Mondoweiss

It’s not bigoted to call out the Israel lobby over Iran Deal

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The spontaneous eruption on social media assaulting Chuck Schumer’s decision to reject what many Americans consider to be, potentially, the greatest diplomatic feat in US foreign policy since Nixon’s ’72 trip to China, and potentially the pinnacle of Obama’s presidential legacy — the Iran Deal — has ticked off editors at Tablet Magazine. Tablet says that supporters of the deal are resorting to bigoted appeals.

“Crossing a Line to Sell a Deal”  is a cornucopia of accusatory rhetoric in an attempt to paint a big thick red line around words no one is allowed to say in US politics because they’re — anti-Semitic. Those words include

Murmuring about “money” and “lobbying” and “foreign interests”

Obama, Tablet says, is raising dual loyalty accusations, the “dark, nasty stuff we might expect to hear at a white power rally.”

Sorry, I don’t buy it. If lobbyists are spending 40 million dollars in the next 2 months flagellating the public (and Congress members) with propaganda against the Iran Deal– with the result that polling numbers on the Iran deal are actually changing in the negative direction– don’t expect people who support the deal to fight for it without identifying the real opponent, “lobby” and “money” and “Israel”.

If a rightwing Prime Minister gets invited into Congress to submarine our president’s policy and the New York Times says that Democrats are torn between their “loyalty to the Jewish state” and their support for Obama, I have a right to talk about where their loyalty should lie. If Bill Kristol of the Emergency Committee for Israel responds to Obama’s statement that Israel is the only country publicly to oppose the pact by saying, “All the greater Israel’s glory,” well, I have a right to say that deal opponents care about a foreign country.

If Natan Sharansky, an Israeli closely allied to Netanyahu, gets to write in the Washington Post, “Jews stood up to the U.S. government 40 years ago, and should again on Iran,” I’m allowed to ask why the Washington Post is running appeals to Jewish American dual loyalty.

People would have to be living under a rock not to be aware Netanyahu and American rightwing Likud backers don’t like this deal.  After years and years of the worst kind of incendiary fear mongering over Iran, a total repetition of what we endured, as a country, over Iraq, Netanyahu and the Israel lobby are now ferociously rejecting what I and by the way President Obama too see as the only alternative to another war. Well, they placed themselves in the crosshairs of an argument. We didn’t drag them there. Lots of American people don’t like and resent the access Israel has to influence our foreign policy; I do. And heaven forbid we get a long-needed rapprochement with Iran after decades– which could reduce Israel’s power in the region. Many Americans want that, the lobby doesn’t.

None of this is a secret, nor should it be. So don’t expect to shut up anyone telling the truth about it. Calling it Jew-baiting (as Tablet did just two weeks ago) is a form of blackmail. And more recently:

What we increasingly can’t stomach—and feel obliged to speak out about right now—is the use of Jew-baiting and other blatant and retrograde forms of racial and ethnic prejudice as tools to sell a political deal, or to smear those who oppose it. Accusing Senator Schumer of loyalty to a foreign government is bigotry, pure and simple.

Really? Accusing Senator Schumer of loyalty to Israel is beyond the pale? This is a senator who has bragged again and again that his name in Hebrew, shomer, means that he is the guardian of the Jewish state. This is the senator who has shouted “Am Yisrael Chai” — the people of Israel live! — at gatherings of the leading Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. So he can talk about his motivation on Middle East policy, but we’re not allowed to? Sorry, this has nothing to do with bigotry, it’s a case of censorship by playing the victim card as a means to intimidate and silence us.

We can all decide on our own what constitutes racism and bigotry, we don’t need overseers from Tablet magazine isolating words we’re not allowed to use because of ‘ancient tropes.’ If you don’t want people accusing politicians of selling their votes to lobbies, well then stop the lobbies from giving our politicians money, stop them from flooding the network airwaves with scary ads about Iran. Stop a foreign minister from making “marionettes” out of our politicians, as Yale professor David Bromwich says at Huffington Post.

Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev also objects to Tablet’s tactics in a column in the Israeli newspaper: 

Tablet’s malevolent interpretation of statements made by the president, administration officials and the New York Times are so wantonly over the top that one cannot but suspect ulterior motives.

…..The editorial gives opponents of the Iran deal a powerful weapon with which to silence any criticism of Netanyahu or AIPAC or Jewish Democrats who oppose the president. It provides a convenient way for the GOP and other right-wingers to have their cake and eat it too: Netanyahu is allowed to address 10,000 American Jewish leaders and activists from Jerusalem, but mentioning their faith is forbidden; he is allowed to be the sole foreign leader to openly campaign against the deal, but singling him out is verboten; AIPAC can raise emergency funds, cancel all vacations and send its lobbyists to canvass on Capitol Hill, but say the words “lobby” or “money” and you are quickly branded a bigot; Schumer can famously boast that he sees himself as a Shomer Israel but you won’t dare say that when he seems to live up to his promise.

It’s hard to tell which is more offensive – or scary: the anti-Jewish comments creeping up on the sidelines of political discourse or the brazen attempt to exponentially multiply signs of anti-Semitism to gain political advantage. Obama and administration officials used language that even some of their supporters might find disturbing, but these have now been turned into unequivocal manifestations of a rabid hatred of Jews.

It’s only a powerful weapon to silence us if Americans rise to the bait and buy into Tablet’s scolding hogwash.

Besides, it really does not take a rocket scientist to figure out when a Democratic senator stands with the Republican caucus against our Democratic president and our State Department’s diplomatic efforts and rejects a major foreign policy achievement, lots of Democratic constituents and activists are going to reject the concept of that senator being elevated as their next senate party leader. That’s a no brainer, and it has nothing to do with Schumer being Jewish. It’s simple politics.

Take note, that goes for any Dem congressperson crossing the president on this deal, consider yourself warned.

You can’t shut us up. Move over Chuck Schumer, you’re an obstructionist and you are in our way.

Thanks to Phil Weiss for contributions to this article.