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‘New Yorker’ profile of Haim Saban is pretty good

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I skimmed Connie Bruck’s profile of Haim Saban in the New Yorker late last night and retain a few impressions:

–The New Yorker should be congratulated for moving the ball down the field, 20, 25 yards. Bruck’s last big piece on an Israel lobbyist, Republican Sheldon Adelson, failed to describe his ideological agenda in any real detail. From the start of this piece, Saban is described as caring only about Israel. The piece’s title, "The Influencer," would rate as an anti-Semitic canard if a critic of Israel uttered it. It’s a great title. There’s a lot of good reporting on Saban’s love of Israel and the thrust of his efforts: influencing the discourse, buying thinktanks and newspapers, or trying to.

–Compare this piece with David Remnick’s dismissal of Walt and Mearsheimer’s book in September ’07 and you can see how far the New Yorker has come– and maybe yes, how much intellectual honesty Remnick possesses. He said then that the authors were wildly exaggerating and if only Israel got out of the territories, Osama bin Laden would go back into the construction business. Ha ha. Now I’d guess that Remnick has come round to the new realist conventional wisdom of linkage (which even Dennis Ross seems to espouse): Israel/Palestine is hobbling all American action in the Middle East. Obama changed the water in the aquarium, or someone did.

–The piece stops short, it’s a B+. There’s very little understanding of Saban’s policy objectives. We hear that he is now pressuring Obama to make nice, but it is unclear whether Saban favors one Jerusalem, as Adelson does, or what kind of Palestinian state he imagines. Can there be a viable Palestinian state with a greater Jewish Jerusalem? (No.) Most importantly, there is no effort to take apart the endorsement of the Iraq war by Kenneth Pollack of the Saban Center–which led many in the establishment to sign off on the war–to Saban’s funding of the thinktank. David Halberstam would be all over this, any thinking person would: where were you on the Iraq war, Haim? (I know that Pollack began banging the drum before he went to Saban, but still…) Just as Bruck elided the fact that Zionist cipher Doug Feith joined the Bush administration following Adelson’s gift of $300,000 to the Republican Party. She refuses to connect the dots. Oh and we invaded Iraq, by the way, and destroyed an Arab society and killed tens of thousands.

–There is an incuriosity here about the real issue, the Israel lobby. Most of the people Bruck talks to are Jews, as I recall; there is little outside perspective. The piece dwells completely inside The New Yorker’s Upper West Side comfort zone, of people who like to think that the two state solution is just around the corner and Israel is a thriving democracy. That is a provincial understanding. Israel is in a crisis and the two-state-solution is all-but-dead and many many people are questioning the role of the Israel lobby in US policymaking. (It is all through David Hirst’s fine new book, Beware of Small States.) I wish that Bruck would have broken out a little, and talked to John Mearsheimer about the lobby, or Grant Smith. Maybe by the time she gets round to her next piece, on Mortimer Zuckerman?

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