considered an ideological godfather of the neoconservative movement, greets well-wishers at a gala in his honor.
josh nathan-kazis
Neocon Bash: Bernard Lewis, considered an ideological godfather of the neoconservative movement, greets well-wishers at a gala in his honor.

By Josh Nathan-Kazis

Published September 20, 2012, issue of September 28, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

At Bernard Lewis’s neocon gala, the talk was of war, peace, democracy and Muslims.

But in a room full of onetime advocates of the second Iraq War, no one much wanted to talk about a possible military strike on Iran.

Paul Wolfowitz, the Bush administration Pentagon official who pushed hard for an invasion of Iraq in 2003, chatted during cocktail hour with Judith Miller, the former New York Times reporter whose discredited reports on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq whipped up support for that invasion. At dinner, Henry Kissinger and billionaire conservative donor Bruce Kovner shared a table.

An Israeli consul general and the publisher of the New York Daily News were there, as was Itamar Rabinovich, the former Israeli ambassador and prominent academic. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a letter of congratulations.

The September 12 party was a celebration of the long and storied career of Lewis, the erudite 96-year-old Arab studies scholar and Princeton University professor now widely known for his close ties to the Bush White House. The venue was The Pierre, the kind of Fifth Avenue hotel where everyone wears suits, and where the limousines that drop you off at the party wait outside to take you home afterward.

Though the front-page news that week was about the possibility of an attack on Iran, the issue wasn’t much mentioned. In an interview with the Forward, Lewis himself said he opposed a military strike.

The old guard hawks were more interested in talking about the fallout of the Arab Spring, and in hypothesizing on the unfeasibility of rapid transitions to democracy in the Arab world.

“A dash towards Western-style elections, far from representing a solution of the region’s difficulties, constitutes a dangerous aggravation of the problem,” Kissinger read from the event’s podium, quoting Lewis, to a loud smattering of applause. “When Bernard writes about this, it is not an attack on democracy — it is a call for the creation of institutions and procedures by which democracy can be brought into a region…” he went on to assert.

Tickets to the event, which was also a fundraiser for the American Friends of Tel Aviv University, cost $550. The entrée was chicken. A dinnertime slideshow presentation neatly summarized the attitude of the evening: photos of Lewis as an elderly man with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney; photos of him as a young man with King Hussein of Jordan and Iran’s former shah, and a picture of him and Oprah Winfrey.

The British-born Jewish academic is thought by some to have provided key intellectual ammunition in the Bush administration’s push toward the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States. Lewis now says that he opposed the invasion at the time.

The toasts to Lewis were full of quotes from the eminently quotable professor. Daily News publisher Mort Zuckerman managed to pay tribute to himself while honoring Lewis with a five-minute speech comprised entirely of passages that Zuckerman had written and published over the past decade in which he had quoted Lewis.

Earlier in the evening, the mood was lighter. In a long hall with a full sushi spread and a couple of well-stocked bars, Israeli Consul General Ido Aharoni hugged his way through the crowd, trailed by a security detail. Wolfowitz and Kovner conferred in the center of the room. Miller, who now writes about theater for Tablet magazine, circulated nearby.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.