Today's conference at New York's Central Synagogue on Jews uniting against the
war—six years after it matters—was remarkable for two things: the soulsearching over the Israel/Palestine issue, which represents real progress after
years of denial that the occupation had anything to do with the Iraq war, and indeed denial that there
is an and we're part of it, and secondly for fine speeches by Elizabeth Holtzman and MJ Rosenberg. I'll leave
till tomorrow a report on the conferees’ sometimes-honorable efforts to come to their senses
about the wicked occupation of Palestine. For tonight, the news: Elizabeth Holtzman, MJ
Former Congresswoman Holtzman spoke in the morning inside the Synagogue's Beir Chapel. At first I thought we were in for the
good old time persecution. She talked about the czar in Russia and her
grandfather, she talked about sponsoring legislation to get Nazis when she got
into congress. But then came Iraq, and out of nowhere she seized the bull by the horns. "Jews played a critical role in bringing the war about." She spoke of "top level"
administration officials and members of Congress. And: “Why was the only country in the
world that would welcome George Bush Israel?”
There was none of the Jeffrey Goldberg prevarication we usually get, that these Jews just happened to be there. No: They had acted as Jews, and they had made a terrible mistake, Holtzman said, of allowing the
ends to justify the means. They thought, “Is this good for the Jews, is this
good for Israel ….
Is this good for me?" Instead of thinking, "What is the good for society?… What is the good for
And so at last a prominent Jewish political figure has
squarely put PART of the blame for the Iraq
war where it belongs: in Zionist feeling within the Jewish community. A deep bow to Elizabeth Holtzman.
Rosenberg is the policy guy for the
policy in the Middle East he said the
The best metaphor for the Jewish effect in Washington
is when Rosenberg looks out of the little office that he shares with Brit Tzedek and the
view is dominated by an eight story building being built “by a despicable
billionaire named Sheldon Adelson from Las
Vegas .” This is the building. “It is well and
good that the polls of the Jewish community are what they are [on Iraq war, and Iran
war] We are represented in Washington
worked on the Hill for 20 years. “ You go to any congressman and ask who
represents the Jews, he will say, AIPAC. And that is a fact.”
AIPAC’s one issue now is Iran . “I think Israel for them
became old hat.” Dramatizing the Iranian threat is everything for AIPAC right now. “The whole organization is dedicated to ramping up sanctions against Iran.” One of
the things no one says on the Hill is AIPAC wrote this bill. Well they write a
bill, and then give it to someone they like to sponsor. They recently got 386
sponsors for a bill that would have imposed a virtual naval blockade on Iran’s ports (which a coalition of groups including IPF and J Street and National Iranian American Council got shelved, for the time being). Guess what folks, that’s the Cuban missile crisis gone wrong. And all
your favorite liberals signed it.” Oh yes, they’re liberals. But “They all get a
pass on Israel/Palestine and on Iran
He said that leading senators, many of them Jewish, “mouth the neocon line on Israel Palestine.” And your congressman may be the
“bravest person on the rights of gay people to get married. But ask them about
Israel Palestine some time and you’ll get BS. Pure BS. We give them a pass. 90 percent of the members of Congress stink on this issue."
And the liberals are even worse. Because they serve as the “enforcers on the issue.
.. Non-Jewish members look to the great Jewish liberals some of you think are
terrific." Rosenberg said some of these congressmen have a "stance on Arabs and Palestinians [that is] pure
venomous hatred." And these people are influential. Who's good? Maybe
Maurice Hinchey, the antiwar Dem from Kingston, NY, area. (Liberal Catholic, with great hair.)
Then MJ laid it on the feet of the Jewish community. “The
American Jewish community is not a progressive force in the country… we are a
regressive force on any issue that touches on Israel/Palestine… Barack Obama
would put through a peace deal tomorrow if it wasn’t for the American Jewish
community.” That is what it’s all about for Obama, Rosenberg said. “This is close to his heart.”
At this point an old lady in the audience had had enough. She
squawked, “Whare are you about?”
said, “What am I about?” He is about the two state solution, for a peace deal
that ends the “40 year occupation that is destroying Israel.” And against a war with Iran.
“Watch out. Sanctions. Sanctions. They want the sanctions to
be so tough we wind up with a war. Don’t let them BS you. That is what they do.
I worked [in Congress] for 20 years.”
During the Q-and-A a tall lean Europeanish guy of 55 asked MJ
Rosenberg a scary question. He said, What happens when Americans who have lost blood and treasure in Iraq discover "that Jews pushed America into
a war” for Israel’s benefit. The Elizabeth Holtzman point.
This was the most upsetting question asked in the conference
in the 5 hours I was there. It is the question that has been knocking at the door of the Jewish world since 2002.
To his overwhelming credit, Rosenberg answered honestly and calmly.
“I’m 61. I’ve never experienced anti-Semitism. There is very
little anti-Semitism in this country.” Then he said that
within the “international community” –among thinkers, academics, intellectuals,
“there is a real resentment of the neocons.” But this community does not
realize “that there’s such an overlap between the neocons and the lobby.
Theyr’e basically the same people. I do share the worry.”
The answer is that when we think about these things, we
should think abut them first as Americans, not as Jews who support Israel. Because, Rosenberg
said, by and large it’s not our children who are dying. (I need the exact qote, sorry
it’s a paraphrase). And we should think this way “both because it’s right and
to avoid the kind of backlash that this gentleman referred to.”
What can I add to this? Holtzman and Rosenberg were honest and brilliant. And after years of denial, the truths of Walt and Mearsheimer are finally being uttered in the Jewish house, and it staggered the hall, and it was pure American candor unrefracted by dual loyalty, a
truly great tradition that Jews have participated in fully.
Jeremy Ben-Ami, the head of J Street , who is far more diplomatic than
MJ Rosenberg then filled in what Rosenberg
was saying in comments I will quote tomorrow.
I went up to shake Rosenberg ’s
hand. There was a big crowd surrounding him, some angry. Later I saw him rushing
out of the building to catch a train home. Anyone who ever thinks about
backlashing against the Jews, do me this favor–remember Rosenberg and Holtzman, forceful, humble, honest, and patriotic. And, let me say clearly, closer to the ends of their careers than the