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The anti-semitism charge is the canard

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JJ Goldberg has a thoughtful column up at the Forward about the new political conversation about Jews, in which he allows that Ann Coulter’s “fucking Jews” tweet and President Obama’s explicit defiance of big donors and foreign interests and the New York Times’s frank Jew-counting may all be legitimate political commentary. Though such comments were felt by many Jews to be anti-Semitic, such talk is inevitable given the organized Jewish community’s frank support for a foreign country. Excerpts:

This past summer, the organized Jewish community — that is, the major Jewish advocacy organizations, backed by much of the most militant grass-roots — plunged headlong into an intensely partisan battle against the administration. It landed some punches and drew some blood. That’s changed the rules in several important ways that most of us have barely recognized, much less adapted to.

For anybody keeping score in the Iran debate, how the Jews match up against their political foes is too important an issue to ignore. Unfortunately, it’s an issue nobody knows how to talk about…

Advocates of Jewish rights — often the same advocates battling the administration — will howl about the overtones of anti-Semitism in the debate. But that will only fuel more debate, as cynics assume that the advocates are crying victimhood for political advantage. Or perhaps just trying to keep their tactics hidden…

The trouble is, changing the rules of Jewish advocacy, as Netanyahu is doing, brings consequences, and it’s not clear that American Jews understand or welcome those consequences. As the Jewish community’s representative bodies enter the swamp of Washington partisan politics, the Jewish community as a whole comes to be seen as part of that swamp and subject to its rules, including the insults and dirty tricks that other partisan factions are used to.

At a time when many liberal Zionists are fearful about the new rules, this is the best treatment of the topic I’ve seen. Goldberg says there’s been a “tectonic” shift in the conversation, and the press is talking about Jewish influence openly.

He also notes that Israel advocates were careful to seek to avoid open displays of dual loyalty charge in the past, but Israeli PM Netanyahu dismissed that inhibition as anachronistic:

From defiant actions like denouncing White House policies before Congress, to subtler signals like appointing to Washington successive ambassadors who are former Americans now loyal to the Jewish state, he’s shown repeatedly that the old diffidence is gone.

And in Washington political debates, Goldberg implies, opponents are allowed to use insults, so dual loyalty is fair game. Bear in mind that Michael Oren, Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky all made direct appeals to American Jews to oppose U.S. policy on Iran, and sought to manipulate us by saying we’d failed to speak out during the Holocaust.  Major Jewish organizations spent tens of millions of dollars– money that could have gone to far better use– in that failed effort; and Oren rushed Random House to publish his book ahead of time so it would be a political tool in firing up the Jewish community against the deal. He also failed.

Goldberg is wrong that we don’t know how to talk about this. Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer began talking about it ten years ago. I’ve been talking about it for years. Walt and Mearsheimer made the mistake of being non-Jewish and raising the subject; I made the mistake of being an anti-Zionist. Walt and Mearsheimer were called anti-Semites; I was said to be fostering hatred. We just wanted to discuss the real forces affecting foreign policy. At bottom, the Israel lobby is a theory of organized Jewish influence: I think we have to cop to that; but as Goldberg admits, people have a right to discuss influences on foreign policy. And as my partner Adam Horowitz points out, Since when did anti-semitism get redefined to mean, Being critical of Jews?

The other thing Goldberg addresses is the rift in the Jewish community, with fearful Israel advocates rushing to the Republican Party because they think Israel’s survival is on the line. This partisanship is of course a great development, and it will not be healed. The open division is a measure of Jewish affluence and also maturity; we are not sticking together. It means that, with the decamping of the neoconservatives, the Democratic Party is now going to become a battleground for anti-Zionists and liberal Zionists.

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11 Responses

  1. David Doppler
    September 30, 2015, 12:33 pm

    Is there any room, in your view, in the Democratic Party debate for non-Jewish realists, who do not necessarily define themselves in terms of their relationship, if any, with Zionism?

  2. Kay24
    September 30, 2015, 1:15 pm

    A very passionate speech by Mahmoud Abbas. He is absolutely right, the occupation has gone on for too long, and the UN must end it.

    UNITED NATIONS – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in his address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority was no longer bound by agreements it has signed with Israel.
    Abbas accused Israel of continuing to violate agreements and declared that the Palestinian Authority therefore will not remain committed to their implementation.  He declared that the Palestinians “cannot continue to be bound by these agreements and that Israel must assume all of its responsibilities as an occupying power,” saying that the situation was unsustainable.
    Termination of occupation was supposed to end in 1999, as per Israeli-Palestinian agreements, said Abbas, but Israel has breached all signed accords and increased settler activities.
    read more:

  3. Citizen
    September 30, 2015, 1:32 pm

    You mean like, are Walt & Mearsheimer Democrats?

  4. Keith
    September 30, 2015, 1:39 pm

    PHIL- JJ Goldberg quote: “As the Jewish community’s representative bodies enter the swamp of Washington partisan politics….”

    Jewish power brokers have been in that swamp for a long, long time. The real change is that they have become so relatively powerful and visible.

    PHIL- “The other thing Goldberg addresses is the rift in the Jewish community….”

    That is to say, previously there had been no rifts, no visible differences among the Jewish elites interfering with Jewish solidarity? What other ethnic group can make this claim? What other ethnic group can label a Gentile an anti-Semite for making this claim?

    PHIL- “…people have a right to discuss influences on foreign policy.”

    Indeed, there are few issues as critical as understanding the power relationships in our political economy. Power relationships, I might add, that are generally hidden from view, camouflaged by social mythology. Perhaps this is an opportunity to shine some light.

    • Mooser
      September 30, 2015, 2:06 pm

      “This is to say….”

      Uh, no it’s not, not at all, but don’t let that stand in your way.

  5. Pixel
    September 30, 2015, 2:33 pm

    In the article, JJG wrote, “What’s more, the very novelty of the newly exposed Jewish profile has sparked a minor flood of media coverage, with special focus on the apparent rift within the Jewish community between the pulpit and the pews. It seems as though nearly every major media outlet, from The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal to The Nation, Slate and The Weekly Standard, has weighed in at least once on the parochial minutiae of American Jewish opinion and the legitimacy of Jewish leadership. Our anguish has become water-cooler gossip.”

    Well, that’s one take on things. It’s not mine.

    Non-Jews have been intentionally and viciously shut down and shut up for decades with spurious allegations of “anti-semitism,” etc.


    The power of it stripped away by revelations about /admissions of the “tricks” that have long been employed, it immediately and intentionally morphed into absurd, vicious slurs about “holocaust denial,” which otherwise highly intelligent people acquiesce to and/or, inexplicably, perpetuate.

    “You have not converted a man because you have silenced him.”
    John, Viscount Morley (1838–1923) On Compromise

    I’m not an anti-semite. What I am is angry. It’s one thing to be “taken for a ride,” it’s another to be “taken hostage”.

    Others may not be as angry as I am, are more PC, or realize that these things are best moved forward with a “gentle touch”. No matter how it’s approached, there’s nothing new about it.

    A crack (aka hope) appeared with W + M’s book. Since then, while walking on eggshells, people, in general, and in the media have been quietly and slowly prying the door open and allowing light back in. Then, miracle of miracles, Bibi gave that sucker a huge kick outward, bless his sweet soul.

    Beyond such welcome surprises, I realize that major change – sea change! – is a process not an event. But hostages are rarely patient. They want OUT. So do I.

    Phil, your take on JJG’s article seems hopeful. When I went over to article itself and read the whole thing, I thought about JJG, “This guy is CLUEless.”

    To emphasize that point, on a related issue, if I hear one more person anywhere suggest that the historical roots of anti-semitism are “envy of the Jews – what they have acquired, what they have achieved, what they have accomplished, yada, yada, yada…,” I’m going to rip my hair out.

    The only thing stopping me from ripping it out right now is my knowledge that we’re all “heroes in our own narratives”. The lesson in that is that we are wise to step out of our own narratives (and comfort zones) often and entirely, in order to gain perspective about ourselves and situations we’re involved in, invested in, care about…

    Do I “practice what I preach”? Damn straight, I do.

    I read Mondoweiss every day.

  6. German Lefty
    September 30, 2015, 4:45 pm

    “Such talk is inevitable given the organized Jewish community’s frank support for a foreign country.”

    I disagree. I don’t reject Zionist German Jews because they support a FOREIGN country. I reject them because they support a CRIMINAL country (i.e. injustice). The issue isn’t native country vs. foreign country. The issue is justice vs. injustice.
    Supporting a foreign country in itself is NOT problematic. A foreign country SHOULD be supported if it’s a victim of injustice, e.g. Iran and its right to nuclear energy.

    • Keith
      September 30, 2015, 6:22 pm

      GERMAN LEFTY- “The issue isn’t native country vs. foreign country. The issue is justice vs. injustice.”

      Excellent point very well said. Likewise, the Americans who stood in solidarity with the people of Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc against US instigated terror are to be commended. Sometimes we forget that. The issue isn’t nationalism or patriotism, rather, it is about elementary moral principles.

    • pabelmont
      October 2, 2015, 4:34 pm

      GL: Yes, indeed, attack Israel as CRIMINAL not as FOREIGN. But that’s your “take” (and mine). There are Jews and possibly others who see Israel as a SAVIOUR (sounds a bit Christian, doesn’t it?) rather than in terms of criminality. and, of course, Americans, uninformed as we often are, are in no position to call any other country “criminal”; my God, think just of the unprovoked attack on Iraq, and there is much, much, much, much more to think of (such as the CIA’s removal of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 which brought first the Shah and his Israel-trained SAVAK secret police and then the Ayatollahs) (or such as the overthrow of Allende in 1973 and the establishment of Pinochet).

      My own reason for singling out Israel for (my) opprobrium is not that it is (currently) criminal, as so many states are, but that it was formed artificially at the cost of the Palestinians — if you will, that it is intrinsically and irrevocably criminal. That is, it is criminal (as all can see nowadays if they look without Zionist blinders on) by nature and without redeeming qualities of any kind. And that it has injured “my” people (since I regard myself as satisfactorily Palestinian by marriage) and has injured “my” other people, the Jews, by painting them so black.

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