Maybe de Blasio believes his job is to defend Israel?

NY Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pro-Israel speech to a secret AIPAC meeting on Thursday night in NY has occasioned a lot of commentary on the power of the Israel lobby. Jerry Slater posted about the speech here, reprised below. And he and Alex Kane have a dialogue.

Jerome Slater: Understandably, Andrew Sullivan, Phil Weiss and M.J. Rosenberg, and others have seized on NY Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unbelievably fawning speech before AIPAC as still further proof of the power of the Israel Lobby, or at least of its central institution. My own view is that this is an oversimplification, because it essentially dismisses two other additional or perhaps even more important possible explanations.

The first is that de Blasio—and, by extension, other uncritical public figures (Obama comes to mind)—may genuinely believe what they say. This doesn’t make them right, of course: in fact their love and unconditional support of Israel, to the extent that it is genuine, can only be explained by their ignorance of the Israeli realities.
The second explanation is a bit more complicated. Even if there were no AIPAC, even if there were no larger organized lobby, there would still be a Jewish vote that in some places could be decisive, elections in New York being the obvious but by no means the only example. And it remains very much the case that the Jewish vote is overwhelmingly “pro-Israel.” For that matter, even if there were no Israel lobby, it is reasonable to assume that there would still be large Jewish financial contributions to favored politicians, who would be quite aware of why their bread was being buttered.

This is by no means to deny the obvious: there certainly is an organized Israel Lobby, and it has a lot of political power. At the same time, its power should not be exaggerated—not only does it sometimes lose big battles (on Iran, let us hope), but even when it appears to either influence or cow politicians—in de Blasio’s case, one is tempted to say, effectively own them—there are additional factors that work in the same direction. And in some cases these additional factors would be likely to produce the same political outcomes, even if there were no AIPAC.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2013.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2013.

Alex Kane:

All good points. But allow me to inject some skepticism of them.

First, I don’t believe for a second that de Blasio actually believes in what he is saying. He has spent far too much time in the midst of committed, left-wing activists who have a global critique of American power, a critique that includes its client state, Israel. As David Wilson, an activist who worked with de Blasio, told me, “He’s a smart guy and he’s well-informed. And I can’t believe that he believes the things he says about the Middle East. It’s perfectly obvious that he’s saying the things New York City politicians say. I don’t know what he actually thinks, but he can’t think that. There is a striking disparity between what he says now about Israel and what he thought about Nicaragua.”

Yes, there is a Jewish vote, and Jews are politically engaged in New York. In total, there are about 1.1 million Jews, though not all of them vote, of course. Still, how many of those 1.1 million are pro-Israel? There is no reliable polling on this, but there’s a significant split in the Jewish community here, and that includes anti-Zionist Satmars. Perhaps a slight majority back Israel, but de Blasio is fully aware of the progressive Jewish community that exists here, where criticism of Israel is the norm. Secondly, how many other constituencies does he alienate with this type of rhetoric? He surely alienates a good chunk of the city’s Muslim and Arab population, which is not insignificant. 600,000, if not more, Muslims. 350,000 plus Arabs. (Caveat: of course these communities are not monolithic on Israel, but I think it’s fair to say many are sympathetic to Palestinians, as the massive rallies in New York in the wake of Cast Lead showed.)

But your point on donations is spot on. De Blasio’s rise has been fueled by pro-Israel donors, as I showed here.

Slater:

I admit to surmising about what De Blasio actually believes–but if he can say all that over-the-top stuff without believing in it, or at least half-believing, then he’s simply shameless and morally corrupt, which seems unlikely, given his history, or at least what I’ve read about his history.  I don’t know how the NYC Jewish vote breaks down on Israeli-related issues, I’m simply assuming that even in New York it helps more than it hurts to be seen as “pro-Israel”–even taking into account the Muslim and Arab population.  But I admit, that’s just my assumption; I don’t have the evidence–does anyone?

I also meant my comment to apply to the general question of the relative weight of the Israel Lobby as opposed to other factors in explaining national policies.  And outside of liberal NYC–I’m surmising again–the Jewish vote surely must be more “pro-Israel” than not, and so far as I know there hasn’t been a significant electoral backlash, even in areas with significant Muslim/Arab populations, against pro-Israeli politicians.

Kane:

You’re right that it helps more than it hurts to be pro-Israel in the city.  I don’t think it comes down to a vote calculation, though, for why that is.  One big reason is the media and the role of the dailies in New York.  Sure, the Internet has broken up some of their power, but the New York Post and New York Daily News–both run by Zionists–still play a significant role in drumming up controversy when they want to. And if de Blasio made any sort of criticism that borders on harsh, the anti-Semitism smear would come up. And then, of course, there’s donors.

It’s an open question, even nationally, about Jews voting on the basis of whether a pol is more pro-Israel or not.  I don’t think it ranks up there with many run-of-the-mill Jews’ priorities.  But, the media and donors also play a role nationally and in other cities.

Slater:

Whether or not Jewish voters routinely punish politicians they perceive as anti-Israel, the more important point is that politicians clearly believe that they do.  Anyway, there have been some famous cases in which popular politicians have said or done something perceived as anti-Israel, and then lost in the next election.  These cases are well-known to politicians in constituencies with a substantial Jewish population, and has a big impact on what positions they take–even if there is no proof that the Israeli issue is what caused them to lose.  In other words, they see nothing to be gained by bucking what they perceive–correctly or not–to be “the Jewish vote.”   And it will continue that way, unless and until the time comes that some kind of countervailing power develops.  Hasn’t happened yet, and no sign that it will in the foreseeable future.

About Jerome Slater and Alex Kane

Alex Kane is an assistant editor for Mondoweiss and the World editor for AlterNet. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
Posted in Israel Lobby, Israel/Palestine, Media, US Politics

{ 16 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. pabelmont says:

    So deBlasio says it but doesn’t mean it. What good is that?

    Never mind voters. BIG-ZION punishes pols who don’t fawn over Israel. The fact that the pols regularly do so — without negative comment in MSM — conditions the public (including the Jewish public) to think there is nothing wrong with all the fawning, and also nothing wrong with the American system of control of politics by BIG-MONEY.

    Good grief. Be nice if some big-enough pol stood up on his hind legs and stated forthrightly (whre NYT would have to report it) that the BIG-MONEY system harms America and that BIG-ZION steers USA away from being helpful in I/P peacework.

  2. RE: “NY Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unbelievably fawning speech before AIPAC” ~ Slater

    MY COMMENT: I wonder if Uri Avnery would refer to New York’s Mayor as “de Blasio the Terrible”. Personally, I see a lot of similarities to “Gunter the Terrible”*.

    * SEE: “Gunter the Terrible”, By Uri Avnery, The Palestine Chronicle, 4/13/12

    [EXCERPT] Stop me if I have told you this joke before:
    Somewhere in the US, a demonstration takes place. The police arrive and beat the protesters mercilessly.
    “Don’t hit me,” someone shouts, “I am an anti-communist!”
    “I couldn’t give a damn what kind of a communist you are!” a policeman answers as he raises his baton.
    The first time I told this joke was when a German group visited the Knesset and met with German-born members, including me.
    They went out of their way to praise Israel, lauding everything we had been doing, condemning every bit of criticism, however harmless it might be. It became downright embarrassing
    , since some of us in the Knesset were very critical of our government’s policy in the occupied territories.
    For me, this extreme kind of pro-Semitism is just disguised anti-Semitism. Both have a basic belief in common: that Jews – and therefore Israel – are something apart, not to be measured by the standards applied to everybody else. . .

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – link to palestinechronicle.com

    • P.S. ALSO RE: “NY Mayor Bill de Blasio’s unbelievably fawning speech before AIPAC” ~ Slater

      MY COMMENT: I’m feeling pretty damn good about my contribution to the Randy Credico for Mayor campaign! ! !
      Winning isn’t everything.

  3. seafoid says:

    Will De Blasio introduce a Habeit Hayehudi style racial hierarchy in Gotham?

    link to haaretz.com

    What will you do if a law for single sex marriages is proposed [in the Knesset]?

    “No, under no circumstances. A Jew and a goy can also not marry.”

    Is that the same thing?

    “We don’t recognize either of them. In any case, a Jew always has a much higher [level] soul than a goy, even if he is a homosexual … Matters of religion and state are the largest obstacle in the path of the government … Conflicts between women are much more difficult than conflicts between men…” (On the parliamentary conflict between MK Adi Kol (Yesh Atid) and MK Ayelet Shaked (Habayit Hayehudi) over the bill granting same-sex parents equal tax exemptions to heterosexual parents.)

    • “In any case, a Jew always has a much higher [level] soul than a goy, even if he is a homosexual ”

      I wonder what he thinks of the homosexual goy? Where does the LGBT rank?
      Some one tried to locate the soul on the Pineal Gland. I guess the address has changed to the activity of a different kind of gland and instead of windows to soul we are being asked to look for use of the orifices to measure the closeness to the divinity.
      BTW they used to kill the homosexuals before . Does he want to kill everybody who is spiritually inferior to the homosexual?

      • Has anybody looked into the possibility that his wonderful “leftie” pedigree might have drawn the attention of the Lobby?
        Palin was chosen by the lobby working from a diferent perspective ( i.e small quintessential American town, soccer mom, Bible -thumper,anti abortionist and clueless with a lot of ambition). Blasio is just the opposite with one common attribute – he has ambition.
        It is also possible that Blasio has seen Obama’s political rise and ideological fall. He knows how to get noticed by the lobby.
        Didn’t one French King once say” Paris is worth a mass ” after converting to Catholicsm in an age where the fine line between the religions was aslo the fine line between hell and heaven in the next world and could have meant life and death in the real one?

  4. American says:

    Agree with Alex that de Blasio doesnt actually believe for a second what he is saying about Israel and isnt that ignorant.

    Agree with Slater that US politicans perceive that Jewish voters vote pro Israel which is important in heavily Jewish districts as well as national elections because of states like Florida.

    For the arguement over whether Jews do or dont or how many attach great weight to Israel in voting we cant know. The only way we could know that is if one party ceased support for Israel. If the Dems dropped Isr and the liberal Jews jumped ship to the Israel supporting GOP then we could judge that importance, or non importance if they didnt jump the lib ship.

    • seafoid says:

      The way they clap when he throws them an Israel meme

      “And I have to tell you we went over
      When we went to Sderot I was most moved” and the noo yohk twang. Wondahfal

      I miss Lenny Bruce.

      He says “you have a choice. You either do business with the Iranians or you do business with the US. You can’t have it both ways”

      That’s very poor. It is not how capitalism works

      “The freedom to be as avaricious as possible within the law keeps companies hard, fast and efficient, which is how we like them.”
      Lex in the FT

      I don’t buy the notion that the bots are going to reboot capitalism to save the Disneyland.

      I don’t, I don’t, I’m sorry

      BTW re trading with Iran and talking out of both sides of one’s mouth- UAE does it very well. China does it. India does it. You don’t want to cut yourself out of business, dude.

      Blasio’s schtick is power at work. In a parallel world it could be a very wealthy dwarf cult and the “Mayah” would throw them out whatever they wanted to hear about the wonderfulness of dwarves.

      Or an insecure wife cloned thousands of times and Bill has to answer the question “does my ass look big in this? “.

      There is no way to do it with nuance. Israel is that neurotic wife.

      The thing about power is that it is never stable.
      They should enjoy it while it lasts and read up on Tammany Hall

  5. palijustice says:

    Until we get big money out of our political system, the corporations, the huge lobbies and the very wealthy, will continue to call the shots in our politics, in both local and national elections. Progressives need to work hard on this issue, because right now we have rule by the wealthy. The rest of us don’t count so much.

  6. maz says:

    Defend Israel from…what? Defend them from going broke? Defend their war criminals from prosecution? Defend their monopoly on the security industrial complex they created after the 9/11 Terror bombings?

    • piotr says:

      Figuring what a politician believes is tricky and it may be based on such questionable assumptions like that they believe in something. Moreover, the period of youthful indiscretions does not count too much. It is somewhat better to ask: what does a politician want to achieve by spouting this or that?

      On the debit side, a politician may rue the day he or she made some promises. In this case, irate citizens may demand that he does this or that according to his promise to defend Israel. Lately it mostly concerns universities: Brooklyn College that invites anti-Israeli speakers, ASA passes a resolution, so administrative and legislative actions can be taken to defend Israel and academic freedom. Before, there was also a highschool in NYC that was nixed to defend Israel. Colleges so far fared better. Previous mayor, Bloomberg, did not have to prove that he is a Zionist so he could go so far as to chide that the most zealous Zionists want La Corée du Nord sur Hudson.

  7. Baldur says:

    I would encourage everyone who is critical of this to write to Bill either to his Twitter account at link to twitter.com or through any of the available means listed here: link to www1.nyc.gov

    The “Israel First” lobby hammers away at politicians and media whenever they don’t march in step. It’s about time the people in the pro-peace groups made our voice heard too (it would be helpful to have this types of contact information listed in the original blog post, to encourage people to make their voice heard).

  8. bilal a says:

    American Terrorist Group targets Jewish writer with violent? “consequences”

    ———————–
    Max Blumenthal ‏@MaxBlumenthal 2h

    Enforcers of a regime of ethnic purity and authors of laws targeting racial outcasts dined in Auschwitz tonight

    link to google.com

    JDL Toronto ‏@jewishdefence 1h

    @MaxBlumenthal I cannot believe that a Jew would make such a comment You really are a piece of garbage and there will be consequences

    link to twitter.com

    • bilal a says:

      30 jetsetting survivors party at Auchwitz with billionaire ‘King of Fun’
      …………..
      The bill for the visit by half the Knesset to Auschwitz this week is being footed by a self-described “King of Fun,” who reportedly sent a video of himself having sex with three women in the back of a limo to his email contact list last year.
      ..
      Joining the group will be several American business leaders, including billionaires Carl Icahn, Michael Milken and Sheldon Adelson, and Jewish congressman Eric Cantor (R-Va.)
      ..
      Stewart Rahr, a Manhattan billionaire, has paid more than $600,000 to fly 64 Knesset members, 30 Auschwitz survivors and assorted dignitaries and friends to the Nazi death camp on two charter 737 planes, the New York Post reported.

      Rahr’s antics .. were detailed in a long feature article in Forbes magazine last September headlined “Guns, Girls And Sex Tapes: The Unhinged, Hedonistic Saga Of Billionaire Stewart Rahr, ‘Number One King Of All Fun’.”

      According to the article, he was banned from the midtown outlet of Robert De Niro’s celebrity sushi joint, Nobu last November. Ten days later he was taken into custody for allegedly pulling a gun on an elevator operator.

      link to haaretz.com

  9. piotr says:

    I was thinking what were the true motives of De Blasio in being so effusive in expressions of the love of Israel and AIPAC and high regard for deceased racist Jewish clerics. After all, even genuine affection can be expressed less flamboyantly.

    At this point, De Blasio is not really worried about campaign money. A segment of NYC press portrays him as a Communist of North Korean variety, but I do not think they would be so easy to mollify. However, he has an ambitious agenda and for that he needs some support in City Council and NY State legislature.

    If I am not mistaken, the control of NY State Senate hinges of two Jewish members who are “Israel first, second and third”, and in all three legislative bodies that are key to De Blasio success or failure the extreme Zionists (who would not accept less effusive tributes) have key positions and large numbers.

  10. American says:

    De Blasio’s support of Israel?
    Comes from the same place most politicians support of Israel comes from..
    Flashback:…..same old, same old.

    Tom Hayden on the Israel Lobby’s “Certification” Process
    link to truthdig.com
    link to mondoweiss.net

    Twenty-five years ago I stared into the eyes of Michael Berman, chief operative for his congressman-brother, Howard Berman… “I represent the Israeli defense forces,” Michael said. I thought he was joking. He wasn’t…
    In my case, a key to the “friendship issue” was the Los Angeles-based counsel general Benjamin Navon… The de facto Israeli endorsement would be communicated indirectly, in compliance with laws that prohibit foreign interference in an American election. We would be seen and photographed together in public. Benny would make positive public statements that could be quoted in campaign mailings. As a result, I was being declared “kosher” by the ultimate source, the region’s representative of the state of Israel”

    This led to a deli lunch with Michael Berman. He and his brother were privately leaning toward an upcoming young prosecutor named Adam Schiff, who later became the congressman from Pasadena. But they calculated that Schiff couldnt win without name recognition, so they were considering renting me the Assembly seat, Berman said. But there was one condition: that I always be a good friend of Israel.

    The certifiers were the elites, beginning with rabbis and heads of the multiple mainstream Jewish organizations, especially each city’s Jewish Federation…When necessary, Israeli ambassadors, counsels general and other officials would intervene with statements declaring someone a “friend of Israel.”