‘New Yorker’ limits its expose of Israel lobby to AIPAC

US Politics
on 21 Comments

Connie Bruck has a big piece on AIPAC in the New Yorker that includes some good Capitol Hill reporting on AIPAC’s corrupting influence over the Congress. Friends are passing the piece along to me as an expose, and several are thrilled by it. The article is titled, “Are American Jews Turning Against AIPAC?” and suggests that AIPAC is losing power. But for all its merits the piece represents some musical-chair-switching inside the lobby: The New Yorker is turning against AIPAC, in favor of J Street.

The piece is misleading on two fronts. Throughout the piece, Bruck calls AIPAC the Israel lobby; and thereby sets up J Street and other groups as being opposed to “the lobby.” This is self-serving inasmuch as Bruck’s own husband the former congressman Mel Levine (with whom she is pictured, above) is part of the J Street/Israel Policy Forum crowd that is trying to pressure AIPAC from the liberal-center. Per Bruck, he’s not in the hated “lobby.” The truth is that the Israel lobby includes everyone who presses for the continuation of the special relationship, for US funding for Israel, and more broadly who advocates for the need for a Jewish state in the Middle East. It includes Dennis Ross who works for a pro-Israel thinktank spun off by AIPAC and was doing his job on PBS News Hour last night, defending Netanyahu. It includes United Against a Nuclear Iran, which is led by Thomas Kaplan, who Eli Clifton reports is devoted to Israel. It includes Lester Crown who calls Israel a miracle and funds the Aspen Institute and Jeffrey Goldberg who calls Israel a miracle and speaks at the Aspen Institute. It includes Ari Shavit who calls Israel a miracle speaking on the stage of the 92d Street Y, and it includes the 92d Street Y, which canceled a Palestinian author’s appearance because he could not be “balanced” by an Israeli. It includes Eric Alterman and the old Freda Kirchwey Nation but not Katrina vanden Heuvel’s Nation.  A “loose coalition” was the Walt and Mearsheimer definition of the lobby, and it’s accurate; and Bruck reprises much of the scholars’ argument, eight years later, though she’s got tunnel vision for AIPAC.

The second way Bruck misleads is that the piece purports to describe shifts in American Jewish attitudes that are causing AIPAC to seem rightwing. Yes, but don’t worry, all those liberated Jews are Zionists:

Today, a growing number of American Jews, though still devoted to Israel, struggle with the lack of progress toward peace with the Palestinians. Many feel that AIPAC does not speak for them. 

Bruck even says that some Jews are for the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement. But it’s a glancing reference. Most of her Jewish change section is devoted to J Street and Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois. Let’s be clear, J Street is part of the Israel lobby. It largely supported the Gaza massacre. It wants the U.S. to continue funding Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Young Jews who are turning away from the lobby don’t want this stuff. That’s why they formed #IfNotNow and why Jewish Voice for Peace’s ranks are burgeoning. I suppose that Bruck will get to those Jews in another eight years, when it’s an old story. She writes:

Many young American Jews believe that criticism is vital to Israel’s survival as a democratic state, she writes.

Actually the trend she describes is one that is more concerned about equal rigths than about Israel’s survival per se. 

Roger Waters at Salon is more accurate than Bruck:

support for Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) has skyrocketed over the last month as members of the American Jewish community, appalled at Israel’s actions, have looked for a place to register their concern. JVP advocates for an end to occupation and the siege on Gaza, for Palestinian rights – as dictated by international law – and peace with justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. 

But let’s not leave out Bruck’s achievement. There is some excellent reporting in the piece about the pressure on Congresspeople, including Texan Beto O’Rourke, who refused to send another $225 million of arms to Israel during its recent massacres in Gaza. Bruck takes us inside the Senate on that vote too:

The Senate, preparing for its August recess, hastened to vote on the Iron Dome funding. At first, the appropriation was bundled into an emergency bill that also included money to address the underage refugees flooding across the Mexican border. But, with only a few days left before the break began, that bill got mired in a partisan fight. Reid tried to package Iron Dome with money for fighting wildfires, and then offered it by itself; both efforts failed, stopped largely by budget hawks. “If you can’t get it done the night before recess, you bemoan the fact that you couldn’t get it done, and everybody goes home,” a congressional staffer said. Instead, Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, the Republican leader, decided to stay over, even if it meant missing an event at home. The next morning, with the halls of the Senate all but empty, an unusual session was convened so that McConnell and Reid could try again to pass the bill; Tim Kaine was also there, along with the Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham. “There were five senators present and literally no one else!” the staffer said. “They reintroduced it and passed it. This was one of the more amazing feats, for AIPAC.”

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Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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21 Responses

  1. broadside
    August 27, 2014, 11:45 am

    Agree with this. Also liked the bit in the article about AIPAC and high school.

    (And why does the NY Times insist on referring to AIPAC as Aipac?)

    • richb
      August 27, 2014, 6:40 pm

      That’s a pronunciation-dependent style usually used by British newspapers such as the Guardian. If it is a true acronym then it gets mixed case but if it is a letterism (USA) then it is all caps. This then leads to the question how do you pronounce Aipac? I tend to see this style when the article is originally written in Europe or Britain. Being in New York may make the topic too hot.

  2. Krauss
    August 27, 2014, 11:49 am

    I agree with your sentiment: Yawn.

    Bruck’s “exposé” is really a warmed-over attempt to perform CPR on liberal Zionism.

    As Blumenthal and you have both stated numerous times: Gaza shows that Jews have to choose between Apartheid and Democracy. The 2SS illusion has been exposed and nobody believes in it anymore, save Jews like Bruck who clings to it in desperation because she understands that once she admits that it is dead, her Zionism really exposes her to prefer racial nationalism over liberalism.

    The New Yorker has gotten more conservative on I/P over the past year. I was surprised to see Remnick host a lavish book party for the ethnic cleansing apologist Shavit.

    Maybe it’s a sign, to some extent. That the battle lines are now not between neocons and liberal Zionists – where Bruck and Remnick both feel much more comfortable, because that conversation is dominated by JEws – but between those favouring equality and those who are in a fight-and-retreat to protect Israel’s de-facto Apartheid political system.

    And this wider conservation does include the JVP members, but it also includes a lot more non-Jews.

    And Connie doens’t like this. She wants to keep the conservation within the Jewish fold, just like Ben-Ami, and her latest article is an attempt to do that.

    Sorry, Connie, it’s a doomed attempt. Nobody’s going to wait for you anymore because we know Israel better than you do by now, we aren’t blinded to the real Israel. Which has been pushing settler-colonialism since it’s inception.

  3. Balfour
    August 27, 2014, 12:11 pm

    The New Yorker article may be a rearranging of the deck chairs but honestly, can anyone imagine a piece like this being written in an American mainstream publication as recently as five years ago?

    • surewin
      August 27, 2014, 5:22 pm

      Connie Bruck, edited by David Remnick and published by Newhouse, is not going to be a leading indicator on these matters. But obviously something’s happening. It’s “glasnost” in America with regard to Israel and AIPAC. Letting a little steam off, making a few adjustments. What’s encouraging is that Soviet glasnost allowed the lid to be blown off rather quickly.

  4. Nevada Ned
    August 27, 2014, 12:13 pm

    I read the piece in The New Yorker by Connie Brueck. It’s a pretty good piece. Yes, it doesn’t go as far as MW would go, it’s not a perfect piece, but it’s good nevertheless. Especially in view of the readers of The New Yorker and the mindset of some of their readers.

    On the perennial issue of how much power AIPAC has (compared with anybody else), Brueck could have mentioned two important issues on which AIPAC did not win: (1) Freedom for Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard, and (2) getting the US to attack Iran. On the first issue, AIPAC has long since given up, because it’s a near-hopeless cause. On the second issue, AIPAC has tried very hard without success. The alleged threat posed by Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons has been shouted from the rooftops, to no avail. Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons have been featured at AIPAC’s annual convention, again to no avail.

  5. seanmcbride
    August 27, 2014, 12:36 pm

    Is there a way to subscribe to Mondoweiss comments by email without posting a comment?

    • Annie Robbins
      August 27, 2014, 2:16 pm

      sean, if you scroll down to the base of every page there is a way to subscribe.

      • seanmcbride
        August 27, 2014, 2:42 pm

        Annie,

        I see the checkbox with “Notify Me of Follow Up Comments By Email” but one needs to post a comment to activate that option. Is there another way that I am overlooking?

        I see “Mondoweiss In Your Inbox” at the bottom of the page, but that’s not for receiving comments by email for specific articles.

      • Adam Horowitz
        August 27, 2014, 3:01 pm

        Sean, I don’t believe that functionality currently exists but I will add it to the list of fixes/additions we’re working on with the site. Thanks.

      • seanmcbride
        August 27, 2014, 3:53 pm

        Adam and Annie,

        Thanks for looking into this.

        A user report: I signed up for email notifications for new comments to this thread, but so far haven’t received any yet. There may be an issue there.

  6. American
    August 27, 2014, 1:31 pm

    Article is bs.
    Trying to ‘regroup’ the Jews for Israel.
    Since Isr’s murder at will rules of war offended some of them.
    There are no good zionist.

  7. Sycamores
    August 27, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie comes to AIPAC defense on link to time.com

    Bruck offers more or less the same far-fetched answers that we heard from the last major “exposé,” written by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt in 2007. AIPAC, she suggests, basically controls American foreign policy in the Middle East. Members of Congress are victims of the AIPAC machine, forced by its political pressure to put the interests of Israel before the interests of America. Furthermore, as Israel has moved to the right, AIPAC has allowed itself to become a tool of rightwing Republicans who want to use Israel as a wedge issue to undermine President Obama. But, Bruck concludes, things are looking up. The American public, members of Congress, and even American Jews are fed up with the increasing extremism of both AIPAC and the Netanyahu government, and AIPAC’s support is declining.

    The Bruck article does offer a few interesting insights, but its hostility to AIPAC and Israel is so intense that it is impossible to take seriously. Bruck professes to see AIPAC as a terrible bully, but the kind of arm-twisting that she describes happens every day in Washington. Since lobbying and tough talk on every issue imaginable are the very lifeblood of our political system, why exactly is advocacy for Israel any less legitimate than advocacy for any of the other matters, foreign and domestic, that come before Congress?

    Furthermore, Bruck’s portrayal of Israel as the villain in Gaza is the best gauge of how she really feels about the Jewish state. Since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, more than 15,000 rockets have been fired at Israel’s civilian centers, traumatizing the population and bringing ordinary life in large parts of Israel to a halt. While the civilian casualties in Gaza are tragic, Israel is the victim of Hamas, and not the other way around.

    • JeffB
      August 27, 2014, 5:43 pm

      @Sycamores

      Yes exactly! As lobbies go AIPAC isn’t even all that powerful. Maybe top 20.
      American Assn for Justice (trial lawyers)
      America Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
      National Rifle Association (gun manufacturers lobby)
      SEIO

      Banking lobby
      Real estate lobby
      Insurance lobby
      Energy lobby
      Pharma lobby

      etc… do the same kind of arm twisting. They all are much more powerful than AIPAC.

      • Sycamores
        August 28, 2014, 1:48 am

        JeffB,

        please stay focus

        AIPAC is one of the strongest and most influential foreign policy lobbies in the US.

        try to name me another foreign policy lobby that’s stronger.

    • Rusty Pipes
      August 27, 2014, 6:34 pm

      Yoffee’s response to the article is a good reminder of why the glass is half-full. Bruck’s article is not in the Forward, but in the New Yorker — a publication that is read by many educated Americans who are neither Jewish nor even New Yorkers. The code that Phil sees here as a plug for JStreet will be less relevant to the majority of these readers than the permission (armed with illustrations) to criticize AIPAC. Even though Bruck narrows the definition of Israel Lobby to AIPAC, plenty of representatives of other lobby organizations, like Yoffee, are threatened by the slightest opening to any such criticism at all.

      A half-full glass could whet the appetite of many New Yorker readers for the undiluted stuff.

  8. Donald
    August 27, 2014, 11:07 pm

    The article had its imperfections–no mention of JVP (unless I’m forgetting) and yeah, in general the anti-Zionists and non-Zionists are still out in the cold. But it was mostly good.

    One good part that I don’t see people mentioning–the author seems to be implying that Judge Goldstone retracted his conclusion that Israel targeted civilians because of pressure from his community. She quotes a former representative who actually visited Gaza after Cast Lead and says, in the article, that what he saw pretty much confirmed what he read in the Goldstone Report. He said he actually read the whole report, saying that most of the people who condemned it hadn’t read it and hadn’t visited Gaza.

    It’s fine to have high standards and yes, the New Yorker hasn’t come far enough, but this was a superb article, given the audience. It’s not like most Americans are glued to their computer screens reading Mondoweiss, The Electronic Intifada or Richard Silverstein’s blog, or reading books by either Israeli revisionist historians or some of the Palestinian historians.

  9. phacepalm
    August 28, 2014, 4:05 am

    I read the article and overall thought it was pretty good and informative (especially the part about the back-story on how the $225 million were given to Israel ). However one thing that struck me was the mismatch between the title and the contents of the article. The title implies that Jews are steering away from “extreme” AIPAC to more moderate jewish organizations. My impression after reading the article is probably the opposite: if nothing else, the billionaire crazies who used to go to AIPAC (and the ones who really matter) now go to even more extremes supporting Z.O.A. because AIPAC is not good enough! Am I the only one who read the article this way?

  10. Boomer
    August 28, 2014, 6:44 am

    Philip, thanks for this concise map of the state of the Lobby. I haven’t read the article in the New Yorker yet. It sounds noteworthy and worth reading, but not as important, to my mind, as the availability of Mondoweiss. Before your site and a few others were created, the kind of vital information you conveyed in this brief post was simply unavailable to most Americans–even those who were well-read– outside a very few in limited circles.

    I do want to read the article to learn more about that Senate “vote.” How strange that we think of our country as a democracy, when it is ruled by such mysterious and undemocratic processes. The lessons my generation were taught in those civics classes years ago seem like quaint fictions today.

  11. Pixel
    August 28, 2014, 1:58 pm

    The enormous import of this article is as an initial introduction of the Israel Lobby to a demographic that has never heard of Walt and Mearshimer, let alone read their book. While not everyone is into The New Yorker a lot of folks read HuffPo where it was prominently featured on the front page.

    Most Americans have had no idea this has been going on and are horrified at their growing realization that their country has become the United States of Israel. For many, this is what’s going to motivate them to try to stop aid to Israel and reclaim American government.

  12. Vera Gottlieb
    August 29, 2014, 12:09 pm

    It isn’t Capitol Hill, it is ‘Knesset’ Hill.

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