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Barney Frank says Israel and AIPAC lobbied Congress to support Iraq war

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The Forward’s Nathan Guttman reports that the Netanyahu speech has enraged not just liberal Jews but centrist establishment types, who are finally becoming critical of Israel. The hardworking Guttman reports on an explosion in Washington ahead of the speech:

On March 2, [Florida Rabbi David] Paskin, who attended the AIPAC annual conference in Washington that coincided with Netanyahu’s speech, was among dozens at a packed closed-door session on pro-Israel outreach to progressives. There, the discussion quickly turned heated when former Democratic congressman Barney Frank (who is [AIPAC operative] Ann Lewis’s brother) chided the lobby for not speaking out against Netanyahu’s visit and for avoiding any criticism of Israeli policies. According to two session participants, Frank argued that this reluctance causes pro-Israel activists to lose their credibility among progressives.

Tempers flared even more, they said, when Frank claimed that Israel and AIPAC had lobbied members of Congress a decade ago to support the war in Iraq. Similar arguments in the past have been hurled at the lobby by anti-war activists from the left and have always been vehemently denied. Frank, faced with vocal resistance from AIPAC members in the room, clarified that while calling for war was not the lobby’s official position, some of its top members advocated for it personally in their meetings with him and other members of Congress.

Efforts to contact Frank to ask about this exchange were unsuccessful.

Remember that Walt and Mearsheimer were tarred as anti-Semites for saying in 2006 that the Israel lobby pushed the Iraq war. I supported the two scholars’ argument because I had heard as much myself; in 2002, my brother shocked me when he said, “I demonstrated against the Vietnam War, but my Jewish newspaper said this war could be good for Israel.” The Jewish community has never had an honest conversation about this matter; no, Jeffrey Goldberg and Marty Peretz and friends shut it down by calling Walt and Mearsheimer anti-Semites. That conversation would include asking Tom Friedman, David Remnick, Peter Beinart, and Kenneth Pollack if they pushed the Iraq war in part out of concern for Israel’s security. And did they believe that Jeffrey Goldberg and Judith Miller were carrying water for Israel when they put out their bogus reports on Saddam’s WMD? This is another great benefit of the Netanyahu speech, problematizing the issue of what Joe Klein called divided loyalties inside American Zionist life. Not a witchhunt, an accounting.

By the way, Barney Frank voted against the Iraq war.

Guttman’s piece says that Netanyahu’s speech has crystallized a conflict inside the American Jewish community over how long it must support the occupation and human rights atrocities (which Frank was silent about).

The difficulty in reconciling liberal values and support for Israel has been on the mind of the Jewish community for years, and has only deepened since the collapse of the latest American attempt to broker a peace agreement and Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank drags on, with no end in sight amid repeated wars in Gaza take place with high civilian death rates.

AIPAC has responded by highlighting Israel’s liberal values, at least relative to the region, including civil rights, religious freedom and progress toward equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens living within Israel’s pre-1967 borders.

Yes, AIPAC did a whole light show around Selma, and had three African-American activists out on stage to talk about their love of Israel.

But that contradiction cannot last. Guttman quotes Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace on the growing inability of Democrats to maintain PEP (Progressive Except Palestine):

“The idea of being progressive about everything except Palestine has become harder to maintain,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, a group that supports boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. She said those on the left who support Israel live in a “cognitive dissonance,” which Netanyahu’s speech made even more evident. The partisan divide emerging over Israel, she claimed, can make it easier for Democrats to express dissenting views.

Guttman also quotes a lot of Jewish establishment types who think they can put Humpty Dumpty together again:

“We have some repair work to do with people to the left of center,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, former head of the National Democratic Jewish Council and currently executive director of the Interfaith Alliance. He does not believe, however, that liberals are turning their back on Israel. Those who are, Moline argued, are “politically insignificant.”

The struggle over Israel between those on the left and the Jewish community’s pro-Israel institutions is evident on both sides of their growing divide. With increasing urgency, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the large, establishment Washington Israel lobby, is seeking out liberal activists to shore up its bipartisan bona fides. On the other side, Israel has become such an explosive issue that some liberal politicians will do anything to run away from dealing with it. Literally.

Guttman refers to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s famous escape from the Gaza question.

Moline is wrong. You cannot put Humpty Dumpty lobby back together again. I got the following press release from Open Hillel at Wesleyan two days ago. These young Jews are leading the community.


Following landmark Open Hillel event at Harvard, Wesleyan hosts JVP Shabbat

Powerful event defies restrictive Hillel “Standards of Partnership,” brings together Wesleyan community

Middletown, CT — On Friday, February 27, the Wesleyan Jewish Community hosted “Jewish Voice for Peace Shabbat,” drawing together almost 50 students in defiance of Hillel International’s “Guidelines for Campus Israel Activity.”

In April 2014, the Wesleyan Jewish Community, an affiliate of Hillel International, announced that it was an Open Hillel, joining the student movement asking the “Center for Jewish Life on Campus” to remove restrictive standards about views on Israel are welcome.

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Shabbat brought a group that has been previously excluded into Wesleyan’s Jewish Community. This event occurred just two days after Hillel International endorsed Harvard Hillel’s decision to break its own Standards of Partnership by allowing boycott, divestment, and sanctions supporter Dorothy Zellner to speak on a panel about faith and solidarity inside the Hillel building.

“Wesleyan’s JVP shabbat was a great example of how communities will be grappling with essential topics after Hillels have been opened,” said Yael Horowitz, a sophomore at Wesleyan and organizer of the event. “Though there were disagreements surrounding the event, at least the community was openly talking about an issue that has been under the surface of our community for a very long time.”

Many attendees commented on how powerful and important the event was. One wrote in a comment in the Wesleyan Argus, “I found the [JVP] Shabbat service to be quite spiritual. A large part of my feeling that way was a product of views being explicitly shared rather than implicitly expressed in the texts.”

The “Standards of Partnership” guidelines adopted by Hillel International exclude groups and individuals from Hillel based on their political views on Israel. In particular, the Standards say that “Hillel will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers that… support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the State of Israel.” According to JVP’s website, the organization “supports the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement through divestment from companies that profit from the occupation” as part of nonviolent efforts to end the Israeli occupation.

Wesleyan’s JVP Shabbat is an unprecedented event. In May 2011, Brandeis Hillel rejected JVP Brandeis’s bid for membership. And last year, Hillel International President Eric Fingerhut wrote in an open letter to Swarthmore Hillel, another Open Hillel, that “‘anti-Zionists’ will not be permitted to speak using the Hillel name or under the Hillel roof, under any circumstances.

Nonetheless, students are committed to creating the inclusive Jewish community they want to see on campus.



Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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18 Responses

  1. pabelmont on March 12, 2015, 3:37 pm

    JVP’s stance on BDS is interesting, clever: suggests divestment etc as to organizations companies which profit from the occupation. As history unfolds this could get pretty broad.

    A good BDS strategy would be to identify the small number of kingpins who are Israel’s oligarchs (I’ve seen a suggestion that there are fewer than 20 such people) and find ways to attack them financially. Hit their exports, their contracts, etc. I find it hard to believe that only companies physically located in West Bank and Golan are profiting from the occupation.

  2. hophmi on March 12, 2015, 4:33 pm

    This appears to be a very skewed version of events. According to the comment section of an article written by the students who organized the JVP Shabbat at Wesleyan, most kids who attended the service were not Jewish, and the comments themselves are overwhelmingly negative, not positive.

    It is tendentious to suggest that pro-Israel students are “avoiding dialogue” when JVP is calling for the censoring of Zionist speakers on campus through BDS.

    • eGuard on March 12, 2015, 7:33 pm

      hophmi: censoring of Zionist speakers on campus through BDS Nonsense.

      BDS does not shut up people, snoophi. It’s about boycotting institutions. You are thinking of Closed Hillel.

  3. John Douglas on March 12, 2015, 4:45 pm

    Barney Frank has a powerful voice, which until now he has never used in criticism of Israel or the Lobby. For that reason I was happy to see him leave Congress. Now, I’m not so sure.

    On the other topic, it’s possible that the Open Hillel movement could generalize into a rejuvenation of a connection to Judaism among younger Jews, a return to moral roots. It’s foolish for the older generation to rant against them.

  4. Kathleen on March 12, 2015, 4:46 pm

    Yes then Rep Frank did vote against the 2002 Iraq war resolution. And huge thanks for that. However on many other anti Palestinian anti Iran pieces of legislation pushed through the pipes Frank has voted in support of.

    • Kathleen on March 14, 2015, 6:26 pm

      Barney voted yea on this anti Palestinian legislation

      How the Anti-Iran Lobby Machine Dominates Capitol Hill

      Neocon think tanks get millions from wealthy donors, which they use to game the system, buy influence—and push for regime change.
      Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib

      “Within Washington’s corridors of power, the institution that has done the most to focus attention on the alleged Iranian nuclear threat—Congress—has also been among the most skeptical when it comes to using diplomacy to do anything about it. But the members of Congress don’t come up with these ideas on their own. A handful of organizations—especially the FDD, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the American Enterprise Institute (AEI)—do most of the legwork in shaping policy. An even smaller network of right-wing donors funds these groups (see the sidebar below).

      * * *

      Over the past decade, this small network of advocates has become incredibly effective at getting its way. A 2010 bill slapping sanctions on foreign banks and companies doing business—especially oil business—with Iran passed the Senate 99–0, and a 2011 amendment sanctioning international companies dealing with Iran’s Central Bank passed 100–0. In 2012, another sanctions amendment passed the Senate 94–0, and a 2013 resolution backing Israel should it attack Iran was passed 99–0. “By far and away the most powerful voices are what you can term the hawkish groups on Iran policy,” says a former congressional aide.”

  5. just on March 12, 2015, 4:58 pm

    “Barney Frank says Israel and AIPAC lobbied Congress to support Iraq war ”

    Duh. It’s nice to see it outed to the whole wide world, though.

    “You cannot put Humpty Dumpty lobby back together again.”

    And that is the best thing I’ve heard in a long, long time wrt The Lobby.

    “Netanyahu’s speech has crystallized a conflict inside the American Jewish community over how long it must support the occupation and human rights atrocities”

    What does that really say about the “American Jewish community”? To think that they had to wait for a speech to really talk about “how long it must support the occupation and human rights atrocities””……. that suggests omertà.

    Many valiant souls (too many to list here, you know who you are) have been dedicated to finding the truth, having the discussions, and speaking and writing at length, only to be vilified. Champions all! Their work was never in vain and they are/ will be vindicated. I am grateful to them for building a foundation.

  6. lonely rico on March 12, 2015, 5:13 pm

    divestment etc as to organizations companies which profit from the occupation. As history unfolds this could get pretty broad.

    I read (? Henry Siegman I think, but I have been unable to track it down) something along the line –
    The economies of Israel and the OPT are so intertwined that it is futile/meaningless to try and separate one from the other.


    BDS should be of the State of Israel; all its companies, institutions and manifestations.

  7. Krauss on March 12, 2015, 5:25 pm

    Correct me if I am wrong, but there’s been a huge shift in public opinion among grassroots liberals on Israel in the last 10 years.

    Ask any BDS activist and they’ll tell you they couldn’t even do the kind of stuff they are doing these days 10 years ago without being shut down and/or nobody daring to show up at most campuses around the country.

    These are the people that Moline brands as “politically insignificant”.

    You can’t get more stupid and out of touch than that. I hope he continues on this path.

    • Kathleen on March 12, 2015, 9:50 pm

      Major shift. However needs to shift far more. Still know plenty of alleged human rights types who are terrified of taking a humanitarian stance. People who were involved with civil rights anti Vietnam etc etc. Incapable or unwilling to apply those same human rights standards to the I/P conflict.

      • CigarGod on March 13, 2015, 9:56 am

        Yes…talk to any evangelical christian…and they will tell you jews are the chosen people…god chose them…and they have special rights. They will deny there is any racism involved…and insist it is gods word. Yesterday, i suggested to one hysterical person that perhaps god was racist…and wasnt it funny that jews wrote the books giving jews special status. How can you spot one of these people? Around here they are all armed…and shout in higher and higher pitched voices.

    • MRW on March 13, 2015, 4:16 am

      Correct me if I am wrong, but there’s been a huge shift in public opinion among grassroots liberals on Israel in the last 10 years.

      Grassroots everything. The slandering of ordinary folk as anti-semites for complaining about Israel’s destruction of Gaza in 2008/2009, and last summer, struck a nerve with the silenced and angered them. You’re starting to see the consequences of it, no matter how much EastCoasters still claim that 80% of Americans in FlyByCountry are behind Israel. I’ve been writing for the past three or four years here about hearing it first advanced in tentative private conversations testing the waters, then real horror expressed at what they did last summer. Netanyahu’s March 3 performance was a reminder.

      What people like Moline forget is that consequences are not something that the doer of an action can control. Someone can control his action, perhaps if he’s lucky the result, but consequences of the result are always in society’s time and place, and that cannot be controlled, only realized (or perceived if you are mentally adroit). For that you need a realist’s eye to see how the result is going to create the future, and what you have wrought.

      Rather than trying to silence the 13 united churches letter and incredibly professional package of their grievances to Congress in what was it? October, 2011? 2012? leaders like Moline should have sat bolt upright at the thin rent in the fabric it scored across the interior of the land. Now it’s starting to ooze out. Kids hear what their parents are saying privately.

  8. Krauss on March 12, 2015, 5:30 pm

    Too juicy to pass up:

    the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the large, establishment Washington Israel lobby

    Not pro-Israel lobby but only Israel lobby. This is still language the MSM cannot afford themselves to use. It’s often said people in Israel write about these issues much more forthrightly, well, it seems the Jewish press in America does it too.

  9. a blah chick on March 13, 2015, 7:39 am

    “AIPAC did a whole light show around Selma, and had three African-American activists out on stage to talk about their love of Israel.” Meanwhile Jews of color and African refugees are treated to racism or brutal internment in that country and not a peep out of them.

    I think it would be interesting for someone to find out what Aipac people actually thought about the Selma March at the time. Could be very interesting.

  10. James Canning on March 13, 2015, 4:43 pm

    Aipac indeed deserves credit for helping to bring on the catastrophic US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

  11. JWalters on March 13, 2015, 7:35 pm

    A good article comparing this letter with Nixon’s sabotaging a peace deal with Vietnam.

    Both aimed at more war. Both in service to the war profiteers.

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