This is important, and a lot of people are passing it around: video of two political veterans describing the overwhelming role of Jewish money on the Democratic side of US politics.
The scene was a J Street panel Sunday night about the 2016 election at the Sixth and I Synagogue in Washington, and the dialogue began when Roger Cohen of the New York Times asked J.J. Goldberg of the Forward (at 44:00) to explain the importance of “funding” to pro-Israel politics.
“Funding?” Goldberg gave a little uncomfortable laugh then said:
Up until recently I was under the impression that the Democrats had to go to Jews. You ask a Democratic fundraiser, where do you get the money from? “Well from trial lawyers, from toys, from generic drugs, from Hollywood. From Jews.” Those are all essentially Jewish industries… When you are raising money, you need to find rich people who are not right wing, and there are not– pardon me for saying this, there are not many rich goyim who are not right wing. Forgive me for saying that.
Then Goldberg said he had just read something “that knocked my socks off.” The Center for Responsive Politics issued a list of the top 50 donors to 527’s and super-PACs, and eight of the 36 Republican bigs were Jewish, and of the 14 Democrats, only one was not Jewish.
There was one non-Jew who was giving big money to the Democrats. That’s gigantic in the terms of American politics. If Bernie Sanders sets a new model, then this may change, and the weight of Jews in the political system may go down.
Goldberg’s candor about the Jewish “weight” on the Democratic side liberated the one person on the panel who I don’t think was Jewish, Stephanie Schriock of Emily’s List, the pro-choice group. She said “the money… is a big piece of this story and cannot be overlooked at all.”
She works with 50 federal candidates a year, most of them coming out of state legislatures or new to politics, with little foreign policy experience; and when the Iran deal came up they all had a lot “of angst” about taking a position. For the first time in her career, Schriock said, she was able to tell these candidates they could buck the Israel lobby group AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was telling them to do: kill the deal.
As someone who has been doing this now for two decades, I realized that I had freedom as an operative, as a strategist to say to some of our candidates, which I, in fact, did: do what you feel is right here…. Because I think there’s enough energy around all of it now [meaning, all sides] than there used to be. So if you decide to be against the deal, there’s going to be folks that are going to be with you. If you’re going to be for the deal, there’s going to be folks that are going to be with you.
Folks means donors. Schriock concluded, “That was the first time I went, Wow, there’s really a change.”
She then explained how congressional candidates’ views on Israel are determined by the need to raise money from pro-Israel Jews.
I started as a finance director. I worked for candidates in the 90’s as their finance director. And I would come on a congressional race, I am a twenty-something kid who also knows nothing beyond the state borders, let alone overseas, and you thought about where you are going to go to raise the money that you needed to raise to win a race. And you went to labor, you went to the choice community, and you went to the Jewish community. But before you went to the Jewish community, you had a conversation with the lead AIPAC person in your state and they made it clear that you needed a paper on Israel. And so you called all of your friends who already had a paper on Israel – that was designed by AIPAC – and we made that your paper.
This was before there was a campaign manager, or a policy director or a field director because you got to raise money before you do all of that. I have written more Israel papers that you can imagine. I’m from Montana. I barely knew where Israel was until I looked at a map, and the poor campaign manager would come in, or the policy director, and I’d be like, ‘Here is your paper on Israel. This is our policy.’ We’ve sent it all over the country because this is how we raise money. … This means that these candidates who were farmers, school teachers, or businesswomen, ended up having an Israel position without having any significant conversations with anybody…
The papers were the same? Cohen asked.
“Very similar. Incredibly similar.”
For a country with 300 million people, that’s a cornering of the market, Cohen observed.
It’s astounding. And when I look back at it, it’s shocking. [Someone in audience applauds] Thank you. I agree. Jeremy Ben-Ami [of J Street] and I had the great pleasure of meeting each other during the Howard Dean campaign and one of the conversations we had was, ‘Oh my gosh. Is there really only one foreign policy on this?’ Because it felt like it. And that was the case.
Now, she said, there is more than one position on Israel. J Street opened up the conversation, though she hinted that others are now permitted into the discussion, too. She exclaimed about how undemocratic this process has been:
It’s incredibly important. Yes: this country had one very clear unmovable set of policies, and it wasn’t driven by voters. It wasn’t driven by voters.
Cohen asked what would happen if a candidate didn’t take the AIPAC position on Israel?
You thought that the money was going to be gone.
Just going to dry up? Cohen said.
“Yes,” Schriock said. These are candidates, she said, who “really have to get those $5000 PAC checks from the pro-Israel PAC in St. Louis.”
A few comments. The silence in the synagogue was about the unspeakable being spoken: the disdain on the part of the Israel lobby for popular opinion and the lobby’s use of money to dismiss the public by essentially bribing politicians.
“It wasn’t driven by voters.” This is the obvious story that our press has failed to do for the ten years since the Israel lobby was declared fair game in Walt and Mearsheimer’s expose of the power over policy of the lobby, an expose the Atlantic killed so it had to be published in England. Schriock said the power of the lobby began to weaken in 06– surely in some measure because of the Iraq war and Walt and Mearsheimer. As J.J. Goldberg also said, the Iraq war left the “Jewish neocons” with their pants down as a bad influence on the United States, and the Jewish community, which had opposed the war largely, was not happy about being put in that light. J Street formed in part to be the lobby of anti-dual loyalty Jews who would support the Iran deal even if Israel said, No way.
And that’s why J Street was so vilified. Because it shivered the monolith; and as soon as the Jewish community failed to speak in one concerted voice on Israel, it gave Democratic politicians an opening to conclude, as Schriock says, that if they took a position opposed to AIPAC they could still get “folks” on their side.
But again, Where is the press? Embarrassed. (Even Jewish Insider, which beat me on this story, softened her comments. And Roger Cohen mentions Jewish funding in a column on Israel policy today, but doesn’t dare say what Goldberg and Schriock just told him.) The financial role that Goldberg and Schriock are describing is mirrored in the Jewish role in the media. We’re all over the media because of education, wealth, and culture; but to speak of Jewish donor influence is to broach the fact that Mort Zuckerman owns the Daily News, or the Times is Jewish owned, or that Comcast is led by Jews, or that and all these folks are sympathetic or ardently supportive of Israel. People are afraid to say the truth. And P.S. Time Warner executive Gary Ginsberg wrote speeches for Netanyahu.
Did Schriock know what she was saying? Yes; she spoke intentionally. A dam had burst; Goldberg gave her permission. And she, like so many others, is deeply offended by this corruption. “It wasn’t driven by voters.” That’s starting to change. There are now non-Zionists lobbying on Capitol Hill. Some day one of em may even get a column in the Times.