The Israel lobby appears to be losing power before our eyes. Last night the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) held its gala in New York, and Steve Bannon, the promoter of white nationalism whom Trump has named as a top White House counselor, was invited but was a no-show.
Bannon blowing off the rightwing Zionist group is surely worrisome to the ZOA. The group stuck its neck out for Bannon in recent days, saying he is no anti-Semite; and by not appearing, Bannon expressed disdain for Sheldon Adelson, who funds the ZOA and gave $25 million to the Trump campaign. “ZOA and Adelson look like muppets,” writes a friend who watches the organized Jewish community.
ZOA President Morton Klein sought to cover his behind; he told Haaretz “he believes protesters led Steve Bannon to stay away from annual gala.”
Several hundred demonstrators led by several progressive Jewish groups, IfNotNow, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Jews for Economic and Racial Justice, marched outside the Grand Hyatt in protest of Bannon. Here is Jewish Voice for Peace’s report. The chant: “Nazis are not welcome here.”
Alan Dershowitz, who has defended Bannon against anti-Semitism charges, spoke at the ZOA gala and sought to tamp down divisions in the Jewish community. He expressed the fear that the breakup of Jewish consensus on Israel could lead to the issue becoming politicized in the U.S., and Americans abandoning Israel. From the Jerusalem Post:
“I don’t ever want to see ZOA, and I’m not suggesting this is happening, become the mirror image opposite of J Street, because that causes tremendous division within the Zionist community… The Zionist Organization of America should not take sides on Israeli domestic politics or on American domestic politics.”…
[A] US presidential election should never become “a referendum on Israel.”
“Why? because we could lose,” he said. “One thing we cannot accept is putting Israel’s faith in the hands of our election system. We must always make sure that both parties, and candidates for both parties, support Israel.”
Jewish Insider quotes Dershowitz further re bipartisanship:
“One thing we cannot accept is, we put Israel’s fate in the hands of an election system. We must always make sure that both parties and candidates for both parties support Israel, so we will not be in a situation where one party loses the election, it would be bad for Israel.”
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and J Street, the liberal Israel lobby group, have been condemning the Bannon appointment. But the leading Israel lobby group, AIPAC, has had nothing to say about Bannon’s appointment. It is surely afraid of the Israel lobby dividing over this issue.
“AIPAC is fearfully silent,” writes my friend. “Israel wants bunker busters. And James Mattis [potential Pentagon choice of Trump] could say no. And Bannon is an ex navy commander. American Jewish Committee will emerge with a calm voice, but Trump and Bannon have cut the community down a notch or two.”
Meantime, Yaron London, an Israeli media personality, writing in Ynet, instructs American Jews that a little anti-Semitism is good for us. Enough so that American Jews continue to believe in Zionism, the ideology of Jewish national deliverance, which depends on the existence of anti-Semitism. Right now Jews are too comfortable in America; and this has undermined the ideology of Zionism. London:
all forms of Zionism hold the perception that a certain extent of anti-Semitism benefits the Zionist enterprise. To put it more sharply, anti-Semitism is the generator and ally of Zionism. Masses of Jews leave their place of residence only when their economic situation and physical safety are undermined. Masses of Jews are shoved to this country rather than being attracted to it. The yearning for the land of Zion and Jerusalem is not strong enough to drive millions of Jews to the country they love and make them hold on to its clods…
The Jews’ comfortable situation in America raises doubts as to whether it was worthwhile to gamble on the establishment of a Jewish state. The normalization did not provide us, the Israelis, with a normal existence and did not lessen the anti-Semitism which is now drawing some of its arguments from the way we are managing the conflict with the Palestinians. There are Israelis whose parents or grandparents immigrated to Israel out a belief that this is where the agonizing historical journey will end, and now their offspring are learning that the promise has not been fulfilled.
In order to remove these malignant doubts, it would be good to have some anti-Semitism in America. Not serious anti-Semitism, not pogroms, not persecutions that will empty America from its Jews, as we need them there, but just a taste of this pungent stuff, so that we can restore our faith in Zionism.
P.S. Dershowitz has long expressed the understanding that unified American Jews, organized at the Israel lobby, are essential to Israel’s support. In his 1991 book Chutzpah, he called it the Jewish lobby:
When the “Jewish Lobby” defeats an enemy of Israel or of the Jews, we should proudly proclaim the victory of justice over injustice. When “Jewish contributors” influence the outcome of a media campaign, we should declare a victory of truth over falsity.
Seems like things are cracking up.
H/t Ali Abunimah on twitter. And Scott Roth.