Everyone is passing around an article in today’s New York Times, titled, “Iran deal opens a vitriolic divide among American Jews,” by Jonathan Weisman and Alexander Burns. The article deplores the vituperation between Jews over foreign policy and even blames the president for the impasse. Here’s the heart of the complaint:
[L]eaders now speak openly of long-term damage to Jewish organizations, and possibly to American-Israeli relations….
Greg Rosenbaum, the chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council, raised such concerns this month at a private meeting between President Obama and Jewish groups. At the meeting, other Jewish leaders told Mr. Obama that his own rhetoric — framing the debate as a choice between diplomacy and war, and speaking of the money lining up against the deal — was only accelerating the corrosion.
“We are on the verge of fratricide in the Jewish community, and it has to stop,” said Mr. Rosenbaum, who spoke of Jews’ spurning organizational meetings, and even religious services, simply to avoid discussing Iran.
That desperation is also voiced by Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel and Steve Israel, two Democrats who oppose their president on the Iran breakthrough:
Mr. Engel said. “And there has to be a rapprochement between the United States and Israel. There just has to be.”
But the bitterness of the current debate will make that difficult. Mr. Israel said that Republican leaders had begun exploiting the rift
Do these folks have any sense of accountability? They took on the president, and people believe they did so because of concerns for Israel! They think there shouldn’t be consequences to them or the hard-right Israel lobby they represent? That is chutzpah.
Haaretz today reports that Jewish groups who oppose the deal have poured $100 million into their opposition. That sounds like real money.
Almost $100 million has been poured in by Jewish groups in opposition to the deal. Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Bob Cohen from AIPAC and Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s national director, as well as a majority of the Jewish Federations have strongly came out against the international accord and are lobbying Congress to vote to disapprove the deal.
$100 million spent against Obama, torquing public opinion in the polling– and Obama shouldn’t talk about money? I say President Obama has a perfect right to take on the forces that are trying to destroy his greatest foreign policy achievement. And it’s an American tradition to talk about corruption of the political process by money, and an American tradition going back to Madison in the Federalist papers to decry the power of a faction in a republic.
The upset at Obama goes back to this statement by the president to Democratic senators quoted by the Times in January:
The president said he understood the pressures that senators face from donors and others.
And to his speech on August 5 at American University on the historic importance of the Iran Deal, in which he called out Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu for opposing the deal and said he has a constitutional duty to work for the U.S.
because this is such a strong deal, every nation in the world that has commented publicly, with the exception of the Israeli government, has expressed support…
as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally. I do not believe that would be the right thing to do for the United States. I do not believe it would be the right thing to do for Israel.
Let me be clear that I think the “fratricide” in the Jewish community is necessary. There is just too much that’s been shoved under the carpet. The liberal Zionists went along with the neoconservatives on the Iraq war, and had substantial influence in that decision process; and the liberals’ regret over that horrifying mistake is one reason they have been so great on the Iran Deal, and working so hard for the president. The liberal Zionists do so in part because when a difference in interest is stated between Israel and the U.S., they will be on the American side. They believe that the neocons are Israel firsters but they won’t say so publicly because that is a traditional anti-semitic charge and because they care too much about the Jewish solidarity that is such a value in the Times piece to have a full-blown civil war.
But the civil war will come. The divisions in this piece will resonate in next year’s campaigns. The Dems and the Republicans will argue over the end of the two-state solution and what to do about Israel’s absorption of the West Bank; and inside the Democratic Party, that same reality will produce a confrontation over BDS between liberal Zionist Jews and anti-Zionists, many of whom are Jews.
All these open divisions are necessary and right because the stakes are so real when it comes to American policy because Jews are empowered. We don’t live in the shtetl with court Jews going to negotiate on our behalf with the powers-that-be. No, we are part of the American establishment, and one segment of our community, operating in what they have described as a “Jewish interest,” pushed a U.S. war with Iraq and now a U.S. war with Iran. And other Jews see a different interest. “Every Jewish member of California’s Congressional delegation except Brad Sherman is supporting the #IranDeal,” J Street crows today.