Israel lobby is never a story (for media that is in bed with the lobby)

US Politics
on 25 Comments

One of the challenges to the claims about the power of the Israel lobby is: What about liberal Zionists? They are very critical of the Israeli occupation and of Netanyahu. In what sense do they constitute a lobby for Israel in the U.S.? The answer is that they establish red lines on criticism of Israel inside the Democratic Party. They work to marginalize progressives who have fundamental criticisms of Israel as a Jewish state or as a burden on American foreign policy.

Here are three recent examples of the ways that liberals set these red lines.

Last week Daniel Biss, an anti-establishment candidate for the Democratic nomination to be governor of Illinois, ditched his running mate over his support for BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign targeting Israel; and many of us thought it was a big story. “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), the movement for Palestinian human rights, has become an issue in the ongoing Illinois gubernatorial race,” Jewish Voice for Peace declared. While Palestine Legal said that despite “shifting public opinion toward support for Palestinian freedom,” Palestinian rights were “taboo” for the political establishment.

The story never left Chicago. Chris Hayes of MSNBC mentioned the story on twitter, but he hasn’t gone after it on air. Neither has anyone else on MSNBC, per my searches. It’s hardly surprising that Hayes, a good progressive, has punted on BDS — my views are “muddy,” he reportedly said a year ago. The top men at Comcast are CEO Brian Roberts who once participated in the Israeli olympics, and EVP David Cohen, who organized fundraisers for the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces. I’d have muddy views, too, if they were signing my checks.

Daniel Biss is a Jewish progressive who went into politics in opposition to the Iraq War and says “I… care deeply about justice for Palestinians.” But he understands that if you want to be Illinois governor, you have to be pro-Israel. J.B. Pritzker, a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, has given money to the Israeli Defense Forces, Electronic Intifada reported, while another leading candidate, Chris Kennedy, was part of the University of Illinois leadership that fired Steven Salaita over his anti-Israel tweets during the Gaza slaughter three years ago.

But again: the role of foreign policy in the governor’s race is not going to be debated.

Steven Salaita is my second example. His wanderings around the globe in pursuit of work since he got fired for tweeting against the Gaza war is surely an important story. This week the Irish Times reported on a Salaita appearance in Dublin (video below), where the scholar said that there’s a life sentence for speaking out against Israel in the U.S.

Dr Salaita told a conference on academic freedom in Trinity College Dublin that he had been unable to get a job in an American university since [his tweets].

Though he won his case, he said criticising Israel amounted to a “lifetime punishment” in the US and that he was regarded as too controversial to be hired again.

“Running foul of pro-Israel groups in academia is a lifetime punishment I promise you,” he said. However, he said if he could go back he would send the same tweets again.

Dr Salaita said the issue of Palestine was “toxic” in academia in the US and most academics sought to avoid the subject.

He knew a “double digit” number of American academics who got in trouble for espousing pro-Palestine views, but none who had got in trouble for advocating pro-Israeli views.

But again, that’s the Irish Times. The Salaita hegira is simply not a story for the American press, because he’s pro-BDS; and BDS is a red line for the liberal mainstream.

My third example of the liberal Zionist red lines involves an Israeli TV cop-show about the occupation that is getting a lot of attention even though it’s only in its first season, called Fauda.

Last March, Dan Senor and his wife gave a party for the show in NY. Jewish Insider:

Dan Senor and Campbell Brown hosted a conversation at their Tribeca apartment with the co-creators of the hit Israeli TV show ‘Fauda’ — Lior Raz and Avi Issacharoff. Since debuting on Netflix this past December, the show has dominated the talk around town, and among many of our readers. During their off-the-record discussion, Raz and Issacharoff detailed several real life experiences that inspired them to create the show.

Dan Senor is a ceaseless propagandist for Israel. He appears at AIPAC and wrote a book called Startup Nation; and a lot of the NY establishment was at his place, according to that report. Cyrus Vance, Alexandra Pelosi, Pat Duff, Joel Klein, Nicole Seligman. Along with a bunch of Israel propagandists (Seth Siegel) and neocons (Max Boot and Paul Singer). Also media figures– David Remnick, Bart Gellman, Richard Cohen, Jonathan Alter, and Gary Ginsberg, an executive at Time Warner.

As I have pointed out for more than two years now, Ginsberg is so devoted to Israel he wrote speeches for Benjamin Netanyahu even while Netanyahu was trying to scuttle the Iran deal. I think that’s a scandal, on a par with anything anyone’s saying about Russian influence. But the mainstream media have never reported it. Because Ginsberg is one of us.

Six months after that party, David Remnick published a piece about the TV show in The New Yorker that, while critical of the Israeli occupation, filtered everything through the sensitive perspective of those Israeli co-creators Raz and Issacharoff. “Shooting and Crying, in the New Yorker,” Donald Johnson reviewed that article here. I don’t know whether Remnick got the idea for his Fauda story at Dan Senor’s Israel propaganda party. Maybe he had it already. But the party didn’t hurt.

Remnick has been very critical of Israel. But he has liberal Zionist red lines. He’ll run articles by neoconservative Israel supporters and liberal Zionist Israelis and Palestinians, but he won’t run anti-Zionist Jews, or the case for BDS. Those views have to be marginalized. They’re marginalized at the New York Times too, with the occasional exception.

These publications also marginalize information about the Israel lobby itself. So a bunch of eminent reporters go to a Tribeca cl*sterf*ck with Gary Ginsberg, an executive at a major media company who writes speeches for a foreign leader at the time that foreign leader was trying to undermine U.S. foreign policy– and none of those journalists write about that.

Back when the Israel lobby theory was promoted ten years ago as an explanation for U.S. bias in foreign policy, one of the things that mainstream figures would say in disparaging the theory was, “Oh and because I disagree with you, you’re going to say I’m part of the Israel lobby too!” I.e., you’ve fallen for an amorphous conspiracy theory.

(As if the amorphous conspiracy theory we’d all grown up spouting– the Military Industrial Complex– was above-board and precise.)

What these three stories show is that Israel supporters, be they ever so sincere, are imbedded in mainstream American political life, often in high position, like David Cohen and Gary Ginsberg. Good journalists who aim to be independent take the presence of those supporters for granted and won’t go against them, consciously or not. The story selection reflects those values.

As Steven Salaita would tell you, you’ll never go broke promoting Israel in the United States, but promote Palestine and you’ll see your car go into the ditch. But then, mainstream journalists don’t show up at Steven Salaita events. They’re at Dan Senor’s.

 

About Philip Weiss

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

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25 Responses

  1. Citizen
    September 16, 2017, 12:53 pm

    Congress will never really fix campaign finance system, so Israel Lobby will continue to rule.

    • Misterioso
      September 18, 2017, 5:57 pm

      @Citizen

      Eventually, all nations act in their own best interests. The U.S. will not be an exception. It is abundantly clear that Israel is America’s number one geopolitical liability, a millstone around its neck.

      • biggerjake
        September 19, 2017, 7:02 pm

        I truly hope you are right… but up to now, I don’t see any sign of that…

  2. JosephA
    September 16, 2017, 1:17 pm

    Philip, I would say that “canary in the coal mine” is an apt phrase for your role as a journalist (or whatever title you prefer) covering Palestine/Israel (as well as American mainstream media coverage of the same) with honesty and integrity. Thank you!

  3. MalcolmLeftly
    September 16, 2017, 2:16 pm

    Mr. Senor seems to be part of the regular rotation on the Charlie Rose PBS show. Maybe Charlie has got around to mentioning BDS though I must have missed it?

    Yes of course there are “red lines” out there that must be paid attention too (a la Chris Hayes) something we find routinely. A good example was the lack of acknowledgement of the 50th USS Liberty anniversary, June 8th. I sent in a few brief newspaper ‘letters to the editor’. None were published.

  4. CitizenC
    September 16, 2017, 2:29 pm

    These ‘liberal Zionists’ include the entire left, from Chomsky to JVP and Democracy Now to campus activists for whom they set the tone. Their line is to dismiss the Israel Lobby.

    The film The Occupation of the American Mind, by UMass prof Sut Jhally, narrated by Roger Waters, was careful to include Chomsky and his acolytes, and emphasize the Chomsky line that ” the Lobby is powerful only when it advocates policy that accords with US interests”.

    This in nonsense; the IL exercises a quasi-sovereign power, which shapes “US interests.” This began in the 1940s, when the nascent IL overwhelmed the US diplomatic and military establishments, which opposed Zionism, to achieve US support for partition of Palestine and patronage of a Jewish state.

    The IL and the neocons advocated the destruction of Iraq from the 1970s onward. Their partnership with the gentile radicals, Cheney and Rumsfeld, was formed in common struggles against detente and arms control in the 70s, as the Reaganite reaction took shape.

    This partnership of course came to ghastly fruition in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which destroyed the country, set the stage for the destruction of Libya, the attempted dissolution of Syria, and heightened Saudi Arabia’s antagonism toward Iran.

    The 9/11 attacks were mainly an attack on US patronage of Israel, and were used to launch the invasion of Iraq, planned long in advance, not only Afghanistan.

    This chain of causation, the Zionist radicalization of US foreign policy, has been ignored by the left, which has limited criticism across the political spectrum.

    Alison Weir, who has done more than anyone apart from Mearsheimer and Walt to expose the Israel Lobby, was viciously attacked by Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign. The latter has always been dominated by the limited critique of the Jewish left, critique of “the occupation”, instead of Zionism, and myriad other equivocations, including “strategic asset’.

    This mirrors attacks on critics of Israel by the mainstream, a staple of US politics since the 1940s, which shifted into high gear after 1967.

    Etc etc

    • HHM
      September 16, 2017, 8:48 pm

      Thank you for this. I had viewed The Occupation of the America Mind when it first came out and didn’t like it as much as I wanted to for the reasons you mention. Also, they didn’t answer – give good responses – for much of the propaganda that they repeated over and over again in the film.

    • Donald Johnson
      September 17, 2017, 3:51 pm

      I fall somewhere in- between. The Israel Lobby is powerful, but doesn’t always get its way and we would be behaving badly in somewhat different ways if they didn’t exist.

      As an example, a few months ago the Senate voted in favor of Trump’s Saudi arms package. AIPAC expressed reservations because it would weaken Israel’s qualitative edge. It passed. Most Republicans supported it and most Democrats opposed it.

      The fight was about the bombing of Yemen and some Democrats and a few Republicans opposed supplying the Saudis with weapons they would use on Yemen. Last year with Obama in office, a large number of Democrats sided with Obama and most Republicans in favor of supplying the Saudis. This year two things changed. It is now Trump’s war and AIPAC expressed reservations, and maybe some people had a genuine change of heart ( doubtful), so the vote was much closer.

      But the Saudis still won.

  5. Kay24
    September 16, 2017, 5:02 pm

    This is connected to the media, and just an observation. I noticed that many articles regarding the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people, in the news media, like the Independent UK, and others, have commenters that justify the violence, blame the victims, the religion, and make hateful comments, even if the article is about Rohingya children being traumatized. I am beginning to think that these are the usual hateful hasbara crowd with a different mission – to keep justifying the violence, so that Israel can keep selling it’s weapons to this brutal regime and military. Where there is violence, human rights violations, and civilians being massacred, you will find some connection to Israel, somewhere in the world. I guess they have the experience to advice any brutal regime, and even train law enforcement, and the military, (we know they do all that) how to kill, and use their weapons. After all Israel’s brutal occupation, and crimes against the Palestinians, for 60 years, have made them the experts. Shame on the US for having an arm embargo against Myanmar, yet look the other way when Israel keeps arming their military, to are terrorizing the minority people, who face the horrible brutality, rapes, burning of homes, and the poor Rohingya people have to flee.
    Israel is also suspected being the instigators in a similar situation in Sri Lanka, using a terrorist saffron robed thug, Just like Wirathu of Myanmar, to spread hate against the minority Muslims, causing fear and the burning of Muslim shops, and Mosques being attacked. Israel was also found to be involved in the violent conflict between the government (majority) and the minority Tamils, which was bloody to say the least, and Israel was found training the government forces, and the terrorists at the same time (according to an ex Mossad official) Israel plays some really filthy games around the world, and in their backyard.

  6. Keith
    September 16, 2017, 5:17 pm

    “Though he won his case, he said criticising Israel amounted to a “lifetime punishment” in the US and that he was regarded as too controversial to be hired again.”

    I predicted this at the time. He is being made an example to intimidate other academics who might be tempted to defy the imperial system. It is crunch time, gang, and the gloves are off, brassknuckles on.

    “Running foul of pro-Israel groups in academia is a lifetime punishment I promise you,” he said. However, he said if he could go back he would send the same tweets again.”

    Why would he do that? Does he enjoy pointless martyrdom? The tweets were stupid. If you are going to stand against imperial policy (in this case Israel), for gosh sake don’t make yourself an easy target. Deal with the reality of a severe power imbalance. Pick your fights and weapons wisely. Never mistake wisdom for weakness nor stupidity for courage.

  7. US Citizen
    September 16, 2017, 6:02 pm

    The day American politicians feel they don’t have to bow to AIPAC – that they don’t have to support Israel and provide Israel with a blank check every year– that will be the day that things change.

    The U.S. is in a better position than any other nation, or combination of nations, to change Israeli policies. By simply tying a few strings to the $3.8 billion dollars that it sends to Israel annually, Palestine could exist as a free, independent and peaceful nation.

    The U.S. would be less hated throughout the world, and the powder keg known as the Middle East would be diffused. Those strings would only follow the model that AIPAC uses with Congress: vote as we demand, or the money river will flow to your opponent in the next election.

    • Kay24
      September 16, 2017, 7:46 pm

      All the US and other Western nations must do is threaten to cut off the aid, and the weapons flowing into Israel, and things will change drastically. They beg for the aid to be increased, and seems they cannot live without it.

    • JosephA
      September 16, 2017, 8:34 pm

      I feel like this sort of change occurs as soon as the polls tell the politicians what to do. However, if the mainstream media is complicit with the ongoing racism/colonialism/imperialism, the citizens of the United States of America will remain ignorant and the status quo will remain.

  8. Ms. Reality
    September 16, 2017, 9:13 pm

    You are misleading or even being untruthful when you write “at the time that foreign leader was trying to undermine U.S. foreign policy”.

    At the time, the Iran deal was debated in the Senate, Congress and the military. It was the president’s wish, but not U.S. foreign policy. The Congress invited Natanyahu to address it as they have previously invited other foreign leaders.

    And please stop being so shocked that reporters attended a party with an executive from a major media company. I think it happens every day.

    • Donald Johnson
      September 17, 2017, 4:03 pm

      Presidents for better or worse tend to run US foreign policy, though Congress can step in and oppose them. When the Obama Administration negotiated the Iran treaty it was engaged in US foreign policy and not acting out Obama’s private hobby. Netanyahu opposed it. He also opposed Obama’s re- election.

      • Ms. Reality
        September 18, 2017, 8:24 am

        Again, many in Congress were against Obama’s Iran deal and invited Netanyahu to address it. Netanyahu’s duty is to protect Israel and Iran repeatedly expressed its desire to wipe Israel off the map. Obama’s personal hobby seemed to be distancing the USA from Israel. He gave Iran a sweetheart self-policing nuclear program and unfroze $150 billion, which Iran invested in Hezbollah and helping North Korea’s nuclear program. And that is Obama’s prerogative as president. But Netanyahu would be negligent if he did not oppose Obama’s efforts to legitimize Iran’s nuclear program in every way.

      • Misterioso
        September 18, 2017, 6:13 pm

        @Ms Reality

        You neglected to note that Russia, Britain, France, China, Germany and the EU, are also signatories to the agreement with Iran and are happy with it.

        Netanyahu and his fellow Zionist thugs see the handwriting on the wall: Israel is increasingly the “odd man out.” It’s “in the way,” and its hold on America is weakening. It’s only a matter of time.

  9. CitizenC
    September 17, 2017, 6:53 am

    Democracy Now discovered Occupation of the American Mind a year after its release, ran a three part interview

    In one interview Sut Jhally repeats what is claimed in the film, that Israel’s propaganda works only because it agrees with “US interests”. He cites the Iran agreement which AIPAC opposed

    But the Iran agreement was defended by the Obama administration as good for Israel, not good for the US, a better way of ensuring that Iran would not get nuclear weapons. Those were the only terms permitted. Gareth Porter and others pointed this out at the time. Israel won both sides of the argument

    As Peter Beinart observed, “privately, American Jews revel in Jewish power. But publicly, we often avoid discussing it for fear of feeding anti-Semitic myths.”

  10. Ossinev
    September 17, 2017, 7:42 am

    @USCitizen

    “By simply tying a few strings to the $3.8 billion dollars that it sends to Israel annually”

    I am obviously not an American so perhaps there is something in the average Joe American which I am missing. The US has just suffered from two of the worst natural disasters in its history. It has a President who constantly drones on about “putting America first” Why oh why then is he continuing to give away billions of freebie dollars to Israel which claims to be a world standard economy and fully able to defend itself. Why aren`t these billions instead being switched to disaster relief in America. Have I missed something ie has the question been asked. If not it should be again and again and again. Simple equation why in this case Israel first and America second springs to mind.

    • US Citizen
      September 17, 2017, 1:53 pm

      @ossinev – i would suggest reading the Walt and Mearsheimer book “The Israel Lobby”, that will give you insight into our congressional sychophancy to AIPAC and how much they dictact foreign policy to our government. truly shameful. then i would google and find out just how much of our main stream media is owned and operated by jews who either dictate what and what cannot be reported or how the presenters have to adhere to what ‘management’ wants them to report – note – nothing of the Occupation, illegal settlement, etc.

      congress is a Zionist puppet, they know it well, to learn who rules over you, simply look at who you are not allowed to criticize.

      israel is the pimp in america and the rest of those controlled by it are just for lack of a better word, whores.

  11. Ossinev
    September 17, 2017, 5:28 pm

    @US Citizen
    Thanks for that. I think the point which I was trying to make was not that the MSM should be picking up on this ( I agree not a hope in hell ) but that the ordinary Texans and Floridians who have suffered from these horrendous storms should at some point be looking at and questioning why this money is not being spent on disaster relief for American citizens and addressing their state politicians on the issue. Those State Politicians will of course no doubt be as bought and as bent as their Congressional but it is still a question of a constant need to air the dirty laundry when it comes to the Israel First/America Second farce.

  12. US Citizen
    September 17, 2017, 11:24 pm

    @ Ossinev – it is because ordinary US citizens – and i may be reaching because more and more people are reading websites like Mondoweiss – are not being informed about hegemonic israeli politics that infiltrate our own democracy and congress and what a shameful sham that it is. Debates if at all get deflected and side tracked – actually there are no debates to be side tracked, they virtually don’t exist. However, i stand by my earlier posting. It is up to you, friend, to decide for yourself.

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