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.