Category Archives: AIPAC

Greenwald declares end of the “neocon lynch mob”- Charles Freeman tests thesis.

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald, one of the smartest commentators on the blatant hypocrisy (and self-destructiveness, it sadly needs to be said) of the Israel-right-or-wrong crowd. He has been writing lately about what he sees as the new irrelevance of the neocon/Israel-is-always-right bloviators.

Greenwald tends to group the Abe Foxman/Dershowitz types and the Wolfowitz/Perles in the same category, which may not be entirely fair. Nonetheless, as unpleasant as it may be to contemplate, the Israel/Jewish ties of many neocons who pushed for war with Iraq have now been thoroughly picked dry (by both both fair-minded analysts and anti-Semites, for good measure.)

Greenwald’s point is that these guys led us down the road to a terrible and useless war, and that folks aren’t going to listen to them now when they start screaming about Iran and Israel.

A few weeks ago, Greenwald took on The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg after Goldberg accused Greenwald of “doing the work of anti-Semites”, you know, for writing smart analysis about bad Israeli policy. One wonders if it occurs to any of these critics that nobody does the work of anti-Semites better than Israel- as Olmert himself recently observed as brought to our attention by Sol Salbe’s Middle East News Service- when they seemingly remorselessly attack a completely trapped and largely civilian population… but I digress.

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Only Tina Fey and SNL call out the pandering? You’ll never believe the one place McCain is leading.

This presidential campaign seems to be so far beyond any hope for authentic discussion about the peace process and the disastrous 8 years of BushCo, that we are now simply reduced to pointing out cases of bald-faced pandering. While both presidential candidates have assiduously sought to avoid the topic of Israel and Palestine–Obama’s in particular disastrous AIPAC flip flop on sharing Jerusalem aside–the VPs did have a chance last Friday to nearly come to blows over who loves Israel more. (This kind of “love”– unconditional support for settlement expansion and militarism, the ultimate barriers to peace, is the original love that dare not speak its name. It’s the kind of love to nowhere that Israeli friends would respond to with a “thanks, but no thanks.”)

There is no small irony that the discourse here becomes increasingly jingoistic, kind of like a Palin rally, just as Israel’s outgoing prime minister Olmert “declared that Israel must give up control of East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and virtually the entire West Bank if it hopes to achieve peace with its neighbors.”

Amen.

As many commentators have pointed out, leave it to the comedy shows to say what no one else will. In case you’re one of the 3 people who haven’t yet seen Tina Fey’s most recent Oct 4 Sarah Palin imitation, SNL did call out Palin, though not Biden, for superficial pandering.

Forward to 2:48 on embedded video:
Latifah/Ifill: Governor Pailin? What is your position on health care regulation?
Fey/Palin: I’m going to ignore that question and instead talk about Israel.
I love Israel so much, bless its heart.
There’s a special place for Israel in heaven.
And I know some people are going to say that I’m only saying that to pander to Florida voters, but from a very young age, my two greatest loves were always Jews and Cuban food. (blows a kiss)

DailyKos (and others) get free trip to Israel, but won’t touch Israel-Palestine

Back in April, we were very upset to learn that the Israeli Foreign Ministry was organizing an all-expenses-paid trip to Israel for progressive American leaders and bloggers, led by the director of the National Jewish Democratic Council. (See the video above for folks you’ll recognize from outfits like HuffingtonPost, DailyKos, MyDD, and MoveOn. Let us know if you recognize any progressive Israeli leaders like folks from Rabbis for Human Rights, New Profile, ICAHD, or Tayush or… ).

Apparently, this was the first trip to Israel for the bloggers. Participants went to Sderot to see the devastation wrought by Qassam rockets, but needless to say, the group didn’t bother to head to the West Bank or Gaza beyond a meeting in Ramallah with the PA’s chief negotiator.

We wrote to some bloggers to urge that them to visit the Palestinian Occupied Territories, but got no response. At the time, most were keeping their names secret. (We think it was shame–how many of these folks actually wrote about the propaganda educational trip they were on? The few who did deserve kudos for their transparency. )

Israel, AIPAC and private philanthropists have long funded free trips to Israel as a way to shore up support for Israel’s so-called “war on terror”. What was so shocking was the ease with which left bloggers and leaders allowed themselves to be purchased with the promise of a free trip. (There’s no doubt about the objective of the trip.)

Now, Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam points out, that the issue has been deliberately cleansed from one of the internet’s most influential liberal blogs.

Silverstein reports a recent interaction with a blogger who apparently has some sort of official capacity at DailyKos beyond a Diarist:

I introduced myself to the visiting blogger as a local political blogger who writes about U.S.-Israel relations and the presidential election. I asked her whether her blog (remember, I didn’t at the time know it was DK) ever covered the foreign policy implications of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

She shook her head sagely and said: “No.” I asked her why. “Because there’s just no upside in it for us. Too much dissension and disagreement.”

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New J Street Project- the beginning of the end of the old guard?

This is a battle between the old and the new guard of the (still largely male) American institutional Jewish leadership. The old guard? AIPAC with its $100 million budget and Likudnik agenda. Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America. Abe Foxman at the Anti-Defamation League. They believe there is an anti-Semite behind every door. In their increasingly obsolete, and for many younger Jews, downright alienating world view, you’re either for us or against us.

The new guard? Folks who understand that we’re actually part of a global community, all equally entitled to dignity and fairness. People who get that dialogue–amongst ourselves, with others, even with those who threaten us– is critical for the health of our community and our world. People like Rob Eshman, editor of the LA Jewish Journal; and Dan Sokatch, the founding director of the Progressive Jewish Alliance who was just named the CEO of the San Jewish Community Federation of SF (and 3 other counties) which, by the way, allocated $200 million last year alone. Or Paul Katz at the Progressive Jewish Alliance at Harvard who wrote this op-ed about discovering he was “anti-Israel” when he invited a group of Israeli IDF veterans to share their stories of service in the territories.
And now, the latest salvo in this generational struggle over institutional Jewish identity is the announcement yesterday of the J Street Project, a pro-Israel lobby and PAC that supports an end to settlements and a two-state solution. Though they have been ambivalent in their messages, not wanting to ruffle any feathers, its clear they mean to be the alternative to AIPAC. Thanks to the support of lots of small checks, they think they can grow from their 1.5 million budget to challenge AIPAC hegemony.

Their unabashed Israel-first approach will not please everyone: they will have to be kept accountable to a vision that equally recognizes the humanity of Palestinians and Israelis, and we can only hope they avoid the disturbing racist undertones of some liberal groups that find even the assertion that Palestinians have equal rights to be threatening.

But regardless of one’s political position, this is good news. In this whole terrible, bloody war, it is US Congress and our massive unconditional support not of Israel herself, but of Israeli hawks and extremists, and our diplomatic protection of those same people, that is THE primary obstacle to a just peace. The J Street Project has gone to the heart of darkness and is ready to play the game that Congress understands. Most of us don’t have the stomach for that.
Let’s hope this is one more nail in the coffin of an old guard whose time has come and gone.

Shmuel Rosner, an unusually conservative (and snarky) voice at Haaretz, has a nice survey of left to right responses to the project.

Back from break: The issue that dare not speak its name in presidential debates

Hat tip to Philip Weiss for uncovering Mother Jones’ documentation of the obvious: feeling subject to a settler-mentality lobby that is firmly planted in the US, the media and politicians collude in their own “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to US foreign policy in Israel-Palestine. It’s hard not to envision candidates and major league media outlets as the infamous can’t hear-can’t speak-can’t talk monkeys.

Remember back when Howard Dean, running for president with a former president of AIPAC, no less, as his campaign co-chair, had the audacity to suggest a more “evenhanded” policy regarding Israel and Palestine. Within seconds, 34 Democratic members of Congress (and Abe Foxman) rushed to admonish him a warning letter affirming our unique, and anything but even-handed friendship with Israel. How DARE you suggest, well, balance?

Well, now we’ve got a parade of debates between presidential hopefuls, the perfect opportunity to once and for all get some clarity on candidates’ positions on the occupation, on Gaza, on Sderot, on peace negotiations. Right?

Wrong.

Justin Elliott at Mother Jones reports on 11 Democratic debates:

In nine of the 11 debates, the terms Israel, Palestinians, and Gaza were either never uttered or were mentioned once or twice peripherally. For instance, Joe Biden said at the October 30 NBC debate that Pakistan has missiles that can reach Israel. The two exceptions were the November 15 Democratic debate in Las Vegas, where Bill Richardson, unprompted, briefly outlined his ideas for a two-state solution, and the December 4 Democratic radio debate on NPR, in which moderator Robert Siegel posed the single question about Israel of the past 11 debates. Unfortunately, the query was effectively avoided.

What is shocking and new is that any reporter even dared to ask a candidate about these things at all. Even then, NPR’s Robert Siegal hedged his bets, affirming the “rationality” of supporting illegal settlement growth and land grabs in a question presented first to John Edwards:

“When we do things that policymakers in Washington may think are rational, like very strong support of Israel, that also upsets a lot of those 1 billion Muslims you’ve described. How would you, Senator Edwards … answer the complaint that the U.S., in its support of Israel, is so pro-Israeli, it can’t be an evenhanded, honest broker of matters and is anti-Muslim?”

And still, Justin Elliott at Mother Jones writes:

Edwards proceeds to ignore the question, makes a point about Ahmadinejad and says to improve relations with Muslims we must “help make education available to fight global poverty.” He makes no mention of Israel/Palestine. Siegel then turns to Obama. The senator says we need to close Guantanamo and talk not just to our friends but to our enemies. He, like Edwards, doesn’t touch the Israel issue. To their credit, Dodd and Kucinich do a much better job at engaging.

So in the past 11 debates the grand total of references to the Gaza Strip is zero. Considering that Israel is our biggest ally in the Middle East and the biggest recipient of U.S. aid in the world, isn’t it about time the candidates were asked what they think of our ally’s destructive policies in Gaza? Will any moderator have the courage to pose the question?

The New Republic defends Rep. Moran from attacks from fellow Democrats

We wrote earlier about the 16 Democrats who wrote an angry letter to Rep James Moran for comments he made in a recent interview in Tikkun Magazine about AIPAC and the war. They came down harshly and accused Moran of using anti-Semitic stereotypes. This was not Moran’s first foray into dangerous waters. Several years ago, he infamously said “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”


TNR senior editor John Judis, who, like many others including Jewish Voice for Peace, condemned the prior statement as “false and reprehensible,” takes the time this time around to examine the actual claims made by US Rep. James Moran in THE GROUPS WHO CRIED ANTI-SEMITISM.

…in this case, it is Moran’s critics who are making reckless charges. And although the controversy may remain confined to the Beltway, it’s no small matter when a politician is accused of anti-Semitism. This kind of charge, if wielded without caution, makes it more difficult for politicians and policy-makers to have a frank and open discussion about American foreign policy in the Middle East.

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Cecilie Surasky on stifling of dissent in Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Yes, this is my op-ed that appeared in the Star-Telegram today:

Last year, I agreed to speak to a Jewish youth group about my organization, Jewish Voice for Peace, and our opposition to Israel’s occupation. My talk was to follow one from a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which calls itself “America’s pro-Israel Lobby.”

A week before, a shaken program leader said the AIPAC staffer had threatened to get the entire youth program’s funding canceled if I was allowed in the door. The threat worked, and in disgust, they canceled the whole talk.

Pundits will surely argue for years about professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer’s explosive new book, The Israel Lobby, which blames poor U.S. policy in the Middle East on a loose network of individuals and pro-Israel advocacy groups.

But the book, and the response to it, opens up another controversy: the stifling of debate about unconditional U.S. support for Israeli policies.

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LeMonde, UK Guardian and New Statesman on America’s Israel Lobby problem

The Europeans help us look at ourselves.

Is criticism of Israel anti-Semitic asks Mariano Aguirre in this month’s LeMonde

The New York Post editorial on 5 January 2007 read: How did this man ever become president of the United States? Readers might have thought this was a crack about President George Bush in a paper owned by Rupert Murdoch. But the editorial went on: Hes gone from failed president to friend of leftwing tyrants and global scold of anything that represents Americas legitimate interests; he wanted to demonise Israel and had secretly given PR and political advice to Yasser Arafat. The Post was damning not Bush, but Jimmy Carter, and it said Democrats should cut all their ties to him for when he flatly condones mass murder, he goes beyond the pale.

UK Guardian’s Ed Pilkington has this story about Walt and Mearsheimer:

When two eminent US scholars wrote about the ‘Israel lobby’ they were vilified by colleagues and the Washington Post. This week Barack Obama joined the attack.

Pilkington puts his finger on a major flaw of the book:

Take the slanging match over the causes of the Iraq war. Walt and Mearsheimer rightly lay a large part of the blame for this disastrous escapade on the neoconservatives within the Bush administration, but they then go on to define those neocons as an integral part of the Israel lobby. Books have been written about the various motivations of the neocons. Sympathy for Israel is one, but there are many others – the desire to spread democracy, a belief in the positive uses of military intervention, denigration of international institutions. To suggest that the neocons and the Israel lobby are one and the same is a conflation too far.

But he also validates W/M’s claims about AIPAC:

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Congressman James Moran accused of Hitler-like thinking because of AIPAC comments: 16 Democrats send Moran angry letter

Politico writes:

Sixteen of Democratic Rep. Jim Morans House colleagues rebuked him in a withering letter Wednesday for saying last week that the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, pushed [the Iraq] war from the beginning.

It was the Virginia congressmans latest dust-up over Israel and one that brought a demand for a retraction by the House Democratic leader, Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland.

Morans colleagues led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a powerful committee chairman with close ties to the majority leadership called the remarks of the Virginia congressman in the progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun inaccurate and deeply offensive.

The idea that the war in Iraq began because of the influence of Jewish Americans is factually incorrect and unfortunately fits the anti-Semitic stereotypes some have used historically against Jews, wrote the group of Jewish Democrats.

House Republican Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor said just yesterday, “Unfortunately, Jim Moran has made it a habit now to lash out to the American Jewish community. I think his remarks are reprehensible, I think his remarks are anachronistic, and hearken back to the day of Adolph Hitler of the others, Mein Kamp, of the protocols of the Elders of Zion, other sources that have become reference to now, I’m sorry to say, a resurgent anti-semitic sentiment world wide.”

House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Moran incorrectly stated that “the Jewish community controls the press, the media, the Congress, and other institutions.”
Progressive Jewish magazine Tikkun’s Rabbi Michael Lerner has launched a campaign to defend Moran saying:

Congressman Moran said no such thing.

You can read what he did say at www.tikkun.org as part of the article by Rabbi Lerner on The Israel Lobby in the Sept/Oct issue of Tikkun magazine. Congressman Moran never made any statement about “the Jewish community,” but only accurately described the power of one section of the Jewish community which has immense influence in the media and in Congress–AIPAC. And we can watch now as that influence is mobilized to isolate and demean the one Congressperson with the courage to say publicly what many have consistently said to all the Jews who support the Israeli peace movement are told: “We don’t dare criticize these policies publicly, lest PACs and other forces aligned with the Israel Lobby attack us and make us politically vulnerable.”

Lerner’s entire Israel Lobby article is worth reading. (For JVP’s nuanced view of the reasons we went to war, read Did Israel Lead the US into the War on Iraq? For the record, we do not conflate the interests of the neocons and the interests of the Israel Lobby, as others do.) But here is the interview with Moran that brought down charges of Hitler-like thinking.

Representative Jim Moran on the power of AIPAC, May 2007.TIKKUN: What do you think the reasoning is for the Democrats who voted against the amendment requiring that the president get authorization from Congress before attacking Iran?

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Peace is now a four-letter word, complains Orthodox rabbi at conference on Jewish future.

Last fall I attended all 3 days of the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities, billed as the largest gathering of Jewish leaders in the United states.
It was absolutely striking how the entire conference was based on generating not hope, but fear (a problem I lay at the feet of the organizers).The emotional centerpiece of the gathering was Netanyahu’s stump speech telling us that it is 1938 and that Ahmadinejad is Hitler (this is also Christian Zionist pastor John Hagee’s stump speech, which he gave at AIPAC, though which came first is not clear). This speech dovetailed nicely with Steve Emerson’s tips for secretly videotaping “anti-Israel” students on campuses, and warnings of the dangers inherent in all Islam.

Ironically, the only time I heard anyone mention peace was during Olmert’s talk…and when the P word was finally uttered, there was a healthy response from a small but strong number of attendees.

The overall level of discourse was so terrible — not even progressive Zionist groups like Americans for Peace Now or Ameinu were on panels, but a far right winger like talk show host Dennis Prager got an entire auditorium– that Olmert’s words of a future of coexistence were like a beacon of light in a long, dark night.

It turns out that the absence of meaningful discussion of peace is now a disturbing trend. Haaretz reported today in At conference on future of Jewish people, delegates ask why peace is off the agenda:

Rene Shmuel Sirat, the former chief rabbi of France, protested that the word “peace” seemed to have become a four-letter word in Jewish public discourse.

“Without peace the Jewish people have no future,” Sirat said in an interview with Haaretz.

“It is unacceptable that peace should not be included in the plans for the future of the Jewish people.”

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