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58 angry, selfish, foolish Jews don’t understand: AIPAC speaks for Israel

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

The American Jewish community is opening up more and more, and it’s up for grabs, between rightwing and liberal Zionists (with a few non-Zionists jumping in too).

The latest news: The rightwing Israel lobby, which is aligned with AIPAC, is slamming a letter from lib/left New York Jews criticizing Mayor Bill de Blasio for pandering to AIPAC. That letter from 58 Jews has now gone viral; the New York Times even cited it yesterday, in an article analyzing AIPAC’s loss of power.

The rightwing pushback is a little shrieky: 58 angry, selfish, myopic, foolish Jews don’t understand, AIPAC speaks for Israel. But maybe they do– and that’s the problem! Still, Lori Lowenthal Marcus’s piece in the Jewish Press is an entertaining read. Here are some excerpts.

Summarizing the pushback:

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, ads will appear in numerous New York City area Jewish media, castigating a list of 58 angry New York Jews. Why? Because those angry Jews publicly admonished newly-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for daring to appear at a pro-Israel event, declaring his support for the sponsoring organization and for Israel. The pushback is coming from a small, quickly mobilized group of business and other professional New York residents who want it known that “AIPAC, like the JCRCs and the Federations are the backbone of the American Jewish community and they represent mainstream American Jewry. Mainstream Jewry expects and appreciates support for Israel from its elected officials.”

Notice the word “small.” That means three people, in my experience.

Next, Marcus characterizes de Blasio’s secret January 23 panderama— when you need me to stand with you, AIPAC, just call on me, the mayor said–as run-of-the-mill:

Mayor de Blasio gave a fairly run-of-the-mill pro-Israel speech. No biggie pretty much anywhere in North America, and certainly not in New York City. As Jeffrey Wiesenfeld, one of the New Yorkers who took out the ad told The Jewish Press, the mayor gave a solid, pro-Israel speech. But “these myopic, progressive New York Jews are so foolish, they don’t care that AIPAC supported Rabin and Barak when they were each prime minister. Whatever government is democratically elected, that’s who AIPAC supports. But no, these people have to put their own selfish, progressive interests ahead of everything.”

Attempted rallying cry:

But this group of angry New York Jews had some news for Mayor de Blasio. They told him that AIPAC does not speak for them. They told him that his job is not to do AIPAC’s bidding or be at its call.

Who knew that the New York mayor should not do AIPAC’s bidding!

Here’s my favorite part, where Marcus explains that AIPAC is essentially an agent for the Israeli government.

For the few sentient Jews who do not know, perhaps it needs to be explained that AIPAC’s positions always reflect the positions held by whatever Israeli government is in office.

When the far left is in power, AIPAC’s positions mirror those of the far left. When the center or far right are in power, AIPAC supports the positions of the leadership of those factions. To say it more plainly, the Angry 58s reject Israel’s democratic process and shun the most centrist pro-Israel organization there is.

But isn’t that the problem? Peter Beinart surely signed that letter in some measure because he fears the potential consequences to the American Jewish community if it aligns with Israel and against the American president.

The deeper issue here is that the rightwing is frightened by the coalition behind this letter. The shocker for them was that the signatories included very solid communitarians, like Karen Adler, a Federations leader, Laurence Greenwald (Israel Policy Forum), and Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary. They joined liberal Zionists Peter Beinart, Peter Joseph, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, and Anne Roiphe, along with folks far more to the left, in the Jewish Voice for Peace camp, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Michael Ratner, James Schamus, and Donna Nevel.

The right is shrieky because it feels itself being marginalized at a politically-crucial moment. Liberal Zionists want AIPAC and its pro-settler friends out of the way when Kerry releases his framework deal. The liberal Zionists are seeking to organize support for the framework within the American Jewish community and by doing so lead Israel– marginalize the settler forces inside the Israeli polity and afford Netanyahu a “safety net” (words from a Labor leader at J Street’s last conference) to do the right thing, and allow a Palestinian state.

The leftwing of the Jewish community signs on here because they want to see AIPAC marginalized and discussion opened up inside the Jewish community. We wonder how many of them will make a coalition with the Peter Joseph’s and Peter Beinart’s of the world in order to back up Kerry’s framework; that’s doubtful. But the left  is actually more hospitable to the two-state-solution– with a real viable Palestinian state– than the rightwing crowd is.

The Jewish Week is covering the battle. “Left, Right Spar Over de Blasio’s AIPAC speech”:

Adding to the theatrics, a prominent Republican who serves as a trustee of CUNY emerged as de Blasio’s unlikely defender.

That’s Jeffrey Wiesenfeld– who said his mother would call playwright Tony Kushner a kapo for criticizing Israel and said Palestinians are not human. And this is the guy coming to de Blasio’s rescue?

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23 Responses

  1. Tzombo
    February 5, 2014, 11:09 am

    “When the far left is in power, AIPAC’s positions mirror those of the far left.”

    And when it snows in Hell all the demons interrupt their busy schedule of torture to throw snowballs at the sinners.

    • surewin
      February 5, 2014, 1:02 pm

      Hey Tzombo: Marcus is pretty much right. Every single time the far left has been in power in Israel, especially since 1977, AIPAC has supported them, except for Rabin in the 1990s. But he wasn’t far left, he was, I don’t know, crazy or something.

      • Tzombo
        February 5, 2014, 1:09 pm

        Lol. There hasn’t been a left wing government in Israel since 1977. There has never been a ‘far left’ government in Israel.

      • Shingo
        February 5, 2014, 3:46 pm

        , except for Rabin in the 1990s.

        And Olmert, who accused right wing Jews in the US for sabotaging his peace proposal.

  2. Sycamores
    February 5, 2014, 11:59 am

    the 58er’s goal was to criticized Blasio pandering to AIPAC and the pro-israeli squad are unwittingly helping the 58er’s by bringing the topic to the public.

    win win

    Game Set and Match.

  3. February 5, 2014, 11:59 am

    I am pretty sure any truly leftist government would not create a Jewish State and ethnically cleanse the natives.

    Zionism is right wing stuff be definition.

    Not to say that there are not plenty of Zionists who are left wingers on every other topic.

    • piotr
      February 5, 2014, 12:42 pm

      What is “truly X” depends on perspective. It is not like ethnic cleansing was never done by leftist governments. Ben Gurion was a national socialist which is not always a happy combination. In the spectrum of actual socialist governments it was pretty leftist.

      In any case, Marcus does not seem to be aware why she is hilarious. Yes, De Blasio gave a “solid pro-AIPAC speech” which is a boring and utterly unsurprising, but the arguments that she cites and apparently, agrees with are totally missing the point. Sure, AIPAC support any current government of Israel, this is how they want to spend their time and their money, good for them, but why individual Israelis should support it, or individual non-Israeli Jews, and lastly, a mayor of an American city. Is he ready to defend his governor? his president? UN?

      By the way, what is expected of De Blasio? Should he lobby NY Legislature to pass the law rebuking colleges that tolerate anti-Israeli activities of ASA and possibly other organizations? Criticize Kerry for pressing poor GoI so hard that they have to complain? Tow away vehicles of Iranian diplomats?

    • Shingo
      February 5, 2014, 3:59 pm

      I am pretty sure any truly leftist government would not create a Jewish State and ethnically cleanse the natives.

      Ben Gurion’s government, which did aim to create a Jewish state and ethnically cleanse the natives, was left wing.

      The problem is that no matter how leftwing an Israeli government might be, Zionism demands a Jewish state.

      • Kathleen
        February 5, 2014, 8:10 pm

        Ding ding ding

        The insistence by some to refer to Zionist as “liberal” Zionist is so absurd. I know we have had this discussion. But again how do you put a square peg into a round hole?

  4. pabelmont
    February 5, 2014, 12:00 pm

    Shrieky! Love it. Yes!

    And AIPAC and the vast panoply of inter-connected-directorates (I presume) Major Jewish American Institutions (which I think of as part of AIPAC for political purposes) should all be registered as lobbyists for Israel because they support which-ever government the democratic Israel chooses to elect (affected, in their democratic decision making these days, no doubt, by the Freebie Newspaper handed out by a Far-Right-Arch-Zionist called Adelson).

    So, yes, shrieky. Count me in.

    Why is AIPAC frightened? Because it is being criticized by folks with resumes-of-decency who DISAGREE with the GOI and therefore with its attorney-in-fact in the USA, AIPAC and all the MJAIs. The Lock-Step looks to being broken. The automatic assumption that what’s-good-for-the-Jews-is-Israel-argument is being challenged, adn Jews SEE that Israel/AIPAC want to take the USA to war. Again.

    No-one gives up power without a fight. AIPAC will fight.

    So we must shriek all the louder, with clear explanations offered to appeal to Jews (and others) under 60-y-o.

    • Walid
      February 5, 2014, 3:03 pm

      It brings to mind another letter written to the NYT editors 66 years ago by 27 angry American Jews about the fascist state of Israel and warning Americans about the terrorist Begin, responsible for the Zionist genocide at Deir Yassin that was coming to America on a fund drive.

    • February 5, 2014, 11:11 pm

      围魏救赵 [wei wei jiu zhao] – relieve the besieged by besieging the besieger – if we keep trying to discredit AIPAC we will have an effect – the more AIPAC fights the pressure, the more they reveal their malign influence. And this in turn shows Americans that Israel is not important to US security. And this is turn shows us that Israel has no manners (as the NY Times has recently reminded us) and does not appreciate our generous even over-the-top support. It is snowballing. I just watched Jake Tapper interviewing Kerry on CNN. Tapper sounded like a scout for AIPAC and Kerry was irritated. It was a sickening experience as most of CNN can be.

      • American
        February 6, 2014, 8:09 am

        unverified__5ilf90kd says
        ”I just watched Jake Tapper interviewing Kerry on CNN. Tapper sounded like a scout for AIPAC and Kerry was irritated. It was a sickening experience as most of CNN can be”>>>

        I am all for Isr and I -Firstdom continuing to spit in the US face—-hope they continue to be this stupid……give them plenty of rope with which to hang themselves.

        “”I won’t be intimidated in peace talks, says Kerry””

        (AFP) – 13 hours ago

        Washington — Amid a bitter spat between the US and Israel, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday bullets were worse than words and vowed he would not be “intimidated” in his dogged quest for peace.

        The two countries have been at loggerheads after senior Israeli figures attacked the top US diplomat for weekend comments in which he warned that if the peace talks fail, Israel could face a growing threat of a boycott by the international community.

        Israeli ministers said his comments at a security conference in Munich were “offensive” and accused him of trying to “amplify” the boycott threat.

        But Kerry hit back Wednesday that his words had been distorted, saying he had merely commented on what other people were saying.

        The decorated veteran of the Vietnam war told CNN that he has “been attacked before by people using real bullets, not words, and I am not going to be intimidated.”

        “I am not going to stand down with respect to President (Barack) Obama’s commitment to try to find peace in the Middle East.”

        Kerry has pushed the Israelis and Palestinians back to the negotiating table and is trying to hammer out a framework agreement to guide the next months in the talks, with an April deadline for the negotiations looming.

        Details of the framework have been kept secret, but Kerry’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the verbal attacks were “a sign the heat is on” as they tackle some of the toughest issues dividing the two sides.

        Kerry was “not going to spend a lot of time worrying about words people are using against him,” she told reporters.

        “His greatest concern about this is the impact they have or they could have on the process. That the words aren’t an attack on him, they’re actually an attack on the peace process itself.”

      • Cliff
        February 6, 2014, 9:02 am

        I’m guessing that’s traditional Chinese? From the ‘Thirty-Six Stratagems’ apparently?

        Mandarin is a beautiful language.

  5. seafoid
    February 5, 2014, 12:07 pm

    “AIPAC, like the JCRCs and the Federations are the backbone of the American Jewish community and they represent mainstream American Jewry.”

    Sure they do. When was that voted on ?

    • marc b.
      marc b.
      February 5, 2014, 12:40 pm

      vote? buy your own damn senator/publisher/lobbyist. that’s how democracy works, innit?

  6. PeaceThroughJustice
    February 5, 2014, 12:13 pm

    The attempt to paint opposition to zionism as purely a leftwing/rightwing issue has to be resisted. The impression the Jewish Press is trying to create here is that only “liberals” could have trouble with racist colonialism, or that it’s somehow “conservative” to accept a lobby advocating for the interests of a foreign power. “These myopic, progressive New York Jews are so foolish, …”, etc. And as discussion of the lobby in the US slowly fights its way out of the closet, this is the strategy being used for framing and controlling that discussion.

    Unfortunately, Alex and Phil often fall into the same trap. “The deeper issue here is that the rightwing is frightened by the coalition behind this letter.” “The right is shrieky …” etc. But if the problem is not which tribal party happens to be in charge, but tribalism itself, then this framing just distracts from the real issue.

  7. Krauss
    February 5, 2014, 1:05 pm

    This article reads like a screed written from a “liberal” Zionist. The undertone is if we can just defeat AIPAC; the 2SS is here and all will be good! Maybe I’m being harsh; maybe not.

  8. DICKERSON3870
    February 5, 2014, 1:50 pm

    RE: “When the far left [of Israel] is in power, AIPAC’s positions mirror those of the far left.” ~ Lori Lowenthal

    MY COMMENT: When the hell has the “far left” in Israel been in power? If, by some miracle, a “far left” government did come to power in Israel, I suspect that AIPAC would (at the insistence of its major, wealthy, right-wing donors) work to undermine said “far left” government just like it worked to undermine Rabin’s centrist government back in the 90s.

    SEE: “AIPAC, a voice for the Israeli Right (updated)”, by Noam Sheizaf,, 10/15/10

    [EXCERPTS] . . . However, a closer look at the political dynamic shows that AIPAC and groups like The Israel Project and Stand With Us do play a growing role in those so-called “internal” issues [internal to Israel], as the anecdote cited above might suggest.
    A battle is now raging in Israel, between those wishing to change the political status quo – especially, but not only, on the Palestinian issue – and those wishing to keep things as they are. Netanyahu is clearly a status quo man. He didn’t express one original thought on the Palestinian issue before the elections, and it was only under tremendous US pressure that he was ready to declare limited support in the idea of a de-militarized Palestinian state.
    In the last year and a half, and due to political developments in Israel and outside it, Netanyahu feels cornered – and it is AIPAC that has come to his aid (much to the disappointment of many Israelis). By supporting Netanyahu abroad, AIPAC actually does take sides in the internal Israeli debate. It helps maintain the status quo.
    It’s important to understand that AIPAC’s influence is really felt only when it comes to supporting the Israeli Right. Let’s assume Israel elects a Left-wing Prime Minister that signs a peace deal. This imaginary Prime Minister won’t need the help of AIPAC on the Hill
    (because even a Republican Congress won’t object to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement), but he will face intense opposition – both at home and from the elements in the Jewish community in the US. I do not think, though, that pro-Israeli groups such as AIPAC, TIP or Stand with US will engage in an intense effort to promote the peace deal and to fight the opposition in the American community.
    In other words, in the current political context, only the Israeli hawks, the settlers and the extreme-right benefit form the work of AIPAC and the rest of the so-called pro-Israeli organizations. Left wing and centrists leaders don’t need their help.
    This dynamic is well understood with the Israeli peace camp, which often feels frustration and anger over the actions of AIPAC. Only in the US can AIPAC pretend to represent “all Israelis” (and let’s not forget that twenty percent of Israelis are Arabs). In recent months, AIPAC fought against the American demand to extend the partial moratorium on construction in Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In other words, in the most controversial issue in Israeli politics in the past few decades, AIPAC has taken the side of the “greater Israel”. No elaborate rationalization can change this simple fact. . .
    . . . If I had one piece of advice for my Jewish friends in America who truly wish the best for both Israelis and Palestinians, it would be to prevent AIPAC – and similar organizations – form claiming to speak in their name. The truth is they are speaking for the political interests of Lieberman and Netanyahu.
    UPDATE: After publishing this post, a colleague sent me this link to an article published last year by Douglas M. Bloomfield, who spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC. Mr. Bloomfield is quoting sources in AIPAC that remember how the organization coordinated its policy in the nineties with (then) opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, in an effort to stop the peace process:

    One of the topics AIPAC won’t want discussed, say these sources, is how closely it coordinated with Benjamin Netanyahu in the 1990s, when he led the Israeli Likud opposition and later when he was prime minister, to impede the Oslo peace process being pressed by President Bill Clinton and Israeli Prime Ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. That could not only validate AIPAC’s critics, who accuse it of being a branch of the Likud, but also lead to an investigation of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. “What they don’t want out is that even though they publicly sounded like they were supporting the Oslo process, they were working all the time to undermine it,” said a well-informed source. “After Rabin came in in 1992 and said he wanted to make peace and signed the Oslo accords, and the U.S. was supposed to pay the tab, every restriction on all political and financial dealings [by the Palestinians] came out of our office,” said the insider. “We took full advantage of every lapse by [Yasser] Arafat and the Palestinians to put on more restrictions and limit relations,” the source added.


  9. anthonybellchambers
    February 5, 2014, 6:57 pm

    An unelected lobby that represents just 0.03% of the population but determines U S foreign policy. Fact or fiction?

    1. AIPAC, the American Israel lobby, is reported to be the most powerful foreign policy pressure group in the United States: it acts primarily in the interests of a foreign power: is unelected and privately funded.

    2. AIPAC has gained numerous legislative victories in the U S Congress that have been for the exclusive benefit of its foreign government client.

    3. AIPAC has a program of vetting that investigates the voting record as well as the personal life of every applicant for the U S House of Representatives and the Senate, in addition to that of every sitting member of Congress.

    4. Any candidate for Congress or any incumbent who does not explicitly adopt the AIPAC agenda, would be unlikely to win, or retain, a nominated seat.

    5. AIPAC is alleged to have an unwarranted influence over the legislature, the White House and the Presidency, which negates the principles of democracy.

    6. AIPAC has succeeded in securing $3.1 billion in American aid for Israel in the fiscal year, paid for by public tax dollars. Plus an estimated $3 billion in loan guarantees. That equals $20 p.a. from every man, woman and child in the U S and gives a notional benefit of $1000 a year to each of 6m Israelis.

    7. AIPAC has been instrumental in framing the public debate over Iran’s nuclear POWER program so as to meet the political demands of the Israeli state that has the world’s only undeclared nuclear WEAPONS arsenal estimated to conceal up to 400 warheads, all outside the remit of the IAEA.

    8. AIPAC’s desperate attempt to increase sanctions against Iran, allies it closely with Mr Netanyahu against the democratically-elected, President of the United States, Barack Obama, to a point whereby it appears to treat the administration, together with 300 million Americans, as its own constituency.

    9. AIPAC’s apparent hijacking of the US democratic system of government is seen as damaging both to world peace and the authority of the United Nations.

    If the United States of America is the world’s only superpower, a federation that is administered and controlled by a democratically-elected congress, but that congress is heavily influenced by an unelected lobby with a claimed membership of just 100,000 out of a population of over 300 million, then it could be assumed that that lobby representing just 0.03% of the population is effectively the superpower – and not the state.

    If so, that would fatally damage democratic government and turn the elected president into an impotent figurehead prevented from carrying out the duties and responsibilities for which he was elected by a majority vote of the people of America. And that would be a huge setback for democracy and the world.
    London February 2014

  10. palijustice
    February 6, 2014, 12:00 am

    When De Blasio said, among other things, that it was in “his job description to defend Israel”, it rightfully caused an uproar. It’s not part of any mayor’s job. But where is the letter from Non Jews condemning this absurdity and this support of an apartheid state. That’s what’s missing here. Non Jews were far too quiet about this and little impact.

  11. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    February 6, 2014, 12:09 am

    To give the benefit of doubt to Aipac for the moment: It is difficult for a group advocating for Israel to stop on a dime and change directions every time a new government comes to power in Israel. There are bureaucracies that need to maintain their neutrality and thus avoid problems when there is a change of power, but for a bureaucracy like Aipac, which is overseas and devoted to ideology, to be able to support Shamir wholeheartedly in 1992 and then to turn on a dime and support Rabin wholeheartedly in 1993 is expecting superhuman flexibility or a wholesale change of staff. neither of which are reasonable expectations. Likud has been in power with minor interruptions since 77 and thus it is reasonable to expect that the Likud point of view would dominate Aipac even in times of those interruptions.

    (Certainly I agree that Rabin, Barak, Sharon and Olmert were never far left wingers.)

    The other concept being invoked here is that it is the duty of Aipac to represent the attitude of the government of Israel and also that it is the duty of American Jews to represent the attitude of the government of Israel. Aipac, understandably views its “marching orders” to be dictated by the votes in Israeli elections, but certainly since I consider the views expressed in Israeli elections to be leading Israel to a major crisis, I have a right and even a duty to express my attitudes that the opinions of the Netanyahu government will lead to an abyss.

    I have reached the conclusion that the democratic will of the people of Israel is not enough. That democratic will is bound to lead to a dead end and thus I advise the government of America and the governor (aka mayor of New York City) to take the results of the elections in Israel with a grain of salt, for the path out of the morass will not be solved without a Barack Obama (or some future president) pressuring Israel against the inevitable lobbying by Aipac in the future.

    As far as I can tell, many of the votes for Naftali Bennett were feel good votes. The voter said, “This is how I feel and I will say it because it makes me feel good.” But in fact there is no plan for the future there, just some empty rhetoric of solidarity. But this solidarity will lead to the abyss. Those votes, though democratic, are a danger to the future of Israel and those votes must be defied and Aipac must be denigrated, when it backs Bennett, for Bennett and thus his backers in Aipac are leading Israel into this abyss.

  12. homingpigeon
    February 6, 2014, 3:04 pm

    “Mayor de Blasio gave a fairly run-of-the-mill pro-Israel speech. No biggie pretty much anywhere in North America, and certainly not in New York City.”

    That’s the problem, – “no biggie.” Would we think it “no biggie” if the Mayor of New York, the Defense Secretary, the US rep to the UN, and most Democrat and Republican politicians considered it their duty to represent Abkhazia or Paraguay?

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