Obama’s ‘Dog Whistle’ Attraction to Critics of Our Israel Policy Brings Reaction From the Lobby

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 19 Comments

You remember Merrill McPeak, the tall, lean retired general and military adviser for Obama who said last week that Bill Clinton was behaving like Joe McCarthy? Well in The American Spectator, McPeak is accused of a lack of political correctness on Israel:

In a 2003 interview with the Oregonian,
McPeak complained that the "lack of playbook for getting Israelis
and Palestinians together at…something other than a peace
process….We need to get it fixed and only we have the authority with
both sides to move them towards that. Everybody knows that."

The interviewer asked McPeak: "So where’s the problem? State? White House?"

replied: "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote — vote, here in
favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."
(as if it’s needed): Jews — who put Israel over every American
interest — control America’s policy on the Middle East. And McPeak has
the audacity to accuse Bill Clinton of McCarthyism.

also claims that a combination of Jews and Christian Zionists are
manipulating U.S. policy in Iraq in dangerous and radical ways: "Let’s
say that one of your abiding concerns is the security of Israel as
opposed to a purely American self-interest, then it would make sense to
build a dozen or so bases in Iraq… This is

McPeak also noted: "The secret of the
neoconservative movement is that it’s not conservative, it’s radical.
Guys like me, who are conservatives, are upset about these neocons
calling themselves conservative when they’re so radical."

Guys like McPeak are upset because they think Jews have too much influence.

[In McPeak’s view] American policy is the
product of "religious Jews and neocons" who in McPeak’s mind are just
as much to blame for a lack of peace in the Middle East as are Hamas
and Hezbollah.

I’m gratified to learn this about McPeak! Sounds like he wants to get religious agendas out of our foreign policy. And the attack is interesting for 2 reasons:

1, Despite his own vagueness on Israel/Palestine, Obama clearly is attracting huge support from people like McPeak, Americans who regard the Israel/Palestine issue as absolutely central to our foreign policy and want to end the reign of special interests in this arena.
This is a wide group of sophisticated Americans, including Lincoln Chafee and Zbig Brzezinski and Richard Silverstein (who directed my attention to the attack). All of us know that Obama is going to say the "right thing," but we trust him to approach this issue in the end in an evenhanded way. In this sense, Obama is a political "dog whistle" on Israel/Palestine: the people he wants to hear it are hearing it. And McPeak, a conservative, is echoing a lot of my leftwing politics here: self-determination for the Palestinian people, the neocons as guys with a religious agenda, Israel’s security…

I hear this sort of critique from smart gentiles (and progressive Jews, too) all the time. This political segment is so large that it’s only a matter of time before Obama comes out more publicly on this issue. And not demagogically. The race speech was just a warmup for "the Israel speech." That’s why I think this election cycle and Obama are so potentially earthshaking…

2, the Spectator’s attacker, Robert Goldberg, adopts the aggrieved, vicious tone that is typical of  supporters of Israel when they encounter the groundswell against them. He says that McPeak has "twisted views" –later "bigoted views"– and suggests that Samantha Powers lost her place in Obama’s campaign because of her "belief in the malign omnipotence of the ‘Israel lobby.’"

has a Jewish problem and McPeak’s bigoted views are emblematic of what
they are…. until he accepts
responsibility for allowing people like McPeak so close to his quest
for the presidency, Obama’s sincerity and judgment will remain open

Goldberg is enforcing a code of political correctness, and using the red flag of antisemitism to do so. Sorry– smart Americans have now learned that there’s a difference between criticizing Zionism and being antisemitic. Goldberg is a reactionary in the classic definition of the term: he is lashing out at a progressive movement that is gaining traction in society for real reasons, in this case the awareness among many Americans that the American interest has been sacrificed to a policy of supporting everything Israel does. Let them call us names. When there is an open debate in this country about the 60-year-long policy of over and over denying the Palestinian right to self-determination, inflaming the Arab world, our side will win.

P.S. Silverstein makes the following point:

If McPeak made any sort of mistake here it was trying to use shorthand
to encapsulate a very complex issue. The Jews who prevent the U.S.
government from playing a robust role in lobbying for
Israeli-Palestinian peace are not merely those living in New York or
Miami, of course. But rather, they are the militantly pro-Israel groups
like AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, ADL, ZOA, etc. who seek to
ensure that the U.S. will exert no pressure whatsoever on Israel to
vacate any of its hardline positions.

True; and all the more reason for Jews to want an open discussion of these matters: so that the diversity, to the extent there is diversity, will manifest and flourish.

19 Responses

  1. the Sword of Gideon
    March 25, 2008, 11:16 pm

    I am curious about something. For Phil Weiss, Keating, Ed, Haygood, liberla white boy, and all the rest. Say your hopes and dreams are realized. Israel is destroyed, the Jews are murdered or expelled. And it's replaced by an Islamic theocracy. What will you have won? Serious question

  2. cogit8
    March 26, 2008, 12:00 am

    Excellent post Philip. I can only admire and not denigrate.

  3. Ed
    March 26, 2008, 12:03 am

    Newsmax is reporting that "The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) today called on Sen. Barack Obama to remove Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak as his military advisor and national campaign co-chairman."…
    link to newsmax.com
    "Rather than putting the blame where it belongs — on the Palestinian leadership and their continued reliance on terror, General McPeak finds it more convenient to blame American Jewry and their perceived influence," said Brooks. "This is the same dangerous and disturbing canard being promoted by the likes of Jimmy Carter and authors Mearsheimer and Walt in their book, The Israel Lobby."

    It's time to start calling these Jewish Zionists on their racism. If McPeak is an anti-Semite for saying the following way back in 2003 — "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote — vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it" — then certainly those who tenaciously support Israel — an institutionally racist apartheid state that discriminates, by law, against those of non-Jewish blood — are racists bent on resurrecting Jim Crow laws in America.

    It's time to take the gloves off. Supporters of Israel are clearly the worst kind of bigots: advocates of institutional racism. Obama needs to fight fire with fire and call these agents of Israel on their racist fanaticism.

  4. the Sword of Gideon
    March 26, 2008, 12:20 am

    Ed, every day you sink lower and lower into the swamps. But I'm going to take this one slow because obviously your not that bright. It's called the REPUBLICAN jewish coalition. REPUBLICANS. They jockey the same way the National Jewish DEOMOCRATIC council brings up Hagee and others. It's called electoral politics. I know your pine for those good old days in the fatherland 1933-45 but that's what we have here.
    It does take a racist fanatic to know one I suppose. Contemplate that at your next meeting of America friends of Islamic Jihad

  5. Richard Silverstein
    March 26, 2008, 1:11 am

    Thanks for the link, Phil. My post on the L'Affaire McPeak is linked above. Barack Obama needs to take direction fr. the Republican Jewish Coalition as much as a lung cancer survivor needs to smoke a cigarette.

  6. Daveg
    March 26, 2008, 3:25 am

    "Israel is destroyed, the Jews are murdered or expelled. And it's replaced by an Islamic theocracy. What will you have won? Serious question"

    The smart ass answer is that we will have won the right to not pay ~6 billion in aid each year to Israel and Egypt, AND we will also be able to get out of Iraq, as the neocon interest in Iraq will probably subside if Israel no long exists.

    But, the reality is Israel will be just fine, despite your parinoid rantings.

    And that is OK, although I would still like to stop paying aid to them and get the troops out of Iraq. Is that too much to ask for?

  7. hlmeankin
    March 26, 2008, 4:03 am

    Phil writes: "All of us know that Obama is going to say the "right thing," but we trust him to approach this issue in the end in an evenhanded way"

    Hold on Phil, I don't think "All of us Know…".
    Just what facts back up your proposition?
    What your comment amounts to is a pious wish.
    (If Obama retains McPeak, that would be a bit of evidence)

    We need some basis for rolling the dice..
    Consider,if he gets elected he could "realistically" say he has to continue the essential zionist line,because he has to work with an AIPAC conrolled congress.

    Of course Phil's intent: to elect a president who will seek a"realistic" and moral Mideast Policy is noble.
    Its just that his failure to demand of Obama some proof that he will indeed live up to expectations, provides a cover for Obama's opportunism…
    Lets see if Obama proves my scepticism unfounded.

  8. the Sword of Gideon
    March 26, 2008, 6:17 am

    Fast question Daveq, South Korea, 54.000 dead in the war, 37,000 troops on permanent duty, not to mention naval protection. Nato, Bosnia, any thoughts?

  9. Jim Haygood
    March 26, 2008, 7:15 am

    Goldberg on McPeak: "[In McPeak's view] American policy is the product of 'religious Jews and neocons.'"

    Making essentially the same point, Glenn Greenwald argues in Salon that the range of commentary presented in the Lamestream Media ranges from "liberal hawks" who critique the execution of the Iraq war, to neocon warmongers who whooped it on. But those who correctly opposed the Iraq invasion before it began are excluded from mainstream commentary. (Obama, who made a speech opposing the attack in October 2002, is one of the few exceptions, by virtue of being a candidate.)

    One of those prescient war opponents who gets no calls from the media is — surprise, surprise! — one Stephen M. Walt. Greenwald points this out, then quotes an email from Walt:


    There's an ongoing myth, peddled by the pro-war establishment, that very few people with "serious" foreign policy credentials unequivocally opposed the invasion of Iraq. That just isn't true. Here, for instance, is an anti-war ad signed (and paid for) by 33 scholars of international security affairs — from among the nation's most prestigious academic institutions — which they published in The New York Times in September, 2002, presciently setting forth the case against the invasion.

    Review the names of the anti-war signatories and one finds that they are virtually never heard from in the establishment press, even now. As one of the prime movers of that ad, signatory Stephen Walt of the Harvard School of Government (who, as indicated, made pre-invasion, anti-war arguments with pinpoint accuracy in numerous other venues as well), wrote to me via email today:

    Apart from a series of articles that the Harvard Crimson did last week (focusing on Harvard faculty views then and now), I haven't been asked for my views on Iraq by mainstream media in months, if not years. What's more remarkable is that most of the other academics who opposed the war are also largely ignored. As far as I know, none of the signatories of our original NYT ad were asked to provide prominent commentary on the 5 year anniversary, and certainly not in prominent places like the New York Times or the Washington Post.

    Indeed, I believe that virtually everyone in the media has simply forgotten that there were prominent, mainstream voices who opposed the war on straightforward strategic grounds, and were proven correct. Future historians will have a field day discussing how the United States continued to listen to those who were proven wrong over and over and over, while ignoring those who were (regrettably) proven right.

    link to salon.com


    I can only tell Stephen Walt the same thing I tell our host Philip Weiss: the Revolution will not be televised, nor will it be covered by the Slimes or the WaPo. These are the same stinky fishwrappers that told us the Surge was working. Now we learn this morning that insurgents are rocketing the heavily-fortified Green Zone and injuring — oh, my! — AMERICANS.

    This useless war, and the influence of the greasy Israel Lobby peddlers who sold it, will eventually end. So will the dying dinosaurs of the Lamestream Media which serve as their stenographers and mouthpieces.

  10. LeaNder
    March 26, 2008, 7:54 am

    hlmeankin: "Lets see if Obama proves my scepticism unfounded."

    There will be no revolutionary shifts, absolutely no doubt. But what does the anti-Obama camp fear? Or why do 70% in Israel prefer McCain/Clinton? [a question that triggers statements by Benny Morris about Israeli media at the moment.]


    Phil Pearlman/the Sword of Gideon: Could you tell us what the exact connection is between the Islamofascist threat and US activities in the cold war or after the breaking up of the communist block suggested above?

    Are you aware that both Osama bin Laden and Iran are not really interested in Israel but intend to take over Europe respectively nuke it?

    link to adnkronos.com

    Rome, 20 March(AKI) – Muslim immigrants are a serious threat to peace and democracy in Europe, according to the Israeli Ambassador to the Vatican Oded Ben-Hur.

    He referred to leaflets that he claims to have in the Israeli embassy, that are linked to a programme by Osama bin Laden "to re-conquer Europe."

    Regarding Iran's nuclear programme, he did not believe a nuclear attack on Israel would take place.

    "Ahmadinejad is building his atomic capacity not to destroy Israel," said the ambassador.

    Instead, Ben-Hur focused the debate on Iran's alleged nuclear missiles and its range, which he said could reach Europe.

  11. Charles Keating
    March 26, 2008, 9:38 am

    I'm guessing the hope in backing Obama over Hillary or McCain
    rests mostly on his little Cleveland speech and the fact, as a half-black, he feels some affinity for the situation of the Palestinians.

  12. Crimson Ghost
    March 26, 2008, 10:24 am


    The insulting attacks on you by Zionist fanatics shows you are doing the right thing.

    Keep it up!

  13. LeaNder
    March 26, 2008, 10:35 am

    "I'm guessing the hope in backing Obama over Hillary or McCain rests mostly …"

    … on the fact that he was against the WWIII/IV. And many people wont be so easily tricked by the activities to erase the difference between someone who criticized the war before it began and someone who jumped the train when things turned wrong:

    link to en.wikipedia.org

  14. LeaNder
    March 26, 2008, 10:37 am

    Hmmm? this was first "against the war" and only later turned into the more precise WWIII/IV.

  15. Charles Keating
    March 26, 2008, 10:50 am

    Yes, LeaNder, I forgot the most basic reason, that he came out publicly against attacking Iraq from the start. Very Important! Thank you.

  16. nitwit
    March 26, 2008, 11:05 am

    You welcome, Charles!

  17. Daveg
    March 26, 2008, 4:33 pm

    Bring most of them home. Vietnam is doing fine, mi amigo. In fact most of the place we didn't go are doing great.

    Open up relations with Cuba, while you are at it.

    That said, the cold war was a bit different than "Islamofascism" which presents zero real risk. Cold war is OVER.

    And BTW, South Korea is/was not acting in irresponsibly, unlike Israel which continues to settle and harrass thereby cashing checks that we are going to have to pay for.

  18. nitwit
    March 26, 2008, 5:02 pm

    It's easy Daveq. Bill/Sword is simply another parrot:

    link to washingtonpost.com

    President Bush has equated Islamic radicalism with communism. Is the comparison sound? Is it wise?

    By Zbigniew Brzezinski
    Sunday, December 4, 2005; B02

  19. Avi
    March 27, 2008, 12:35 am

    Very well stated, Phillip. It brings to mind this tidbit I saw the other day about Obama confidante Jeffrey Hart in M. Thomas Eisenstadt 's musings. link to eisenstadtgroup.com
    Hart, it turns out, has very disturbing views on Judaism, and it's troubling that this is the sort of people Obama's getting his advice from.

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