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Peter Beinart suggests AIPAC should have to register as agent of Israeli government

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Back in February, Rep. Ilhan Omar made her “Benjamins” crack followed by the comment about people who have “allegiance to a foreign country”, and one good thing to come out of the controversy was a discussion between Peter Beinart and Deborah Lipstadt at the Forward about the dual loyalty charge against Jews and Israel. I listened to it for the first time yesterday, and Beinart is as usual, intellectually brave.

Beinart says dual loyalty is inherent in the ways in which American Jews support Israel.

I want to talk about the even more sensitive subject that she raised, which is the question of dual loyalty, or dual allegiance. I’ll be honest, I haven’t written this because I feel like it’s too sensitive, but I have talked about it. So my kids go to Jewish day school. When I tried to talk about this subject to them, they were somewhat confused, because they essentially thought that a loyalty– allegiance– to the United States and to Israel was what was expected of them.

Right? I mean look at the iconography of American Jewish life. Prayer for the United States in shul, prayer for medina Yisrael  [state of Israel]. American flag, Israeli flag– right? I mean at their school, they have the clock that says what time it is in New York and the clock that says what time it is in Israel.

And if someone asked me, do you have a loyalty to the Jewish people, which is separate from your loyalty to the United States, I would say Yes. I would say Of course I have a loyalty to the Jewish people. I feel an affinity and a connection and a concern for Jews around the world because we are Am Yisrael, we are a people. And so I guess, I totally understand that the suggestion that Jews are not good citizens is very, very dangerous and has a very, very ugly ugly history. But how can one talk about the fact that as Jews we do have a special for the Jewish people and for the Jewish state and I would imagine that if African Americans have a special concern for what happens in Haiti, why should that be considered illegitimate.

By the way, many other Jews from John Judis to Joe Klein to Eric Alterman to Melissa Weintraub, have made a similar point.

Long Island Jewish center with Israeli and American flags at half mast after Ariel Sharon’s death in January 2014, photo by Scott Roth

Deborah Lipstadt, a scholar of anti-Semitism, pushed back against Beinart’s characterization of dual loyalty. It’s one thing to talk about the “affinity” of a people for another country– look at the Irish and St. Patrick’s Day– and another to invoke a “nexus of anti-Semitic stereotypes.” One such anti-Semitic stereotype is that Jews can’t be trusted.

We’re talking about a loyalty that supersedes your loyalty to the United States. That in a crunch you would support Israel before the United States.. Not even in a crunch, that you’re not loyal to the United States… That is really the crux of the anti-Semitic charge.

Lipstadt went back more than 100 years ago, to the belief that Jews didn’t serve in the military. And on back to the era in the 1800’s and earlier when Jews could not always obtain citizenship in Europe because they were seen to constitute a separate people. That was the corrosive stereotype Ilhan Omar was plugging into, Lipstadt said: like saying of a young black person he’s “shiftless” or of a pretty college student, she’s a “dumb blonde.”

Beinart dispensed with the ancient history.

[What] if one were to say, Look, I think AIPAC should register as an agent of a foreign government because in reality they are not independent of Israeli government? When Netanyahu came out against the Iran deal, AIPAC did not have an independent choice about whether it was going to or not. It has to pretty much follow the Israeli government, almost all the time.

Lipstadt said that a month earlier, AIPAC criticized an Israeli leader for making a political deal with a “reprehensible” racist party in Israel, a party AIPAC refuses to meet with, in order to win reelection. AIPAC’s statement did not mention Benjamin Netanyahu by name. “That was pretty significant,” Lipstadt said.

Beinart demurred:

That was a break, but it was very unusual I think. And not on a policy issue. In general, I think you tend to find them more often breaking with the American government than with the Israeli government.

Lipstadt held the brief for AIPAC, saying it hadn’t broken with the American government on the Iran deal, because the Congress was against the deal, even if it was President Obama’s policy.

Beinart insisted:

Can one question whether AIPAC is acting de facto as an agent of the Israeli government without being anti-Semitic?

Lipstadt said, Yes, one could have such a discussion about AIPAC, but it would have to be a “serious conversation.” It wouldn’t begin with a flippant remark. “It wouldn’t be starting by saying it’s dual allegiance.”

Personally I have no idea how you can have a real discussion of anything important when rules are laid down ahead of time about what is the right tone. In fact, what has started a serious discussion of dual loyalty inside the lobby was electing a new Muslim female member to Congress who does not feel beholden to AIPAC…

Beinart was in essence on Rep. Omar’s side throughout the discussion. Let’s say it again about Beinart: while he is a fully-credentialed member of the elite, and his personal affiliations are all with a conservative, Zionist community, he has not hesitated to endanger his status by questioning articles of faith of those communities. Hat’s off. This is a guy who ten years ago spoke to private AIPAC fundraising gatherings.

AIPAC’s predecessor organization was registered as a foreign agent for Israel. AIPAC was founded more than 50 years in some measure to escape that foreign designation.

Thanks to Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro for directing my attention to this interview.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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26 Responses

  1. echinococcus on June 1, 2019, 3:02 pm

    ” By the way, from John Judis to Joe Klein to Eric Alterman to Melissa Weintraub, have made a similar point.”

    Wrong. Not “many other Jews”, here, because all these people you are giving serious attention to are, in this context, many other goddam Zionists. Your tribal loyalty seems to go to a majority-Zionist gathering of criminals.

  2. philweiss on June 1, 2019, 3:09 pm

    I think Judis is an anti-Zionist, or close. In part because of this issue. Joe Klein– I bet he’s almost anti-Zionist at this point, though I wouldn’t know..

    • Mooser on June 1, 2019, 4:59 pm

      Perhaps we will have to make new delineations as the tent grows to admit liberal anti-Zionists.

  3. echinococcus on June 1, 2019, 6:06 pm

    At that point, Mr. Weiss, your definition of Zionism seems to be the reason for your eternal empty call that “the tide is turning”

    • Mooser on June 2, 2019, 12:25 pm

      “Echin” you don’t see what Phil is up to? Remember the old story about Lyndon Johnson, his opponent in a Texas election, and what could be proven concerning the pig.

      • echinococcus on June 2, 2019, 3:18 pm

        Mooser, you don’t really need end-to-end encryption to communicate with a fellow discussant –especially when only your end has the code.

      • Mooser on June 2, 2019, 4:05 pm

        If Phil says they may be not-Zionists, or even anti-Zionists, they are free to deny it.

  4. JWalters on June 1, 2019, 9:47 pm

    Lipstadt’s criteria for a statement being objectionable is that it invokes a “nexus of anti-Semitic stereotypes”. And any “serious” discussion would not start with the issue of “dual allegiance”.

    First on “dual allegiance”. In fact there have been American citizens who have betrayed America for Israel. Nuclear secrets, and even nuclear materials have been stolen by American citizens for Israel. AIPAC employees have spied on America for Israel. In one case such an employee was fired by AIPAC, and he sued AIPAC on the grounds that he should not have been fired since spying by AIPAC employees was common. Described here:
    “This is the Perfect Explanation of How the War Industry Works!”
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYJpzNrSsQY

    So considering the possibility that a particular American citizen is acting against America’s interests to benefit Israel can be a completely sensible hypothesis give the evidence of recent history. Lipstadt’s objection that such a hypothesis resembles an anti-Semitic trope is irrelevant in the face of actual evidence. THE EVIDENCE MUST BE EXAMINED BEFORE JUMPING TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THE HYPOTHESIS IS DUE TO BIAS. Lipstadt cannot dismiss the evidence by presuming a bias. We MUST follow the standard protocols of fact-finding that have been worked out in disciplines like science, engineering, and law.

    Regarding the “nexus of anti-Semitic stereotypes”, I don’t want to freak anyone out here, but conditions resembling those of today may have also existed in the past. After all, stereotypes, as misleading and troublesome as they are, come from somewhere.

    • echinococcus on June 2, 2019, 3:27 pm

      Walters,

      Congratulations. I love your way of putting down facts so skillfully that they even make it through the Mondoweiss censor.

      One tiny bone to pick, though. You write “We MUST follow the standard protocols of fact-finding that have been worked out in disciplines like science, engineering, and law” but you can’t possibly say it with a straight face. Law is not a discipline even though it uses both Sade’s and Masoch’s discipline, and its rules of evidence wouldn’t stand in a first-year reckoning class at an Alabama primary school.

      • JWalters on June 2, 2019, 6:48 pm

        I’ve heard the law is more corrupt than science, though corruption seems to be making gains in all areas these days.

        In this post I found I could make the core points without reference to Jews, focusing on the crimes and the illogical defenses in a more generalized scenario. I think that helps get past the mods.

        It seems to me the crimes are at the center of the problem, so a solution needs to focus on resolving those, and in a just way. Always ok with the mods.

        I suspect some editorial limits reflect a goal of NOT triggering an anti-Semitic pogrom. Or more likely, of not unduly scaring Jewish readers, especially Zionist readers who are exploring, and having the Mondoweiss door shut for them.

        It seems to me the best way to insure that won’t happen is to make a clear distinction hetween the majority of the Jewish community and the criminals whose crimes cause blowback. Then any such blowback will be accurately aimed.

    • hank on June 3, 2019, 7:27 pm

      The term “dual loyalty” is an oxymoron, giving undue deference to the motives and desires of Israeli-Americans (in this context). In real life, two countries will never have permanently identical needs and policies, meaning that at some point anyone claiming that status will have to decide which loyalty to favor. The potential for conflict was highlighted in the case of Netanyahu’s notorious address to Congress about the ongoing nuclear negotiation with Iran. Representative Jerrold Ladner (D, NY) distinguished himself among Jewish members by avoiding the occasion, for which he was rewarded in the Readers Pages of The Forward by being denounced as a “traitor”. “Dual loyalty” indeed!

  5. VQTilley on June 2, 2019, 12:05 am

    I’ve been puzzling over this “dual loyalty” controversy and reading this article it finally crystallized for me how it works. (Of course, Ilhan Omar et al have never used the term “dual loyalty”, it’s one of those claimed “tropes” that have become a Zionist cudgel, but to the extent that the term “allegiance” does trigger real worries among some it must be addressed.) Anyway, I think “dual loyalty” regarding Israel is at best a misnomer if “dual” is understood to mean that the two could ever come into conflict. Among those US supporters of Israel whom I’ve met and debated, I don’t think the interests of the two countries are imagined as ever being rightly in competition with each other. Yes, there have been spies (as another commenter here points out), but even among those I don’t think these people ever believed they were acting against the security interests of the United States on behalf of Israel and would never consciously do so. Rather, they simply assumed that Israel’s interests must be identical with those of the United States, because Israel is so good and its needs (as they see them) are so unquestionably valid that the US will share them if it has its metaphorical head on straight. If at any point the US government doesn’t see this and fails to act accordingly, it’s not disloyal to the US to take whatever measures are needed to restore this fusion.

    This isn’t duality, it’s unity. It’s a view reflected in rhetoric by Israel supporters such as Nancy Pelosi in language such as “there is no space between the United States and Israel.” Loyalty is truly the problem, but that problem is loyalty to the idea of a unity of outlook, interests and destiny shared by both countries. In this mindset, to turn against Israel is to betray US values, the Constitution and the US vision itself.

    As I write this I’m afraid it could seem over-obvious, a “grass is green” revelation. But I think it’s actually been confusing what “allegiance” to Israel, which we have all observed, actually means and how it works. It’s not so much loyalty to a foreign state as it is a commitment to supporting something the US by its nature should support: Jewish statehood as the essential sanctuary of a persecuted people and a liberal democratic light unto nations that is, unfortunately, located in a hostile region and needs our help. That’s why loyalty to Israel can be so strong among people who are also US patriots.

    I think this was Omar’s point. She wasn’t suggesting simply that Israel is being sheltered from valid criticism. She was suggesting that people reexamine the assumption that everything Israel does, even Jewish statehood itself, is intrinsically a good, valid, noble idea properly fused with American values and therefore foreign policy (as well as our electoral politics). This suggestion is deeply dangerous for Israel, because once that space opens up to question that idea, Israel could quickly look like what it is – a state that flagrantly, formally and consistently violates those same values. No wonder the Hasbara networks are yelling about a European anti-Semitic trope of “dual loyalty” that doesn’t apply here in order to distract people from the real question and derail that suggestion entirely.

    • Abern on June 2, 2019, 11:11 am

      A major component in the propaganda inherent in discussions of Israel and the US is references to ‘values’. Those values include mass murdering others and their children when we want.

    • Mooser on June 2, 2019, 12:18 pm

      ” I don’t think these people ever believed they were acting against the security interests of the United States on behalf of Israel and would never consciously do so”

      That is no excuse for breaking the US and Israeli laws, and evading regulations and international law.

    • JWalters on June 2, 2019, 7:14 pm

      “a commitment to supporting something the US by its nature should support”

      Hence the AIPAC spies believe their deceiving Americans is for the Americans’ own good? And Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty was for America’s own good?

      Here’s an alternative theory. The Israelis believe it’s OK for them to deceive and slaughter Americans because they see Americans (non-Jewish) as essentially like Palestinians, lesser beings, more akin to livestock than humans, as some Jewish religious leaders have openly said, and many Israeli actions attest.

      I do agree however, that some duped American Jews believe as you describe.

  6. DaBakr on June 2, 2019, 3:37 am

    Writing about what Peter Beinhart thinks should be done is, to the center left to conservative jews like writing about what David duke thinks should be done. Or Omar. Or Tlaib. I mean, ok, pw is writing for his audience but the majority of the world concerned with Israel no longer cares what Beinhart has to say now that his lover boy Obama is not in power

    • RoHa on June 3, 2019, 1:34 am

      The majority of the people concerned with Israel never knew who Beinhart was, let alone cared what he said at any time.

      The same goes for the majority of these journalists and commentators that Phil gets so worked up about.

      • Misterioso on June 3, 2019, 10:16 am

        @DaBakr and RoHa

        Dream on!! “None is so blind as he who will not see.”

      • DaBakr on June 3, 2019, 5:15 pm

        @rh

        OK. Maybe so. I won’t argue your point. In fact, I tend to agree.

      • RoHa on June 3, 2019, 7:13 pm

        Misterioso, what is it that I will not see?

    • Misterioso on June 3, 2019, 9:30 am

      @DaBakr

      News flash!!: More compelling evidence that Zionism is in free fall among American Jews. No surprise!! It must be very difficult for sane Jews to be associated with the thoroughly documented borderless, expansionist, racist, serial violator of international law entity known as “Israel.”

      https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-growing-number-of-u-s-jews-support-evacuation-of-west-bank-settlements-study-finds-1.7314699

      “Growing Number of U.S. Jews Support Evacuation of All West Bank Settlements, Survey Finds” by Judy Maltz, Haaretz, June 2/19

      “AJC poll exposes deepening divide between American and Israeli Jews on issues like Trump’s policies and the importance of ‘caring about Israel.'”

      “Fewer American Jews consider ‘caring about Israel’ an important part of being Jewish, a survey published on Sunday by the American Jewish Committee finds. Those questioned also indicated that they do not believe a thriving state of Israel is ‘vital’ to the long-term future of the Jewish people.

      “A growing number of American Jews, the survey shows, are also unhappy with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and support a full evacuation of West Bank settlements.

      “This was first ever survey conducted by the veteran Jewish organization to examine attitudes concurrently in the three largest Jewish communities in the world: the United States, Israel and France. (Israel was included in last year’s survey, but this was the first time for France). The questions asked of members of the three communities were not identical, however.

      “In last year’s survey, 70 percent of American Jews questioned said that caring about Israel was ‘a very important part of my being a Jew.’ In this year’s survey, their share had dropped to 62 percent. The percentage that ‘strongly disagreed’ with this statement had risen from 9 to 15 percent.

      “Moreover, the share that considered a thriving Israel vital for the long-term future of the Jews dropped from 79 to 72 percent.

      “This trend of disengagement from Israel was most pronounced among younger and secular American Jews. Only 44 percent of people between the age of 18 and 29 and 42 percent of the secular respondents said that Israel played a significant role in their Jewish identity.

      “The share of American Jews who believe Israel ‘should be willing to dismantle all the settlements’ as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians rose from 15 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2019. By contrast, only 6 percent of Israeli Jews were in favor of such a move. Nearly two-thirds of American Jews said they supported a two-state solution that included that establishment of a demilitarized Palestinians state in the West Bank while only 39 percent of Israeli Jews did.

      “Given this polarization, a growing share of American Jews said they were pessimistic about relations between the two largest Jewish communities in the world: The percentage that expects ties between American and Israeli Jews to weaken in the next five years rose from 15 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2019.

      “The survey further revealed glaring differences in how American and Israeli Jews perceive the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. Nearly 80 percent of Israeli Jews said they approved of his handling of U.S.-Israel relations, as compared to only 37 percent of American Jews. A much larger share of Israelis Jews favored the American president’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights than did American Jews.

      “Of the 1,006 American Jews who participated in the survey, 49 percent identified as Democrat and 18 percent as Republican. In terms of religious affiliation, 29 percent identified as Reform, 13 percent as Conservative, 7 percent as ultra-Orthodox, 3 percent as Modern Orthodox and 21 percent as secular. In Israel, 1,000 Jews participated in the survey, and in France, 771.

      “Both American Jews and French Jews said they were feeling under greater threat in their respective countries. Half of the French Jews questioned said they felt less safe today than they did a year ago. Among American Jews, 65 percent said they felt less safe (a 10-point rise over the previous year). 57 percent said the climate on American college campuses was more hostile to pro-Israel students today than it was a year ago.

      “The survey shows that French Jews feel far more connected to Israel than do American Jews. Asked to use the metaphor of family to describe their relationship to Israelis, 57 percent of French Jews described them as siblings or first cousins – compared with only 28 percent of American Jews who did so. Similarly, 65 percent of French Jews said they had visited Israel at least once, compared with only 41 percent of the Americans. Many more French Jews reported having family in Israel and one-quarter of them (Americans were not asked this questions) said they owned a second residence in Israel.”

  7. Keith on June 2, 2019, 11:35 am

    PHIL- “Deborah Lipstadt, a scholar of anti-Semitism….”

    Is it possible to make any comment on this and have it pass moderation? Both of my last two attempts would have passed the IHRA guidelines, for cry sakes! Or is it me saying it you object to?

    • DaBakr on June 3, 2019, 5:20 pm

      @k

      Is it really “cry” sakes or ‘cripes’ or ‘christ’ sakes? Just curious, never knew. Like the expression.

      • annie on June 3, 2019, 6:43 pm

        for christ’s sake https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/for_Christ%27s_sake

        English
        Alternative forms
        for chrissake
        for chrissakes
        Prepositional phrase
        for Christ’s sake

        (colloquial) Used to express surprise, contempt, outrage, disgust, boredom, frustration.
        Related terms
        for cripes’ sake
        for fuck’s sake
        for God’s sake
        for Pete’s sake
        for pity’s sake
        for goodness’ sake
        for heaven’s sake
        for crying out loud

  8. just on June 2, 2019, 12:06 pm

    “Growing Number of U.S. Jews Support Evacuation of All West Bank Settlements, Survey Finds…

    Fewer American Jews consider “caring about Israel” an important part of being Jewish, a survey published on Sunday by the American Jewish Committee finds. Those questioned also indicated that they do not believe a thriving state of Israel is “vital” to the long-term future of the Jewish people.

    A growing number of American Jews, the survey shows, are also unhappy with Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and support a full evacuation of West Bank settlements. …

    … In last year’s survey, 70 percent of American Jews questioned said that caring about Israel was “a very important part of my being a Jew.” In this year’s survey, their share had dropped to 62 percent. The percentage that “strongly disagreed” with this statement had risen from 9 to 15 percent.

    Moreover, the share that considered a thriving Israel vital for the long-term future of the Jews dropped from 79 to 72 percent.

    This trend of disengagement from Israel was most pronounced among younger and secular American Jews. Only 44 percent of people between the age of 18 and 29 and 42 percent of the secular respondents said that Israel played a significant role in their Jewish identity.

    The share of American Jews who believe Israel “should be willing to dismantle all the settlements” as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinians rose from 15 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2019. By contrast, only 6 percent of Israeli Jews were in favor of such a move. Nearly two-thirds of American Jews said they supported a two-state solution that included that establishment of a demilitarized Palestinians state in the West Bank while only 39 percent of Israeli Jews did.

    Given this polarization, a growing share of American Jews said they were pessimistic about relations between the two largest Jewish communities in the world: The percentage that expects ties between American and Israeli Jews to weaken in the next five years rose from 15 percent in 2018 to 25 percent in 2019.

    The survey further revealed glaring differences in how American and Israeli Jews perceive the policies of U.S. President Donald Trump. Nearly 80 percent of Israeli Jews said they approved of his handling of U.S.-Israel relations, as compared to only 37 percent of American Jews. A much larger share of Israelis Jews favored the American president’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights than did American Jews.

    Of the 1,006 American Jews who participated in the survey, 49 percent identified as Democrat and 18 percent as Republican. In terms of religious affiliation, 29 percent identified as Reform, 13 percent as Conservative, 7 percent as ultra-Orthodox, 3 percent as Modern Orthodox and 21 percent as secular. In Israel, 1,000 Jews participated in the survey, and in France, 771.

    Both American Jews and French Jews said they were feeling under greater threat in their respective countries. Half of the French Jews questioned said they felt less safe today than they did a year ago. Among American Jews, 65 percent said they felt less safe (a 10-point rise over the previous year). 57 percent said the climate on American college campuses was more hostile to pro-Israel students today than it was a year ago.

    The survey shows that French Jews feel far more connected to Israel than do American Jews. …”

    The rest @ https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/.premium-growing-number-of-u-s-jews-support-evacuation-of-west-bank-settlements-study-finds-1.7314699?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

    Of course AIPAC should register as agent of the Occupation, Apartheid, Israeli government!!! There should be no question at all! One more thing~ how many US journalists (print and tv) have worked for AIPAC? MJ Rosenberg, Wolf Blitzer, ??? How many still do?

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