Is Ed Koch’s passing another sign of lobby’s generational fade?

on 28 Comments
Koch headstone
Koch headstone

As you all know now, Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York and a dedicated Zionist, died three days ago at 88. American obituaries have been a little less than forthcoming about the Zionism. NPR’s Joel Rose didn’t mention Israel. The New York Times only mentions Israel twice. But a sense of being an embattled Jew was at the core of Koch’s political engagement: Koch’s endorsement of Obama in last fall’s presidential election hinged on Obama’s support for Israel; and as several obits have pointed out, his headstone, prepared in advance, has the words of Daniel Pearl, “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.” Scott Roth wrote archly,

it’s unusual for the words beheaded, Muslim, and terrorist to appear on a gravestone. But maybe this is the start of a trend.

It is important to remember that Koch got into Congress in 1968 by opposing the Vietnam war, but had no problem with any war that Israel ever launched– typical of his generation of apologists. Haaretz expresses the importance that Koch had for Israel in the U.S., with a remembrance by Israeli diplomat Ido Aharoni:

Ed Koch: One of the most important and influential American Zionists of our time…

Hit by a rock on the head in Jerusalem during the first intifada, Ed Koch, the icon of New York, never wavered in his support for Israel.

NPR quotes Jonathan Soffer, Koch’s biographer, but you have to go to the Forward to read Soffer telling you how important Jewishness and Israel were to the former mayor. He says that during WW2 Koch had a fight in the army with a bully that ended the

numerous anti-Jewish remarks he and fellow Jews had endured during basic training. It was the beginning of a lifetime combating anti-Semitism…

During five terms in Congress, Koch compiled a strongly liberal voting record but a centrist style, assiduously courting the friendship of conservatives. Popular among his colleagues, he obtained a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee, giving him national stature in the Jewish community as a key supporter of Israel. He travelled many times to the Middle East, met every Israeli prime minister, and became a dedicated Zionist. 

I’ll never forget the way Koch deflected dual loyalty charges. He said that the minute that Israel invades the U.S., he’d be on the front lines. Cute and deceptive. Listen to Chuck Hagel the other day: Zionism ravished our discourse a long time ago.

Koch’s core commitment was everything in his political engagement in recent years. Beloved by Jeffrey Goldberg, Koch stood up for the settlements and the Republican Party, during the special election in Brooklyn’s congressional district that was all about Israel two years back. NYT:

On Monday, former Mayor Edward I. Koch, a Democrat, endorsed the Republican candidate in the race, Bob Turner, a retired cable television executive, at a press conference at which he stood next to an Israeli flag. Mr. Koch has acknowledged that Mr. Weprin is a strong supporter of Israel, but argued that the election of Mr. Turner would serve as a rebuke to Mr. Obama for saying that Israel’s pre-1967 border should be the basis for a peace agreement.

I would argue that Koch’s departure is epochal: the Israel lobby is panicked that Lieberman, Ackerman, Frank, and Berman have all left Congress this year, and AIPAC’s Jonathan Missner in a fundraising letter warns that the House and Senate saw nearly 20 percent turnover in the last election and “Many of the new members are brand new to foreign policy. Most are from districts with relatively small Jewish constituencies.”

Thanks to Abdeen Jabara.

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28 Responses

  1. DICKERSON3870
    February 3, 2013, 2:12 pm

    RE: “As you all know now, Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York and a dedicated Zionist, died three days ago at 88.” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: His bosom buddy, “Pastor” John Hagee, must be absolutely devastated.

    SEE: “Why McCain Should Have Stood by Hagee”, By Ed Koch, Politico, 6/03/08

    [EXCERPTS] Senator John McCain was wrong to reject the endorsement of Texas evangelist Rev. John Hagee.
    Several years ago Rev. Hagee delivered a sermon that was caught on tape in which he preached, “Then God sent a hunter. A hunter is someone with a gun, and he forces you. Hitler was a hunter. How did it happen? Because God allowed it to happen.
    Why did it happen? Because God said, ‘My top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel.” Anyone hearing the tape would conclude that Hagee is hostile to the Jews, but nothing could be further from the truth. He and his congregants are among Israel’s strongest supporters. For religious reasons, they want Israel to rule supreme over all of the lands that made up the ancient Jewish kingdoms of Israel and Judea.
    Evangelicals believe that the Messiah – Jesus Christ – cannot return to the earth until the Jews return to the land of Israel (Eretz Yisrael), they having been expelled by the Romans in 70 AD after the Second Temple — the one built by Herod — was destroyed.
    Christian fundamentalists believe that every word of the Old and New Testaments represents the will of God. . .
    . . . Rev. Hagee, being a fundamentalist, believes that each word is the word of God, and that everything that occurs on Earth happens as a result of God’s direction. Events caused by people like Hitler, for some fundamentalists, are explained as a punishment visited by God on Jews who had fallen away from the faith and did not follow all of God’s mandates. . .
    . . . Rev. Hagee apparently believes that Hitler was used by God to bring the Jews back to the promised land. . .
    . . . Hagee was not praising Hitler the monster, he was simply offering the fundamentalist opinion that Hitler was used by God to cause the creation of a Jewish state to which the Jews of the world would return.
    Hagee’s followers have supported the State of Israel in many tangible ways. Evangelicals continue to visit Israel as tourists even during the most dangerous times, which is more than can be said for some Diaspora Jews.
    It has become fashionable among liberals, including Jews, to ridicule and denounce Hagee and other fundamentalists. I do not. I appreciate their support of the State of Israel and thank them for their enormous contributions to the Jewish state. . .


    P.S. There was a time when I had considerable respect and admiration for Ed Koch.

  2. Les
    February 3, 2013, 2:36 pm

    I don’t know what it means, but clearly it was his decision to be buried in Trinity Cemetery.

    • Hostage
      February 4, 2013, 6:29 am

      I don’t know what it means, but clearly it was his decision to be buried in Trinity Cemetery.

      Koch paid $20,000 for the cemetery plot five years ago, saying that he had chosen it because it was the only cemetery in Manhattan that was still active. “I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone,” Koch told The Associated Press. “This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.”

      Koch told the New York Times in 2008 that he had consulted with rabbis about his plan to be buried in a church cemetery. “I called a number of rabbis to see if this was doable,” he said. “I was going to do it anyway, but it would be nice if it were doable traditionally.” He said he had been advised to request that the gate nearest his plot be inscribed as “the gate for the Jews,” and the cemetery agreed. He also built rails around his plot, as instructed.

  3. Les
    February 3, 2013, 3:24 pm

    Rupert Cornwell

    Sunday 3 February 2013
    So, just how powerful is the Israel lobby in the US?

    Out of America: Perhaps no more than a dozen out of more than 400 Representatives are pro-Palestinian
    . . .

    • ToivoS
      February 4, 2013, 7:30 pm

      There is a change going on below the surface. Let me share a two anecdotes.

      I am fairly active in the Democratic Party and attend many functions. Last year I attended the annual fund raising dinner for CAIR (comm on American-Islamic Relations). In attendance were two Ca assembly members, 4 mayors and numerous county supervisors and city council members. They were their showing their respect to the Islamic community but also were actively working the group for campaign funds.

      On election nigh I was at the victory party for one of CA’s House congressman. This is a guy who likely was bobbing up and down like a marinette when Bibi spoke to them. But what was impressive was the composition of campaign volunteers. About half were from South Asia and the ME (excluding Israel). As they were introduced and thanked there seemed to be about 3 of the 40 who had Jewish sounding names. This is a very liberal congressional district and Jewish activists have always been much more visible than this. These volunteers are the future of the Democratic Party. The electeds in city, county and assembly districts are the future Congress people and Senators.

      The lobby is extremely top heavy and as they die off along with their paid agents a tipping point will be reached — not going to predict when, but when it comes it will be sudden.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 6, 2013, 12:24 am

        wow, that sounds hopeful toivo

  4. sligoker
    February 3, 2013, 3:49 pm

    Koch wanted to be buried in Manhattan. That was the only available plot.

  5. Ramzi Jaber
    February 3, 2013, 7:59 pm

    “My father is Palestinian. My mother is Palestinian. I am Palestinian.
    (Said proudly by a Palestinian just before he was murdered by a Jewish terrorist)”

    That’s what tens of thousands of Palestinians could have on their tombstones.

    • jon s
      February 4, 2013, 5:40 am

      The inscription on the headstone is, indeed, unique – but not incorrect.
      Those were Danny Pearl’s brave last words, and he really was beheaded by jihadists.The awful deed was allegedly done by Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, mastermind of 9/11.

      • Ramzi Jaber
        February 4, 2013, 10:28 am

        jon s, are you implying that it is incorrect that Palestinians were murdered by jewish terrorists?

      • jon s
        February 4, 2013, 3:46 pm

        Ramzi, absolutely not.

      • Ramzi Jaber
        February 4, 2013, 7:28 pm

        Thanks for clarifying jon s.

  6. CloakAndDagger
    February 3, 2013, 10:43 pm

    Die, all you treasonous old farts, die! Your era is done and spent and there is no room on this Earth for your despicably racist ilk. Make way for the untainted youth of tomorrow who will rise to restore American-first patriots in this land.

    In another 25 years, the whole lot of you will be 6 feet under, and the rest of us will dance on your graves.

    • Taxi
      February 4, 2013, 2:02 am

      I’m up for a jig, a waltz or a pogo widya, Cloaky!

  7. chocopie
    February 3, 2013, 11:19 pm

    The great thing about that tombstone is that it’s going to make him look like more and more of an asshole as time passes.

  8. Carowhat
    February 3, 2013, 11:51 pm

    I’ll never forget the way Koch deflected dual loyalty charges. He said that the minute that Israel invades the U.S., he’d be on the front lines.

    Koch might be right in saying he would have been on the front lines if Israel invaded the U.S. It just might not have been on our side of the front lines.

  9. jon s
    February 4, 2013, 12:29 am

    I’m astonished that the moderators passed CloakandDaggers’ vicious comment.
    ” When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, let your heart not exult..” (Proverbs, 24:17)

  10. seafoid
    February 4, 2013, 3:42 am

    “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”
    That is poignant. But what does “Jewish” mean today? “I will put a State in the Middle East before my own cultural history and my religion’s moral values” ? Or “I will wake up and smell the coffee, as my ancestors always did, eventually” ?

    BTW I liked Koch’s attitude to privacy- “whether I am straight, gay or bisexual is nobody’s business but my own”

    • Taxi
      February 4, 2013, 9:15 am

      He could have the all elusive ‘word’ of god on his tombstone and it would not unzionise him one bit – it would not remove the stain of zionism from his biography.

      Besides, as far as zionism is concerned, koch was just a cog in the wheel: replaceable.

      • seafoid
        February 4, 2013, 12:00 pm

        But Koch is irreplaceable. His generation will be the last to be so rabidly Zionist. The PR damage done by Israel is too deep to be fixed by a friendly face in NYC.

      • Taxi
        February 4, 2013, 1:15 pm

        Zios are all cogs and robots. And regrettably, there are plenty young zio zealots about town to take koch’s place.

        But that don’t mean that zionism has a future either here or in the middle east.

      • seafoid
        February 4, 2013, 5:40 pm

        There may be but Koch had to sell Israel to the goys and that is virtually impossible with the people who are now teenagers.

      • Chu
        February 6, 2013, 10:20 am

        ‘His generation will be the last to be so rabidly Zionist. ‘
        Even Bloomberg, although he makes trips to Israel is very quiet about his support. Of course he is younger, but I can’t see him turning into an Ed Koch on Israel issues. Ed Koch would get a bit looney tunes when it came to Israel. He vocally started supporting the other political party as a result.

  11. Sumud
    February 4, 2013, 4:43 am

    Unbelievably cheap and tacky to have included that statement from Daniel Pearl on Koch’s headstone – the explanation of Pearl’s significance (“just before he was beheaded by a muslim terrorist”) more so than the actual quote.

    If Koch himself chose it (edit – he did), it reads as a longing to be closer to authentic anti-semitism; grotesque. In fact Koch was born in the states and lived a life that can be described as wildly successful.

  12. eljay
    February 4, 2013, 6:43 am

    >> … it’s unusual for the words beheaded, Muslim, and terrorist to appear on a gravestone. But maybe this is the start of a trend.

    And what a sick and stupid trend that would be. Congratulations, Mr. Koch: Perhaps this will be your true legacy.

  13. IL1948
    February 4, 2013, 9:26 am

    Not even buried yet and the vitriol is spewing.

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