An open letter to Mark Green from Phil Weiss:
You were always an inspiration to me as a young leftie. I loved the fact that you got your start with Nader. I had good friends who worked for your Senate campaign in '86. I did a little volunteering myself for you then, if memory serves. Cheerleading anyway. I've followed you over the years with pride. I cheer you on when you're on MSNBC. I think your wife is very cool.
A few months back, Susie Kneedler, a writer who has taught English at Ohio State University, sent me the following note:
voices about Palestine-Israel. I'm convinced that his advocacy for
a fair solution is the reason that Air America dropped him [a year ago]–and
substituted that comparatively silly and bombastic Ron Kuby."
I asked Kneedler if she had any proof. She wrote:
any way to prove that Sam Seder's ouster was connected to his insights
about Israel's ethnic cleansing and his courage in criticizing it.
All I know is that he really wanted to keep the M-F slot (first 7-10 PM
with Janeane Garofolo and later 3-6 P.M. after Randi Rhodes resigned/was
fired). Many of us wrote and called Air America to say that he was
the best talk-show host ever: liberal, well-informed, who let his guests
and callers talk, rather than infuriatingly having to prove how smart he
is by trying to make others' points for them, as most do (Kuby, RFK–I'm
sad to say–, Papantonio, Flanders, Schultz, and the rest).
But Air America
without explanation put in Ron Kuby (after only about a week's trial),
who's too scared to discuss the problem fairly, or the horrors of recent
Israeli violence at all. (When he does discuss his identity as a Jewish person,
his words seem to have that paranoid flavor that implies: "please,
don't say anything bad about anyone who's Jewish, no matter
All I can say
is that Air America replaced the intelligent Seder, who helped liberals
across the country get elected–having new candidates on his show
continually–who tried to help the US be a force for good around the
world, including in Palestine, with someone who's pompously
insipid. And actually, there's a bit more: Ron Reagan recently invited
Bernard-Henri Levy on for an entire, sickening hour about how any
criticism of Zionism is ant-Semitic.
I'd love to ask Mark Green about all this,
but he doesn't take calls on his Seven Days show, and AA doesn't answer
the emails I've sent.
I emailed Seder, who still has his own radio show, and had a conversation with him. He said he wasn't sure of the reasons that Air America didn't stick with him, "but I do not believe it was this issue."
Seder sounded to me like Jon Stewart on this issue: hungry for new, progressive ideas about Israel/Palestine. "I consider myself a strong supporter of Israel, but their policies are actually detrimental to their existence." As soon as J Street formed, Seder had them on his show. Seder said (as many progressives do) that while Jews are 75/25 liberal, that 25 percent is wreaking madness in government policy. The neocons. He was a vocal opponent of Joe Lieberman.
I kept meaning to email you, Mark, about this question. Then I saw you on GritTV yesterday with Laura Flanders. I was deeply disappointed. You pointedly refused to say anything critical about Israel's slaughter of 400 children in Gaza. When Ali Abunimah challenged you, asking if you had anything to say, you responded with indifference, "Not really." You contemptuously dismissed the idea of "the so-called Israeli lobby" in the U.S. You spoke approvingly of Ariel Sharon's plans for Gaza in 2005. You got upset, twice, that anyone would compare Israel's behavior in the blockaded strip to Nazi behavior–at a time when even the New York Times has broached the subject, and it is common to hear young progressive Jews making the Warsaw ghetto analogy.
I note that your brother, a leading N.Y. real estate guy who's your partner in Air America, has intimate connections to Israel. I wonder about you, what I wonder about so many liberal Jews of your generation. How Zionist are you? How invested in Israel's myth of itself are you? How closely-tied do you feel personally to Israel? Do you have relatives living in Israel? Do you feel that the Jewish state is necessary because of antisemitism in the west? I've heard you criticize Pat Buchanan on the Jewish question; what political significance do you ascribe to the fact that we are the wealthiest, most empowered minority group in the U.S.?
I am sure you are for the two-state solution. Who isn't in the mainstream, now that it is slipping away. But have you ever publicly criticized Israel's behavior, as the great Henry Siegman has, for putting off that state for more than 20 years now? Have you ever spent any of your progressive political capital criticizing Israel's apartheid policies in the West Bank: separate roadways, endless checkpoints and harassment? How would you describe these conditions? When Howard Dean and Barack Obama got hammered for suggesting a more evenhanded policy in the Mideast, did you ever give them support?
You run an important leftleaning source. Now it is important for the non-Zionist left to establish these issues among ourselves so that we can move forward post-Gaza, which exposed the brutal side of Israeli policy for all to see. It is important because confusion over this question damaged the leftwing opposition during the Iraq war debate. Leading leftwing Jews like yourself, who deny there is any such thing as an Israel lobby, bashed Bush endlessly over the Iraq war, as if Republicans were the only authors of this horror, and routinely granted the neocons a pass.
They thereby hurt the antiwar movement by ignoring a central ideological component of the war party: making the Middle East safe for Israel, a project that has patently failed, killing and maiming and displacing millions of Arabs. But a project that gained wide support among Jews. Today realists like Brent Scowcroft and John Mearsheimer and Zbig Brzezinski have been far more reliable on these central moral questions than the traditional Jewish left.
So I ask you, where do you stand on these issues? Where does your brother stand? Let's talk about this, on the record. It will be clarifying to all of us.