The ADL has lumped me and Max Blumenthal and Jeff Morley in with rightwing antisemites because we said that Trump killed Qasem Soleimani out of concern for Israel’s interest. The ADL classifies us as the “anti-Zionist left,” but it associates us with nationalist Jew-hating rhetoric that has undoubtedly made Jews less safe in the United States. And the ADL specifically scores me for speaking of the number of Zionist Jews that Trump has in his administration.
I confess that this kind of attack hurts. I grew up in a very Jewish household that had a lot of respect for the ADL; and I carry a portion of that respect to this day for the ADL’s efforts fighting bigotry. When people hurl the antisemitism charge at me, as they often have, it doesn’t just bounce off lightly. I think of the former friends who have accused me, including my former editor who said I am being “used” by Palestinians against Jews, and of my own family members, one of whom called my work “vile,” while the others ignore it and have never given me an ounce of support.
But let’s move to the actual substance. First, the ADL is lying in bringing up my post of last summer, “Why are there so many Zionist Jews in the Trump administration?” That piece quoted two Zionist Jews raising this religious question, in considering Trump’s craven conduct in Palestine. Yaakov Katz of the Jerusalem Post said:
Do you understand where the Palestinians come from when they say for example you got three orthodox Jewish men, Jason Greenblatt, David Friedman, Jared Kushner, who are the point people on the Israeli Palestinian portfolio?
Michael Koplow of the IPF also cited Greenblatt and Friedman’s religious background when he criticized them for cavorting in their “historical and religious playground… in wildly inappropriate ways for U.S. diplomats.”
Religion is a perfectly legitimate issue to raise when it guides a public official’s behavior. And by the way, there’s a war on inside the Jewish community over Israel, and I take sides.
Now let’s move on to the more important question. The ADL doesn’t want me to bring up the fact that Sheldon Adelson and Bernard Marcus, Trump’s two biggest donors, hate Iran, and in fact Adelson called on the last president to strike Iran with a nuclear weapon. The ADL seems to believe that even mentioning these wealthy Zionists is going to foster antisemitism. The ADL and its friends have been effective in that tactic because No one is mentioning Adelson and Israel as factors in Trump’s decisionmaking, even as he sides with rightwing Israeli militant policies again and again and again.
This is crazy. While nobody can read Trump’s mind, the president is plainly a transactional egomaniac who himself once said of a report that Adelson was going to give Marco Rubio money that “he feels he can mold him into his perfect little puppet.” The media has a responsibility to examine the extent to which Trump has become Adelson’s tool, and Bernard Marcus’s and Paul Singer’s — the three billionaires who led Trump to trash the Iran deal. The media won’t touch the angle, and that’s a dereliction. Netanyahu was the only foreign leader consulted on the assassination, the Times tells us deep in its coverage. But imagine if this were Russia getting its wish. Or the Koch brothers buying a politician. Jeff Morley was doing fine journalism by showing how Israel had targeted Soleimani. Max Blumenthal was making a fine satirical point when he said that Trump mispelled the Israeli flag when he posted an image of the US flag post-Soleimani.
And yes, I insist on discussing this in Jewish terms. Zionism is a Jewish ideology chiefly. Today there is a war on it inside the Jewish community, and maybe Batya Ungar-Sargon and Jeffrey Goldberg and Bari Weiss are right that 95 percent of the Jewish community supports Israel blindly. But the righteous 5 percent are waging an idealistic struggle to save their ethnic/religious community from a grave historical error, the persecution of Palestinians as lesser human beings.
My allies who are demanding the rehiring of an anti-Zionist teacher who got fired by a New York private school frame the battle correctly, as one between wealthy Jews and the Jewish future. The Fieldston administrators who fired J.B. Brager were “signaling to conservative Jewish donors that the school will punish dissenters from those donors’ views,” writes a group of graduates. They call out the ADL for playing a regressive role.
This weaponization of anti-Semitism is the subject of a pitched battle within Jewish communities, with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League attacking tens of thousands of young, progressive, and Orthodox Jews as “anti-Semites.”
Count me in on the struggle against Zionism inside the Jewish community. And in the struggle against the Israel lobby inside US foreign policy making. The ADL is on the wrong side on these issues. It has won a lot of battles over the last ten years including keeping the criticism of the Israel lobby in the margins. But it knows that bit by bit it is losing the Democratic Party and young Jews. So it lashes out.
H/t James North, Scott Roth, Adam Horowitz and Jeff Morley.