Jewish establishment gives White House cover to criticize Israel–just not on Palestine

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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Mild criticisms of Israeli policy towards Palestinians, like the comments made by Howard Gutman (above), have provoked the ire of the Israel lobby (Photo: U.S. Embassy in Belgium)

The most salient lesson from the ruckus Jeffrey Goldberg and other Jewish groups created over the ridiculous ads about American Jewry and Israelis was voiced on Twitter by Max Blumenthal:

American Jews are shocked by ads urging Israelis to return to Israel but don’t seem to care that expelled Palestinians can’t return at all.

The mainstream of American Jewry turned in anger on the Netanyahu government, but it wasn’t on the central moral issue they should be directing their anger at: the systematic denial of Palestinian human rights.

No surprise, unfortunately. And it happened again over the weekend when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton voiced concern over the sorry state of Israeli democracy, but made no mention of the anti-democratic nature of Israeli rule over Palestinians. The reason why Clinton could voice that concern–and why U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro criticized a bill that would place restrictions on NGOs–was because they had the political cover to do so from Ruth Marcus, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee. There hasn’t been much noise from those quarters about Clinton’s criticisms of Israeli democracy.

But now turn to the comments made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman. They were mildly critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians–stress on the word mild–but now the Israel lobby is on the attack. The Anti-Defamation League has put out a statement saying they are “deeply troubled” by Panetta’s comments. And the neoconservatives smell blood on Gutman, and are pushing for his firing.

So the message to Israel from the Jewish American establishment remains: we will shield you from consequences for your settlements, occupation and denial of human rights. Look at our criticisms of the Obama administration. Just don’t let “brand Israel” tank by bringing your repressive laws over the Green Line.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist and graduate student at New York University's Near East Studies and Journalism programs. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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