Let’s say your neighbor’s barn burned down and she came to you and said she’d seen your son running from the barn, and you talked to your son and he said, Well I got the rags and kerosene but Jimmy Jones got the matches; and you went back to your neighbor and said, You really need to be talking to Jimmy Jones, leave my family out of it.
That would of course be the height of irresponsibility, but it is the stance of a lot of Jewish writers when anyone mentions the Israel lobby. They say, Don’t blame the Jewish establishment; it’s Christian evangelicals who drive U.S. policy.
Bret Stephens said it the other day in the New York Times: American Jews have “wealth without political power.” Paul Waldman said it in the Washington Post: Ben Cardin and other Democratic senators were serving a rightwing agenda in pushing the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (which was pushed by a leading Jewish organization, AIPAC).
Michelle Goldberg adopts that stance today in the New York Times: talk of AIPAC’s influence “smacks of anti-Jewish bigotry,” let’s talk about evangelicals.
The late Amos Oz laid down a similar smokescreen in his book “Dear Zealots.” There is no Jewish component to the lobby:
Apart from the settlers and the American Christian zealots who back them, the whole world is united in opposing Israel’s taking over the West Bank lands and controlling their Palestinian residents.
I know why writers shy away from blaming the Jewish establishment for the Israel lobby. They are afraid that any acknowledgment of Jewish influence will lead to more anti-Semitism and persecution of Jews. But a journalist’s job description is to tell the truth about important events, and the truth is that the Jewish portion of the Israel lobby, AIPAC and the big Zionist donors, play an essential role in our politics.
Ido Aharoni, a former Israeli ambassador, said last November that Christians are no rival to Jews politically when it comes to Middle East policy.
“The number of evangelical Christians who are deeply involved and interested in the geopolitics of the middle east is very small. Very small. Believe me, I know this community well…. I lived in southern California, I dealt with them for many years. I can tell you that the vast majority of them are interested in theology and not in politics.
“Yes on paper there are 70 million evangelical Christians in America. How many truly are interested in the settlements and this and that? The numbers are not very high. The number of evangelical Christians who are interested in our political conversation is very very small…
“Most evangelical Christians support Israel, and that support has nothing to do with politics… There is a very small group. You will not find them at the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem and you will not find them at the AIPAC conference.”
More significantly, evangelical Christians have no influence over the Democrats who have supported the Israeli occupation and the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza; Jewish groups do. If evangelical Christians did have such influence, then Democrats would be for Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, against gay rights and abortion rights, and against stem-cell research. But Dems are oppositional to evangelicals on those questions.
Consider these examples of the Democrats and the Jewish Israel lobby:
–AIPAC reaches out to Democratic candidates; and it scripts the Middle East policy of congressional campaigns before they have campaign managers, just so they can get money from the “Jewish community,” says the head of Emily’s List.
–The 29 standing ovations for Netanyahu in the Congress in 2011 — when he was lecturing Obama on settlements — were led by Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who was then head of fundraising for the Democratic Congress as the party chair and who shares a large donor with Netanyahu.
–At that time, Obama, facing reelection, went back on his vow to stop the settlements and vetoed the United Nations Security Council resolution against settlements. His former aide Ben Rhodes says that Obama felt pressure from “Jewish donors.”
“Netanyahu’s smack at Obama [the lecture] came just as the 2012 presidential campaign cycle was cranking up, and it succeeded in igniting a firestorm of criticism… A number of congressional Democrats distanced themselves from the speech [in which Obama said the ’67 borders were the basis for negotiations]. I was given a list of leading Jewish donors to call to reassure them of Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides. It was far too painful to wade into these waters with no prospect of success. Netanyahu had mastered a kind of leverage: using political pressure within the United States to demoralize any meaningful push for peace just as he used settlements as a means of demoralizing the Palestinians…”
–Ben Cardin, Robert Menendez and Chuck Schumer defied their Democratic president on the most important foreign policy move of his administration, the Iran deal, and Schumer was only promoted inside the Democratic Party for doing so!
–Haim Saban– one of President Obama’s biggest donors, and one of the biggest supporters of Birthright and the Israeli army right alongside Sheldon Adelson on the right– was one of Hillary Clinton’s advisers during the 2016 campaign and pressed her to issue a statement against Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and to say publicly that she would take the Israel relationship to a whole new level with Netanyahu, and put the Obama friction behind. Do you think that has anything to do with Chelsea Clinton landing on Ilhan Omar the other night?
–The leading Democratic Party thinktank, the Center for American Progress, hosted and fawned over Netanyahu even after he had defied President Obama on his signature foreign policy achievement, the Iran Deal, in order to get a big pro-Israel blue-state donor.
–Last year Stu Eizenstat wrote a book about Jimmy Carter saying that leading American Jewish organizations, working alongside Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, got Jimmy Carter to yield on settlements. Still, Carter never dropped the issue entirely, even as his political guru typed out a long memo to him saying that 60 percent of campaign funds on the Democratic side come from Jews and that money is pro-Israel.
The Jewish portion of the Israel lobby surely has influence among Republicans too. Trump moved the embassy and tore up the Iran Deal at least as much for the sake of his biggest funder, Sheldon Adelson, who is Jewish and proudly attended the unveiling in Jerusalem, as he did for Christian Zionists. Senator Lindsey Graham said when he ran in the Republican presidential primaries in 2016: “I may have the first all-Jewish cabinet in America because of the pro-Israel funding. Bottom line is, I’ve got a lot of support from the pro-Israel funding.”
Of course you are never allowed to adduce these facts in the mainstream media, especially not now in the wake of the public shaming of Rep. Ilhan Omar as an anti-Semite for stating a plain truth: AIPAC and financial considerations sway the Congress on Middle East policy. “Can you explain to me why people are so upset about the Muslim congresswoman’s comments about Israel?” a friend who is married to a Jew writes to me from overseas. “As far as I can tell, she said that the US supports Israel because the Jewish lobby spends a lot of money in Congress. Isn’t that a factually accurate statement?”
I told him the evangelicals also play a role; but I find this whole discussion deeply demoralizing. It’s been 13 years since the publication of the Israel lobby paper by Walt and Mearsheimer, and we all seem to have gone backwards. Everyone is denying plain truths.
Jewish writers go along with the denial because they don’t want Jews to be held responsible for the occupation, or for Israel’s slaughters. But that’s intellectually dishonest. And spiritually desolate too. You will notice that Palestinian rights and lives count for absolutely nothing in this discussion. Palestinians are supposed to live under subhuman conditions forever, and wait for the peace process rather than push for their rights. Ali Abunimah and Glenn Greenwald, two writers who have done as much as anyone to move the American left on BDS, have both been insistent on talking about the lobby because they wish to address power.
What does it say about American Jewish life that four Jewish Zionist writers for the New York Times lately justified the massacre of unarmed Palestinian protesters? It says to me that Jews are facing a great reckoning. Our collective memory is one of powerlessness and victimization. But it has kept us from coming to terms with the reality, our own privilege. Everyone sees it. We don’t.
Thx to Adam Horowitz, James North and Donald Johnson.