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De Blasio mended AIPAC pander by kissing up to J Street

Israel/Palestine
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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2013.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2013.

Back in January when New York’s newly-minted progressive mayor had a secret meeting with AIPAC and told the lobby group that his “job description” was to stand up for Israel and that when AIPAC called, he’d be there, we registered a lot of rage on the part of progressive Jews who said the Jewish community is a lot more diverse than Bill de Blasio was giving it credit. The Nation then ran a sharp rebuke to de Blasio making that point.

Now the Daily News tells us what fell out from the shocking meeting In an exclusive based on FOIA’d emails, Annie Karni reports that there was an uprising among de Blasio’s “liberal Jewish supporters.”

Mayor de Blasio’s secret appearance before the hard-line American Israel Public Affairs Committee touched off a behind-the-scenes backlash among his liberal Jewish supporters, private emails obtained by the Daily News show.

“I am actually getting as many angry messages from Jewish non-AIPAC folks (Pro Israel, J Street and Peace Now Supporters) than I did on the east side snow problems,” State Sen. Liz Krueger wrote to de Blasio’s senior aide Emma Wolfe on Jan. 30.

“I think BDB needs a broader education on NY Jewish/Israel issues to avoid future blow ups,” wrote Krueger, according to emails obtained by The News under a Freedom of Information Request…

But it’s not like those liberals were actually progressive on this issue. Karni reports that de Blasio

subsequently held a 10-minute conference call on Feb. 2 with leaders of J Street, private schedules show. And [Avi Fink, Wolfe’s deputy who oversees Jewish affairs for City Hall] later attended a town hall hosted by the liberal Jewish group.

The mayor also apparently had a phone conversation with Victor Kovner, who is on J Street’s board and who was distressed by “the impact of the (AIPAC) speech upon New Yorkers.”

I first heard the rage against de Blasio at a book party for Michael and Debby Smith’s book on a Socialist America, and the rage was from leftwing Jews who said the lobby doesn’t represent us. Then We Will Not Be Silent had a demonstration against his pandering.

We Will Not Be Silent demonstration against de Blasio AIPAC meeting

We Will Not Be Silent demonstration against de Blasio AIPAC meeting

And in its editorial, the Nation called on the mayor to meet with J Street but also Jewish Voice for Peace and — Palestinians and Muslims.

Jews are a strong presence in many campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine, for example, and activist groups like Jewish Voice for Peace have been mounting a courageous resistance to AIPAC….  He could also meet with New York’s sizable Palestinian and Muslim communities.

That’s not how things have worked out. De Blasio is trying to cover his bases by meeting with liberal Zionists. I.e., the center-left faction of the lobby.

I used to be fascinated by this split inside the lobby, between the rightwing Greater Israel crowd embodied by AIPAC and the center-left crowd that can criticize the settlements, embodied by J Street and Eric Alterman. The failure of the peace process furthered the division: liberal Zionists are correctly blaming Netanyahu for the breakdown. Then the division broke wide open again last week over the rejection of J Street by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a rejection that has prompted a lot of angst in the center-left.

But really is there a dime’s worth of difference between the two sides? I don’t see it. Amidst an unending occupation, no one in the liberal Zionist crowd is calling for meaningful pressure on Israel, say by ending U.S. aid.

As the Nation indicated, no conversation about Israel Palestine is truly meaningful unless it includes American Palestinians and American Arabs as equals. You can’t continue to have this discussion inside the Jewish community, no matter how much money Democratic Jews provide to candidates. Alas, this division is simply the latest variation in the life of the Israel lobby.

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17 Responses

  1. Krauss
    Krauss
    May 12, 2014, 1:25 pm

    For The Nation to be calling on de Blasio to meet with J Street completely misses the point.

    Instead of pandering to either side of the Israel lobby, how about meeting with people who are interested in a genuine democracy, regardless of race or religion.

    Of course, the political price to pay for that is heavy. Which is exactly why progressive media oulets like The Nation should help pave the way for that, to cover him.

    Because if the progressive media isn’t willing to do the heavy lifting, then no politician is going to move even a millimeter towards justice. As bad as BDB is here, The Nation and other progressive outlets carry a heavier burden.

  2. James Canning
    James Canning
    May 12, 2014, 3:14 pm

    The mayor is obliged to do the bidding of the Israel lobby. This can get tricky when the lobby is internally divided on an issue.

  3. DaBakr
    DaBakr
    May 12, 2014, 3:49 pm

    While PW may not think there is a “dime’s worth of difference” between the two lobbies there is no doubt that many so-called ‘liberal zionists’ are starting to see J-street for the joke that it is. At least AIPAC speaks for the Israeli gov’t(whichever coalition is in power) while J-street speaks for a radical few elite and hard-core left wing Jews who can’t make up their minds how much public contempt they should display and convey over their distaste for not only Netanyahu (one of the most cohesive PMs in Israeli history) but their utter contempt for mainstream American Zionists including Christians and jews alike. Witness their attacking a young black woman journalist/opinion writer in racist terms because she comes from a culture of the US civil rights movement that embraced and loved the Jewish community and their Zionist dream. That extremely vile public attack on Chloe Valdana or J-streets ugly bigoted personification on college campuses with its J-u street groups was so disgusting as to prove for many once and for all that J-street represents a most reprehensible block of hard-left Jews whose contempt for Israel is much greater then any ‘love’ they supposedly express for its continued existence

    • talknic
      talknic
      May 12, 2014, 4:38 pm

      @ DaBakr J Street is AIPAC lite http://wp.me/pDB7k-lU

      • piotr
        piotr
        May 12, 2014, 10:37 pm

        I am occasionally interested in checking factoids in rants. Of course, it is a matter of opinion if J-strees “speaks for a radical few elite and hard-core left wing Jews” (although I suspect some mangled grammar here). But there are no hits to “Chloe Valdana”. Repeated searches show an attack on J-Street penned by a certain “Chloe Valdary” who purports to be young, Black, and a devotee of Rush Limbaugh, Pamela Geller etc. How THAT relates to “a culture of civil rights movement”? Plus, it was Valdary attacking J-Street, not other way around. Chloe published her opus, replete with minute details of events in Waltham, Massachusetts that she personally observed from New Orleans (I suspect a crystal ball) in an online mag with motto “Inside every liberal there is a totalitarian trying to break out”. If she “came from a culture of civil right movement”, she made a long trip.

        I think that calling her a “house Negro” is not “extremely vile”, or even “vile”.

  4. American
    American
    May 12, 2014, 4:41 pm

    This what a liberal Zionist looks like. Slater making this argument after Kerry’s failure, made this same argument here last year about ‘not daring to upset the Dem cart by protesting their devotion to Israel’ or we would end up with Repubs who are bad on ‘domestic issues.’ Its hard to see Slater reasoning as anything except ‘let Israel do whatever it wants now’—in his advice to —-‘’avoid a frontal challenge to Congress or the Israel lobby: we can’t beat them, it might not work even if we could, and the probable costs are way too high.’’

    Looks to me he’s just trying to call the dogs off Israel.
    The cost he alludes to arent too high for Americans …if we have to go right, nationalistic, isolationist,whatever to get the fifth column zionist and Israel out of our government and put the country back in the hands of Americans so be it.

    http://www.jeromeslater.com/

    ‘’Yet, all this said it seems to me that liberal Zionists (like me) face an insoluable dilemma. On the one hand, we still think that there was a good case for the establishment of a Jewish state and we still care about the future of Israel–not that it’s easy to do so. On the other hand, as American liberals we strongly support the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. The problem is that liberalism in the U.S., as in Israel, is under siege from the lunatic fringe and the know-nothings in both countries.

    Given the power of the Israel lobby in the U.S., then, any serious U.S. pressures against Israel would likely backfire in our domestic politics and further strengthen the Republican party—especially if, as seems likely, it leads to large scale Jewish defections, votes, and money from the Democrats. In the worst and by no means implausible case, in the next few years it could result in full Republican control of Congress, the presidency, and Supreme Court appointments for a long time to come.

    That’s way too high a price to pay. Not only that, even if the U.S. government made its continuing support of Israel conditional on its ending the occupation and accepting a two-state settlement, it is not obvious to me that Israel would bow to those pressures, thereby risking violent civil conflict and possibly even a revolt by the IDF, which is increasingly nationalistic, religious, and hardline.

    In the final analysis then–as hard as it is to reach such a conclusion–I would counsel Obama as well as Hillary Clinton or whoever emerges as the next Democratic presidential candidate to avoid a frontal challenge to Congress or the Israel lobby: we can’t beat them, it might not work even if we could, and the probable costs are way too high.

    In short, I painfully conclude, Obama and the Democrats should keep quiet and do nothing about Israel–to coin a phrase, the Israelis have made their beds, so let them lie in it. At least–and it’s not negligible–let’s stop looking like fools. ”

    • annie
      annie
      May 12, 2014, 9:33 pm

      such a defeating thing for slater to say.especially since he said earlier in the article :

      (his bold)

      Consider this remarkable admission by the U.S. official (should we laugh or cry?):

      “The negotiations had to start with a decision to freeze settlement construction. We thought that we couldn’t achieve that because of the current makeup of the Israeli government, so we gave up.

      and then he just proceeds to…give up! (should we laugh or cry?…kidding!)

      this: avoid a frontal challenge to Congress or the Israel lobby: we can’t beat them

      i guess courage is not his strong suit, he’s a believer.

      • piotr
        piotr
        May 12, 2014, 10:51 pm

        I have no time to read Slater’s article in toto, but this sounds OK to me: “Who didn’t know that there was no chance of moving Netanyahu and his government unless Kerry gave Israel an ultimatum: either end the occupation and agree to a two-state settlement or we cut off U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military support? And who didn’t know that there was no chance of Obama—let alone Congress!—supporting such a course?”

        In my understanding Slater implies that two-staters should promote “cutting off U.S. diplomatic, economic, and military support” or abandon the idea altogether. I may misread it because this is my own position.

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        May 13, 2014, 7:50 pm

        A remarkably stupid comment, in my judgment. Let the Israeli government fall. Again and again.

    • talknic
      talknic
      May 13, 2014, 6:36 am

      @ American “Slater making this argument after Kerry’s failure”

      The failure is entirely Israel’s unwillingness to adhere to its legal obligations and its stupid demands, none of which have any legal basis what so ever!

    • ritzl
      ritzl
      May 13, 2014, 9:26 am

      @American- Isn’t Slater’s proposed strategy how the “left” lost this battle in Israel? Maybe not completely the cause in all detail, but the core strategy sure seems to be one that has already been demonstrated to NOT work to the desired outcome.

      Also, this whole “Repubs…bad domestic policies” mantra reminds me of the “He’s with us 94% of the time…” line of thought used to overlook Joe Lieberman’s really really really bad war v. peace and security beliefs (apparently the other 6%, I never could figure it out) that have cost us $Ts and threaten (+++?) our Constitutional government. The ostensibly niggling and/or dismissible 6% were actually the important, driver policies that are bankrupting us on every level.

      I don’t get the reasoning. I do get the weakness that generates the reasoning.

      • American
        American
        May 13, 2014, 11:45 am

        @ ritzl

        I believe that all zionist, so called liberal or not, like Slater, MJ, Beinart, even some One staters. ……live in fear of the US ever withdrawing any aid or support of Israel—-that is why they dont want either party challenged on its Israel devotion or the lobby(ies) brought down.
        Slater’s mewing about how it would hurt us domestically?….barf worthy… the 3+ billion, more like 4.5 billion, we give to Israel could do a lot for some of our ‘domestic issues’ in the US.

    • W.Jones
      W.Jones
      May 13, 2014, 4:55 pm

      I think Slater’s defeatist proposal deserves a response. His thinking is that the Lobby is so strong that for anyone to go against what it wants is harmful to him/her. This is the thinking of the 300+ legislators who gave Netanyahu his 29 standing ovations while Abileah got beat up protesting in the back. They think that if they go against what the Israeli government wants, then it will hurt their political work, so they openly submit unilaterally.

      Is it true that the Lobby is so strong that to oppose it would ruin the American political scene? I am highly doubtful. While it may ruin individual politicians, the Lobby is not dedicated to lowering the minimum wage or opposing medicare. Campaign contributions are not everything. People were disillusioned with Bush’s wars and this was a big reason McCain lost to Obama. Bad policies will hamper a president and can lead to change whether he/she is friends with a certain Lobby or not. So a politician being on the side of a Lobby does not necessarily determine the direction of a nation’s political scene.

      Slater’s position in practice put him on the “rightwing” side of the Lobby, the liberal wing being J Street, since at least J Street advocates for policies that AIPAC opposes.

      While I understand politicians choose to rely a lot on donations, Obama still has some maneuverability that he can use.

    • James Canning
      James Canning
      May 13, 2014, 7:52 pm

      I think Obama should have the courage to say openly that Israel must get out of the West Bank. He won’t, of course.

  5. MHughes976
    MHughes976
    May 12, 2014, 5:48 pm

    Well, I’ll let myself be cheered a little by the fact that there was some kind of protest from the New York Jewish community directed at the very least against BDB’s loose talk. Non-Zionism still has a minimal political presence, we have to admit, but does at least have a kind of off-stage voice to which people listen uneasily.

  6. wondering jew
    wondering jew
    May 12, 2014, 11:21 pm

    In terms of the pandering by a mayor in order to keep ethnic blocs satisfied, this “there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between J street and Aipac” is an acceptable sentiment. (In other words if diBlasio is truly interested in the just resolution of the conflict, then one organization is not going to help more than the other.)

    But on the other hand there are constituencies that you, Phil, seem to wish to win over. You seem to wish to win over the rank and file from J Street who will be left without any viable option now that Kerry’s effort has failed. You seem to believe that this squishy middle will find their way to certainty on your side of the issue, if only they come to their good senses, weigh the possibilities logically and take to heart the issues of justice. So if you are indeed courting the J Street crowd, which you obviously are not, then disdaining them as spineless because they are not willing to come out in favor of BDS or stopping US aid to Israel, will not win you any adherents from among them. You want them to go through some kind of Damascene (Paul, before he changed his name from Saul, another name change at another time of history) epiphany, to throw off their sentimental attachment to Israel and to cleave to the pure universalism of you and Max B. and JVP. But other than some revelation, I don’t think that most people who feel an affinity for J Street are going to make your clean neat conversion. So then unless you are only interested in a few good men and not the masses your rhetoric regarding principles: “not a dime’s worth of difference” will hinder you in the human touch that would be necessary to win adherents slowly through something other than your prescription of that overnight epiphany on the road to Damascus.

  7. bilal a
    bilal a
    May 13, 2014, 4:02 am

    What is the connection between Liberal Zionism, anti-religious fundamentalism, and blatant racism and misogyny ? asks CP:. Bloombergism.

    Bill Maher: Worse Than Glenn Beck
    http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/10/11/bill-maher-worse-than-glenn-beck-2/

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