‘Jewish political community’ supported Iraq war, but now divides between neocon funders and liberals — Alterman

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Here’s an excellent piece by Eric Alterman at The Nation on the new division inside the Jewish community between neoconservative funders and liberal rank-and-file. Norman Finkelstein made many of these points last week at the New School. I say it’s a new division because this distinction wasn’t evident during the Iraq war runup, as Alterman implicitly acknowledges. No, then the liberal Jews refused to dime out the neoconservative “funder” group, as Alterman does here, and the Israel lobby was monolithic, and my liberal brother could say to me, I was against the Vietnam war, but my Jewish newspaper says this war could be good for Israel. 

Now the Israel lobby seems to be breaking openly, between Likudniks and liberal Zionists. This is further evidence of the fact that Walt and Mearsheimer’s thesis of the complicity of the Israel lobby in the disastrous Iraq war can now be discussed, because liberal Jews are disassociating themselves from the traditional lobby. Also notice that Alterman bashes David Gregory for calling Netanyahu the “leader of the Jewish people.”

Excerpt (thanks to Terry Weber):

while Jews remain liberal and dovish—even on Israel—many Jewish funders and neoconservative pundits do not. Although these people are deeply out of step with the vast majority of Jews, they wish to create a media narrative that suggests the opposite. They are aided in this task by the largely conservative leaders of “major” Jewish organizations, who work with these same funders (most famously right-wing casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, currently under investigation)—funders who also happen to pay their extremely generous salaries. Money, you may also have heard, has a way of talking when it comes to politics. The fact that the policies these organizations push and the politicians they support and nurture represent views antithetical to those of the very same people they profess to speak for might be a problem in, say, an Israeli kibbutz or a Park Slope food co-op. In the world of professional Jewish organizations, however, it barely rises to the level of an inconvenience.

The role of the neoconservatives in the media reinforces this misperception. Google the words “Jews, Republicans” and the result will be about 13 million hits. Even allowing for false positives, repeats and some negative responses, this is a considerable ado over next to nothing. Commentary has been publishing its wishful thinking about a Jewish desertion of the Democrats ever since Milton Himmelfarb (Irving Kristol’s brother-in-law, William Kristol’s uncle) posed the question “Are Jews Becoming Republican?” back in August 1981. Obviously, the answer has been “no” for the last thirty-plus years—and yet every election cycle, some gullible journalists find themselves asking it again, and doing so as if it would matter either way.

So why has it been so easy to fool so many members of the media so much of the time? One reason is laziness: journalists use the views of so-called Jewish leaders regarding Israel as a shorthand for those of all American Jews. (Meet the Press’s David Gregory recently went so far as to call Bibi Netanyahu the “leader of the Jewish people,” God help us.) No less significant, however, is the willingness of the hawkish, Israel-obsessed micro-minority to intimidate critics with accusations of anti-Semitism or Jewish “self-hatred.” Happily, with Marty Peretz having been forced out of The New Republic after only thirty-seven years of slanderous attacks, this brand of Jewish McCarthyism is no longer associated with the word “liberal.” But it remains many neocons’ weapon of first resort.

This tendency was evident not so long ago, when The New York Times’s Maureen Dowd wrote a column critical of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan for outsourcing their foreign policy to the same neocon armchair warriors who championed the invasion of Iraq. According to Politico’s Dylan Byers, Dowd—who made no reference whatsoever to the religion or ethnicity of her subjects—“set the Jewish political community on fire…with a column about the Republican ticket’s foreign policy proposals that, according to her critics, peddled anti-Semitic imagery.” In fact, that “Jewish political community” consisted predominantly of neocons and former Bush cheerleaders, a significant number of whom now appear to be pining for similar bloodshed in Iran.

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