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.
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.