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When Leonard Fein criticized rightwinger Menachem Begin– ‘the roof fell in’

Israel/Palestine
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Readers of this site know that I believe money is important in politics, so I collect  instances of donor pressure cutting down debate about Israel inside the Jewish community. Well, I heard a story about donor pressure at J Street on Sunday, told by Leonard Fein, the legendary columnist and liberal Zionist, on a panel organized by Peter Beinart.

In 1977, Menachem Begin, the rightwing former terrorist, became the first Likud prime minister of Israel, and three years later, Fein, who edited Moment, a liberal Jewish magazine, put together a group of 56 prominent American Jews who signed a letter that had originated in Israel, criticizing the Israeli government for its settlement project.

At J Street, Fein told this story:

I was fingered as the organizer of this little movement. Some two years later, I was interviewed in Israel by the Jerusalem Post. And the Post said, “What gives you the right to criticize Israeli policy?” I said, “Look when Begin comes back from his visits to America and gets off the plane, he always says, ‘I have great news, the American Jewish community is 100 percent behind us.’ And if he’s going to say that I’m going to correct him, because it simply is not so.”

The reporter from the Post– “are you calling Begin a liar?” I said, “Use whatever word you want, that’s all I have to say.” The next day, front page, Jerusalem Post, “American Professor calls Begin a liar.” And my roof fell in. I depended on wealthy liberal Jews to support Moment magazine. Money was withdrawn right and left from its support… I tell you that story not to praise myself or draw credit to myself. But to indicate to you how very much has changed for the better in the intervening years. We are not really as pressed and pressured as we were back then. Part of it is Peter’s contribution, part of it is J Street’s contribution, part of it is the fact that some of us don’t know how to give up and we’ve been fighting the good fight all these years.

I wonder how much has changed. The Israeli government still feels that it depends utterly on American Jewish support, and it does. Fein is now in a consensus position, for the two-state solution. There is a lot of financial pressure, applied by wealthy Jews who care about Israel, aimed at maintaining this orthodoxy. And American Jews who care about Israel are highly-attuned to what even rightwing Israeli publications say.

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3 Responses

  1. Citizen
    Citizen
    October 3, 2013, 4:15 pm

    Fein’s not of much influence compared to say, Sheldon Adelson or George Soros.

  2. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    October 3, 2013, 5:27 pm

    “Fein is now in a consensus position, for the two-state solution. There is a lot of financial pressure, applied by wealthy Jews who care about Israel, aimed at maintaining this orthodoxy.”

    If 2SS is “consensus”, then one must ask, WHICH 2SS? If the “consensus ” does not ALSO demand removal of all settlers and return of all confiscated land in West Bank and Golan, then it is “consensus” for an apartheid-2SS, which would likely be little different from status quo 2013.

    Where is Fein on this? Sounds as if in 1980 (see UNSC 465) he used to be against settlements:

    [in 1980] Fein, who edited Moment, a liberal Jewish magazine, put together a group of 56 prominent American Jews who signed a letter that had originated in Israel, criticizing the Israeli government for its settlement project.

  3. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    October 3, 2013, 9:16 pm

    RE: I said, “Look when Begin comes back from his visits to America and gets off the plane, he always says, ‘I have great news, the American Jewish community is 100 percent behind us.’ And if he’s going to say that I’m going to correct him, because it simply is not so.” The reporter from the Post– “are you calling Begin a liar?” I said, “Use whatever word you want, that’s all I have to say.” ~ Fein at J Street

    FOR THE TIME PRESIDENT REAGAN CALLED BEGIN A LIAR, SEE:
    “How Many Violations of US Arms Laws are Too Many?” ~ by Franklin Lamb, Counterpunch, 3/16/12

    [EXCERPTS] . . . Alarm centered on whether or not Israel had used U.S.-supplied antipersonnel cluster bombs against civilian targets during its carpet bombing West Beirut during the nearly three month siege.
    The House Foreign Affairs Committee held hearings on this issue in July and August 1982. On July 19, 1982, the Reagan Administration announced that it would prohibit new exports of cluster bombs to Israel. . .
    . . . During a late June 1982 meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Begin, Reagan was handed a note from George Shultz. Based on the information he had in hand, Reagan directly told Begin that the US had reliable information than Israel was using American weapons against civilians in Lebanon. At this point according to Reagan, Begin became very agitated. He lowered his glasses and while glaring at Reagan and shaking his index finger said, “Mr. President, Israel has never and would never use American weapons against civilians and to claim otherwise is a blood libel against every Jew, everywhere.” Following their meeting Reagan told Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, as reported by Weinberger and by various biographers of Reagan that “I did not know what the term “blood libel” meant, but I know that the man looked me straight in the eyes and lied to me.”. . .

    ENTIRE ARTICLE – http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/03/16/how-many-violations-of-us-arms-laws-are-too-m

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