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When a Jew gets 5/3 of a vote…

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Mark Kleiman, a UCLA Professor of Public Policy, is against the “lunatic warmongering” Iran sanctions bill, and good for him. He’s a blogger, and started a post for the Washington Monthly:

If you’re a constituent of, or a contributor to, [he named the 16 Democratic senators supporting the legislation], please consider making a phone call or sending a fax or email telling that Senator to back off the lunatic piece of warmongering legislation known as the Kirk-Menendez bill, designed to torpedo the nuclear deal with Iran. As of now, they’re all co-sponsoring it. Please consider making your voice heard especially strongly if you’re Jewish, or have a Jewish-sounding name.

The professor of public policy and I agree, Jews count more on this issue. I wrote him:

Hi Mark,
I agree with you re Jewish sounding names, and re Iran policy; but isn’t your recommendation also an acknowledgment of a political truth, that we are 5/3 of a man, to reverse the old voting fraction of black people? And inasmuch as that is true, isn’t this something liberal Jews ought to seek to end? For instance, by speaking openly about the Israel lobby?

Kleiman wrote back:

Not at all. I don’t think a Jewish name would have extra weight on a question about heath care or crime control or global warming or Burma. It’s only on questions where “Jews” generically are perceived to have one opinion that a Jew expressing a contrary opinion is man-bites-dog.

I wrote back to Kleiman to say that he was making my point: on this issue, Israel, there is a real effect of Jewish influence– the lobby that presumes to speak in our name. “You are attacking that presumption of solidarity, for the best reasons. But any analysis of why the U.S. is where it is today re the Middle East has to grapple with my 5/3 formulation.”

I think this is a very important conversation. Kleiman’s appeal shows that the lobby is fracturing: that Jews are taking on the lobby as Jews, and many Jewish groups are now opposing AIPAC on this bill. But it raises questions, like, What is the basis of the Jewish influence here? I think it’s financial contributions and our presence in the establishment and yes, also a widespread cultural deference stemming from the Holocaust. Also, how long did the lobby successfully presume or impose solidarity on liberal Jews? Certainly back when my brother said to me in 2003, “I demonstrated against the Vietnam war, but my Jewish newspaper says this war could be good for Israel.” Of course Jews were against that war, by numbers; but how many denounced that “warmongering” lobby as Jews? Very few. Joe Klein for one.

Back to the main point. So long as Jews count more (and it’s probably more like 30/3, not 5/3), doesn’t that give people the right to count Jews when it comes to this policy? Put another way, why does the State Department’s Middle East team have one Arab-American that I’m aware of, and a half dozen Jews, or people with Jewish-sounding names? Kleiman’s law. The most important constituency must be addressed.

PS. Adam Kredo got to this story first. Also, today the New Yorker did a piece on the boycott issue in which it identified me as a Jewish American blogger. Fair enough. But it proves the point– in how many other contexts would my religion/ethnicity matter?

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25 Responses

  1. peterfeld
    January 17, 2014, 1:25 pm

    I will just come out and say outcome (stopping a war) is more important than process (addressing privilege) here. If Jews are unfairly and wrongly privileged in a discussion about whether to go to war, we have an obligation to use that privilege against war as well as to use it against privilege itself (calling out State Dept., The Nation, etc. for lack of Palestinian voices).

    Prof. Kleiman’s “man bites dog” argument is right: news coverage (e.g., Cokie Roberts; Kaper’s National Journal piece) of the sanctions bills often assumes there is pro-sanctions pressure from “constituents” in states, inferentially (but not stated) ones with heavy Jewish voting populations. So Jews who are against sanctions have a lot of potential leverage in disproving that presumption (and there’s no evidence of strong Jewish grassroots support for Mendacious-Kirk, or for going to war) just as we – unfairly – have a lot of potential leverage for undermining all of the assumptions that underlie the “special relationship.”

  2. bilal a
    bilal a
    January 17, 2014, 2:06 pm

    A ‘Jewish’ sounding name is a German sounding name, or sometimes a Russian sounding name, unless its in Israel, where its an Arab sounding name. What were the names before bringing light unto the nations ?

  3. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    January 17, 2014, 2:12 pm

    Phil writes, “Doesn’t that give people the right to count Jews when it comes to this policy?”

    But how about counting Jews when it is irrelevant to this policy, like Janet Yellin. You are in favor of counting Jews and counting down ’til the day when the number of Jews will be less. Yes, Palestine and the Middle East is your highest concern, but celebrating the loss of Jewish representation in the elites’ power centers and urging on the decline of that representation is a secondary hobby of yours.

    • philweiss
      January 17, 2014, 2:29 pm

      Yonah I grew up celebrating that rise and our inclusion. I was a numbers-cheerer all my youth. And I guess I have a more equivocal attitude now. But it’s happening all around us. When NPR recently added a person of color as a host on ATC, I have to believe that it shared my concern.

      • Krauss
        January 17, 2014, 2:40 pm

        I’m surprised you haven’t written about this yet, Phil, it’s an article about exactly what you are writing about:

        I’m guessing you’ve read it already, but still, you never know.

      • Donald
        January 17, 2014, 6:21 pm

        Thanks for that link, Krauss. The article deserves more attention. Here are a few paragraphs–

        “We’ve had decades of correspondents that, no matter how different they’ve been one from the other, no matter how talented they are or how many Pulitzer Prizes they have to their name, always end up being accused of being either anti-Semites or self-hating Jews. At some point, this seeps into the DNA of the newspaper: This is what you can expect if you go there – to have your integrity hurled back in your face every single day.”

        And things are probably much worse now, Haberman concedes, because of internet and emails and the ability to instantly respond and protest. Not only that, he adds, but Muslims and Arabs, in general, and Palestinians, in particular, have also adopted “the same ‘beat the newspaper over the head’ format that Jewish groups have come to perfect.”

        “Jews still don’t believe that the world won’t turn on them. It’s hardwired into their systems. They can’t accept that the Holocaust is a distant memory for most of the world’s population and they get upset when they are not perceived as perennial victims, even though they hardly look like victims anymore. But historical memory today is almost an oxymoron. People hardly remember the Vietnam War, and even 9/11 is a starting to be a fading memory for younger Americans.”

      • wondering jew
        wondering jew
        January 17, 2014, 8:34 pm

        Phil- How is your current attitude equivocal? It seems negative.

        As Nicholas cage’s character says in raising arizona, on the one hand you have your nepotism and on the other hand “it’s who you know”. One can assume that no decision or ascension is free of being tainted by favoritism rather than pure meritocracy. But… do you think Janet Yellin was picked because she was Jewish or because she was the best candidate? I have no way to measure. Media in front of the camera is a different story than a job where you want someone who has some specific knowledge. I want the best “man” for the job of head of the fed (obviously policy questions matter). But reporters on NPR, there balance is desirable. (As head of the fed, balance is bunk, merit counts. But I suppose you would support hiring someone for balance sake as head of the fed?)

  4. Krauss
    January 17, 2014, 2:33 pm

    Kleiman’s law could also be called Judt’s law, after Tony Judt and his revelation that the NYT editors insisted that he identified himself as Jewish in his Op-Ed before it was published.

    But whatever you call it, it’s there and it needs to be talked about. It stalks the entire conversation, one of many unspoken rules surrounding the I/P debate.
    And yes, it’s also a question of privilege, not just power. Arabs are often pushed away, distrusted, Jews are more than not encouraged to participate, even if critical and dissenting of the status quo. The reason is that a Jew is trusted on these issues because the chances are high that he or she is a Zionist and if they are not following the Zionist script, there are (typically) communal ways to pressure them.
    Just look at Goldstone.

  5. David Doppler
    David Doppler
    January 17, 2014, 2:37 pm

    A war of ideas, please. Not a war over ethnic entitlement or influence. America can survive and indeed thrives on the former, but the latter is un-American, since the era of multi-culturalism has arrived (and which resulted from the triumph of universal ideals over ethnic ones).

    • Ecru
      January 17, 2014, 3:21 pm

      Why not discuss ethnic entitlement and influence on this matter, one which is at core a conflict between two ethnic groups, one of whom apparently enjoys a great deal of influence in the USA both in media and politics?

      Worried about what might be revealed by such a discussion? A discussion that could dismiss the notion of Jewish privilege and influence in the USA were we but to have it.

    • tree
      January 17, 2014, 6:53 pm

      Not a war over ethnic entitlement or influence. America can survive and indeed thrives on the former, but the latter is un-American…

      The US civil rights movement was in essence a war over ethnic entitlement and influence, and that’s about as American as you can get.

    • American
      January 18, 2014, 7:03 pm

      ‘but the latter is un-American, since the era of multi-culturalism has arrived (and which resulted from the triumph of universal ideals over ethnic ones)….David

      But it hasnt quite worked out that way has it? Multi-culturalism has been badly managed and distorted——it is bringing ethnic conflict back.

  6. Justpassingby
    January 17, 2014, 3:19 pm

    Yes this crazy warmongering by pro-israel groups hurt jews, it raise racism.

  7. talknic
    January 17, 2014, 3:56 pm

    I used to think the validity of one’s argument was enough. It ain’t. In essence opposing Israel’s illegal and belligerent expansionist policies is a part of a war where nothing is off the table.

    We need to identify ourselves because one honest & benign weapon is to clearly show that nothing is too low for apologists for Israel’s illegal expansionist policies.

    Not only do they show disregard for the UN Charter and International Law, disregard the basic tenets of Judaism and turn on their allies, they will even turn on, falsely accuse and hate their own. (not that I feel myself to be one of them)

  8. American
    January 17, 2014, 5:00 pm

    ‘Kleiman wrote back:

    “It’s only on questions where “Jews” generically are perceived to have one opinion that a Jew expressing a contrary opinion is man-bites-dog.’

    Absolutely true and why he’s totally correct about Jews saying they are ‘Jewish’ when opposing action against Iran is important.

    BUT,BUT, BUT……THIS is what is wrong with our political system.
    It is so FUNDAMENTALY dangerous when any minority or ethnic or special interest group can move a nation to war or to any action that can be injurious to the nation as a whole ——that it should scare us shitless.
    It should scare us shitless that the US congress will trade a US war for money and votes–and THAT is what they do.
    A lot of factors and actors from political money to special interest groups to self serving politicans have created this problem and we all know it.
    I will just say once again, it is not enough to win a few battles like Syria and Iran —we have got to go to ‘the big war’ against all of those that have subverted the democratic system.

  9. DICKERSON3870
    January 17, 2014, 5:40 pm

    RE: “Back to the main point. So long as Jews count more (and it’s probably more like 30/3, not 5/3), doesn’t that give people the right to count Jews when it comes to this policy?” ~ Weiss

    MY COMMENT: It’s not really so much that Jews count more. What really counts in American politics is money (campaign contributions).
    That’s why Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh, Speaker of the California Assembly from 1961 to 1968, said (way back in 1966): “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” In other words, “you’ve got to pay to play”*. That’s why the U.S. is a “managed democracy”** with mostly the oligarchs acting as the managers.

    * FROM WIKIPEDIA [Pay to play]:

    [EXCERPT] Pay to play, sometimes pay for play, is a phrase used for a variety of situations in which money is exchanged for services or the privilege to engage (play) in certain activities. The common denominator of all forms of pay to play is that one must pay to “get in the game,” with the sports analogy frequently arising.[1]

    • In politics [See also: Political corruption]

    In politics, pay to play refers to a system, akin to payola in the music industry, by which one pays (or must pay) money to become a player.
    Typically, the payer (an individual, business, or organization) makes campaign contributions to public officials, party officials, or parties themselves, and receives political or pecuniary benefit such as no-bid government contracts, influence over legislation,[2][3] political appointments or nominations,[4][5] special access[6] or other favors.
    The contributions, less frequently, may be to nonprofit or institutional entities,[7] or may take the form of some benefit to a third party, such as a family member of a governmental official.[8]
    The phrase, almost always used in criticism, also refers to the increasing cost of elections and the “price of admission” to even run[9] and the concern “that one candidate can far outspend his opponents, essentially buying the election.”[10]
    While the direct exchange of campaign contributions for contracts is the most visible form of Pay to Play, the greater concern is the central role of money in politics, and its skewing both the composition and the policies of government.[11][12] Thus, those who can pay the price of admission, such as to a $1000/plate dinner or $25,000 “breakout session,” gain access to power and/or its spoils, to the exclusion of those who cannot or will not pay: “giving certain people advantages that other[s] don’t have because they donated to your campaign.”[13] Good-government advocates consider this an outrage because “political fundraising should have no relationship to policy recommendations.”[14] Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington called the “Pay-to-Play Congress” one of the top 10 scandals of 2008.[15]
    Incumbent candidates and their political organizations[16] are typically the greatest beneficiaries of Pay-to-Play. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have been criticized for the practice. Many seeking to ban or restrict the practice characterize pay-to-play as legalized corruption. . .

    SOURCE –

    ** FROM WIKIPEDIA [Inverted totalitarianism]:

    [EXCERPTS] Inverted totalitarianism is a term coined by political philosopher Sheldon Wolin to describe what he believes to be the emerging form of government of the United States. Wolin believes that the United States is increasingly turning into an illiberal democracy, and he uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” to suggest similarities between the United States governmental system and totalitarian regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Stalinist Soviet Union.[1][2][3][4]

    Inverted totalitarianism and managed democracy

    Wolin believes that the United States (which he refers to using the proper noun “Superpower”, to emphasize the current position of the United States as the only superpower) has been increasingly taking on totalitarian tendencies, as a result of the transformations that it has undergone during the military mobilization required to fight the Axis powers, and during the subsequent campaign of containing the Soviet Union during the Cold War:
    While the versions of totalitarianism represented by Nazism and Fascism consolidated power by suppressing liberal political practices that had sunk only shallow cultural roots, Superpower represents a drive towards totality that draws from the setting where liberalism and democracy have been established for more than two centuries. It is Nazism turned upside-down, “inverted totalitarianism.” While it is a system that aspires to totality, it is driven by an ideology of the cost-effective rather than of a “master race” (Herrenvolk), by the material rather than the “ideal.”[5]
    According to Wolin, there are three main ways in which inverted totalitarianism is the inverted form of classical totalitarianism.
    1. Whereas in Nazi Germany the state dominated economic actors, in inverted totalitarianism, corporations through political contributions and lobbying, dominate the United States, with the government acting as the servant of large corporations. This is considered “normal” rather than corruption.[6]
    2. While the Nazi regime aimed at the constant political mobilization of the population, with its Nuremberg rallies, Hitler Youth, and so on, inverted totalitarianism aims for the mass of the population to be in a persistent state of political apathy. The only type of political activity expected or desired from the citizenry is voting. Low electoral turnouts are favorably received as an indication that the bulk of the population has given up hope that the government will ever help them.[7]
    3. While the Nazis openly mocked democracy, the United States maintains the conceit that it is the model of democracy for the whole world[8] . . .

    • Managed democracy

    Wolin believes that the democracy of the United States is sanitized of political participation and refers to it as managed democracy. Managed democracy is “a political form in which governments are legitimated by elections that they have learned to control”.[10] Under managed democracy, the electorate is prevented from having a significant impact on policies adopted by the state through the continuous employment of public relations techniques.[11]
    Wolin believes that the United States resembles Nazi Germany in one major way without an inversion: the essential role that propaganda plays in the system.
    According to Wolin, whereas the production of propaganda was crudely centralized in Nazi Germany, in the United States it is left to highly concentrated media corporations, thus maintaining the illusion of a “free press”.[12] Dissent is allowed, although the corporate media serves as a filter, allowing most people, with limited time available to keep themselves apprised of current events, only to hear points of view which the corporate media deems to be “serious”.[13] . . .

    SOURCE –

  10. piotr
    January 17, 2014, 7:10 pm

    It is a tangential issue, but Knesset is about to outlaw Nazi comparisons, so I guess there will be a last minute rush to make all possible comparisons of Iranians to Nazis before the law takes effect. It makes me wonder if the “major Jewish organizations” will adhere to that law to show their solidarity with Israel brethren, and how the discussion of the issue of Iran will be conducted in the future.

    I hope that the cooler heads will prevail in the Knesset. Imagine that self-hating Jews will not be compared to kapos in concentration camps. Will it be even posssible to write an editorial in Jerusalem Post?

  11. Sycamores
    January 17, 2014, 8:14 pm

    Henry David Thoreau quote:
    There are nine hundred and ninety-nine patrons of virtue to one virtuous man

    less than 1% of the American population were actively involved with the civil rights movement
    less than 1% of the American population were actively involved with the women rights movement

    the reason why such a small percentage could change things was because they follow in a military fashion that is they organized, strategized and became active.

    i presume Jewish groups in America did the same thing for their cause(s) that in itself is good thing. it’s what lobbying is all about. but groups like AIPAC has overstep the mark. so if that one percent of virtuous Jewish men and women can stop or change such groups all the better, then society can move on without to much upheavel they are other ways but are far more messier.

    the same goes for Christian zionists and certain political warmongers.

    Paul Chappell explains alot better than i can. jump to the 1:15 near the end of the video

  12. traintosiberia
    January 17, 2014, 9:22 pm

    Being of Jewish faith or descent does make a difference.

    This eye -popping reality with all asscoiated deeper meanings could only come form one with that asset-pedigree .

    “The intervention by Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif), who deems the bill a “march to war”, may well be one of the more significant riposte’s to the bill’s passage. While she has a love affair with security, notably of the NSA type, it is an affair with American security. To see Israel’s interest in the subtext of the bill proved a touch irksome. “While I recognise and share Israel’s concern we cannot let Israel determine when and where the US goes to war. By stating that the US should provide military support to Israel should it attack Iran, I fear that is exactly what this bill will do.”

    Wasn’t Hagel was charged with antisemitism for reminding where his loylaty and obligation lie? Cal Obama or someone could say that and stay on the job?
    He cant. he has to beseech the Lobby-
    “WASHINGTON — Two top Obama administration officials urged Jewish groups not to back new Iran sanctions, calling them “dangerous.”

    The officials — from the White House national security team and the Treasury Department — spoke Wednesday with Jewish leaders in a call convened by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

    A number of the Jewish participants pressed the government officials on why the Obama administration opposes new sanctions under consideration in Congress, noting that the sanctions would only go into effect should Iran renege.”

    Read more: Obama urges Jewish leaders not to back Iran sanctions | The Times of Israel

  13. Jabberwocky
    January 18, 2014, 7:35 am

    Yonah, perhaps the issue is not so much of the religious background of the candidate but their political leanings.

    Janet Yellin is presumably a very capable person and will execute her role with the best interests of the USA in mind and her religion is not a factor. However, Stanley Fischer as her number two would, given his record and views, be more inclined to consider Israel’s interests. Religion and religious values are not a concern – just potential loyalty to a foreign state.

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