Yesterday I picked up UCLA professor Mark Kleiman’s appeal to Jews and people with Jewish-sounding names to write to their Senators as Jews in opposition to the Iran sanctions being pushed by the warmongering Israel lobby. I wrote that Kleiman and I agree that Jews have outsized influence on Middle East policy. Kleiman wrote to me:
I see your post says that you and I agree. That is false. We could not disagree more. And I thought my previous email made that clear, since it started with “Not at all.”
I do not believe that “Jews” have too much influence. I despise the practice of “counting Jews,” whether you’re doing it or whether Fred Malek does it for Richard Nixon. I think that farmers who dislike farm subsidies should label themselves as farmers when they write in opposition to farm subsidies. In this case, support for Obama and opposition to war with Iran is almost certainly more prevalent among Jews than among non-Jews. That was the whole point of my post: the position of the self-appointed moneyed spokespeople for the American Jewish community do not in fact reflect the majority views in that community.
If you and Jonah Goldberg and that creep at the Free Beacon want to brawl, be my guest. But I have no interest in taking sides. I’m a proud liberal, a proud Jew (despite Adelson and Bibi) and a proud American (despite Cheney), and a proponent of both Jewish influence in American politics and American power in the world, both of which, on average, are exerted in a liberal direction.
Since your projection of your views onto me is incorrect, and since you claim the title of “journalist,” I request that you publish a full retraction.
I’m happy to publish Kleiman’s note but no retraction. I’ll say it again: Kleiman and I agree that Jews have outsize influence on Middle East policy. He thinks it’s a good thing; I think it’s problematic, given the politics of the Israel lobby and Zionism inside Jewish life. His claim here that Jews are just another constituency but one that opposes the sanctions legislation, and that’s why he’s trying to animate it is disingenuous. He’s not issuing his appeal to Iranian-Americans — who oppose the hateful sanctions legislation in greater measure than Jews, I’m sure — because he knows Iranian-Americans are chopped liver on this issue. He knows that politicians respond to Jews on this question, and those “self-appointed moneyed spokespeople for the American Jewish community” have incredible access to Obama and the Senate too. (And though I agree with him that those spokespeople are out of step with liberal Jewish life, that does not account for the Union for Reform Judaism supporting the Iraq war, or Americans for Peace Now refusing to quit the rightwing Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.)
Kleiman does some name-calling, lumping me with a famous act of anti-Semitism: Fred Malek counting Jews under Nixon. That’s foolish. As Rob Eshman of the Jewish Journal said lately, We live “at a time of unparalleled Jewish power and wealth, and it makes us so uneasy, we prefer to talk about everything but.” Kleiman seems nostalgic for the 70s and the era of Jewish outsiderness. It’s over.