Monthly Archives: March 2007

Stinging critique of Abe Foxman by former ADL national vice-chair

Chicago News just published a stunner by Joel J. Sprayregen, former National Vice-Chair and Chicago Regional Chair of the Anti-Defamation League. His lengthy examination of everything Abe Foxman has ever done wrong draws from the political right, left and center in a piece that can only be considered a form of open warfare. It’s clear Sprayregen is particularly embarrassed by the ease with which Foxman throws around the term anti-Semite. Worth reading in its entirety, here are some choice quotes:

Earlier this year, the Chicago Sun-Times published an article which stated: “The increasingly ridiculous Abe Foxman, head of the ADL, was swiftly located in order to ply his trademark tactic of accusing people of anti-Semitism that he knows perfectly well aren’t anti-Semites.” There was a time when no mainline newspaper would have allowed Foxman to be so described.

Spraygen’s closing paragraphs:

How much harm is done ADL when it is known as an agency which vouches for Marc Rich while tolerating Foxman’s vilifications of persons demonstrably not bigots, e.g., 113 professors or the president of the Zionist Organization or Black leaders or Dennis Prager? It is a sad irony that the Director of the Anti-Defamation League may be remembered as a serial defamer of people whose only offense was to disagree with him. It is sadder still that Foxman is so often ridiculed;Traub observed Foxman beginning “to advance up his scale of spleen.”

Foxman’s stridency increases as his credibility is questioned. One cannot lightly suggest it is time for him to retire. He told the Forward in 2003 “When I’m ready to make a decision that I’m ready to retire….I will notify my lay leadership.” The fact that Foxman is the one-man Sanhedrin for life, and that he alone will decide when it is time to leave, demeans his legacy and subverts ADL’s mission.

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An insider’s look at how moderate pro-Israel voices get sidelined at AIPAC

Realistic Dove has a fascinating, must-read piece by new Ameinu executive director Gidon Remba about participating at the recent AIPAC policy conference.

Ameinu, which used to be called the Labor Zionist Alliance, occupies an important place in the political spectrum as a voice for progressive Zionists who support a two-state solution and social and economic justice inside of Israel.

Remba gives a no-holds barred look into the workings of AIPAC and process, offering a greater understanding of how they can wield power based on the myth that they represent a significant Jewish position, while consistently pursuing extremist hardline policies.

In this new role[as Ameinu director], I am one of 50-odd delegates of major Jewish organizations who sit on AIPAC’s Executive Committee. In reality, AIPAC stacks the deck by including in the Committee many more AIPAC leaders and activists than heads of major Jewish groups, thereby insuring that no decision will be taken which flouts the wishes of its hard-line big donors. The AIPAC conference opened with a meeting of the Executive Committee devoted to approving AIPAC’s “action agenda” for 2007. Three days later, a citizens’ army, mostly American Jews, marched on Capitol Hill to meet with their members of Congress, armed with talking points emanating from the order of battle we had approved—over my dissenting vote, and the objections of others.

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Rep. Sestak and Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) under the gun

CAIR has long been a target of the enforcement arm of the Israel lobby for, among other things, its refusal to explicitly condemn Hamas or Hezbollah, though it has explicitly condemned terrorism.

(We’ll be examining these issues later, but it is important to remember that Hamas and Hezbollah both respectively represent significant portions of the Palestinian and Lebanese communities. Both are political bodies, in addition to being militias, that have received significant support in democratic processes. CAIR has explicitly condemned attacks on Israeli civilians, and that is all anyone should expect them to do.)

Lately, any American politician that wants to reach out to Muslims by connecting to CAIR, the largest Muslim advocacy group in the country, which largely follows the standard formula for US religious or ethnic advocacy groups, will soon find themselves under attack for being anti-Israel.

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Roundup, tips from readers

The staid Economist says it’s “the best of times and the worst of times for the American-Jewish lobby.

More than half of Israeli Jews support the right of Diaspora Jews to criticize Israel on particular issues, according to a new poll, while David Suissa advocates against the airing of dirty laundry in You Have the Right to Shut Up.


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Can American Jews unplug the Israel Lobby? at Salon

Gary Kamiya has done a thorough piece on the whole megillah in Salon: AIPAC’s disproportionate hold on Middle East policy, muzzling, growing Jewish anger at the Israel Lobby, the generational shift among Jews in how they relate to Israel and more (hint, younger Jews don’t respond in the same numbers to fear-mongering). He also interviews M.J. Rosenberg at the liberal Israel Policy Forum whose analysis of intra-Jewish dynamics is exactly right. Kamiya writes:

The pro-Israel lobby’s victory on the Iran bill is almost unbelievable. Even after the nation repudiated the Iraq war decisively in the 2006 midterms, even after it has become clear that the Bush administration’s Middle East policy is severely unbalanced toward Israel and has damaged America’s standing in the world, Congress still cannot bring itself to stand up to the AIPAC line.

The fact that AIPAC, which is ranked as the second-most powerful lobby in the country (trailing only AARP, but ahead of the NRA) virtually dictates U.S. policy in the Mideast has long been one of those surreal facts of Washington life that politicians discuss only when they get near retirement — if then. In 2004, Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings had the bad taste to reveal this inconvenient truth when he said, “You can’t have an Israel policy other than what AIPAC gives you around here.” Michael Massing, who has done exemplary reporting on AIPAC for the New York Review of Books, quoted a congressional staffer as saying, “We can count on well over half the House — 250 to 300 members — to do reflexively whatever AIPAC wants.” In unguarded moments, even top AIPAC figures have confirmed such claims. The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Goldberg quoted Steven Rosen, AIPAC’s former foreign-policy director who is now awaiting trial on charges of passing top-secret Pentagon information to Israel, as saying, “You see this napkin? In twenty-four hours, we could have the signatures of seventy senators on this napkin.”

He goes on

For all these reasons, a powerful spotlight has been turned on the pro-Israel lobby. And there are signs that increasing numbers of Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike, are willing to openly question whether it is in America’s national interest for AIPAC, whose positions are well to the right of those held by most American Jews, to wield such disproportionate power over America’s Mideast policies.

It’s a good general read on the Jewish divide.

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NY Sun proves George Soros and Nicholas Kristof right: reaching an all time low, paper accuses them of anti-Semitic blood libel.

As we reported yesterday, Sunday’s NYT included a column by Nicholas Kristof that almost reads like the founding document for Muzzlewatch. If there is any question about what is at stake in putting an end to silencing of debate–for Americans, Palestinians, Israelis and the rest of the world–read his piece.

Meanwhile, the New York Review of Books published billionaire George Soros’ call for the Democratic party to liberate itself from AIPAC, On Israel, America and AIPAC:
Soros writes:

The pro-Israel lobby has been remarkably successful in suppressing criticism. Politicians challenge it at their peril because of the lobby’s ability to influence political contributions. When Howard Dean called for an evenhanded policy toward Israel in 2004, his chances of getting the nomination were badly damaged (although it was his attempt, after his defeat in Iowa, to shout above the crowd that sealed his fate). Academics had their advancement blocked and think-tank experts their funding withdrawn when they stepped too far out of line. Following his criticism of repressive Israeli policy on the West Bank, former president Jimmy Carter has suffered the loss of some of the financial backers of his center.

Anybody who dares to dissent may be subjected to a campaign of personal vilification. I speak from personal experience. Ever since I participated in a meeting discussing the need for voicing alternative views, a torrent of slanders has been released including the false accusation in The New Republic that I was a “young cog in the Hitlerite wheel” at the age of thirteen when my father arranged a false identity to save my life and I accompanied an official of the Ministry of Agriculture, posing as his godson, when he was taking the inventory of a Jewish estate.

As if on cue, the New York Sun, the paper which, more than any other in the US, represents the voice of the extreme right pro-Israel lobby, proved both Soros and Kristoff right by saying they were guilty of promoting a new and improved medieval blood libel.

But having anticipated the usual charges of muzzling after making one of the worst charges imaginable against “Jew-haters,” they made it all go away by insisting, “We don’t desire to vilify either Messrs. Soros or Kristof, nor do we draw any conclusions about their motives.”

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New York Times columnist Kristof says everything that needs to be said about muzzling

Thanks to Richard Silverstein for the hot off the press heads up on this. Major differences about the definition of honest broker aside, this op-ed should come with an applause track.

March 18, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist

Talking About Israel

Democrats are railing at just about everything President Bush does, with one prominent exception: Mr. Bush’s crushing embrace of Israel.

There is no serious political debate among either Democrats or Republicans about our policy toward Israelis and Palestinians. And that silence harms America, Middle East peace prospects and Israel itself.

Within Israel, you hear vitriolic debates in politics and the news media about the use of force and the occupation of Palestinian territories. Yet no major American candidate is willing today to be half as critical of hard-line Israeli government policies as, say, Haaretz, the Israeli newspaper.

Three years ago, Israel’s minister of justice spoke publicly of photos of an elderly Palestinian woman beside the ruins of her home, after it had been destroyed by the Israeli army. He said that they reminded him of his own grandmother, who had been dispossessed by the Nazis. Can you imagine an American cabinet secretary ever saying such a thing?

One reason for the void is that American politicians have learned to muzzle themselves. In the run-up to the 2004 Democratic primaries, Howard Dean said he favored an “even-handed role” for the U.S. — and was blasted for being hostile to Israel. Likewise, Barack Obama has been scolded for daring to say: “Nobody is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” In contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton has safely refused to show an inch of daylight between herself and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

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New review of Jimmy Carter’s book looks at apartheid

Speaking of beyond the pale, despite the almost unprecedented efforts to thoroughly compartmentalize and marginalize favorite-former-president Jimmy Carter as a liar and bigot, the New York Review of Books apparently didn’t get the memo.

Rather than name-calling and pointing out random factual errors as proof of perfidy in a book that is largely a memoir, they actually examine the substance of Carter’s charge that the Occupied Territories resembles apartheid. It is a nuanced piece by former New York Times writer and editor Joseph Lelyveld, worthy of reading in its entirety.

What is interesting is that Lelyveld takes Carter to task for almost using the A-word as an afterthought, missing the opportunity to fully explore substantive comparisons between treatment of Palestinians in the territories and South African apartheid:

With adjustments for the large differences in population size and land mass, it might be argued that land confiscation on the West Bank approaches the scale of these apartheid-era expropriations in South Africa. Jimmy Carter is well aware of the pattern of land confiscation there; he quotes Meron Benvenisti at length on the subject. But since he thinks apartheid in South Africa was all about race and not about land, he fails to see that it’s precisely in their systematic and stealthy grabbing of Arab land that the Israeli authorities and settlers most closely emulate the South African ancien régime. What could have been his most incisive argument in support of his provoking use of the A-word turns up in the pages of his book as little more than an aside.

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Beyond the pale is the new self-hating Jew

Daniel Fleshler has a terrific new blog, Realistic Dove, to put on your RSS feed. He has the audacity to say things and offer solutions that make sense.

Here he gives Jewish blogs, including Muzzlewatch, a nod, and tells friends who think Jewish Voice for Peace is “beyond the pale” to take a second look. Like Dan, we too see the power of the phrase “beyond the pale” to literally make people unable to see what is before their eyes.

When referring to Jewish Voice for Peace and others who take similar positions, the phrase is used as a nice and neat way to unilaterally draw a line around what can be said, and what is off limits.

It’s convenient, because it need not deal with substance. Better yet, it doesn’t have the hysterical impact of calling someone a self-hating Jew, but with a certain kind of soft dignity, it allows the person using it to create exactly the same impact: don’t listen to this person, they’re beyond the pale. It’s muzzling light, for the lazy thinker.

And it’s become increasingly popular as a way to silence critics, especially Jewish ones, of Israeli human rights violations.

Knowing JVPers and supporters as I do– the enormous number of smart, compassionate, and thoughtful human beings who live perfectly integrated lives as model social workers, artists, craftspeople, bus drivers, doctors, students, lawyers, computer programmers, bubbies and zaydes, moms and dads, professors, house painters, plumbers, community organizers, rabbis, graphic designers and more — calling these people beyond the pale is actually funny.

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The enemy within: 358 Israeli academics seek to “destroy Israel”

The front page of the Israel Academia Monitor website promises a real thrill:

Click to view the list of 358 Israeli academics who are working to destroy Israel! (They claim to be fighting for democracy, but their actions call for the end of Israel)

Help us to stop these people

The group wants diaspora Jews to stop donating to Israeli universities that are hotbeds of “anti-Israeli radicalism.”

Click for the list, and you’ll find this refuseniks statement, signed by the academics, which cleverly disguises their obsession with destroying Israel in the language of human rights, the sanctity of life, the need to end the occupation and other silly things:

We, faculty members from a number of Israeli universities, wish to express our appreciation and support for those of our students and lecturers who refuse to serve as soldiers in the occupied territories. Such service too often involves carrying out orders that have no place in a democratic society founded on the sanctity of human life.

For thirty five years an entire people, some three and a half million in number, have been held without basic human rights. The occupation and oppression of another people have brought the State of Israel to where it is today.

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