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?