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Nadler says his vote against Iraq war caused some to question his ‘commitment to Israel’

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Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s very-welcome statement in support of the Iran Deal today includes many references to his Jewishness and his devotion to Israel. He seems most worried that he will be seen as anti-Israel for supporting the deal, that his pro-Israel base will eat him alive for the decision.

Indeed, the New York Times stresses that Nadler is “the lone Jewish member of Congress from the state to back the contested arms-control agreement;” and a well-connected friend says, “Expect a 2016 Democratic Primary with his vote front & center. Nadler has Borough Park, Brooklyn, in his district, the heaviest concentration of Jews anywhere in the U.S.”

Nadler’s statement includes an essay on the “poisonous rhetoric” on both sides of the debate. And he says that he was under pressure on the Iraq war vote of 2002 to vote for Israel by voting for war. Here’s a portion of that essay:

It is no surprise that Jewish members of the House and Senate are likely to be split down the middle in voting to support or reject the [Iran] agreement.
It is with this perspective that I have become increasingly disturbed by the rhetoric being used by some on both sides of the debate….
I am outraged that some on the Left are making anti-Semitic accusations of dual loyalty or treason when someone, particularly a Jewish member of Congress, decides to oppose the agreement. I am also deeply disturbed that some opponents of the agreement have taken to questioning the sincerity of people’s support for Israel (or their “Jewishness”, if it applies) if that person believes the JCPOA is the best option we have for protecting Israel and the world from the threat of Iran as a nuclear weapon state.
Similarly, I disagree with those who suggest that Israel’s government or people must not interfere in seeking to shape American decisions on these issues, and I see such statements as a means of silencing an important part of the discussion. Israel and Israelis have an absolutely legitimate right to be concerned, given the existential threat they face, and to articulate that concern openly within the American political debate. If Iran were allowed to develop a nuclear weapon, that would represent a fundamental threat to the existence of Israel. A single nuclear bomb on Tel Aviv could destroy the homeland of the Jewish people, causing a catastrophic and irrevocable loss of Israeli lives and threatening the existence of our most important ally in the Middle East. Without Israel raising the alarm, the world might not have prioritized this threat and we would be in a weaker position than we are in today to respond to this terrifying question.

I have personally experienced this dangerous dynamic of poisonous rhetoric before, at another moment when opinion was sharply divided and some people placed politics and emotion above clearheaded thinking. When I voted against approving the use of force in Iraq, I did so not only because I was unconvinced by the justifications or arguments being made by the Bush Administration, but because of my understanding of the history and dynamics in the region. As I said at the time, Iran — not Iraq — was the real threat, and if we removed Iraq as a buffer to Iranian influence and expansionism, Israel and the United States would be left to suffer from the consequences. Suffice it to say, I took a lot of criticism for my vote, and both my American patriotism and my commitment to Israel were questioned. What made it even more difficult was the fact that the attacks on 9/11 centered in my district. And while history has proven my decision to have been the right one, the demagoguery is an unfortunate stain on that period.

It was wrong then and it is wrong now to question loyalties or motivations. A decision to support the JCPOA does not make someone anti-Israel. My decision to support the JCPOA is based on my conclusion that the JCPOA makes both the United States and Israel safer. I have been an extremely vocal and unrelentingly strong supporter of Israel for my entire career. I will continue to be so, and refuse to allow anyone to question my long record or my commitment. It is, in large part, because of my support for Israel that I have made the decision I am convinced is the best option for achieving our overriding security imperative.

The great thing about the Iran Deal argument is that a confrontation that was bitterly suppressed during the Iraq war debate is out in the open this time: Is this move good for Israel? If we had had that conversation explicitly the last time, the neoconservatives would have been forced to state– as they have this time around–that Israel’s security was prominent in their thinking. And liberal Zionists would have had to declare on this question; and many would then have come out against the war– as they are coming out for the Iran Deal– by saying, Israel might want this war, but it’s a disaster for the United States.

But of course that argument didn’t happen; and many in the Jewish community went along with the neoconservative agenda because they believed the war would be good for Israel. Jerrold Nadler bravely bucked that trend. I believe support for Israel was a factor in Jeffrey Goldberg, Peter Beinart, Tom Friedman, David Remnick and Ken Pollack’s endorsement of that war.

In that light, read Eli Clifton’s expose of AIPAC’s briefing book from 2002. It called for regime change in Iraq. “As long as Saddam Hussein is in power, any containment of Iraq will only be temporary until the next crisis or act of aggression.” AIPAC is now trying to say it took no position on the Iraq war.

Philip Weiss

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

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21 Responses

  1. pabelmont on August 21, 2015, 1:11 pm

    They ask, is it good for Israel? as if that were the right question. Now and always they should be asking, is it good for the USA?

    Nadler is showing the pressure of positive and anti-Zionist feeling when he attacks both sides: The dual loyalty charge may be rather clear to many on this site but not to many Jews whose minds and emotions have long been captured, who have become (as they imagine) pro-Israel automatons. To such minds, the thought is, I suppose, what do yo mean dual-loyalty? They know that what’s good for Israel is good for America! (Remember an earlier slogan: what’s good for General Motors is good for America?) And, of course the Zionists (or many of them) are not slow to attack Jews (and others) who side with P5+1 (and Obama).

    All quite wonderful. And good for Nadler. Altho he says it’s good for Israel and for America. He’s too protective of Israel for my taste. But not for his constituents, I’d guess.

    Let’s watch his next election closely.

    • Krauss on August 21, 2015, 1:45 pm

      I feel somewhat sympathetic to him, though. I mean, he does have the most heavily Jewish district in the nation and Zionism is the dominant ideology for the overwhelming majority among Jews, even if it is less monolithic by the day.

      So he has to sprinkle his no with Israel/Zionism, he doens’t really have a choice. But that is part of the issue, of course. I don’t think anyone would expect Grace Meng to pontificate about what’s good for China in her decisions on East Asian foreign policy votes. And she does have quite a few of Chinese-Americans in her district!

    • just on August 21, 2015, 1:48 pm

      +1, pabelmont!

      I posted something yesterday that George Mitchell said at a town hall mtg with Angus King and Nick Burns in Maine:

      “He also addressed critics who note that Israel, a longtime ally of the U.S., opposes the deal.

      “It’s our national self interest that should dictate our decision,” he said. “We should decide – taking all of our commitments to our friends in account – is this the best thing for the United States of America? If that standard is applied, a fairly objective conclusion is inescapable: This agreement is in our national interest.””

      – See more at:

    • Citizen on August 21, 2015, 2:03 pm

      @ pabelmont

      I take the same view as you from what Nadler says. Nobody seemed to ask then, is it good for USA? & nobody’s asking it now. I’m glad Nadler is smart, but is he primarily concerned about USA interests as one would expect of US reps in congress, and as most average Americans would want him to be? No. It’s always pro & con re what’s good for the Jews. Disgusting. Dick & Jane remain chopped liver, although they comprise nearly all of America.

  2. Krauss on August 21, 2015, 1:38 pm

    A good, if expected win.

    Nadler’s no to Iraq in 2002 was a braver decision considering the totally united front from left to right on the question. Today, there’s a strong backing for diplomacy over war in the grassroots. Not to mention the president himself is lobbying for peace.

    Nevertheless, I look forward to the day when we can have pols who will not try to put in the interests of Israel in any Middle Eastern foreign policy decision that they are making for the United States.

    It shouldn’t even come into consideration.

    P.S. I saw that Amb. Shapiro was already raising the flag of defeat on behalf of Netanyahu in an interview today. He also pushed the notion of increased military aid. Is that the bribe Obama will use for peace in the remaining year and a half of his presidency?

    (I still remember the outrageous F-35 bribe back in 2010/2011).

    • Kay24 on August 21, 2015, 2:47 pm

      Trust those greedy zionists to extract even more from us. Time Obama told them to go and jump in the lake – they do not deserve a penny from us, after interfering and dividing this country with their BS. Even when they lose, they try to sponge off the host, like little parasites.

  3. ritzl on August 21, 2015, 1:46 pm

    A courageous political act!

  4. Kay24 on August 21, 2015, 2:43 pm

    I am glad that Congressman Nadler has the courage to do what is best for his country, and the fact that he is supporting the President. Of course the haters will start attacking him, trying hard to make his feel guilty, and questioning his devotion to dear, helpless, Israel.
    It must be hard for Jewish congress people to defy the orders from Israel, and make their own nation the top priority over it. This is what it will take to collectively stand up to Bibi’s efforts to control them, and interfering in our affairs, maybe it is time they did what will be the best for the US, say “no” to alien nations and their un-American lobbies, who have been pretending they know what is best for us while fully supporting Israel.

  5. ckg on August 21, 2015, 2:50 pm

    A courageous political act, indeed. You be sure that the NYT won’t be reporting that he searched his soul.

    On a down note, Dem hopeful Jim Webb, who once was embraced by many anti-war Democrats including myself, must be searching his soul:

    Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia says it’s the wrong time for a deal on Iran’s nuclear program and that the situation of giving “tacit approval” for another country’s eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons is unprecedented.

    Mr. Webb, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, said he thinks the deal is something that “in detail” should have been put before Congress.

    He also knocked “an approach that is just focusing on a nuclear agreement when we have to look at the balance of power in the region and the signals that have been sent in the region in terms of Iran’s growing power.”

    “That’s the reason I opposed the invasion of Iraq, by the way. One of the reasons was that it was going to empower Iran, and now that they have been empowered, I just think it’s the wrong time for an agreement like this,” Mr. Webb said Thursday, speaking on CNN.

    “I think that the focus on this deal has simply been on a slowing down [of] the potential acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran, and we’ve never been in [this] situation before where we have sort of given a tacit approval for the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by another country,” he said.

    • just on August 24, 2015, 10:54 am


      The reason to not invade Iraq should have been because of the hundreds of thousands of deaths (more to come) that resulted. Never mind that the US and its buddies chose to fall all the way from grace into the miasma of human rights abuses and war crimes where they still wallow like the feral animals they’ve proven to be.

      What fool doesn’t remember that Saddam and Iraq were friends of the West once? The US and others armed him in his blistering war on Iran. It was a defacto US war on Iran then, too. What ignoramus doesn’t remember the foul coup of 1953 and who engineered it?

      “United States support for Iraq during the Iran–Iraq War, against post-revolutionary Iran, included several billion dollars’ worth of economic aid, the sale of dual-use technology, non-U.S. origin weaponry, military intelligence, Special Operations training, and direct involvement in warfare against Iran.[3][4]

      Support from the U.S. for Iraq was not a secret and was frequently discussed in open session of the Senate and House of Representatives. On June 9, 1992, Ted Koppel reported on ABC’s Nightline that the “Reagan/Bush administrations permitted—and frequently encouraged—the flow of money, agricultural credits, dual-use technology, chemicals, and weapons to Iraq.”[5]”

      “The 1953 Iranian coup d’état, known in Iran as the 28 Mordad coup, was the overthrow of the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran Mohammad Mosaddegh on 19 August 1953, orchestrated by the United Kingdom (under the name “Operation Boot”) and the United States (under the name TPAJAX Project).[3][4][5][6]”

      I have nothing but admiration for the fortitude and grace of the Iranian people, Rouhani and Zarif.

      It’s akin to the same admiration that I have for the Palestinian people who desperately need a new President and “leader” and finally~ JUSTICE and peace and dignity and freedom from the odious and wicked Occupier. Abbas could have done very well, but Israel with its co- conspirators has gone way too far and he is not up to the good fight anymore.

  6. JLewisDickerson on August 21, 2015, 4:26 pm

    RE: Indeed, the New York Times stresses that Nadler is “the lone Jewish member of Congress from the state to back the contested arms-control agreement;” and a well-connected friend says, “Expect a 2016 Democratic Primary with his vote front & center.”

    MY COMMENT: Nadler for Senate in 2016! (to replace Sen. #WarmongerChuck Schumer)

  7. W.Jones on August 21, 2015, 4:43 pm

    He looks like a nice guy.

  8. niass2 on August 21, 2015, 6:58 pm

    This is good yet is not much of an accomplishment for our side. So he votes yes and it occurs and he goes back to participation in the starvation of the Palestinians. Meanwhile I can just imagine his policy on Putin. This still all is lame, our foreign policy is a disaster, and we are doing a military buildup on the Russian border that I am sure Nadler thinks is the best idea since McDonalds was created in 1902.

    I told my wife that we are about to have a land war in Russia and she said “Are we still in high school?”..The answer is that our military still thinks its 1985.

    They also have concerns about the fact that Guyana in Africa is facing an Ebola epidemic. The problem for Darrell Issa is that Guyana is near Brazil.

    Yes its good that my fellow Jews are showing us who and what they are and think. It is true that many appear as if they just woke up from a long nap in…the twilight zone . As they just don’t get it, whatever it is.

    Suddenly not everyone thinks they are so great. Something is changing, but many of them are so completely isolated it will have a hard time sinking in.

    Most Jewish people I know (100 at least) are not paying any attention, although we on this site act like they are and would not vote for the Demi-Crats en masse in the future due to this. That’s a wild idea and not going to happen, ever.

    Its the loud ones who you are hearing, and they are all Republicans, a minority amongst any group of Jews I have ever experienced. Then again my mom and dad were from NYC, not Florida………….

    AIPAC’s staff still thinks they are winning. I called Aipac today and pretended I was against the deal and asked how they feel that they/we are losing. They said they were winning. I said that is not the case, asked if they have read the national papers, but they can’t perceive that they already lost not just the argument but also the vote.

    Whatever. I was lucky that my Jewish dad had a socialist Russian brain, otherwise I might have a real hard time wondering why Apartheid is wrong, why Iraq war one, two or three was idiotic, Why attacking the Afghans after being attacked by 19 Saudis makes no sense, or maybe I would think the USA could have won in Vietnam if we….nuked them……

    No, we don’t want Nadler in the Senate if we want to visit the new Aquarium in gaza but who from NY do we want at all. How about No one, that’s a better idea.

  9. doug on August 21, 2015, 7:42 pm

    I was paying quite close attention during 2002-2003 and the neoconservative belief was that Iraq would become a shining, neutral if not pro-Israel, light unto the other Gulf nations. Iraq was seen as an easy military victory in part due to the ease of removing them from Kuwait earlier. Also, in many ways Iraq was the most secular country in the region even if not presented that way in the media for obvious reasons. And it was next door to Syria and Iran. Very convenient.

    What’s not to like? From there to eliminating Iran’s militarily significant threats would be easy.

    At first everything went swimmingly in spite of not finding WMDs though it became obvious early on that wasn’t high on anyone’s agenda outside of the media that kept bugging Rumsfeld. It wasn’t, after all, the real reason to invade Iraq. There was even the piece in WaPo titled “We Are All Neoconservatives Now.” There were pressures to “do” Syria and Iran and some of those whispers made it out into the public. More likely than not to pressure Bush to not stop now.

    Then reality set it. Turned out Iraqis weren’t thrilled to be occupied and Bush started to doubt the wisdom of further expansion. It was reported at the time Rice and Bush decided to delay further expansion until things stabilized. Stabilize they didn’t. Just before Bush’s term expired Cheney and the neocons put a full court press on Bush to bomb Iran. My guess is he was more than pissed about the whole thing given the background of his old man and some of the old guard. But, of course, Jeb’s political ambitions, like Hillary’s muted anything from either W or Bill. But they know the deal and know what they must do to remain viable.

    For the neocons, it’s always been about Israel. Anyone that’s paid any attention to them understands that.

  10. Kathleen on August 23, 2015, 10:43 am

    Good for Nadler. He has made the sane decision. He is clearly looking at this deal from a much wider scope. P5+1 deal better for the U.S. Israel and the rest of the world! Too bad Israel and the I lobby are incapable of pivoting and looking at the deal from this wider spectrum.

    Have heard Nadler on panels at the Netroots conference. He is devoted to Israel.

    Smart, thoughtful decision on his part

  11. NoSlack2327 on August 23, 2015, 11:48 am

    Bravo Congressman Nadler.

    Persons in Congressman Nadler’s district, or ANY district for that matter, who care more about the well-being of any nation other than the United States should move to that other nation.

  12. WH on August 23, 2015, 1:24 pm

    It’s so tiresome that even among those who are sane enough to support the deal, we still akways have to listen to the same litany of bullshit about Iran a) having a nuclear weapons programme and b) seeking to destroy Israel. Oh well, I guess one can’t have it all.

  13. jackal on February 5, 2017, 3:20 pm

    No one is going to read this, but I have to make this comment anyway. This is now Feb 5th, 2017.
    I got a chuckle out of all of you that mentioned “Is it good for the USA?”
    I’m from Canada so I guess I can sort of sit on Canadian laurels of having some independence from the good ol’ USA. Not much, but a little.
    Is Trump good for you down there? You have given a lot of us up north a real chuckle. You got exactly what you deserve for interfering in the lives of so many people in so many countries.
    Is it good for the USA? Is it good for all the corporations and military that control the US gov’t? I would guess it has been and it will continue to be. Largely because you have so many un- and under-educated people in your country. People who can’t read or write. People who are ignorant enough to be trapped into volunteering for the military — oh, yeah, guns is fun, killing is even more fun. Stupid!
    So you have people like Nadler with some common sense. You also have people like Yahoo who is smart, but also without common sense.
    I support Mondeweis. I’m also one of the few Canadian atheists who belong to Jewish Voice of Peace. I support BDS by buying Palestinian products (which have to be shipped through a Jewish kibbutz, my god!) I’m totally against NATO! I am against any Canadian involvement in any of the American wars — unfortunately, l am but one voice. :(

    • oldgeezer on February 5, 2017, 4:54 pm


      Wow… such a sense of superiority.

      There was harper, who as pm was willing to play organ grinder’s monkey to a pro Israel group and was so self deluded that he stated Canada had not history of colonialism. Followed by justin who also panders to the Israel lobby.

      Canada does it differently but appears to be just as beholden.

      I disagree with you on nato. Nato is a fantastic deterrent against war. Anyone who goes up against it will be obliterated. I dont agree with everything nato has done.

      Canada too has a volunteer army and it attracts the same types which i dont think can labelled with one reason.

      I dont feel canadian education is generally superior to the US. Do you have a basis for that snide remark?

      I say this to you as an atheist Canadian who supports BDS.

      Honestly you just made me embarrassed to be a Canadian. I hope you forego a career foreign affairs.

      On the bright side we do agree trump has been rich fodder for our comedians. Mark Critch of this hour has 22 minutes does a bang up job.

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