I keep posting about Madoff because it's huge and everyone is wondering which way this tree is going to fall. I think it has resonance for the Israel lobby.
Today on NPR they quoted somebody Flood in New York talking about
investing with Madoff. From her accent, I sensed, she's Jewish (and certainly Jewish groups predominated among his investors). And she
said in essence: There were a couple of red flags, and the numbers
never did make complete sense but my accountant said, Hey, he's making
a lot of money! The subtext of the interview was, He's a smart Jewish
guy, he's the last person who'd screw us. Or as Scott McConnell wrote to me today: "the Madoff event may be the greatest example of intelligent people being blinded by ethnocentrism I've ever seen."
That is exactly the problem with the Israel lobby. It has essentially argued for years now, Jews know best how to conduct policy re Israel. No Arabists wanted, no gentiles either. Aaron David Miller showed that the last big peace effort, Camp Daivd 2000, was dominated by Jews on the American/Israel side. One of the revelations of the Jimmy Carter and Walt and Mearsheimer publishing events was that Jews got to review/dismiss the books. Almost all the reviews of Walt and Mearsheimer were by Jewish people, and they weren't anti-Zionist Jews like myself, they were leadership Jews. In a sense Walt and Mearsheimer were disposed of by one line in David Remnick's advance review in the New Yorker: when he said, these guys seem to think if you resolved Israel/Palestine, Osama bin Laden would go back into the family construction business. Ha! End of discussion. And the Jewish community, with notable exception, got into line on the book, and that was that. Ditto Carter. Jonathan Demme's movie has essentially this theme: Look at all the powerful Jews who are progressive on every issue but Palestine (PEP) and are dismissing Carter out of hand.
My point is that ethnocentrism is limiting and damaging. In Madoff's world, everyone was wrong, all those smart people were wrong. And in the Israel lobby world, everyone is wrong too: They have sought to package as American and acceptable a situation that virtually everyone else in the world regards as an outrage. It is easy to believe these things when you limit the discussion to likeminded people. But the strength of Obama America is that it is diverse. And limiting your expertise on an ethnic/religious basis is extremely damaging.