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.”