Both political parties are fighting openly over Israel’s role in our policy-making

US Politics
on 14 Comments

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but something great is happening right under the headlines: both U.S. political parties are having open fights about Israel.

In the Democratic Party, senators are going home to town halls and getting hammered by progressives over their signing on to bill served up by the Israel lobby group AIPAC that could make it a crime to go on social media to support boycott against Israel. Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren have walked away from the legislation. At Ron Wyden’s town hall, the issue came up more than health care.

If one thing is for sure, AIPAC overplayed its hand, and the bill is helping our side of this discussion.

Meantime, in the Republican Party, a coalition of Israel-firsters led by Sheldon Adelson is trying to force out National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster because he is “insufficiently supportive of Israel and insufficiently tough toward Iran”. President Trump had to issue a statement of support for McMaster: “He is a good man and very pro-Israel.”

If one thing is for sure from this fight, it’s that extremist mega-donor Adelson and hothead journalist Caroline Glick have way too much clout inside the Republican Party.

Adelson who once said of himself and his wife Miri:

“All we care about is being… good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart.”

Imagine if he were speaking about Russia that way…

I’m a relentless optimist so I believe it is only a matter of time before Chris Matthews and other mainstream commentators are forced to talk about how much influence AIPAC and Sheldon Adelson and other members of the Israel lobby have over our foreign policy. We’ll finally have a real conversation about whether being joined at the hip to an apartheid state is good for America. Chris Hayes, Jake Tapper, and Rachel Maddow will have to air the debates they have at their dinner parties: Is Zionism an anachronism in the modern west? (Yes.) And, Are AIPAC and their buddies serving as agents for a foreign government? (Yes.)

I’ve been wrong about the timing before. In 2006, the London Review of Books published the paper, The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, in which two big-deal professors said the Israel lobby had helped get us into the Iraq disaster, and I ran around my house shooting off imaginary six-guns. “It’s high noon for the Israel lobby!”

I was wrong. A star had appeared in the night sky but it wasn’t enough to change our politics. The mainstream worked overtime to suppress the knowledge produced by the realist authors. David Remnick said they were crackpots, riffing in the New Yorker that if it weren’t for the Israel lobby, Osama bin Laden would still be in the construction business.

The problem with the Israel lobby theory was that it was at some level a theory of Jewish influence. Jewish Zionist influence, but influence just the same. And it is impossible to have a discussion of Jewish influence at this time, for a bunch of reasons.

That is the progress from 2006 till now: Jews have separated themselves from Zionism. Ten years ago the organized Jewish community was a monolith in support of Jim Crow on the Jordan. The claim was that “We are one!” — American Jews and Israel. Today that claim is over. Even big Jews who give to the Federations have stepped away from Israel. Maybe it was embarrassment over Netanyahu and the occupation, or shame over Iraq, or increasing intermarriage, or because of Israel’s massacres in Gaza and the rise of BDS: but a lot of American Jews have decided that they are not represented by the Jewish state. We’ve seen the rapid growth of Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow, Jewish groups that can genuinely say that they oppose Israeli policies and the “American Jewish establishment.”

Ten years ago Jews suppressed disputes over Israel. Today that’s no longer the case. “The issue about which American Jews fight more than anything else is now Israel, in ways that certainly wasn’t the case 30 or 40 years ago, Rabbi Yehuda Kurtzer, a liberal Zionist, said in June. “And even that notion that in the privacy of a closed room we can fight, but in public we don’t– American Jews fight publicly about Israel more than anything else as well.”

The Jewish divisions are licensing American mainstream divisions. (Non-Jews aren’t allowed to call out the American Jewish establishment. But when Jewish groups do, that’s a whole other story.) The fracturing of the Jewish monolith has allowed some politicians to take positions the lobby doesn’t like. Not that they’ve backed off the $3.8 billion a year in aid…

There’s a long way to go. Israel is still an exception in our politics. The American media still refuse to report the real conditions in the occupied territories, or the actual extremism of Israeli political culture. Sheldon Adelson is routinely referred to as a casino mogul, thereby downplaying his main interest. The media don’t characterize Caroline Glick as a religious nut, when that’s what she is: she moved from Chicago to Jerusalem out of the extremist belief that the “legal right to sovereignty over the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people alone.” And she has sway in the Republican party! Kirstin Gillibrand has sought to reassure Jews that she adores Israel and hates BDS, and PS she might be running for president in 2020.

American policy won’t run clear on this issue till the beliefs and power of the lobby are fully exposed. The recent political battles show that it may not be high noon for the lobby, but it is daybreak.

 

 

About Philip Weiss

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

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14 Responses

  1. Paranam Kid
    August 11, 2017, 12:11 pm

    It is good to read your optimistic spiel, but somehow it rings hollow.

    “…a lot of American Jews have decided that they are not represented by the Jewish state.”
    I don’t get that impression at all, but even if they have, they are not making an issue out of it, and Israel meanwhile is still getting away with multiple murders.

    “Ten years ago Jews suppressed disputes over Israel. Today that’s no longer the case.”
    Really? Then why are non-Zionist or anti-Zionist students on campus still hounded down as if they are rabbits in the field to be shot at will? Why is BDS still being stifled to an ever increasing degree?

    “The fracturing of the Jewish monolith has allowed some politicians to take positions the lobby doesn’t like.”
    Oh yeah? How, where, when, about what?

    “American policy won’t run clear on this issue till the beliefs and power of the lobby are fully exposed. ”
    That has already been exposed for a long time, and yet, what has changed for The Lobby? AIPAC is still going as strong as ever

    I don’t know Philip, but your evidence seems a bit tenuous.

    • Emory Riddle
      August 12, 2017, 8:55 am

      (Non-Jews aren’t allowed to call out the American Jewish establishment. But when Jewish groups do, that’s a whole other story).

      This is what has to change. We the 98% ought to have THE say in this as it affects us all and it is our $$ that make Israel possible.

      Why are we non-Jews allowed to call out the American Jewish establishment? That is an insane situation.

      • genesto
        August 12, 2017, 1:04 pm

        I, a non Jew, have no problem calling out the American Jewish establishment, the Israeli government or, my favorite, Zionism and Zionists. Of course, you have to be prepared to be called an anti-Semite, terrorist, etc., but that becomes commonplace after a while. I find that it really helps to be prepared to counter with charges of Arab racism when Zionists call me an anti-Semite. It usually catches them off guard.

        I invite all non Jews to join me.

  2. Rusty Pipes
    August 11, 2017, 2:16 pm

    Gillibrand certainly looks like she’s running. Her Forward letter certainly looks like a firm commitment for the major donors. But no matter how well she’s funded, she doesn’t want to get into the primaries on the wrong side of the ACLU and their interpretation of the First Amendment, or she’ll lose a lot of support from Progressives (especially those who don’t pay attention to Israel/Palestine, but don’t want their friends criminalized for having an opinion).

  3. Citizen
    August 11, 2017, 2:32 pm

    What kind of real democracy results in 2% of the population determining US foreign policy in the Middle East to rubber-stamp Israel’s rogue whims, no matter the expense to the US treasure , blood and reputation?

    • Misterioso
      August 12, 2017, 1:07 pm

      When it comes to Israel, America’s leaders will inevitably have to heed the sage advice of their country’s founding father. In his Farewell Address, George Washington admonished his fellow citizens to steer clear of a “passionate attachment” to another nation, as it could create “the illusion of a common interest…where no common interest exists.”

      It’s only a matter of time.

  4. lonely rico
    August 11, 2017, 3:44 pm

    > Citizen

    What kind of real democracy results in 2% of the population determining US foreign policy in the Middle East?

    Not a democracy, it’s a Ziocracy.

  5. Bandolero
    August 11, 2017, 4:04 pm

    In a British paper I just found an interesting headline:

    Israel tried to thwart peace in Syria because of its concerns about Iran’s growing power

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-israel-iran-interference-worries-shia-influence-hezbollah-us-russia-jordan-a7888126.html

    How dare they say at the Independent “Israel tried to thwart peace” – Israel doesn’t look good in that headline. Would such a headline in a major UK paper have been possible a couple of years ago? I doubt so.

    But it’s still not high noon for the lobby. Soon after the article above was published it was password protected! And there it hangs now password protected since a couple of hours.

    To read the article anyway one need to use a cache like Google’s:

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:hfm-aCGV2CwJ:www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/syria-israel-iran-interference-worries-shia-influence-hezbollah-us-russia-jordan-a7888126.html

    I’m very eager to see if and how the article changes before the password protection is removed.

    • Citizen
      August 11, 2017, 8:35 pm

      I read another article on the same subject; it detailed how Netanyahu met with US officials both before and after those officials met with Russian officials re establishing a cease fire in Syria; Netanyahu was very upset the goyim didn’t do more to curb Iranian influence in Syria.

  6. James Canning
    August 12, 2017, 12:59 pm

    I think Aipac continues to have an insidious degree of influence over US foreign policy, and I also think this excessive influence damages Israel, to a degree.

  7. MalcolmLeftly
    August 12, 2017, 4:30 pm

    The GOP is permanently attached to the Christian Zionists. It’s inevitable that Democrats will lose may Jews as Likud distances itself from the traditional Israeli convention of staying out of partisan US politics and takes an active part in taking sides over policy and elections.

  8. AddictionMyth
    August 14, 2017, 11:06 am

    Yep. I agree completely. They created a huge mess and this realization is just ‘dawning’ on them: “What have we done??” Israel is a Frankenstein. You need to identify who’s responsible (e.g. Adelson) and bash them over the head with this and MAKE THEM PAY.

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