We keep waiting for the mainstream media to talk about all the pro-Israel money going into the Republican Party. They have a perfect opportunity in Sen. Lindsey Graham’s joke that he’s going to have an “all-Jewish cabinet” as president, given all the pro-Israel funding he’s gotten.
“If I put together a finance team that will make me financially competitive enough to stay in this thing…I may have the first all-Jewish cabinet in America because of the pro-Israel funding. [Chuckles.] Bottom line is, I’ve got a lot of support from the pro-Israel funding.”
A number of folks have taken offense at the Riesling-fueled remark. Ron Kampeas says that only Jews are allowed to make the joke; Jim Lobe and Eli Clifton say, “Graham should make a greater effort to avoid feeding anti-Semitic tropes… as much as [Sheldon] Adelson himself seems to invite them.” Dylan Williams of J Street wrote, “Here’s Lindsey Graham casually talking about Jews as little more than political ATMs,” and Ali Gharib said,
“The craziest thing said about Jews today didn’t come from Iranian hardliners, it came from Drunk Lindsey Graham.”
But what if Graham was being honest about the fundraising process? (That’s Michael Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe, saying what you really think). “[P]ro-Israel heavyweights, such as Sheldon Adelson, Paul Singer, and other heavyweight donors of the Republican Jewish Coalition, are emerging as the go-to funders of the Republican Party,” Lobe and Clifton say. “Graham’s observation… tends to confirm that access to their millions is critical to the fortunes of any Republican presidential candidate in 2016.” TPM did the story straight, as a reflection of Jewish funding of Republicans; and Andrew Silow-Carroll at the New Jersey Jewish News takes the story seriously. He says there’s a deep pool of Jewish money– and it’s justified by the Holocaust.
The truth is that there is a deep pool of Jewish money available to candidates, and that the Republican contenders, especially on the second tier, are angling for it. They remember how Sheldon Adelson, the Jewish philanthropist and casino mogul, kept the candidacy of Newt Gingrich alive long after the rest of the world put a fork in it. Establishing one’s pro-Israel bona fides has become a pillar of Republican politics. As The New York Times reported earlier this month, for the first time in more than a decade, Senate Republicans raised more pro-Israel money during the 2014 election cycle than their Democratic counterparts. The same article reported that Graham’s donations from pro-Israel donors rose from $100,000 in 2008 to about $285,000 in 2014.
Pro-Israel donors are not responsible for the huge amounts of cash that flow into and distort our political campaigns. But we have gotten very good at leveraging our small numbers and relative affluence for political influence. If that bothers you, then consider the alternative. Perhaps the Holocaust would have happened even had American Jews been an assertive, well-organized lobby. And perhaps Israel would have been able to defend itself in war after war without a strong “Israel lobby.” But American Jewry is haunted by memories of its failures in the first instance, and doesn’t want to repeat the mistake in the second.
Given the controversy over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent speech before Congress and Israel’s much discussed opposition to the approach taken by President Obama in negotiations with Iran, isn’t it reasonable to ask whether U.S. politicians are being influenced by all this pro-Israel money?
“Senator Graham were you suggesting by this remark that folks a president chooses as cabinet secretaries are determined by political donations? This may be common knowledge in Washington but it’s a matter of considerable interest to ordinary Americans. Please tell us how that works.”
Organized by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, which was launched about thirty years ago by a British Army Officer who served in World War II and two retired U.S. Ambassadors to countries in the Middle East (wrmea.org), the day-long program at the prestigious National Press Club should have been intriguing to reporters. After all, are they not interested in important, taboo-challenging presentations on a critical dimension of U.S. foreign and military policy?
The presenters were much more newsworthy than most of the speakers at the AIPAC convention who redundantly restated the predictable AIPAC line. “The Israel Lobby: Is it Good for the US? Is it Good for Israel?” had presenters ranging from the courageous, principled columnist, Gideon Levy of Israel’s best and most serious newspaper, Haaretz; Princeton Professor emeritus of international law and the former UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian territories, Richard Falk; former members of Congress, Paul Findley (R-IL) and Nick Rahall (D-WV); author and an Israeli general’s son, Miko Peled; Dr. Jack Shaheen, the award-winning author documenting stereotypes of Arabs and Arab-Americans in Hollywood and the U.S. media; and even a former AIPAC supporter M. J. Rosenberg (mjrosenberg.net) who witnessed the power of AIPAC money as both a congressional staffer and later an AIPAC senior staffer in the nineteen eighties.
So, where were the reporters of the mainstream media? Where was C-SPAN during a week when Congress was on a holiday and their cameras were not preoccupied by Capitol Hill activities—its foremost priority? Apparently, the American people were only to see and hear the extreme views of AIPAC that do not even command the support of a majority of American Jews who do favor a two-state solution, along with a majority of Arab-Americans.
It is true that a few members of the mainstream media RSVP’d to attend this conference, but they did not show up or write anything about it before or after.
Nonetheless, thanks to the Internet, you can see the entire one-day conference online.
P.S. M.J. Rosenberg’s site is still going but he has, for now anyway, taken down his twitter account. I understand he’s retired from the Israel issue– I hope he thinks that over and gets back in. He knows more about the lobby than anyone.