NBC and the Israel lobby

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David L. Cohen, exec. vp of Comcast

Yesterday I did a shocked post about the fact that Ed Rendell, the telegenic former governor of Pennsylvania, a favorite of Chris Matthews and MSNBC, did a fundraiser for the Israeli army in Philadelphia, at which he said it was the obligation of American Jews to support Israel thru thick and thin. Help!

Well, my wife and I have a houseguest from Philly for Thanksgiving, and he shocked me a little bit more by telling me about David Cohen.

Cohen is Rendell’s longtime political guru, his David Axelrod. Cohen is executive vice president of Comcast, the company that bought NBC and MSNBC in 2009.

Not surprisingly, David Cohen is close to Barack Obama. A few months ago, he raised $1.2 million for Obama in a heartbeat, at his Philadelphia home.

Later in the evening, Comcast’s executive vice president, David L. Cohen, hosted about 120 people in his home for a dinner, each of the attendees giving at least $10,000 for Obama’s reelection campaign.

Like Ed Rendell, Cohen is pro-Israel. He is the former vice chair of the Jewish Federations in Philadelphia, a pro-Israel organization. Cohen was said by a Philadelphia Jewish publication to be “genetically hard-wired” to serve that role:

He believes that there is historic precedent for Jews “rallying to Federation” during times of crisis. “Whenever Israel’s physical security is threatened, people turn to Federation to provide support,” he says, adding “we must ignite this same Jewish passion to meet local needs addressed by Federation and its partner agencies.”

As the owner of NBC, Cohen sits at the right hand of his old friend, and Rendell’s old friend, Brian Roberts. Roberts’s father Ralph started Comcast, and Brian is today chairman of Comcast.

Big surprise– Brian Roberts is also very close to the president. Last summer Barack Obama visited Brian Roberts’s house on Martha’s Vineyard. The media industrial complex!

Is Roberts also pro-Israel? I don’t know, but I suspect he is; he participated in several Israeli athletic events in the 80s and 90s according to Wikipedia: the Maccabiah games, the Jewish Olympics. And he received an award from the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

What is the Israel lobby? It is the force inside our discourse that defends the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, forever. Are all Jews part of the Israel lobby? Of course not. There is growing diversity inside the Jewish community, bucking the commandment, Thou must support Israel. But Ed Rendell is certainly part of the lobby, witness his participation in that Israeli army fundraiser. And I think Cohen is part of it, too, given his former role at the Federations. I don’t know about Roberts. But I wonder how he’d feel about, say, Palestinian solidarity types speaking on his network.

Guess what? About four months after Comcast bought NBC, Chris Matthews visited Israel. A year later he was back, and talking up Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

Call me cynical, but this proves the old adage, Freedom of the press belongs to he who owns one. And it explains why Chris Matthews keeps his mouth shut on Israel/Palestine. Matthews is from Philadelphia. His brother lives in Chestnut Hill, not far from Brian Roberts and David Cohen. And Chris Matthews is a shrewdy, as my grandmother used to say.

Walter Russell Mead silenced Glenn Loury at bloggingheads the other day by saying it’s anti-semitic to speak about the Jewish presence in the media, and the Jewish presence in the Israel lobby. I would counter that while these issues are uncomfortable, responsible intellectuals simply cannot avoid them if they want to make sense of our society and our foreign policy. Brian Roberts and David Cohen are two of the most powerful figures in our media, they are both Jewish, and one of them has inhaled the pro-Israel religion, as has his dear friend, Ed Rendell, who is on their network all the time. Imagine for one minute if Catholics played this role in a media organization, and it was by and large against abortion. Would liberals be afraid to talk about religious identity and ideology? Of course not.

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There are times when I despair for the Palestinian cause when I see what we’re up against. Name after name after name in high finance, the United States government, political parties, the media, the law, the highest levels of huge corporations and even organised crime! Each one linked to another by friendship, professional association, sometimes even by family ties. Each one fiercely pro-Israel, to the extent that for many, Israel literally can do no wrong… Read more »

For some people $10,000 is like a penny to me.
No surprise, that they easily give 10,20,30 thousands for that kind of “campaigns”.
People often have to survive on it for a year or more.
“Manus mana lavat”, “One hand washes the other”.
Justice is such an illusive word, why does this word even exist?

I watched the Loury-Mead discussion as well (it starts at about the 39 minute mark). At first, Mead was saying only what he has said before: that the support for Zionism basically reflects our own native Dominionism (Manifest Destiny, killing Indians, stealing land from Mexico, etc.) In fact Mead calls such Huckabee and Palin-esque attitudes “the right thing to do” and calls any challenge to this “immoral” and “anti-Semitic” (at about the 45 minute mark).… Read more »

I would comment about this, but since my comment would not be posted, why the hell bother?

I’m sure it wouldn’t be the only reason and I can’t even be sure it is an actual reason, but I always find myself wondering if the pro-Israel bias (and thus, pro-apartheid, pro-occupation, pro-bombing-schools-and-hospitals…) that the GE-NBC conglomerate has (and it goes beyond just the broadcasting venues) was a factor in Keith Olbermann’s departure. I don’t perceive Olbermann as anti-Israel but he’s defintely not pro-Israel, from what times he did talk about Israel’s actions and… Read more »