A story in the New York Times about Hillary Clinton’s appearance Thursday at the Clinton Foundation’s “convention” in Chicago reminds me of the absurdity of talking about Clinton’s political ambitions– or Barack Obama’s, or any other national Democrat’s– without talking about their supporters who also support Israel.
The ballroom was packed with hundreds of admirers, and the guest list included some big names in finance, politics, government and entertainment: Jacob J. Lew, the Treasury secretary; Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs; Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers; Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey; and Eva Longoria, the actress and political activist.
Lew, whose son studied in a yeshiva in Israel, has developed a close working relationship with Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren, and has met several times with Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz.
Gary Cohn, number two at Goldman, flew out from New York to Chicago for Hillary’s speech. From the Times in 2010:
[Cohn’s wife Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn] and Gary have enriched the lives of many in the Jewish community with their unwavering commitment to social and humanitarian causes in New York, in Israel, and around the world.
I’m sure Randi Weingarten is a big liberal. She is deeply involved in the liberal Jewish community. She almost moved to Israel and played a key role in the undermining of Debbie Almontaser, the wonderful educator whose Arabic-language academy was destroyed by the Israel lobby in New York using the fact that students at the school had t-shirts with the word “intifada” on them.
“As someone who traveled to Israel within the year, I know intifada means more than simply ‘shaking off oppression,’ as Almontaser claims,” Weingarten wrote. “[B]oth parents and teachers have every right to be concerned about children attending a school run by someone who doesn’t instinctively denounce campaigns or ideas tied to violence.”
…Though “you always look at things through the lens of who you are,” she said, “none of this had anything to do with my Jewish heritage — other than my knowing what the word ‘intifada’ meant.”
In googling Gary Cohn and Hillary Clinton, I learned they were together at this other liberal Establishment event in New York in April, at Lincoln Center, honoring Barbra Streisand.
Bill and Hillary Clinton dined with industrialist Len Blavatnik and hedge-fund manager Richard Perry. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. President Gary Cohn left his seat with Anchorage Capital Group LLC’s Kevin Ulrich to visit at their table.
Leonard Blavatnik gives a lot of money to Israel, sits on the board of Tel Aviv University.
Barbra Streisand is surely a big liberal. She hosts fundraisers for the Friends of the Israeli army, an occupying force that killed nearly 400 Palestinian children in Gaza 4 years ago.
So again, it is impossible to speak seriously about a Democratic politician’s policy ambitions without talking about the importance of Israel to fundraisers.
Tomorrow Bill Clinton will speak in Israel and get $500,000 for his foundation.
Does that matter to Perry and Cohn and Weingarten? I think so.
Am I saying that all these potential backers are also Zionists who back Israel right or wrong? I don’t know for sure. Randi Weingarten, for instance, may be listening to our side. She is a member of the downtown synagogue CBST, which hosted an important conversation about the failures of Israeli democracy.
But I don’t know. What I do know is that the Jewish establishment is critical to any Democratic politician’s ambitions, and that the Jewish establishment is marbled with Israel support. And until our media begin discussing the centrality of the ideology of Zionism inside the Jewish community, well– rightwingers like Richard Perry will blend in with liberal Zionists, and policy will remain fixed in support of the occupation.
And true diversity, which includes anti-Zionists with a lot to say inside Jewish life, will only flower at the margins.