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Forward says Jewish leaders are chosen by donors and Israel activists, not the people

on 17 Comments

The Forward has done some excellent reporting on the degree to which the new Pew poll demonstrates that the American Jewish organizational leadership is way more supportive of Israel than the Jewish rank and file. And the leaders are defiant about that! Here is Josh Nathan-Kazis’s original report:

American Jews are far more critical of Israel than the Jewish establishment, according to the new Pew survey, but Jewish leaders say the findings won’t change their positions…

“You know who the Jewish establishment represents? Those who care,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League…

According to Steve Bayme, , director of the Contemporary Jewish Life Department at the American Jewish Committee, [the numbers suggest that most Jews] know less about the peace process.

“Those who are most involved in Jewish life are also most knowledgeable, and therefore I tend to think their opinion more closely parallels the opinion of the organized Jewish community,” said Bayme. “Those not involved… they are the ones who are going to be viewing these issues from a lack of adequate knowledge base.”…

In response to nearly all of Pew’s questions about Israel, young Jews were more likely to be critical of Israel and less likely to feel attached to Israel. A quarter of Jews aged 18 to 29 believe that the U.S. is too supportive of Israel, according to Pew.

Nathan-Kazis then followed up with a sharply-critical report showing that Jewish leaders are not democratically-selected.

Who chooses who leads? Mostly wealthy donors and local activists. Below, I identified the electors who picked six of the men heading the core Jewish establishment advocacy groups….

Malcolm Hoenlein
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Since 1986

Who hired him: The Conference of Presidents didn’t get back to me when I asked how they pick their top professional leader. Maybe they’ve forgotten — there’s been no change in the executive suite there for almost 30 years. I assume that Hoenlein was chosen by the Conference’s member organizations.

Who’s that?: There are 50 organizations that belong to the Conference, some of them more “major” than others. The American Jewish Committee and AIPAC belong to the Conference, massive groups that spend tens of millions a year. So does the America-Israel Friendship League, which got just $750,000 in contributions in 2011.

Abe Foxman
Anti-Defamation League
Since 1987

Who hired him: The ADL didn’t answer my question on this, either. I assume that the national director is chosen by the group’s national commission, though, again, that hasn’t happened in nearly 30 years.

Who’s that?: The national commission’s current chair is Barry Curtiss-Lusher, CEO of Nexus Resources, an oil and gas exploration firm. Other members, as of the group’s last tax filing, include former Conference of Presidents chair Kenneth Bialkin and current Conference of Presidents chair Robert Sugarman.

Go to the link to see the rapsheet on David Harris of the American Jewish Committee (in office 23 years, since corporate bosses helped choose him) and Howard Kohr of AIPAC. American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

The lack of democracy is highly relevant to Mid East politics. Nathan-Kazis reports:

When Secretary of State John Kerry asked American Jews to help push the Israelis to agree to enter negotiations with the Palestinians last June, American Jewish leaders balked.

Only a handful of left-wing groups advocated on Kerry’s behalf. The rest demurred, telling the Forward that it wasn’t the Israelis who needed to be pushed to the table, and that the onus lies entirely on the Palestinians.

American Jews don’t seem to share that view. According to the Pew survey, only 38% of all U.S. Jews believe that the Israeli government is making a “sincere effort” to come to a peace settlement. Among 18- to 29-year-olds, that number is even lower, at just 26%.


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17 Responses

  1. seafoid
    October 4, 2013, 10:10 am

    Hoph will probably ask “is it any different in the Democratic party ? ” and I’ll probably agree with him.

  2. Krauss
    October 4, 2013, 10:13 am

    You know who elected us? Those who care

    Shorter Abe Foxman: Jews who didn’t vote for me hate themselves.

    This is trite and tired. Nobody elected Foxman except a small coterie of wealthy donors and insiders who selected their own. Is he just going to pretend Jewish America doesn’t exist? Just 17% of Jews according to Pew think that settlement activity helps Israel’s security. To be fair, another 35% or so said it didn’t matter. But you still have almost 40% who said it is not good.

    And how many of the major organizations are critical? 100% are in favour in practice, a minority do a few tacit criticisms mostly as lip service, like J Street.

    But this is how it is in most ethnic organizations. The hardliners and the ethnic chauvinists climb the ladder. Most of the people they claim to represent don’t know who they are.

  3. dbroncos
    October 4, 2013, 11:29 am

    Another example of how American Jews are “represented” by the establishment: during the Presidential election cycles the msm euphemistically transforms Jewish Leaders and their campaign cash into the critical “Jewish vote”.

  4. HRK
    October 4, 2013, 11:47 am

    I was listening to a lecture series on the Middle Ages, and the prof mentioned the three classes or orders of society: Those who fight (the nobility–or those who defend), those who pray (priests, nuns), and those who work (everyone else). It occurred to me that in some ways American Jewish communities even today exhibit some parallels to this three order system. The wealthy seem to have a disproportionate role in American Jewish communities–at least compared to Christian communities. The power of the wealthy seem to be “harnessed” toward (what they perceive as) pro-Jewish goals (and they’re there to defend or fight for those goals), whereas the power of wealthy gentiles seems to be unchecked and essentially inimical to the goals of, say, gentile Americans (of any race). It stands to reason that this would happen: That some of the strongest “forces”–blood/heritage as well as the power of wealthy men (oh, and I suppose I should mention a third force, namely, the religious mandate stemming from being the Chosen People)–would be aligned in the group which has withstood being torn apart by time and entropy longer than any other.

  5. pabelmont
    October 4, 2013, 12:40 pm

    When I ask Obama to help end the occupation, I write: “I am Jewish and I vote”. But I cannot compete with the fellows who give him $1M or more.

    The Jewish establishment (or, maybe it s/b called, “The Establishment-Fragment which claims to speak for American Jews”) is no more representative of Jews than, say, the BIG-PHARMA or BIG-BANK lobbies.

    It’s money, money, money, and they should be forbidden to claim to represent anyone but themselves.

    • bilal a
      bilal a
      October 4, 2013, 3:02 pm

      Israel and its lobby are merely modules reflecting an underlying system dynamics which is increasingly global in scope, neither liberal nor democratic. Hedges:

      The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

      We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

      How else can we understand the liberal endorsement of offensive war, gutting of social services, or the murder of the mentally ill, as happened in the capital most recently. Corporate liberals are not liberals.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    October 4, 2013, 1:04 pm

    RE: “Forward says Jewish leaders are chosen by donors and Israel activists, not the people”

    FOR EXAMPLE, SEE: “Fire Foxman”, by Joey Kurtzman, Jewcy, 07/08/07

    [EXCERPT] . . . What’s surprising is how unabashedly forthright Abraham Foxman has become about what motivates him and his institution [the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)]. In October of 2005, Foxman addressed a classroom of Jewish students at New York University. Young heads nodded and brows furrowed as Foxman riled them with his customary rhetoric: Isn’t it antisemitic for pro-Palestinian groups to seek divestment only from Israel, ignoring the far greater crimes of regimes like Sudan or North Korea? How do we describe this sort of selective flagellation of the world’s only Jewish state, if not as antisemitism?
    “What if the campus Free Tibet club campaigned for divestment from China? Would that be anti-Chinese bigotry?” asked Asaf Shtull-Trauring, a 20-year-old student and conscientious objector from the Israeli army.
    Of course not, answered Foxman
    , but it was preposterous to compare the two conflicts, what with the Jews’ experience of two millennia of murderous persecution. Shtull-Trauring responded with two questions: Did Foxman mean that selective treatment is okay so long as it’s not directed at Jews? And where did the Anti-Defamation League get off telling Jewish university students which opinions about Israel were acceptable and which verboten?
    The dialogue spiraled into a confrontation. Shtull-Trauring says Foxman, frustrated and under attack, placed his cards on the table, angrily retorting: “I don’t represent you nor the Jewish community! I represent the donors.”
    Foxman’s outburst was surprising not because of its content, but because of its candor. Foxman needn’t bother himself with the trifling concerns of American Jews who happen not to be multimillionaire philanthropists. If he makes the Jewish community less appealing to young Jews, if his theatrics turn us off and turn us away, that’s all beside the point. Foxman’s job is to keep the millionaire benefactors happy: the rest of us can go jump in the Kinneret [WIKIPEDIA: The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias ~ J.L.D.].
    Without a meaningful mission to pursue, the ADL has resorted to scaremongering to fill its coffers and justify its existence. These efforts have grown increasingly bizarre and damaging. . .


  7. annie
    October 4, 2013, 2:42 pm

    lol, jews who care! they are morphing from “organized Jewish community ” and “jewish establishment” to those who care!

    cecilie surasky rocks!

    Saying something over and over again doesn’t make it true. The Bay Area JCRC, and local offices of the ADL and the AJC, are not synonymous with the “Bay Area Jewish Community.” In fact, while the Jewish Community Relations Council claims to represent Bay Area Jews, they won’t release the number or names of groups they represent. That certainly makes one wonder if the number is embarrassingly small. And it’s likely shrinking. There is no shortage of Jews around here, from a wide political spectrum, who would be appalled to be associated with an attack on a Muslim group for using a word that Israeli officials use regularly

    more here:

    and i just love this btw, i love it that the forward is making the point ‘the jewish establishement’ doesn’t represent most jews. now if only we can get readers here to believe it.

  8. traintosiberia
    October 4, 2013, 9:51 pm

    09/10/2003 Asia Times
    R Maitra
    Congressman Ackerman said ” Israel was surrounded by 120 million Muslims
    while India has 120 million Muslims” in joint Capitol Hill Forum held between Indian Political Action committee , AJC and AIPAC”. http://www.atimes. com
    This racist rants with potential of increased tension against Muslim in India ( it was at that time ruled by BJP a ultra nationalistic religious party ) and in US and possibility of violence went mainstream in soon to be followed numerous Islamohobic rancor and hatred driven dialogues and discussion on TV inUS , later Europe and resulted more strong anti Muslim attitude
    in BJP controlled India
    ADL was obviously silent never uttered a word of rebuke
    Congress should have suspended Ackerman but no , he retained his aura and halo and persona along with all the powers to continue same racist bigoted rants.

    • traintosiberia
      October 4, 2013, 9:57 pm

      Tom Lantos reminded how Israel and India were bonded together by mindless vicious fanatic Islamic terrorism in same meeting.

  9. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    October 4, 2013, 11:21 pm

    I think that based upon the essays of Marc Ellis and the attitudes of Phil Weiss, we can divide Jews into three categories regarding Israel: Jews of Empire, Jews of Conscience and Jews of Apathy. (I would not label Zionist Jews as Jews of Empire, but I am using the language of Marc Ellis to illustrate a point.) Jews of Empire will associate (join community groups and organizations that express concern for fellow Jews) in order to strengthen Jewish connections, particularly connection to the Jewish population in Israel. Jews of Conscience, a small minority- say the 11% who feel that the US gives too much support to Israel, are right where Marc Ellis wants them, but the few who organize around the subjects of Jewishness and opposition to Israel are very few indeed. And finally the Jews of Apathy, a group that really doesn’t care about the Jews and cares more about America (or sports, or their income or the celebrity culture, or high culture or low culture) and doesn’t really care about the Jews. These people don’t give money, they don’t join organizations and they are more like a silent majority rather than anything intensely involved. Of course Jewish organizations that have memberships and collect donations and try to curry favor with their memberships and with donors, will tilt towards the Jews who care and not towards Jews of Apathy. And the Jews who care are the Jews of Empire and very few are Jews of Conscience.

    • justicewillprevail
      October 5, 2013, 4:41 am

      “very few are Jews of Conscience” – Phew, lucky for you, eh? So most Jews, in your considered view don’t have a conscience about what Israeli does. How fortunate for your worldview. Jews of Empire= colonialist Jews. Your language is revealing.

      • talknic
        October 5, 2013, 5:44 am

        @ justicewillprevail “Your language is revealing.”

        Uh? That’s not how you spell reviling

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        October 5, 2013, 10:33 pm

        justicewillprevail- The trajectory of history until this point of time was certainly not of my choosing. If you wish to review the history from my point of view (which I seriously doubt) I am willing to do so. There is no question that Zionism involved colonialism and big power sponsorship. Its motivations though included (in an important way) self emancipation and so I would be hard pressed to find a phrase that included the worthy goal of self emancipation with the non-worthy means of colonialism and big power sponsorship.

        If the Jewish people had enough stick to itiveness to continue to study the prophets like Marc Ellis does and if that hypothetical Jewish people had created a large movement dedicated to the prophets, the people, the future and justice, I would certainly be curious about such a world and would not “Phew” its nonexistence.

        But I live in this world.

  10. talknic
    October 5, 2013, 3:00 am

    @yonah fredman FOUR … Fake Jews who promote illegal settlement and those who by illegally settling break the basic tenets of Judaism .. coveting other folks property and constantly lying in order to justify their crime

  11. Nevada Ned
    Nevada Ned
    October 5, 2013, 8:39 am

    The article in the Forward reveals that American Jewish “leaders” like Abe Foxman (ADL), and David Harris (American Jewish Committee) etc were first hired (elected?) two decades ago, and have an indefinite term in office.

    I propose that Mondoweiss bestow upon Abe Foxman the title “President-for-Life,” in honor of the long-lived Haitian dictator Francois Duvalier. A similar honor should be bestowed upon President-for-Life David Harris, and also President-for-Life Malcolm Hoenlein.

    Of course, this is tongue in cheek, but if Mondoweiss adopts a policy of using these titles, it will remind readers that these Jewish misleaders have been in office for decades without bothering about an election recently. Or ever.

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