Yesterday, Politico reporter Mike Allen appeared on Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, and, to be sure, behaved just as he always does, and how most Politico Beltway beat reporters do. Which is to say, to use Glenn Greenwald’s phrase, he behaved like a piece of "Versailles sleaze." Or as Chris Hedges puts it about the modern press at-large, he acted as a courtier to power.
The topic of the segment was the new far right-wing neoconservative collective, run by lobby extraordinaires Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer, known as the Emergency Committee on Israel [covered here, by Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib and here by Daniel Luban], a committee name that has fear and smear written all over it. What did they do to start of their campaign? They smeared U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, who signed onto a letter J Street pushed through (a letter that was signed by roughly 60 members of the House), by saying he is not "Pro-Israel" enough and "must not realize that the U.S. and Israel are allies."
All the while, the backdrop music consists of spooky, apocalyptic music that sounds like the the Rapture is impending, which, I suppose makes sense considering Bauer, an Evangelical Christian Zionist, believes in that stuff and it’s the sole basis for his support for Israel.
Let’s get something straight here: J Street IS Pro-Israel.
People on this blog, generally righteously, bemoan how nauseatingly pro-Israel and apologetic for Israel’s crimes even they can be. Sure, they’re not AIPAC, but it’s not as if J Street is Jewish Voice for Peace or American Jews for a Just Peace, either. They’re a collective of mainstream liberals (generally Democrats) who preface everything they say and all of the positions they take with the fact that they are Pro-Israel. They’ve never called for a reduction or freeze in military funding for Israel and furthermore and they are opposed to BDS. True, much of this is political posturing, which helps to balance the conversation on The Hill and give voices of reason more of a safe-space in the Beltway, but any reasonable person would realize that J-Street is FAR from being "Anti-Israel."
That’s what makes the whole incident so absurd: Sestak signed onto a J-Street Pro-Israel letter that called for an end to the futile and ruthless blockade in Gaza, as well as pushing for making a bold move toward a Two-State solution, and now, a group that coins itself the "Pro-Israel Lobby of the Pro-Israel Lobby," through shrewd propaganda techniques, is saying that signing the letter was akin to signing the front flap of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
We all know what will this turn into: namely, a big battle over who is more Pro-Israel on the campaign trail, rather than a rational discussion over what U.S. policy should be toward Israel. In the meantime, peoples’ lives are on the line, with an appalling humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as well as a ludicrous ongoing situation in the West Bank. But frankly, these tactics reflect American political discourse as a whole, particularly on the campaign trail. Beltway politicians are more concerned with how what they say will be perceived by their voters and reported on by the media (and in turn, consumed by their voters) than rational, honest discourse on the big issues of the day, which, while solving the Israel-Palestine conflict is but one issue, there are plenty of other important issues for which this happens, too.
The Israel lobby, though, has been especially effective at silencing even mild accountability for the U.S.’s favorite client. What will come out of this? Both Sestak and his Republican opponent will be duking it out to prove who’s more macho and "supportive" of Israel, meaning, who’s more supportive of Israel turning into a full-fledged apartheid state. Sadly, for those who care about peace and justice in Israel and Palestine, whether advocating for a single state, or two states, people like Kristol and Bauer are more concerned with neocons winning elections than peace in the Holy Land. They don’t care about Israelis and they don’t care about Palestinians. They care solely about their power and their pocketbooks.
And then came the disgraceful segment as a follow-up to the announcement of the Emergency Committee for Israel on Morning Joe. First of all, look at Mike Allen’s body language and posture when the interview starts. He looks like a guy ready to kiss some serious ass. And kiss some serious ass, he does. After the creepy commercial is shown, Scarborough states that Obama is losing "serious Jewish voter support" because of his treatment of the Israel-Palestine conflict. But, as Glenn Greenwald pointed out in his blog yesterday, this is a notion that, on its face, is a falsity:
"This matters so much because this has long been the central neoconservative tactic used to prevent any changes in American policy in the Middle East: the myth that Jewish voters will abandon the Democratic Party if it asserts any independence at all from Israel. This is false, because the vast majority of Jewish voters outside of neocon spheres…Even those for whom Israel is a very important issue are not in lockstep with the neocon belief system. That was why Peter Beinart’s article in The New York Review of Books (and before that, the emergence of J Street) caused so much consternation: because it revealed the large and growing disparity of thought between right-wing Jewish organizations demanding lockstep political devotion to Israel and the views of American Jewish voters generally."
Also, see the J Street poll that came out at in March, clearly debunking the entire basis of this conversation on its face.
The conversation then drifts to Mike Allen AGREEING with Scarborough, and sympathizing with the lies of the lobby. He must have never learned, or just does not care, that the role of the journalist is to pursue truth, not to lend legitimacy to charlatans. But as Greenwald explains in a couple blog posts, that’s what Allen is all about and that’s how he’s made a career for himself.
While we are sometimes stuck in the our own world of reading actual news and having realistic discussions about the future of the conflict, let’s not forget where most of society gets their news from: people like Scarborough and Allen. The media have failed us and continue to fail us day after day.