‘There Is No Israel Lobby’

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
on 5 Comments

The other day Dan Fleshler
took me to task me for my sarcastic refrain, "There
is no Israel lobby." He called it a "glib distraction." He said everyone acknowledges there is an Israel
lobby, the real question is how much power it has, how it works.  Fleshler has been engaged on this issue much longer than I have, as a peace activist and two-state guy when the Jewish establishment was smearing such voices as "self-haters," but I’m going to continue using the sarcasm. 3 reasons why:

1. Tuesday on the House floor in a speech about the Holocaust, Shelley Berkley all but denied there was an Israel lobby, saying similar claims had led the way to the ovens. She’s a liberal Democrat.

2. So is Howard Berman, who last month described the lobby argument as a "total canard"
to a California audience.

3. Tuesday on Fresh Air, yes a great show, my father’s mental IV, Terry Gross interviewed Steven Waldman, a religious writer and the founder of beliefnet (and a family friend of mine) about his new book, Founding Faith.
The book is historical, but these two liberal Jews had a spirited
conversation about religion in politics now. For instance, Gross asked Waldman what were the  most important religious events of the campaign, and Waldman
mentioned McCain’s Christian claims and the general comfort of the
Democrats with religious language. They also talked about Obama and the Muslim canard, and Gross made a point of
airing the repulsive statement by McCain endorser
John Hagee  that Katrina was God’s punishment for gays in New Orleans….

Now I didn’t hear the whole program, but in the 20 minutes I heard there was no mention at all about Jews in politics, a ton about the Christian right. I know that Jewish journalists are squeamish about talking about Jews and power, but I find the omission staggering when you look at all the important Jewish/Israel stuff playing out:
the ratcheting up of the Iran talk by Freedom’s Watch, a group started by the Republican Jewish Coalition with tons of money from Jewish separate-school-movement figures; the murmuring campaign against Obama from Hillary’s Israel supporters; Obama’s speech to Cleveland Jews mentioning apartheid and the lobby; his pandering conference call to Jewish reporters talking over and over about the Holocaust; his phone call to Tzipi Livni approving Israel’s retaliation against Gaza; his campaign’s
distancing act from Rob Malley and Zbig Brzezinski over Israel… 

Throw in the fact that Huckabee got a tiny portion of the overall vote and that the religious right is widely said to be maturing, to include poverty and other issues. Gross described Hagee’s
beliefs as "very extremist." True; but what real impact will his
homophobia have on policy? Compare that to Adam Schiff, Obama’s Jewish surrogate, a
liberal California congressman, who refused in an Ohio debate with a Hillary surrogate in front of a Jewish audience to criticize the Israeli settlements.
Refused to criticize the settlements that are wreaking havoc in the
Middle East and the world! No wonder George Bush is also timid on this vital question. This is extremism, with tremendous
consequences. The mote in
someone else’s eye is more concerning than the beam in yours.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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5 Responses

  1. Jim Haygood
    March 13, 2008, 11:40 am

    "In the 20 minutes I heard there was no mention at all about Jews in politics, a ton about the Christian right." – Phil

    This is only one example of the selective presentation of information. Israel is constantly described by U.S. policitians as a democracy that shares American values. The average American sees it on TV, and thinks it looks like California.

    But as a survey conducted by Haaretz reveals, Israel's values could not be more different than America's. Haaretz reports that nearly 50% of Israeli Jews would object to Arabs living in their neighborhoods (and that's down from 70% in last year's survey). Thirty-five percent of Jews would object to Arabs in Jewish high schools.

    link to haaretz.com

    The shocker is not the percentages, but the fact that most Americans have no idea that modern-looking Iarael is a segregated, apartheid society. Jews and Arabs have separate neighborhoods, separate schools, separate laws governing military service, immigration, and numerous other aspects of life.

    Polls such as this used to be conducted in the US in the 1950s and 1960s, asking "Do you approve of racial integration?" and "Would you approve of your child going to school with Negroes?" All that ended 40 years ago here. But in Israel, apartheid lives on. It's very misleading to describe Israel as a democracy, which is perhaps its least salient feature in comparison to other democracies. As ol' James Carville would say … "IT'S THE APARTHEID, STUPID!"

    In the post-Civil Rights era, I think there's a particular obligation for black politicians to address why billions of U.S. dollars should be sent to an apartheid state which explicitly discriminates on the basis of ethnicity. Zionism is racism, Mr. Obama. You need to get yourself and your people off of old Ehud's plantation. That "Land o' Zion" crap from them old spirituals done messed wit' your mind.

  2. Richard Witty
    March 13, 2008, 12:34 pm

    Phil,
    You asked me in e-mail why I find the term "Israel Lobby" distasteful.

    Who is in the lobby, for the purposes of definition? Am I? Is Dan Fleshler? Is Americans for Peace Now (actual members of AIPAC)?

    For example, in both the Walt/Mearsheimer book and article the Bronfman's were identified as prime supporters/participants in the lobby, AND as dissenters from the lobby.

    The second question is about actions of "the Lobby".

    How do you distinguish a good action, from an acceptable action, from a bad action of the lobby?

    Are their principles that define your categorization, your characterization?

    Is it actions of the lobby that you object to, or that there even is some potentially definable support network at all, existence?

    Do you see "the lobby" as static in its views and approaches, or does it change?

    (For example, as you referred to the comments about Dan Fleshler, "the lobby" at one point dismissed/suppressed the concept of two states, then later dismissed/suppressed the concept of two peer states.

    Where are they now?

    If they come to adopt two peer states as their chosen agenda, will you still use the term "Israel lobby" with ONLY its anti-semitic implication, but no implication of bad policy or action?

  3. Kathy
    March 13, 2008, 1:02 pm

    I’m trying to figure out the context of why Rep. Shelley Berkely gave a speech about the Holocaust on the House floor on Tuesday.

  4. Abe Bird
    March 13, 2008, 6:49 pm

    Jim Haygood ; Bla Bla Bla-parthide…. What can the Israeli do if Arabs keep living in their segregated towns by their choice and Jews can't go there and buy houses? But the opposite way is clear and open. More and more Arabs leave their towns and cities and live among Jews. Arab kids study at Jewish neighborhood schools, but Jewish kids can't go and study in Arab's schools. This is the reality in Israel as appears beyond the newspapers polls.

    link to nrg.co.il

    Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabs hold seats in the Knesset. Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts. There are approximately 1.4 million Arabs (mainly Muslims) in Israel. More than 300,000 Arab children attend Israeli schools. The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army. This is to spare Arab citizens the need to take up arms against their brethren. Nevertheless, Bedouins have served in paratroop units and other Arabs have volunteered for military duty. Compulsory military service is applied to the Druze and Circassian communities at their own demand.

    Haaretz reports that nearly 50% of Israeli Jews would object to Arabs living in their neighborhoods (and that's down from 70% in last year's survey). Thirty-five percent of Jews would object to Arabs in Jewish high schools.

    link to haaretz.com

    The shocker is not the percentages, but the fact that most Americans have no idea that modern-looking Iarael is a segregated, apartheid society. Jews and Arabs have separate neighborhoods, separate schools, separate laws governing military service, immigration, and numerous other aspects of life.

  5. Rowan Berkeley
    March 14, 2008, 7:25 am

    extraordinarily compromising statements by obama money man:
    link to haaretz.com

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