Gun lobby in the headlights (Israel lobby in the brush)

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Again and again since the Connecticut school massacre last Friday, the media have called out the gun lobby. Last night’s NBC Nightly news opened, for instance, with the NRA statement on the Connecticut shootings– after days of silence. Chris Matthews harped on this on MSNBC, saying that this is the NRA’s pattern. The gun lobby is clearly on the run, the murders of 20 children are being blamed on the lobby. And justifiably; the gun lobby is a key element of the permissive American gun culture that produced this massacre.

The contrast to coverage of the Israel lobby couldn’t be more stark. The NRA is a household name, for better or worse. AIPAC is a who-dat? But there have been countless outrages over the years involving Israel’s use of violence with impunity: the killing of American Rachel Corrie in 2003; the massacre of 16 children in Qana during the Lebanon War of 2006; the slaughter of nearly 400 children in Gaza in 2008-2009; the killing of American Furkan Dogan and eight others on the Mavi Marmara in 2010.

Many of these killings involved American armaments. But the condemnation is absent, and so is the finger-pointing at a powerful lobby. The Israel lobby has played a significant role in guaranteeing that impunity. How large a role we can only speculate, because it has escaped media scrutiny. Andrew Sullivan hopped on this point yesterday, and wrote: “But we are forbidden from calling AIPAC what it is the way we call the NRA what it is – because telling the truth about it has been stigmatized as anti-Semitism.”

It goes beyond AIPAC of course, to establishment institutions more broadly, and a culture of orthodoxy and omerta re Israel, lately experienced by Nicholas Dirks, who was compelled to eat his words in order to get a big job. I always say things are getting better. But they won’t really change till media begin to put the spotlight on the Israel lobby, for, say, the devouring of the West Bank, in the way that they’ve put the spotlight on the gun lobby’s role in the Connecticut massacre. When Jake Tapper states to the White House that there have been “no consequences” for Israel’s bad behavior in the West Bank, it’s a great first step, but he is still not addressing the core issue– Why are there no consequences? But he as a Jewish American knows, there is an orthodoxy within the Jewish establishment over supporting Israel, and it is enforced by whatever means, excommunication, blackmail, bribery, threat. Which is why I don’t think this knot will be untied without a serious conversation inside the Jewish community about when we married Zionism.

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