The other day I pointed out that one difference between the Israel lobby and the gun lobby is that Democrats bash the gun lobby all the time, but they shut their pie hole when it comes to the Israel lobby. In “the Gun Lobby, the Israel Lobby, and Double Standards,” Andrew Sullivan makes the same point and takes it further. He says that Chuck Hagel used the same language about the Israel lobby that the NYT uses about the gun lobby every day, but that the anti-Semitism card has silenced critics.
My point is simply that talking about the Israel lobby in exactly the same way that everyone talks about the gun lobby is not and never has been ipso facto anti-Semitism. It is simply using very familiar rhetoric to bemoan the overweening influence of special interest groups in distorting public policy. The gun debate, it seems to me, proves this definitively, revealing the cynical, calculated wolf-crying behind the usual charges of anti-Semitism.
Imagine an op-ed in the New York Times which used exactly the same language about AIPAC as used about the NRA. Let’s look at those examples again.
“Americans are puzzled by the growing gap between popular opposition to West Bank settlements and Washington lawmakers’ obeisance to the Israel lobby …” “The pandering to the Israel lobby is ferociously competitive” … “Freezing Israeli settlement growth is being suffocated by thralldom to the Israel lobby” … “Polls show that Americans support an end to the West Bank settlements by 2 – 1 … but where are those Americans in this debate? The best-organized voices that officials have heard are those thwarting common sense, forcing lawmakers to curl up and cower” … “A Senate In The Israel Lobby’s Grip.”
Bret Stephens would find all this self-evidently anti-Semitic. The truth is that it is simply anti-special interest group. Yes, language describing nefarious lobbies behind the scenes pulling strings to get their way has been used in the past by anti-Semites. But if that kind of language is barred with sole respect to the Greater Israel Lobby, then the debate is effectively crippled – which is, of course, the point. For so long, the anti-Semitism card has been disgracefully, cynically played so that we can be stopped from debating the undemocratic distortion of our politics by special interest groups – in this case arguing for a foreign country’s brutal pounding of a de facto refugee camp.
Two other points are remarkable here. Sullivan repeatedly emphasizes Israel’s brutality against Gaza. Remember that Israel slaughtered nearly 400 children in Gaza 4 years ago and the president-elect was silent–during “Israel’s pulverization of Gaza’s people,” as Sullivan states.
Also, he says that careers are destroyed by the lobby, which includes “Bill Kristol’s ludicrously titled ‘Emergency Committee for Israel.’” But the internet is making a difference. I wonder how much Sullivan self-censored as he made his way. I wonder if he’s been to Gaza. He should go, and honor those amazing people. (h/t Peter Voskamp).