The New Yorker ran a short profile of Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg of AIG last week that contained a curious statement:
In the current election, he’s supporting John McCain,
largely because of the Arizonan’s support for the war in Iraq.
Greenberg’s reasons might well serve as his credo. “I don’t think you
tell the enemy when you are going to leave,” he said. “It’s painful and
expensive, but we’re committed.”
Reading that, I found it hard to believe that Greenberg supports McCain just because of his exit plans for the war in Iraq; then I had my usual suspicion about the unspoken agendas of rightwing Jews in our public life, and wondered whether the statement was not shorthand for a larger belief on Greenberg's part about McCain's hawkish policy in the Middle East. Hunting the net, I found some evidence for my suspicion. Greenberg is a big deal in the Council on Foreign Relations; and two years ago he was interviewed by the National Interest after meeting the Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Greenberg said that he had had had a "personal exchange" with Ahmadinejad over his statements about the Holocaust, and had cited his own experience as an American infantryman in World War 2.
MRG: I responded: "Listen, I went through Dachau during the war. To suggest it didn't occur is simply a lie." … I think it's almost impossible to do business with him as long
as he has those views. He says: "Why should the Palestinians suffer
even if there was a Holocaust? What does one have to do with the
other?" I mean, they have nothing to do with each other. We don't link
them together. And we discussed that. They're not linked.
thinks the Palestinians should be permitted to return, that's never
going to happen. If the Palestinians returned to Israel, they'd swamp
the country and there wouldn't be an Israel. But he doesn't want an
Q: It sounds like he didn't make any effort to try to reach out…
MRG: No, no. There was no effort to reach out. He's offensive. He's smug. He's a danger.
Q: Did the council make the right decision in inviting him?
MRG: I think we made the right decision to meet with him because now we have confirmed what he is….We can't deal with him. You can't deal with this guy. I do not believe
that we should let him come into possession of the capabilities to
manufacture a nuclear device, or achieve it by an indirect means, such
as buying it from somebody else.
There's actually a strong connection between the Holocaust and the Palestinian dispossession: Jewish suffering in the Holocaust justified for Harry Truman, and many others in the west, the 1947 partition that guaranteed a Jewish state on 56 percent of historical Palestine. Truman has said that his subsequent recognition of the Israeli state on 78 percent of those lands, following a war that included a lot of ethnic cleansing, stemmed from his empathy for Jewish suffering. So the Palestinians lost out because of European crimes.
Back to the agenda issue. Greenberg expresses the usual outrage over Ahmadinejad and the Palestinians that a lot of center-right Jews of his generation have. He says that Israel can do no wrong, completely accepts the 2006 Lebanaon war, and says the right of return is crazy.
I'm back to the question of suspicion. I wonder how much of Greenberg's positions on the Middle East are driven by his feelings about Israel, the Palestinians and Iran, and possibly too by his Zionism. It's a legitimate suspicion on my part; and one that the New Yorker's mystification only fosters. Even as the Republican Jewish Coalition stokes Holocaust fervor against Obama and Ahmadinejad–no hidden agenda there–Greenberg gets to say, He's for McCain because he's for the Iraq war… It's funny how religious motivation is completely accepted by journalists when it comes to rightwing Christians in Ohio who don't like gay marriage, but completely off the books when it comes to blue state Jews who have played an important role in a 60-year cycle of violence in Israel/Palestine.