America, American Jews, and Israel

“[W]hen we’re fighting for Israel we’re all one.”

Rabbi Alexander Schindler,
former chairman,
Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations,
quoted in Jewish Power,
para. 8.9.5

J. J. Goldberg’s Jewish Power

Here are some excerpts from
Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment
by J. J. Goldberg.
The chapters excerpted are listed below;
the order is an attempt to arrange the narrative as chronologically as possible,
rather than thematically as in the book.

Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.

  1. Jerusalem on the Potomac:
    The Rise and Rise of the Israel Lobby
  2. Separated by a Common Faith:
    American Jewry’s One-Way Love Affair With Israel
  3. The Struggle for the Jewish Soul
  4. Chosen People: Jews and the Ballot Box

Chapter 8
Jerusalem on the Potomac:
The Rise and Rise of the Israel Lobby

[I]n May 1977 ...
Israeli voters went to the polls and ended two generations of rule
by the left-of-center Israel Labor Party.
In its place came the Likud, a conservative bloc of parties
headed by the nationalist firebrand Menachem Begin.

[More on this below in section 8.10.]

American Jewry’s top leaders embraced the new prime minister at once.
Despite their long ties to Labor,
they hailed the turn over as a tribute to Israeli democracy, and
they pledged Israel their continuing loyalty.
The Likud would soon learn that as good as it was to have
American Jewish supporters who were loyal to Israel,
it would be better to have
friends who were loyal to the Likud.

[Albert Chernin in 1975 became the head of NCRAC
(now the Jewish Council for Public Affairs).
Concerning the relation between NCRAC, the Presidents Conference, and Israel,
he said:]

“In domestic areas we made policy, but in Israel affairs
the policy was a given.
Our job was to communicate it to the communities.
We saw the Presidents Conference as the public voice of the Jewish community,
especially to the [American] president and the administration.
And for the public record, at least,
it represented the community’s policy-making body on Israel.
In reality,
it was the vehicle through which
Israel communicated its policy to the community.

The right of Jews to dissent from Israeli policy
is the most sordidly painful issue
to arise in Jewish community life in the last generation.
Paradoxically, for a group that prides itself on feisty independence,
the Jewish community came down solidly against
its own members’ freedom of expression during the mid-1970s.

The full weight of community wrath
was brought down firmly on
a few who tried to speak their own minds.

The issue first arose in the late 1960s as a debate over the war in Vietnam.
In private meetings, [President] Lyndon Johnson complained about
the prominence of Jews in the antiwar movement,
calling it hypocritical for Jews to demand that
America support Israel but abandon South Vietnam.
Community leaders argued bitterly over the implied White House threat,
splitting along ideological lines that would soon become familiar:
the Orthodox Union, Anti-Defamation League, and Jewish War Veterans
on the right;
the Reform union, American Jewish Congress,
and National Council of Jewish Women
on the left;
the Conservative movement and American Jewish Committee
trying forlornly to hold the center.

After [President] Richard Nixon raised the stakes to Israel
by increasing U.S. support,
Prime Minister Golda Meir weighed into the debate
with pro-war public statements and private appeals to Jewish leaders.
Her ambassador in Washington, Yitzhak Rabin,
actually flew to New York in 1970 to bully a small band of students
who planned to carry antiwar placards in the annual Salute to Israel parade.

In the wake of the Yom Kippur War,
the debate switched from Vietnam to the Middle East.
In early 1974,
[Yassar] Arafat began putting out feelers to Israel,
suggesting that
he might be ready to consider
some sort of coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians.

A few Jewish community activists called for a response.
Israel came down hard on the wayward doves.

The test case was Breira (meaning “alternative”),
a tiny group of intellectuals formed in the spring of 1973
to promote “open discussion of Israel-Diaspora relations.”
After the October war, it became a vehicle for the Israeli left
to promote its views of Israeli-Palestinian “mutual recognition”
among American Jews.

With a budget of less than $50,000
and a membership that never topped fifteen hundred,
Breira posed no threat to the major Jewish organizations.
Most supporters were graduate students or junior rabbis,
including a sizable number of staff rabbis from the B’nai B’rith Hillel Foundations, the Jewish campus chaplaincy service.

Yet Breira provoked a national furor,
some of it clearly spontaneous, some manifestly coordinated.
Leaders of virtually every major Jewish organization spoke out against it.
The president of the Reform rabbinate, Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld,
who had once marched with Martin Luther King, Jr.,
announced that groups like Breira
“give aid and comfort...to those who would cut aid to Israel
leave it defenseless before murders and terrorists.”
[So, to the American Jewish leadership,
liberal ideals diminish, if not vanish, as one approaches Israel.
Note also the exact parallel to the post-9/11 comments
of those who oppose attempts to make peace with the Muslim world.]

The president of the American Jewish Congress, Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg,
refused to speak at [a] meeting where a Breira member was to appear.
B’nai B’rith was pressured to discipline Hillel rabbis who joined the dissenters.
In some cities,
Breira members were invited to visit the local Israeli consulate
for tongue-lashings by ranking diplomats.
By 1976, members were resigning [from] Breira in droves.
In 1977, the battered organization finally gave up and dissolved itself.

Dissent was not limited to Breira.
Prominent Jews were writing newspaper columns and buying advertising space
to criticize Israeli policy,
and each new protest sparked a new wave of counter-protests.
Literary critic Irving Howe,
who in May 1976 signed an ad
opposing Jewish settlement of the occupied territories,
complained that the signers were
“subjected to unseemly pressures in their communities and organizations.”
He called it “heimishe [homelike] witch hunting.”

By mid-1976 the crackdown was sparking a backlash.
NCRAC and the American Jewish Committee ordered up internal studies on
the limits of dissent.
The Presidents Conference and the Synagogue Council of America
held public inquiries on the topic.
All these organizations reached the same conclusion:
American Jews had the right to discuss issues freely,
but only within discreet forums, outside public view.

“I am for an exchange of views between American Jews and Israel,”
Israeli ambassador Simcha Dinitz told one gathering,
“but the New York Times and the Washington Post
do not have to be the first channel of dispute
between American Jews and Israel.”
Airing disputes in public, he said, conveyed weakness and division
at a time when Israel was fighting for its survival.

[Note: Yitzhak Rabin was prime minister at this time.
It is interesting that these policies of his government,
opposing free speech by American Jews,
seem to be the exact opposite of his policies (see section 13.11.6)
during his second term as prime minister, from 1992 to 1995.]

Working closely with [Israeli ambassador] Dinitz and his staff,
the Presidents Conference and NCRAC
began to develop a set of baseline principles to
govern behavior within the organized Jewish community.
They boiled down to three basic tenets:
  1. Israelis were the only ones entitled to decide Israeli policy,
    since they alone bore the risks.
  2. American Jews must stand publicly united with Israel,
    and air disagreements only in private.
  3. Israel could not negotiate with Palestinian terrorists,
    since talking to them would grant them legitimacy.

These rules were quickly taken up by the Jewish leadership
as sacred writ from Jerusalem.
Jews who disagreed found themselves
unwelcome in community forums,
asked to leave governing boards,
shouted down at meetings.

Even luminaries like Nahum Goldmann and Philip Klutznick,
the founders of the Presidents Conference,
began to find themselves ostracized
after they endorsed Middle East compromise.

[So much for the myth of the peace-loving American Jewish mainstream.

Also, compare the lenient treatment given to Morton Klein
when he deviated from the Israeli party line,
by opposing compromise, rather than endorsing it.]

Through few knew it at the time,
Jimmy Carter came to Washington in January 1977
determined to solve the Middle East conflict,
even if it made him a one-term president.
He was drawn to the region by his born-again Christian beliefs.
He took it on faith that
conflicts could be resolved through understanding and compromise.
He leaned emotionally toward dispossessed of the world,
which in the Middle East now meant the Palestinians.
His background in rural Georgia, far from the cities of the Northeast,
may have blinded him to the firestorm of Jewish anxiety he was about to stir up.

Carter’s troubles with the Jewish community began in March,
just weeks after his inauguration.
After receiving Prime Minister [Yitzhak] Rabin at the White House
for a chilly round of talks,
the president publicly spelled out his ideas about Middle East peace.
One of these was to address the “political dimension” of the Palestinian problem.
A week later, he openly called in a speech for a “Palestinian homeland.”
No president had ever come so close to recognizing Palestinian nationalism.
Relations between the White House and the Jewish community
quickly reached a crisis level.

Carter’s top staff liaison to the Jewish community,
Los Angeles attorney Ed Sanders, a former president of AIPAC,
attempted to defuse the tensions
by inviting Jewish leaders to the White House for small get-acquainted chats.
Hoping to avoid the lockstep pro-Israel mentality
of the Presidents Conference,
he decided to reach out to local federation and JCRC leaders.
NCRAC and the CJF quickly put an end to that.
“The Jewish community had created
an instrumentality in the Presidents Conference
to be the liaison to the White House,” [Albert ] Chernin says.
“Now the president was trying to play by different rules
and pick his own Jewish leaders.
We couldn’t allow ourselves to be seduced.”
Sanders backed off.

[Chronologically, section 8.10 would appear here.]

In September [1977], the State Department tried the same thing,
hoping to win Jewish support for a reconvened Geneva peace conference,
which Israel strongly opposed.
Leaders of the Presidents Conference
were invited to meet with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance,
but they learned in advance
that others had been invited from outside the conference.
Reform leader Alexander Schindler, who chaired the Presidents Conference,
obtained a list of invitees
and brought them to Washington a day early for a rehearsal.
Everyone was given a scripted role to play.
When the group entered Vance’s office the next day,
Schindler was visibly in charge.
“We took that meeting away from them,” Schindler recalls with a chuckle.

Even Rabbi Moshe Sherer, president of the devoutly anti-Reform Agudath Israel,
rose to inform Vance that everyone in the room stood behind Rabbi Schindler.
“I nearly fell over,” Schindler said.
“In his own shul he never calls me ‘rabbi.’
when we’re fighting for Israel we’re all one.”

[So much for the myth of Jewish diversity.]

In fact, at that moment,
the unity of the American Jewish community
was facing its greatest challenge ever.
Israeli voters had gone to the polls in May 1977
and ousted Yitzhak Rabin’s Labor Party,
ending fifty years of labor rule in the Jewish homeland.
The new prime minister was Menachem Begin,
Polish-born leader of the rightist Likud bloc.
Deeply conservative on economic and social matters,
he was the antithesis of American Jewish liberalism.
As for Palestinian rights,
he rejected the very idea of compromise.
He opposed returning any territory, even to Jordan, even for peace.

To him, the West Bank was the heart of the “Greater Land of Israel.”

Begin’s election sent shock waves throughout the American political system.
In the news media, in academia, at the top levels of the Carter administration,
Israel’s new prime minister was viewed as an apparition of doom.

It was Schindler who stepped in at that moment
to ease the transition to the right.
Though he was president of the staunchly liberal Reform union,
he believed his first responsibility was as chair of the Presidents Conference.

as the leader of American Jewry,
he considered it his duty
to ensure that
Israel enjoyed unbroken support.

[Excuse me, but isn’t that a textbook case of,
not dual loyalties, but single loyalty?]

“When we learned the election results,” Schindler recalls,
“I immediately sent a message to all the organizations and local communities,
saying Israel is a democracy and
we have to support the democratically elected head of Israel.”


Schindler decided to go to Israel and come back....

“I knew in advance what we would say on return,” Schindler says.
“That Begin had come from the far right,
but that in order to govern he has to occupy the center.
That we shouldn’t be afraid of people from the far right.
After all, who made peace with China, if not Nixon?”
[A nice analogy, but not an entirely accurate one.
Nixon did, as Schindler observes, make peace with China.
But Begin, while he did grudgingly agree to the Camp David accords,
brokered by American President Carter, with Egyptian President Sadat,
never did anything to make peace with the Palestinians.]

Once in Israel, Schindler discovered to his surprise that he actually liked Begin.
Instead of a fire-breathing radical
he found a courtly, soft-spoken European gentlemen of the old school.
More important, Schindler found a rare Israeli
who was interested in the fate of the Diaspora.
“I felt more understanding for world Jewry on Begin’s part,
certainly than on Rabin’s,” Schindler observes.
“Rabin had always struck me like a Canaanite
who didn’t give a damn about world Jewry, except as a pawn.
Begin really cared.”
[Gee, that’s all wonderful, but is that all that matters to American Jewry
before they pledge loyalty to Israel’s leader?]

Schindler flew home and informed the White House of his favorable impressions.
As he expected, his endorsement got wide press coverage.
The White House gave Begin a cordial reception
when he made his first visit in July.
Outside Washington, Jewish audiences received Begin with the same adulation
they had once showered on Golda Meir and David Ben-Gurion.

In August 1983, Menachem Begin resigned abruptly as prime minister....
He was succeeded by Yitzhak Shamir, leader of the Likud’s hardline faction.
A dour, taciturn ex-intelligence agent,
he had once commanded an anti-British terrorist band in pre-1948 Palestine.

In July 1984, Shamir led his party into a general election and lost,
winning only 41 seats in the 120-member parliament [the Knesset].
The Labor Party, led by Shimon Peres, took 44 seats.
But neither party was able to forge a ruling coalition
out of the small, splintered religious and fringe parties
that held the remaining seats.
Shamir and Peres agreed to join forces in a government of national unity.
Peres was named prime minister,
his deputy Yitzhak Rabin became defense minister, and
Shamir became foreign minister.
It was agreed that Peres and Shamir would switch jobs in two years.

The result was four years of intrigue and backstabbing.
Peres, during his two years in charge [1984–1986]...
began secret talks with Jordan’s King Hussein,
gradually expanding Jordan’s role on the West Bank and
moving toward a peace agreement in which
Jordan would take over the territory altogether.
Shamir, during his two years as prime minister [1986–1988],
managed to scuttle the deal with Jordan
and greatly expand the pace of Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
(See 8.19)

In one arena, however, there was little competition between Peres and Shamir: relations with the American Jewish community.
Shamir had that field to himself.

Before Shamir,
Israel’s political relationship with the American Jewish leadership
was an informal affair, based on personal contacts
by Israel’s ambassador in Washington and consul general in New York.
Shamir developed it into a complex operation
involving diplomats, Israeli civil servents, and Likud party officials,
all answering directly to Shamir’s chief of staff,
a hardline rightist career diplomat named Yossi Ben-Aharon.
Their collective assignment was to
turn the American Jewish establishment into an organ of Likud policy.

This was not a simple task.
The existence of the unity government gave a new twist to the old principle that
Jews must publicly support the policies of the Israeli government.
Many were now asking which government policy they were supposed to defend.
As Shamir and Peres bickered and undercut each other, therefore,
American Jews divided along the old left-right fault line.
like Reform leader Alexander Schindler
and American Jewish Congress director Henry Siegman,
became open critics of the settler movement
and advocates of Peres’s land-for-peace compromise plan.
led by ADL director Nathan Perlmutter
and a brace of outspoken Orthodox rabbis,
stood solidly with Shamir.

The genius of Shamir’s strategy—or Ben-Aharon’s—was to
manipulate the central bodies of Jewish representation
so that, without taking sides,
they became voices for the Likud half of the government.
The Presidents Conference and AIPAC,
which lent themselves most readily to manipulation,
were rewarded with access and public recognition; more than ever,
they were recognized as the all but official voices of American Jewry.
NCRAC, which was not so easily controlled,
was simply shoved to the margins, starved for access and attention.
Gradually it was reduced to irrelevancy in Middle East policy.

One key tactic was seeing that the right leaders were chosen....

In April 1987, Shimon Peres, now foreign minister,
met with King Hussein in a London hotel
to wrap up their long, secret negotiation over a peace deal.
Israel would return most of the West Bank to Hussein,
and Jordan would sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Because Hussein would not get back everything he had lost in 1967,
he insisted that
the deal take place under the cover of an international peace conference,
so that he did not have to face the rest of the Arabs alone.
Peres agreed, on condition that
the conference could not make decisions and impose them on Israel.

Peres sent an aide to meet with [American] Secretary of State George Shultz
and ask him to adopt the plan as his own,
as a way of coaxing a reluctant Shamir on board.
Shultz refused to play along, saying that
Peres should convince his own prime minister.
Peres brought the plan to Shamir, who flatly rejected it.

Now began an elaborate shadow dance.
Peres and his aides, knowing that Shultz liked the London agreement, tried
to persuade American Jews
to persuade Shultz
to persuade Shamir.
Shamir tried to head them off [at the pass?].
Peres enjoyed more support among American Jews.
But Shamir understood American Jewish politics.

During the spring and summer,
the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress
both endorsed the London plan,
the Committee in a dense analysis that was largely ignored,
the Congress in a press conference
that was reported on the front page of the New York Times.
Peres, appearing before the Presidents Conference in late September,
was challenged on
the propriety of
American Jewish organizations
differing from Israeli government policy.

He answered that it would be “un-Jewish” of him
to demand that Jews muzzle their own views.

The Jerusalem Post reported the next day that
Peres had made “an appeal to U.S. Jewry
to become actively involved in Israel’s internal debate.”
Shamir responded furiously,
warning [Presidents Conference chairman] Morris B. Abram in an angry letter
American Jews had no business deciding Israel’s future.
As for Peres, Shamir wrote,
any Israeli who tried to bypass the Israeli voters
“by appealing to friends abroad who do not vote in Israel
would deal a blow to our sovereignty and democratic traditions.”
Indeed, Shamir added,
fear of outside pressure was
“one of the main reasons we object to an international conference.”

Abram, cowed, wrote back that whatever individual members might say,
the Presidents Conference would not take a position
on the international press conference.
Peres wrote to Shamir that
he had never asked them to take a position in the first place.

Nobody took the time to notice that
the Israeli government had not taken a position either.
The unity government was deadlocked on the international conference.
Shamir’s “we object” referred to himself and his friends.
But his bluster forced everyone else to back down.
[More likely: they really agreed with Shamir, and his “bluster” gave them
a convenient excuse for going along with him.]

Two months after the flap [in December 1987],
an Israeli motorist in the occupied Gaza Strip lost control of his truck
and rammed into two Arab vans, killing six people.
The accident touched off a wave of rioting
that spread throughout the occupied territories.
Within days, it had become an organized Palestinian uprising.
The intifadah would last five years
and leave the PLO firmly in charge of the West Bank and Gaza.
In the summer of 1988, King Hussein washed his hands of the territories.

[And so the Israelis lost the “partner for peace”
which now they so loudly lament the lack of.

Note also that Hamas,
which Israel and American Jews now view as such a threat,
was only established after the intifada began in December 1987.

Thus Israel’s rejection, with the acquiescence of American Jewish leadership,
of the Peres/Hussein deal, and the international peace conference,
led to both
the withdrawal of King Hussein as a possible guardian of the West Bank and
the Hamas resistance movement.]

After stepping down as AIPAC president in 1982,
Larry Weinberg devoted himself to creating a new Washington think tank.
His goal, he told friends, was to alter the intellectual atmosphere
surrounding Middle East policy discussions in the capital.
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
opened its doors in 1984 with Weinberg’s wife Barbi,
herself a formidable power in Jewish community circles, as president.
The executive director was Martin Indyk,
an Australian Jewish Middle East scholar
who had worked with Steven Rosen in the AIPAC research department.

[The Washington Institute’s] overall purpose was not to sell Israeli policies,
“to define the agenda in a way that’s conducive to Israeli interests,”
said one outside observer,
former National Security Council staffer William Quandt.
“When people just accept your assumptions,
you’re halfway there in a policy debate.”

Chapter 13
Separated by a Common Faith:
American Jewry’s One-Way Love Affair With Israel

[13.11.1 is omitted;
it looks back at a previous controversy as a way of introducing this one.]

For Israel’s first quarter-century [1948-1974],
its European-born founders [David Ben-Gurion, et al]
were able to speak a ready common language
with the European Jewish immigrants who dominated American Jewry.
For fifteen years after that, beginning with the Begin revolution in 1977,
Jerusalem was run by right-wing traditionalists
with a traditional belief in worldwide Jewish solidarity.
They found fellow traditionalists in the American community
and elevated them to leadership,
creating a new international bond.
This served the political goals of Begin
and [his successor as prime minister, Yitzhak] Shamir
no less than the cause of Jewish solidarity.
If broad sections of the Jewish community’s liberal majority
were alienated by the conservative tone of Jewish leadership,
few cared enough to protest.

The election of Yitzhak Rabin as prime minister in June 1992
could have restored a balance to American Jewish politics,
by bringing back to center stage a liberal leadership
that reflected the sensibilities of the Jewish majority.
Rabin’s daring policies of Israel-Arab reconciliation and regional peace,
which so excited imaginations around the globe,
might have ignited a new sense of purpose among mainstream American Jews.
Perhaps decades of steady drift
away from organized Jewish involvement
might have been arrested or even reversed,
if Israel’s new leaders had stepped forward
and taken up their inherited mantle as beacons to American Jewry.

That did not happen.
Rabin’s victory had brought to power
an Israeli-born generation of secular liberals....
They simply could not take on a role of leadership
for an American Jewish community that they fundamentally did not understand.

The result was a crisis in Israel-Diaspora relations
that rapidly reached explosive levels.

Coming to America on his first official trip in August [1992],
Rabin held a series of stormy meetings with Jewish community leaders
to tell them that they were no longer needed.
In a Washington meeting with AIPAC staff, he lambasted them for
propping up the Likud for so long,
dismissed as a fraud their claim that
they supported whatever government Israel chose.

From now on, he said,
Israeli-U.S. ties would be conducted state-to-state without intermediaries.
Moving on to New York, he told the Presidents Conference in a speech that
the era of suppressing Jewish dissent was over.
American Jews could say whatever they liked about Israeli policy, he said,
since their views did not matter anyway.

[Note that this laissez-faire attitude toward speech
seems the polar opposite of that of Rabin’s first, 1974–76, government
(see 8.8.9 and 8.8.10).]

The new government’s point man for Diaspora affairs was
Deputy Foreign Minister Yossi Beilin, a bespectacled intellectual
known for his radically dovish views on foreign policy.
Given the portfolio for Israeli-Diaspora relations,
he immediately began throwing verbal bombs.
Speaking to the Presidents Conference in August 1992, he said that
Israel would henceforth welcome
a free and open debate with American Jewry.

“We want you to disagree with us,” he told them.
(“We can’t do that,” shot back Hadassah ex-president Ruth Popkin.
“Our job here is to defend you.”)

The next year’s CJF General Assembly meeting in Montreal
was disrupted by pro-Likud activists
complaining the Likud leaders were excluded from the assembly program
(as Labor leaders had been excluded during the Likud years).
Beilin, in Montreal to represent the Labor government, took the protestors’ side.
To the dismay of CJF leaders
who were trying to swing their body behind his government,
Beilin called for the Jewish leadership to
permit open debate on Israeli policy.
“We can’t do that,” a visibly angry Maynard Wishner told him.

In the winter, Beilin took on the most sacred institution
in the entire American Jewish communal machine: the UJA campaign.
Fund-raisers, Beilin complained in a series of speeches and interviews,
were portraying Israel as a pauper.
In fact,
it was now a high-text regional superpower,
had no need of charity.
He suggested that American Jews keep their money at home
and look for ways to save themselves from assimilation.

Down below, at the staff level in Israeli diplomatic missions
where Israel-Diaspora relations are traditionally managed day-to-day,
the problem was not bomb-throwing but inertia.
Rabin’s choices to head the Israeli diplomatic corps in America
were two respected figures who shared his indifference toward the Diaspora.
By the time they realized that the Jewish community mattered,
it was out of control.

The ambassador in Washington, Itamar Rabinovich,
one of Israel’s leading Arab affairs experts,
was chosen to take charge of the fast-moving Middle East peace negotiations.
The consul general in New York, Colette Avital,
a well-regarded Israeli diplomat,
arrived with plans for outreach to the arts, media, and business worlds.
Neither one had any real plans for reaching out
to the organized Jewish leadership.

Neither one had any experience working with the American Jewish community.
Like most Israelis of their generation,
they had no real sense that it mattered.
Both assumed that the Jewish leadership
would follow Israel’s lead more or less automatically.
Most important, both assumed that
American support for Israel
in politics, the media, and especially in Congress

resulted purely from admiration for Israel.
Of Israel’s role in nurturing the Jewish lobby
they knew little.

And suddenly, to everyone’s great surprise,
American Jewry’s ship of state found itself leaderless, rudderless,
bobbing aimlessly on uncharted waters.

As Israel embarked on its daring, risky venture of peace with the Palestinians,
lawmakers on Capitol Hill found themselves deluged with
right-wing Jewish activists
lobbying to undercut the peace process.
Efforts were made
to block aid to the Palestinians [see 3.8 and 10.10],
to discredit Yasser Arafat as a negotiating partner,
to disrupt Israeli-Syrian negotiations by barring in advance
any U.S. peacekeeping force on the Israeli-Syrian border.
There even were efforts to end U.S. aid to Egypt,
Israel’s original peace partner,
after Egypt took the Arab side
at several stages in the unfolding peace negotiations.

Each time one of these initiatives came close to inflicting real damage,
the Israeli embassy or the Clinton administration stepped in
with urgent appeals to lawmakers not to destroy the peace.
The process continued to lurch forward,
but no thanks to the Jewish leadership.
The feared Jewish lobby,
which for years had been the driving force behind American support for Israel,
was now neutral at best, a hindrance at worst.
In fact, the lobby was paralyzed,
its governing councils divided between
those who were bitterly opposed to Israeli compromise
and those who were not.

Editors of Jewish community weeklies
found their fax machines flooded each week
with op-ed submissions attacking Israeli policy, while
“getting a pro-government piece is like pulling teeth,”
as one editor complained.
Central Jewish agencies such as AIPAC and the Presidents Conference,
which traditionally had used pressure and threats
to maintain the appearance of Jewish unity during the Likud years
[see section 8.8],
suddenly found themselves
singing the praises of diversity and free expression
within the Jewish community
[compare, in particular, section 8.8.10].
“People have a lot of concerns,”
said Presidents Conference chief Malcolm Hoenlein
when pressed on the umbrella group’s listlessness.
Asked point-blank by Israeli government officials
to mobilize in support of Israel,
AIPAC launched a legislative initiative in the spring of 1995
to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem—
embarrassing an Israeli government that claimed Jerusalem as its capital,
but was about to enter delicate negotiations with its Arab partners
over the fate of the disputed city.

There were efforts to mobilize Jewish liberals behind the Labor government
during the Rabin years,
but they were sporadic and half-hearted.
NCRAC periodically brought groups of local leaders to Washington
to lobby Congress on behalf of the peace process.
The Israel Policy Forum, a new body organized in 1993 by Rabin supporters,
managed to assemble a group of wealthy business leaders
to fund periodic initiatives—
now a newspaper advertisement, now an opinion poll—
to demonstrate the overwhelming popular Jewish support for Rabin’s policies.

None of these efforts managed to achieve any traction.
Groups that had fought a lonely fight for Israeli liberalism during the Likud years,
like Americans for Peace Now and the New Israel Fund
[Wouldn’t these groups be more successful if they could coalesce
into a single group for peace?]
found no sudden growth in membership or fund-raising
now that their friends ruled in Jerusalem.
The Jewish right,
which had enjoyed a burst of growth when the Likud came to power in 1977,
enjoyed another burst now that Labor had returned.
In the center,
Jewish moderates were hesitant to offer Rabin
the same whole-hearted support they had once given Begin and Shamir

[see, e.g., 8.10.8].
Except for the stoutly independent Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League,
most centrists seemed afraid—
afraid that outspoken rightists might tar them as pro-Arab,
or that the Likud might return to power and punish them.
Supporting Israeli liberalism continued to carry a price,
even in an era of Labor rule.

There was a good deal of relief mixed with the dread, therefore,
when the Likud did return to power,
defeating Labor in May 1996
under the hardline leadership of Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.

The dread received most of the attention
in the first days after the Israeli election.
It seemed that a Netanyahu government
was planning a diplomatic retrenchment,
which might set back the cause of Israel-Arab peacemaking.
Renewed settlement seemed likely to reignite
Israeli-Palestinian confrontations of the sort
that had unsettled so many American consciences during the 1980s.
Arab reactions to the new regime might consign Israel
to the international isolation of the Shamir years and before.
On top of all this,
the electoral gains of Israel’s Orthodox parties threatened to roll back
the progress made by the Reform and Conservative movements since 1988
in advancing their agenda on the Israeli scene.
There was much for American Jews to fear in a Likud restoration.

Balanced against all this, however, was the simple fact that
a Likud government would restore
the old, familiar patterns of Israel-Diaspora relations.
An isolated, embattled Israel would be
an Israel once again in need of
its lonely, courageous Jewish defenders.

A conservative Israeli government would provide
traditional Jewish leadership,
with old-fashioned views of Jewish solidarity.

The Likud would reach out to the American Jewish establishment
as it always had,
bringing the fractious organizational heads into harness
with a stern, sure hand.

the Jews would fall in line,
some happily, others protesting,
all comforted by the knowledge that
someone was in charge.

[This section is for those really interested in Zionist organization,
but it does contain one or two interesting tidbits.]

In Israel’s quasi-constitutional Basic Law,
the formal liaison between the Jewish state and the Diaspora
is the century-old World Zionist Organization and its operations arm,
the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Their officers represent the Diaspora
at ceremonial events, state funerals, and the like.
They report to the prime minister when a Jewish crisis occurs overseas.
They are the main channel for mobilizing Diaspora support of the Jewish state.

The WZO,
with its myriad membership divisions and youth clubs around the world,
is the main vehicle through which
Israel disseminates its message to Jews around the world.
Through its elected councils and assemblies,
it is also the vehicle through which
Diaspora Jews are formally entitled to voice their views to Israel.

The Jewish Agency carries out nation-building tasks inside Israel,
such as land reclamation and resettling Jewish immigrants,
which are deemed to be the duty of Jews everywhere,
not just of Israel’s own citizens.
The agency’s half-billion-dollar annual budget
comes mainly from federated Jewish fund-raising campaigns around the world,
principally the UJA-federation campaign in the United States.
The agency’s governing board
is evenly divided between the WZO and federation representatives,
though the WZO names its top officers and controls its day-to-day operations.

The WZO’s role as a Diaspora voice
is one of its least known but most potent functions.
Because it is a confederation of groups with differing views on Israeli politics,
it is one of the only Jewish organizations in the world
that encourages debate instead of suppressing it.

WZO debates become most heated—sometimes to the point of fisticuffs—
at the World Zionist Congress, which meets in Jerusalem every four years
to set policy and choose the WZO’s executive officers.

The Israeli delegation usually dominates the proceedings, but not always.
In 1983, congress delegates voted to bar
the use of WZO funds for settlements in the West Bank.
That move effectively ended the Likud government’s settlements policy, since
the WZO is the agency through which settlements are set up.
(The disruption was brief: WZO chairman Aryeh Dulzin, a Likud politician,
finessed the mutiny
by ruling the vote out of order, adjourning the session,
and convincing the American Hadassah delegation overnight to switch its vote.)

The election of delegates to the World Zionist Congress,
conducted country-by-country
and open to any dues-paying member of a Zionist organization,
the sole occasion in American Jewish life
when Jews are permitted to vote en masse
on issues that affect Jewish life.

Close to 850,000 Americans registered to vote
in the elections for the 1987 World Zionist Congress,
or about one of every five Jews of voting age.
Just over one fourth of those registered mailed in their ballots—
a poor turnout by classic democratic standards,
but a landmark in American Jewish life.
With “Who is a Jew”
[a controversy that electrified America’s Reform and Conservative Jews]
in the background,
the voting ended in a sweeping victory
for groups linked to Reform and Conservative Judaism,
and a drubbing for traditional Zionist groups
associated with the Israeli political system.
The results: a Reform-Labor coalition at the congress
knocked Shamir’s Likud out of the WZO-Jewish Agency executive offices,
removing the powerful institutions from control by Israel’s ruling party
for the first time ever.
A Reform rabbi was named to head the WZO’s education department,
and a Conservative rabbi to head its organization department,
giving the liberal wings new leverage in their bid to win recognition in Israel.
Perhaps most important, a Reform rabbi
was named to chair the Zionist General Council,
the third-ranking post in the WZO hierarchy,
making him part of Israel’s official state protocol
at ceremonial occasions such as holidays and state funerals.
For the first time in history,
a Reform rabbi had entered Israel’s constitutional hierarchy,
thanks to the votes of American Jews.

One other important result of the 1987 elections was
a decision by the heads of the American Zionist organizations to
do away with elections in the future.
In closed-door talks, with only the Reform movement objecting,
the Zionist leaders concluded that elections were an expensive waste [!!]
that bogged the WZO down in pointless squabbling
rather than uniting Jews to support Israel.
Henceforth, the American delegation
was chosen in negotiations among the organizational heads
[“the elders of Zion”].

The great battles [of the American Jewish community]
of the last half-century are all but won.
Bill Clinton, the most pro-Jewish president in history
[Goldberg wrote this in 1996, before GWB],
appointed no fewer than four Jews to his cabinet
and two Jews to the Supreme Court
[that’s two out of two, by the way].
The American ambassador to Israel is a former AIPAC staffer [Martin Indyk].
None of these appointments seems remarkable anymore—
not even the sight of CIA director John Deutch visiting Israel with great fanfare
to coordinate the two countries’ joint efforts against terrorism,
and taking an evening to visit his aunt in Tel Aviv.

Chapter 3
The Struggle for the Jewish Soul

[The events described here take place in 1993 and 1994,
in the context of section 13.11, in particular 13.11.14.
They are here in this document as a compromise between
chronological order and the order in the book.]

The mood on the South Lawn of the White House was festive but a bit surreal
on the morning of 1993-09-13.
Three thousand people,
one of the largest crowds ever gathered at the White House,
were assembled under a blazing late summer sun to watch as
the prime minister of Israel and
the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization
shook hands under the benevolent gaze of the president of the United States.
In signing their historic accord today, Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat
were not ending the long dispute between two peoples,
but they were moving it to the negotiation table,
and for the Middle East that was a sea change.


It was two years and a day earlier
that then-President Bush had stood just a few feet from that very spot and
denounced the organized Jewish leadership as “powerful political forces”
lobbying to undermine his diplomacy.
They had responded furiously, rising like lions to battle.
Now, as they and the deposed George Bush watched from the audience,
Israel was giving more than he had ever tried to take.

Shortly after the ceremony,
a group of senior Jewish Community leaders were invited to the White House
for a briefing on the peace accords by Secretary of State Warren Christopher.
When the leaders got there, they found they were in for a few surprises.

First, the Jews had not been the only ones invited;
it was to be a joint session with leaders of the Arab-American community,
their longtime enemies.
[Yes, that is the word Goldberg uses.]
Second, it was not really a briefing.
Secretary Christopher immediately handed the microphone to Vice President Al Gore,
who asked the participants to rise and share their feelings about the day’s events.
[You can always count on the Democrats for these touchy-feely moments.]
Then he asked them to participate in
a joint Jewish-Arab effort to secure the peace accord
by lending know-how and capital to their cousins in the Middle East.

At the end, President Clinton came on stage to reinforce Gore’s message.

“You and I can help to strengthen the people who did this,” the president said.
“We have been given a millennial opportunity in the Middle East.
I hope we will explore ways that this group can
stay together, work together, and find common projects.”
[Other than blowing each other up.
No, he didn’t really say that.
But he might have.]

President Clinton was handing the Jewish community a monumental challenge.
For decades the institutions of American Jewry
had been organized as a vast machinery of defense,
a blunt weapon that sought out and punished the enemies of the Jewish state.

[Like Norman Finkelstein?]
Its lobbyists were primed to make friendship to Israel—
and hostility to its enemies—
a litmus test for Jewish support.
Educators were trained to help young Jews
recognize and fear threats to Jewish or Israeli security.
Religious leaders ceaselessly invoked the pathos of historic Jewish suffering
to promote loyalty and solidarity above all else.
Fund-raisers used fears of destruction
to raise the prodigious sums that fueled the entire machine.

Now the Jews were being asked point-blank, by their president no less,
to turn the whole engine around on a dime.
They were being asked to use their vast communal enterprise
to lower walls, to reduce suspicions, to encourage openness and forgiveness.
Nobody knew how to do that.
[Must be un-Jewish.]

“You can always rally people against,”
Presidents Conference director Malcolm Hoenlein remarked later,
in an interview.
“It’s very hard to rally people for.”
[How about for Zionism itself?]

And so the groups that had traditionally led the fight for Israel,
such as AIPAC and the Presidents Conference,
suddenly found themselves paralyzed with indecision.
“I think people support the peace process,
but they have a lot of concerns and questions,”
Hoenlein said.
“There are times when it’s better not to be in the middle of things
but to step back.”

There were some Jews, of course,
who knew exactly how they felt and were ready to act.
[No doubt.]
Some of Israel’s most ardent American supporters
concluded that the Rabin government was on a suicidal course,
they set out to derail it.
Some introduced measures in Congress
to prevent Washington
from helping move the peace process forward

[see 3.8 and 10.10].
Others threatened
to withhold donations
from Jewish organizations that supported Israel.

A handful had gone to a New York synagogue
where Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Itamar Rabinovitch,
was speaking a day before the handshake, and
pelted him with tomatoes.

On 1994-07-29, ten months after the Rabin-Arafat handshake,
two groups of Jewish lobbyists converged in a conference room on Capitol Hill
and clashed in the night.
[Goldberg sure knows how to dish up colorful images.]

Afterwards, both sides would explain the tussle as a turf battle
over who was entitled to lobby Congress on Israel’s behalf.
In fact, it was a historic moment in American Jewish lobbying:
the first full-scale confrontation on Capitol Hill
between Jewish supporters and opponents of the Israeli government.
The pro-Israel side lost.

The two lobbying groups were AIPAC,
the best-known pro-Israel lobby in Washington,
and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA),
the oldest pro-Israel group in America.
They had come to Capitol Hill that evening to watch
as House and Senate negotiators
sat down to reconcile the two chambers’ versions of the foreign-aid bill.

Israel’s $3 billion foreign-aid package was never in question that night;
the problem was aid to the Arabs.
Following Israel’s historic peace accord
with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) the previous September,
the Clinton administration had mounted an international effort
to bolster the fledgling Palestinian authority with financial aid.
The goal was to
help the PLO become a good neighbor,
and to
strengthen it against Islamic militants.
A combined U.S.-Israeli effort had led to the creation of an international fund,
with forty-three nations pledging a total of $2 billion.
One fourth of the money was to come from the United States.
The first installment was in the foreign-aid bill.

[It is useful to insert two paragraphs from page 625 of Righteous Victims by Benny Morris here:
(the emphasis is added)]

[Righteous Victims, paragraph 13.1.39]
The IDF [Israel Defense Forces] withdrew from Jericho on 1994-05-13
and from most on the Gaza Strip on 1994-05-18/19,
and Palestinian Authority police and officials immediately took control.

[Righteous Victims, paragraph 13.1.40]
The PLO, impoverished by the Gulf War,
was hamstrung when it arrived in the area.
Immediately after the signing of the DOP [the Oslo Accords],
thirty-five countries pledged a total of $3.2 billion
to set the self-rule areas on their feet,
but only a small fraction of this money materialized during the following years.

Many donors feared that lack of adequate oversight meant that
the funds might not be used for their designated purposes;
the chief anxiety concerned PLO corruption
From the start the Palestinian Authority was thus short of cash
to pay wages and running costs, and
to develop infrastructure.
Within weeks Arabs who had welcomed the liberation became disenchanted;
peace with Israel and freedom were not leading to instant prosperity.
Security problems, by way of Israeli closures of the territories,
triggered by terrorist attacks, added to their economic woes.
Arafat found his popularity dwindling
as support for his fundamentalist rivals grew.

[Back to Jewish Power by J.J. Goldberg:]

The Senate version of the bill contained a time bomb, however.
Pennsylvania Republican Arlen Specter and Alabama Democrat Richard Shelby
had inserted an amendment that
prevented any transfer of aid
until the president certified that
the PLO was complying fully with the agreements it had signed the previous fall.

The administration strongly opposed the Specter-Shelby amendment,
arguing that it unnecessarily complicated the delicate peace process.
More quietly, administration officials argued that
Israel’s leadership was not happy at the idea
of holding Arafat to a standard he might not be able to meet,
given the pressures on him from Palestinian radicals.
In any case, the peace accord had left Israel
all the weapons it needed to monitor Arafat’s behavior,
since he was to receive territory
only when the Israeli army was ready to pull out.
Adding extra hurdles in Washington amounted to
second-guessing Israel’s assessment on the ground.
“We know how to monitor Arafat’s behavior,”
sniffed one senior Israeli official.
“We don’t need anyone in American doing it for us.”

But that was just the point.
The Specter-Shelby amendment was the work of
American Jewish conservatives
opposed the whole idea of an Israel-PLO peace accord.

Since the handshake in September,
a coalition of Orthodox rabbis, pro-Likud Zionists, and Republican hawks
had come together to seek ways of
blocking Palestinian aid and undermining the accord.
Richard Shelby and Arlen Specter,
the Senate’s most conservative Democrat and its sole Jewish Republican,
had agreed to introduce the coalition’s handiwork on the Senate floor.

According to the rules of House-Senate conferences,
lawmakers are expected to defend the version of a bill
that has emerged from their chamber.
But Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont,
who headed the Senate conferees on July 29,
broke with tradition and disavowed the Specter-Shelby amendment.
He and his House counterpart, Democrat David Obey of Wisconsin,
had decided to kill the amendment, deferring to the administration’s wishes.

Unexpectedly, one of the House conferees decided that
this action left her free to break with tradition as well.
Representative Nita Lowey, a Democrat from suburban Westchester, New York,
announced that she was supporting the Senate amendment.
She was one of the feistiest Jewish liberals in Congress,
but the last congressional reapportionment
had stretched her district into a corner of Queens,
which happened to include the synagogue
where Israeli Ambassador Rabinovitch had been pelted in September.
Lowey did not want to meet the same fate.
“If she doesn’t go along,
that rabbi will find a way to punish her,”

an aide explained.
“And if she does go along, who’s going to picket her house?
Some liberal investment banker from Scarsdale?
The president of the American Jewish Committee?”

Lowey also convinced two other House Democrats to join with her.
They promptly received one more vote when a lobbyist,
watching the proceedings from the side of the room,
approached the conference table and swayed a Republican.
With three House votes, the Specter-Shelby amendment passed.
The conference leaders, Leahy and Obey, stormed out of the room,
furiously protesting the breach of conference procedure.
They were angry, not just at Lowey for breaking with the House,
but more important at the lobbyist who had approached the conference table—
an unheard-of procedural violation.

The Rabin government lost that support
once it began actively seeking
to end Israel’s conflict with the Arabs
on the basis of territorial compromise.
Many Orthodox Jews,
who believe that the entire land of Israel
was promised to the Jews by God,
concluded that Rabin was violating God’s law.
Others were not as quick to judge,
but in a conflict with non-Orthodox Jews they instinctively closed ranks,
making the Orthodox community seem for all the world like a monolith.

American Jewry’s umbrella bodies rapidly found themselves paralyzed,
hard pressed to find a middle ground for joint action.
Moderates were waiting, hoping for calm to return so consensus might emerge.
While they waited,
right-wing militants scurried about Washington
trying to undermine the Israel-PLO peace accord.

These rightists, a mixture of Orthodox Jews and non-Orthodox hawks,
effectively disabled the organs of Jewish representation.

Chapter 10
Chosen People:
Jews and the Ballot Box

For some in Congress,
fighting for Jewish causes
is the passion that brought them to Washington to begin with.

Representative Tom Lantos of suburban San Francisco,
the only Holocaust survivor in either chamber,
has spent most of his time in Congress on foreign policy,
fighting with equal [??] passion for
Soviet Jews, Tibetan Buddhists, and trade unionists in right-wing El Salvador.
Larry Smith of South Florida and Mel Levine of Los Angeles
came to Washington in 1981 single-mindedly determined
to make Israel their main business;
after failing on arrival to win seats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,
they spent their first week in Congress
lobbying (successfully) to have the committee enlarged.
Throughout the 1980s, Smith was
Israel’s avenging angel on Capitol Hill,
regularly savaging administration officials
who dare to question Israeli policy.

Republican policy-makers hated him passionately,
and hated having to testify before the House because of him.
His constituents in the retirement villages of South Florida loved him.

The election of 1992 marked a watershed in congressional Jewish politics.
Stephen Solarz, Larry Smith and Mel Levine left Congress....
In a single sweep,
Israel lost its entire strategic command in the House.

Another group stepped forward quickly to replace them:
Levine’s Los Angeles neighbor and political ally, Howard Berman,
Nita Lowey of suburban Westchester, New York,
a second-term Democrat with good ties to the Democratic leadership; and
Charles Schumer of Brooklyn, a protégé-turned-rival of Solarz,
best known as the Democrats’ leading voice on crime and banking.
With varying degrees of enthusiasm, they
took on extra staff,
got themselves seats on the appropriate foreign-affairs subcommittees
[note how Jews naturally head for the key decision-making point
for America’s policy vis-à-vis the Middle East.
Note that the Muslim congressman from Minnesota was not able to do likewise.
picked up the banner of Israel.
Then they warily began feeling their way
through the maze of spending bills, markups, and conferences
that make up the pro-Israel cause in Congress

The new team never had a chance to find its footing.
In September 1993, Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization
signed a peace agreement on the White House lawn,
committing Israel to hand over much of the West Bank
to Palestinian self-rule under Yasser Arafat.
a representative from a mostly Jewish district had a very difficult job.
In some of the most heavily Jewish districts,
the loudest Jewish voices
were those of Orthodox rabbis
who opposed the peace process.

supporting Israel could be political suicide for a Jewish lawmaker. [!!!]
One by one,
lawmakers with the most heavily Jewish districts began turning against Israel.

Three weeks after the signing of the Israeli-PLO accord,
the White House sent Congress a bill
lifting the ban on American contact with the PLO.
The purpose of the bill was essentially
to allow the Clinton administration to continue participating legally
in the unfolding peace process that it was in effect sponsoring.
More to the point, it
authorized a half-billion dollars in U.S. aid to the Palestinians,
which Israel had urgently requested in order to
stabilize Arafat’s authority and help him fight off Islamic radicals.

When the bill got to the House foreign-aid subcommittee,
it ran into Charles Schumer.
One of the House’s most popular liberals, star of the Democrats’ baseball team,
Schumer was also the sole Jewish representative from Brooklyn,
home of the largest Orthodox Jewish community in America.
Schumer himself is not Orthodox,
but he cannot be reelected without the support of the Orthodox community,
the best organized and most vocal faction in his district.

When the Palestinian aid bill was introduced to the subcommittee,
Schumer proposed an amendment that would
make aid to the Palestinians conditional on
an end to the Arab boycott of Israel.

He was immediately invited to step into the hallway
by Howard Berman of Los Angeles.
In Berman’s view,
tying Palestinian aid to the Arab boycott was tantamount to killing it.
The Arab League had made it clear that
ending the boycott would come at the end of the Israel-Arab peace process,
not the beginning.
There was nothing Yasser Arafat or the PLO could do about it.
Schumer knew that as well as Berman.
Though he did not say so directly, both knew that was the whole point.

The two were joined in the hallway
by two freshman Democrats from South Florida,
Peter Deutsch, who had won Larry Smith’s seat, and
Alcee Hastings,
a black representative from a heavily Jewish district just north of Deutsch’s.
the four representatives from the nation’s three largest Jewish communities
discussed the fate of aid to the Palestinians.
Deutsch was in favor of linking it to the boycott.
Hastings was against undermining the peace process in that manner.
Berman suggested a substitute amendment that would let the aid go through,
but required that Arafat try to convince his fellow Arabs to end the boycott.
Schumer agreed to Berman’s version,
but said he would vote against the entire measure
once it reached the House floor.
[Somehow that sounds like trying to have it both ways—
“I was for it before I was against it.”]

He did not indicate whether
he would demand a roll call on the bill when it came to the floor,
as any House member is entitled to do,
or let it go through on a voice vote.

In the coming days, panic spread among the Jewish members of the House,
as they waited for Schumer to decide their fate.
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now,”
said an aide to one leading Jewish lawmaker.
“We can’t let this fail and destroy the peace process.
If we don’t vote for it, the non-Jewish members certainly won’t.
They’re waiting to see how we vote.

But how are we going to explain to our constituents
that our guys stood up and voted for aid to Yasser Arafat?

They’ll go crazy on us.”

While Berman and Schumer were arguing,
a pair of senators began their own effort to sabotage Palestinian aid.
The two, Connecticut’s Joe Lieberman
[boy, does he pop up a lot in U.S./Middle Eastern relations]
and Florida Republican Connie Mack,
had sponsored the original law prohibiting contact with the PLO.
This time, in deference to Israel,
they were not sponsoring a law to link aid with the boycott;
they were merely circulating a letter to President Clinton,
asking him to impose the linkage himself.

By the time the letter reached the White House at the end of October [1993],
it had been signed by fifty senators....

Supporting Israeli peacemaking efforts has always been an act of courage
for Jewish lawmakers in Washington.

No Jewish lawmaker has taken greater risks to support Middle East peace
than Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey.

[Paragraphs 10.11.2–5 detail Lautenberg’s contributions
to the American Jewish community, to Israel, and to world Jewry.]

To militants on the Jewish right, however,
Lautenberg’s Jewish bona fides ended in 1987,
when he joined with Senator Carl Levin of Michigan
to initiate a letter to Secretary of State George Shultz,
commending him on his Middle East peace efforts
urging him to continue seeking Israeli-Arab compromise.
The letter, which gathered thirty-seven signatures,
infuriated the Shamir government in Jerusalem
and prompted a furious outcry from Jewish hardliners in America.

[In theory, there may be more to the story than Goldberg is telling here.
But in practice, based on reading and observing
the reactions and statements
of the Likud elements in Israel and their supporters in America,
the evidence seems overwhelming that
they are indeed viscerally opposed to
any meaningful compromise with the Palestinians,

anything which would involve them giving up
areas that Israel conquered in the 1967 war that they consider sacred.
What Lautenberg endured, even with his Jewish and Zionist credentials,
and the fate of others who have encouraged compromise,
shows clearly and indisputably how intransigent those Zionists are.
They truly deserve the label of “extremists.”]

The fiercest attacks were directed not at Levin,
but at Lautenberg, who was facing reelection the next year [1988].
He was attacked by rabbis and Zionist activists
the length and breadth of the state.
[For counseling compromise?]
Lautenberg won reelection, but just barely.
Six years later [in 1994] ...
Lautenberg narrowly won his third term,
but the unforgiving hostility of Jewish rightists was beginning to rattle him.

“What I saw was almost a venomous response,” he says.
“Suddenly I was painted like a pariah.”

“I was national chairman of the UJA, for God’s sake.
I’m on the board of Bank Leumi, the Hebrew University,
the Diaspora Museum of Tel Aviv.
But having taken an oath to protect to Constitution of the United States,
with all my love and affection for Israel,
my primary responsibilities begin with my country.
And thank goodness
I have not had to make decisions between my country and Israel.
Because my allegiance to Israel is more than cultural,
it’s a contact with my past.”

Lautenberg says that he takes it in stride when constituents question his views.
“You make a decision, you can offend somebody.
They can get even by taking away their vote,
or by taking away their financial help.
It’s not unusual in the world of politics.”

“I was shocked by the response from some segments of the Jewish community,” Lautenberg recalls.
“I was practically accused of being a traitor to the cause.”

[Does all this not make perfectly clear that
all the loud talk about anti-Israeli terrorism and Arab failures to make peace
is not intended to distract attention from
the total (that seems to be the right word) unwillingness of the zealots of Zionism
to consider any retreat to the 1967 boundaries?]

“Jewish money
is certainly the biggest chunk of money in the Democratic party,”

says a political consultant who specializes in fund-raising.
“But when you talk about Jewish money,
pro-Israel money is a relatively small piece of the puzzle.”

In discussing Jewish campaign giving,
political fund-raisers differentiate between what they call
“disciplined” and “undisciplined” money.
“Disciplined” money comes from PACs and from
individuals with close ties to the organized Jewish community
who respond readily when community leaders ask them to.
“Undisciplined” money comes from
a much larger network of Jewish individuals
who respond to any number of appeals.
The secret of modern, post-Watergate Jewish political money
is the ability of fund-raisers to deliver both kinds of money
and make them look like parts of a larger whole.

“Because of the huge role of philanthropy in the Jewish community,
Jews are trained to raise money from a very early age,”
notes a Democratic party activist.
“They learn to raise it wherever they can find it.
Most Jews who are good fund-raisers raise a lot of their money from non-Jews.
And Israel and the broader Jewish agenda
is a central reason why they do it.
It may not be the reason why the donor gives,
but it’s the reason why the fund-raiser went to him.”

For this reason,
the tiny world of Democratic political consulting and fund-raising
is a world that is dominated by Jews.

Many of them are former employees of AIPAC or the UJA.

Their targets range from the obvious to the unlikely.
Wall Street and Hollywood
provide the two best-known concentrations of wealthy Jews,
and are closely watched as sources of Democratic fund-raising.
But there are other worlds
which are no less important to seekers of Jewish political money,
less scrutinized only because they are less glamorous.

“You can’t run a statewide Democratic campaign in Texas
without trial lawyer support,” declares a Democratic fund-raiser.
“It’s the dominant influence in statewide politics in Texas.
And an awful lot of trial lawyers are Jewish.
But in other states that’s irrelevant.
In New York, one of the big ones is generic drugs.
The generic-drug folks are all Jewish.
And they’re all very pro-Israel.
I doubt any of them would go for a candidate who’s not good on Israel.
You get them through the Jewish country club.
You get them through the AIPAC network.
Sometimes you get them through the generic-drug network.
And once you bring them together in a room
and tell them about the generic-drug situation,
the first question they ask is,
‘How is he on Israel?’ ”

In fact, says the fund-raiser,
“If you asked around the room at one of these things,
you’d find that about half belong to AIPAC at $1,000 a year.
If you ask their politics they’ll all say ‘Democrat.’
They’re as pro-Israel as any AIPAC lunatic.
They know when an AWACS or loan guarantee thing comes up, and
they’re willing to be somebody’s silver bullet,
but the rest of the time they have other interests.
And that is the strength of the Jewish community.”

The total amount of “Jewish money” in a campaign is calculated by
combining the relatively small amount from pro-Israel PACs
with “disciplined” and “undisciplined” donations from Jewish individuals,
plus money raised by activist Jewish fund-raisers.
The very process of counting the total is highly secretive and controversial,
because of politicians’ fears of stirring anti-Semitism.

[I guess the “good government” drive
for “transparency” into the influence of special interests
isn’t applicable when it might expose
the extent of Jewish influence over the American political system.]

Yet campaigns do the counting,
partly to help in future planning,
partly to figure whom to thank—and reward—for a victory.

“The usual figure you hear passed around is fifty percent,
meaning that
the Democrats get half their campaign funding from Jewish sources,”
says the American Jewish Committee’s emeritus Washington representative,
Hyman Bookbinder.
“I’ve never been able to find out where the figure comes from
or whether it’s apocryphal, but it keeps coming up.”

Conversations with numerous Jewish and non-Jewish Democratic party figures
suggest that the 50 percent figure represents a partial truth.
“Jewish money” is widely believed to account for
about half the funding of the Democratic National Committee,

the national party organization that coordinates and supports individual races,
and is exempt from donor limits.
It also accounts for about half of Democratic presidential campaign funding—
slightly more in the case of a candidate highly popular with Jews,
like Bill Clinton,
and slightly less in the case of a less popular candidate,
like Jimmy Carter.

In state and local races, on the other hand,
“Jewish money” is rarely a factor
unless the local Jewish community is a political force in its own right.

Between these two extremes lie congressional races,
which vary widely in their ability to attract Jewish money.
Jewish fund-raising efforts in the Senate and House tend to be targeted at
individual legislators with the closest ties to the Jewish community.
These may be Jewish lawmakers;
sympathetic lawmakers in key decision-making positions,
like Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island,
longtime head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee;
or simply good friends,
like Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan of New York,
whose oratory in the Senate (and earlier at the U.N.)
made him one of Israel’s best allies, Jew or Gentile.

Aaron David Miller’s
The Much Too Promised Land

Here are some excerpts from
The Much Too Promised Land: America's Elusive Search for Arab-Israeli Peace
by Aaron David Miller.
Emphasis is added.

[pages 53–4]
A message from a hypothetical Israeli prime minister
to a hypothetical American president
might go something like this:

the Jewish people suffered the worst atrocities
that could befall a people or nation;
we Israelis now live in a dangerous neighborhood
with no margin for error;
we have neighbors near and far who at best tolerate us
and at worst bide their time until they can get rid of us;
we value your support and friendship, we really do,
but don’t fuck with us;
after two millennia we are again masters of our future;
and whatever that future may bring,
we intend, as much as possible, to be its shapers.

I never heard an Israeli official articulate the message just this way,
but that viewpoint was understood
and reflected in many of Israel’s policies toward the United States.
And every American president and secretary of state
understood and was sympathetic to the Israeli dilemma:
statehood was a necessary but not a sufficient condition
for Israel to be a normal, accepted, and secure state.

What constituted sufficiency was unclear,
but as the historian Paul Johnson noted,
the Jews were “learned and intelligent victims”
and were thus interested in finding out.
Since 1948 the Israelis have searched with varying degrees of competency
and success to find the answer.
By using military power, they have defended themselves
and have seized and settled additional territory.
They have negotiated with Arabs
and have taken unilateral steps, such as withdrawal, to return territory.

Throughout their climb up this dizzying military and diplomatic mountain,
they have depended on the unwavering support of the United States,
even while wondering whether one day American support might waver.
The Israelis have not yet found the answer to their problem.
But even if they do,
I suspect the imperatives of
smallness, the risks of dependency, and the ghosts of the past
will compel them to begin each new ascent for peace
under the guiding philosophy of
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s prime directive:
it matters less what the goyim (non-Jews) say;
what counts is what the Jews do.

[page 77]
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, [said]

the Jewish community
“wants to exercise power and influence,
but we don’t like it when people talk about it.”

[page 79]
The U.S. Congress has not had
one long-serving member with an anti-Israeli or pro-Arab agenda
since Paul Findley, who served in congress from 1961 to 1982.

[pages 95–6]
AIPAC’s real mission and great success,
Liz Shrayer, AIPAC’s political director from 1983 to 1994, told me,
“derives from its capacity to define what it means to be pro-Israel”
and to galvanize the support,
primarily in Congress and in the Jewish community.
In this area AIPAC has no peer.
The results during the past twenty years have been stunning.

you cannot be successful in American politics
and not be good on Israel.

And AIPAC plays a key role in making that happen.

[page 119]
No administration I worked for
went looking for a fight with the American Jewish community;
some went to considerable length to avoid one.
For good reason:
Arab-Israeli diplomacy is hard enough without a domestic political handicap.
[Wendy Sherman,
former State Department counselor to secretary of state Madeline Albright, said]

“If the full force of the Jewish community
comes down on you,
you’re probably not going to accomplish your goals anyway.”

[pages 122–3]
To mediate effectively,
you sometimes have to push Arabs and Israelis
beyond where they initially wanted to go.
When that happens,
as it did in the diplomacy of Henry Kissinger, Jimmy Carter, and James Baker,

Israel mobilizes and pushes back
on its own or through its supporters in the United States.

[I.e., its fifth column in the United States.]
This dynamic can be particularly messy
when a hard-line Likud prime minister
like [Menachem] Begin or [Yitzhak] Shamir
faces off against
a determined president like Carter or George H.W. Bush.
[“Coincidentally,” our last two one-term presidents.]
And as Kissinger found out,
the tough Labor prime ministers like [Yitzhak] Rabin pushed back plenty
when they believed Washington was squeezing Israel.
Rabin, who muzzled AIPAC in the 1990s,
wasn’t at all reluctant to mobilize it
against [Gerald] Ford’s reassessment tactic in 1975.
That’s why former AIPAC policy director Steve Rosen used to tell me
how much

he hated the peace process.
It was one of the few issues that could cause
serious, albeit temporary, divisions
in an otherwise robust U.S.-Israeli relationship.

[T]hose of us advising the secretary of state and the president
were very sensitive to what the pro-Israel community was thinking
and, when it came to considering ideas Israel didn’t like,
too often engaged in a kind of preemptive self-censorship.
That several of us happened to be Jewish
[Note the characteristic pretense that that is a coincidence.]
was less important than
the prevailing climate of pro-Israel sentiment
that mushroomed under Bill Clinton

as the new administration became determined to avoid what it believed to be
the far too critical approach to Israel of its predecessors.
The emergence of Yitzhak Rabin, and
Clinton’s unique relationship with him, Israel, and American Jews,
contributed to sensitivity toward Israel.
This affinity and the president’s own empathy
(he was remarkably sensitive to Palestinians as well)
undermined our willingness to be tough with Israel on settlement activity
and made it hard to say no to bad Israeli ideas or to adopt our own,
particularly in brokering final status agreements,
until too late in the administration.

[pages 243–4]
Whatever else we disagreed on, Dennis [Ross], Martin [Indyk], and I
brought a clear pro-Israel orientation to our peace-process planning.
Dennis often told me that Israelis saw him as the Palestinian’s lawyer,
and I know he believed it,
but I chuckle now when I think about it,
because the Palestinians never regarded him that way.
In truth,

not a single senior-level official involved with the negotiations
was willing or able to present, let alone fight for,
the Arab or Palestinian perspective.

Under Bush and [James A.] Baker,
the administration’s four key peace-process advisors were also American Jews,
but the secretary and president provided the necessary checks and balances
to ensure that policy remained fair.
At Camp David in 1978 Sam Lewis, the ambassador to Israel,
presented Begin’s perspective when necessary, and people listened.

The Clinton administration offered
no comparable voice for the Arabs.

[You know, the Washington Post editorial page,
when Ron Paul observed that
America’s foreign policies were part of the cause of the 9/11 attacks,
compared him to those who “blame America first.”
But look at this.
America’s policies indeed ignore
the valid and legitimate interests and grievances of the Palestinians.
Yes, I do hate those policies, and make no bones about it.
Any decent American can and should.]

On Dennis Ross

Miscellaneous background:
Wikipedia, Google,
Google: Dennis Ross Chairman JPPPI,
Ross’s letter as chairman of JPPPI (undated, but on Web as of 2008-11-12),
Philip Weiss on Ross: “The Zelig of the Peace Process Should Go”

Am I the only American who feels that
anyone who is the chairman of the board
of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute
has absolutely no business being anywhere near
the formulation of U.S. policy towards the Middle East?
His chairmanship of that organization gives him a
prima facie conflict of interest.
(See its mission statement here.)
Isn’t that obvious?
What if one of the chief U.S. negotiators on Israeli/Palestinian matters
were chairman of the board of a (hypothetical)
“Muslim People Policy Planning Institute”?
How long would that last
before Jewish groups forced the politicians to rescind that?

Finally, to add insult to injury, practically all of our news organizations,
certainly the AP, NYT, and WP,
have the gall to talk about the “alleged” pro-Israel tilt of the U.S.
Alleged my ass!

-- KHarbaugh, 2008-11-12

Dennis Ross Back at State?
Has He Been Vetted for Conflicts of Interest

by Robert Naiman
The Huntington Post, 2009-02-03

[Good points in this article, but at the end it sets the bar too low:]

It would be the height of hypocrisy and absurdity
to rake Hillary Clinton over the coals because
her husband’s humanitarian foundation
has received donations from Arab governments,
while not even bothering to ask if Dennis Ross
has been serving in a leadership capacity
for an organization that may have received funding from the Israeli government.

[That’s certainly a good point,
but it allows an escape hatch for Ross:
just claim the JPPPI is independent of the Israeli government.
And who in America can argue with the claims of the Jews
without being labeled an anti-Semite?

But something that cannot be so evaded is, I believe, this:
the JPPPI is prima facie, by its own mission statement,
an organization that is biased towards Jewish interests.

The question, again, that should be asked is:
What if he had been chairman of the board of a (hypothetical)
“Muslim People Policy Planning Institute”?

How long would it take before Jewish groups forced him
far, far away from influencing U.S. policy towards the Mid East,
arguing that he could not be neutral?
Answer: A New York second.

Whether he resigns from chairing the board of the JPPPI at this date is irrelevant.
He has already shown where his heart is.
The dual loyalty charge is necessary, appropriate, and proven beyond any doubt
in this case.

By the way,
talk about a “revolving door” between the U.S. government and Jewish organizations!]

Miscellaneous Articles


Phone Call Between AIPAC President David Steiner and Haim/Harry Katz, 1992
genius.com, 1992-10

[There is also a transcript of this call at


Assimilation as a Goal--For Irish-Americans and Shi'ite Iraqis
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2007-08-09

[An excerpt:]

Zionism has always been an anti-assimilationist movement,
and today Zionism continues to conflict with American-Jewish assimilation.
Jews think of themselves
as belonging to a nation that defies conventional borders,

according to the political philosopher Michael Walzer,
who said some months back that
Jews don’t feel completely at home in the U.S.,
and are connected to Israel

So assimilation is a good word for Mexicans, Irish-Catholics, and Shi’ites,
but a bad word for Jews (notwithstanding their political clout).
One reason I’m a Jewish assimilationist is that

the current
definition of Jewish identity
that crosses borders between the U.S. and Israel

is distorting
American foreign policy.

Walzer says that we’re anomalous, and the world should accept that.
I don’t agree.
We must give up this “law of return” nonsense and
learn to be citizens of the country we’re in...
[Ellipsis in original.]

RJC-linked think tank launches unusual attack on Ehud Olmert
By Beth Young
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 2007-11-16

[There’s nothing especially dramatic or exciting here,
but it is an interesting example
of the interplay between American Jews and Israeli governments.

Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

A think tank linked with the Republican Jewish Coalition
launched a broadside against Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert,
an unusual attack from
a segment of the U.S. Jewish community that has been
unstintingly supportive of Israel.

In an article appearing this week in the American Thinker,
a conservative Web-based journal, Jonathan Schanzer --
the director of policy at the RJC-affiliated Jewish Policy Center --
co-wrote that
Olmert’s apparent willingness to concede parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians
“can be seen only as a last-gasp effort to revive his flatlining premiership.”

Schanzer authored the piece with Asaf Romirowsky,
who is identified as
an associate fellow of the Middle East Forum and
manager of Israel and Middle East Affairs
of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, another organization
that generally avoids any criticism of the Israeli government.

Schanzer and Romirowsky compared Olmert
to Labor predecessors Ehud Barak and Shimon Peres,
saying they also agreed to similar concessions in last-ditch efforts
to save their legacies.

“Olmert is now chasing peace with the Palestinians at all costs,
in a desperate attempt to secure his place in world history,
knowing full well that future Israeli history books will not be kind,”
they wrote.
“This fits a sad but familiar trend
of other sputtering Israeli prime ministers in recent history.”

The article was sent out on the Jewish Policy Center’s listserve,
timing it ahead of U.S.-convened Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to take place later this month in Annapolis, Md.

With the Annapolis meeting approaching
and Olmert voicing increasing support
for intense negotiations with the Palestinians,
the Israeli prime minister is facing rising criticism from Jewish Republicans,
despite his public support for President Bush’s Iraq policy.

Also this week Sheldon Adelson,
the casino billionaire and a major backer of the Republican Party,
publicly upbraided the American Israel Public Affairs Committee
for backing increased assistance to the Palestinians.
Adelson also excoriated Olmert for contemplating a deal on Jerusalem
and likened him to a suicide case.

The American Thinker article has “gone viral on the Internet
and it’s provoked some discussion,” Schanzer told JTA.
“Right now there’s a lot of optimism about the Annapolis talks.
My philosophy about the Middle East is that optimism over peace talks
while there’s violence against Israel every day
is just not realistic.”


JPC shares an office and many board members
with the Republican Jewish Coalition.
Schanzer described the two as “sister organizations.”
As a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit,
the JPC cannot support political candidates,
but it acts as the RJC’s educational and policy wing.

According to Matt Brooks, the RJC’s executive director,
the JPC is an entirely separate organization.
The RJC, he said, does not influence any of the center’s editorial decisions.

“Jonathan wrote that piece and it represents his personal views,”
Brooks said, declining to share his opinion of the article.
“It has no representation or in any way should be inferred
as speaking on behalf of the RJC.”

Schanzer told JTA that he tries “to look at this
as an American,
as a Jew and
as someone who cares for the future of Israel.”

“I don’t change the way I write for any venues,” he said.

The JPC mission statement, written by Schanzer, asserts that
“Jewish Americans can no longer afford
to stubbornly hold on to outdated ideas of the past.
This includes optimism over
misguided Middle East peace deals,
appeasement of dictators, and
unrealistic hopes that dangerous realities in the Middle East
might simply change without tougher U.S. policies.”

Schanzer emphasized that his problem was with Olmert,
not the Bush administration, which is brokering the peace talks.

“It’s easy to separate out Olmert and the Bush administration,” Schanzer said.
“What we have right now is an administration that sees an opportunity.
The Palestinian Authority is very weak.
Without the United States there’s a question
whether it would be in control of the West Bank.
Abbas and the Palestinian Authority are relying on America.

“America has leverage for the first time in a long while.
When you have a prime minister of Israel who puts up parts of Jerusalem,
that is an Israeli problem, not an American problem.”

New Reform Prayer Book Reflects Changes In Movement
By Ansley Roan, Religion News Service
Washington Post, 2007-11-17

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Worshipers at Reform synagogues across the country
are beginning to hold a new prayer book, or siddur....

It's the first new prayer book in more than 30 years
for the country's 1.5 million Reform Jews,
and leaders say the book itself --
and the process that created it --
embody a uniquely Reform approach to Judaism.


“We wanted a Hebrew text
which reflected where the Reform movement is today in terms of
its commitments
to Israel,
to tradition,
to ritual,
social justice,”
said Rabbi Peter Knobel,
president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis....

Top donors criticize AIPAC on backing for P.A. funding
by Ron Kampeas
Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 2007-11-18

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]


Two top donors to AIPAC are raising objections over
its support for a congressional letter that
urges the Bush administration
to increase assistance to the Palestinian Authority.

Sheldon Adelson,
a casino magnate ranked by Forbes as
the third wealthiest American and the sixth wealthiest man in the world,
told JTA he raised the issue in a phone call with Howard Kohr,
the executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

An active Republican,
Adelson likened AIPAC to
a friend assisting Israel’s suicide.

“If someone is going to jump off a bridge,
it is incumbent upon their friends to dissuade them,”
he told JTA.
He added, “I love and admire the concept of AIPAC.”

Adelson’s criticism of the pro-Israel lobby
comes as the Israeli government heads into
U.S.-convened peace talks with the Palestinians in Annapolis, Md.,
later this month.

The objections to the letter underscore
debates within the Jewish community over
possible Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.

It also illustrates the tension between
AIPAC’s mandate to support Israeli policies and
its need to navigate differences among its own constituents.

The other donor who has raised questions is Gary Erlbaum,
a property developer prominent in the Philadelphia Jewish community.
He said he would urge others to lobby against the letter.

“We should lobby our own congressmen never to sign the letter,
unless there is clear evidence
Palestinians have changed their educational system
and have fought terrorism,”

Erlbaum said.

The letter to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice,
which was to have been sent out Friday,
was initiated last month
by U.S. Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) and Charles Boustany (R-La.).
So far,
118 of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have signed,
including 12 Jewish Democrats.

It casts increased assistance as necessary
to help Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president,
make the changes needed to guarantee Israel’s security.

“Addressing corruption and public safety in the P.A.,
while continuing to engage with Israel
to coordinate a remittance schedule for Palestinian tax monies
and to improve access and movement,”
the letter states,
“will ensure that assistance will be effective in
reviving the Palestinian economy and
creating the atmosphere of hope
required for the success of diplomatic efforts.”

Neither Adelson nor Erlbaum would address whether
AIPAC’s support for the letter would influence how they donate to the group.
Speaking generally, Adelson said,
“I don’t continue to support organizations
that help friends committing suicide
just because they say they want to jump.”

An AIPAC spokeswoman confirmed that
both men are supporters of the organization
and described Adelson as a “major” donor.

Adelson, with an estimated net worth of $26.5 billion,
often contributes in the millions to favored Jewish causes.
He donated $25 million last year to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial,
and gave birthright israel --
the program that flies Jewish youth to Israel for free tours --
$55 million over the past two years.

The casino magnate is believed to have pledged
a significant portion of the money AIPAC is using
to pay for its new seven-story premises,
opening in February.
His latest project is FreedomsWatch,
a group promoting President Bush’s commitment to staying the course in Iraq;
Adelson is believed to have contributed
the bulk of the group’s $15 million startup costs.

Erlbaum is also a backer of the new group.

Ackerman, who is Jewish, chairs the House’s Middle East subcommittee
and has a close relationship with AIPAC.
In the past year, however, he has wondered aloud
whether Israel and the United States have missed opportunities
by failing to encourage Palestinian moderates.

A coalition of three dovish groups --
Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, Americans for Peace Now and Israel Policy Forum --
joined the
Arab American Institute, Churches for Middle East Peace
and the American Task Force on Palestine
in lobbying for the letter.
Much was made at the outset of
Ackerman being Jewish and Boustany being an Arab American.

AIPAC did not initially back the letter,
something JTA reported on Oct. 19.
Within days, however,
AIPAC officials reached out to JTA to say
the lobby decided to back the letter after assurances from Ackerman’s office
that the money requested would be “project based” --
a provision that guarantees strict oversight.
AIPAC sought the assurances even though
the letter makes explicit that the assistance is to be “project-focused.”

It is not clear what else was behind the switch.
The Bush administration has launched
a concerted effort to rally U.S. Jewish support for the Annapolis summit,
which is slated to occur during the week of Nov. 26.

Separate from the Ackerman-Boustany letter,
the White House surprised lawmakers last month with
a new request for $410 million in extra funding for the Palestinians.
AIPAC has yet to take a position on that request,
which includes $150 million in non-specified funding.

On Capitol Hill, sources say
AIPAC’s support for the Ackerman-Boustany letter
appeared limited to telling lawmakers --
and only if they call and ask --
that the organization is on board,
a significant difference from AIPAC’s usual full-frontal lobbying blitzes,
which often garner majority support.
Another recent AIPAC-backed letter urged the Bush administration
to press Arab nations
to reach out to Israel as a means of reinforcing peace talks;
out of 100 senators, 79 signed.

Adelson told JTA that Kohr, AIPAC’s executive director, assured him on Tuesday
that the group did not yet back the Ackerman-Boustany letter.
AIPAC officials would not discuss the conversation between the two men,
except to restate that AIPAC still supported the letter.
They said that Kohr would not comment.

Erlbaum also called AIPAC officials;
he said he was told AIPAC backed the letter,
but not the Bush administration request for $410 million.

The news of the contretemps drew praise for AIPAC from an unexpected corner --
Brit Tzedek, a group that considers itself
a grassroots dovish alternative to the lobbying powerhouse.

“We are very pleased that AIPAC has stepped up
in support of the Ackerman-Boustany letter,
joining the overwhelming majority of American Jews
who support a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,”
said Diane Balser, Brit Tzedek’s vice president.
[I, who is just a goy, think that the facts are that
American Jews only support a “negotiated two-state solution”
if the solution is, in my view, radically close to the Israeli position.]

Adelson, who recently launched a giveaway tabloid in Israel,
said his research showed that
vast majorities of Israelis
opposed the concessions Olmert is reportedly considering,

particularly sharing Jerusalem.

“Governments have to listen to the people --
of course, Olmert was duly elected,
but promises made” on not dividing Jerusalem “are being neglected,”
Adelson said

Rice has acknowledged pressing the sides toward a solution
before her boss leaves the Oval Office.
Still, Adelson would not criticize the Bush administration.

“The Bush administration and Condoleezza Rice can’t be holier than the pope
if the government of Israel wants to accept the destruction of Israel,”
he said.

Adelson and Erlbaum are also donors to the Zionist Organization of America,
which has driven
a campaign against any further funding for the Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.

“It is high time to condition any further U.S. aid on the Palestinians
arresting terrorists,
outlawing terrorist groups and
ending incitement against Israel in their media, schools and speeches,”
ZOA president Morton Klein said.
“Otherwise, the message is sent that
the U.S. is not serious about the Palestinians changing their actions.”

US Jews Tilt Rightwards on Israel
by Jim Lobe
Antiwar.com, 2007-12-13

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

US Jews appear to have become more opposed to
  • Israel’s making key concessions in renewed peace talks with Palestinians
  • the US carrying out a military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities,
according to the latest in an annual series of surveys of Jewish opinion
released here this week by the American Jewish Committee (AJC).


[F]unding by Jewish donors of Democratic Party candidates
is traditionally highly significant,
accounting, for example,
for as much as one half of all campaign contributions
received by Democratic candidates to the Senate in the last election cycle.

The very well-endowed Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC),
a group of mainly pro-Likud and neoconservative donors
[Is there a difference?],
is also likely to play a strong role in next year’s election.
Several RJC leaders helped found Freedom’s Watch,
a group that is expected to spend
as much as 200 million dollars over the next year
to promote Bush’s “war on terror” and
more hawkish policies directed against Iran and
other perceived threats to Israel’s security.

That may prove a hard sell to the Jewish community,
at least according to most of the new survey’s results.
For example,
two-thirds of US Jews now believe that
Washington should not have gone to war in Iraq –
up two percentage points from 14 months ago –
76 percent believe that US efforts to bring stability and order to Iraq
are going either “somewhat” or “very” badly.

As for the threat posed by Iran –
which is expected to be
a major foreign policy focus of the Republican presidential campaign,
particularly if Giuliani wins the nomination –
35 percent of US Jews said they would support
“the United States taking military action against Iran
to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons,”
57 percent said they would oppose such a move.

Those findings are striking both because
59 percent of Jewish respondents said
they are “very concerned” about the prospect of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons
and because
they represent a further erosion of Jewish support for military action
compared to previous years.

The poll was taken before last week’s [2007-12-03] publication
of the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)
which found that
Iran had suspended its alleged nuclear weapons program in 2003
and is unlikely to be able to build a weapon before 2010 at the earliest.

Thus, in the 2005 survey,
49 percent of Jewish Americans said they would support military action, while
46 percent said they would oppose it.
Last year,
54 percent said they would oppose such action, while
38 percent said they would oppose it.

If the Jewish community has become more dovish on Iran and Iraq, however,
it has also become more skeptical about
Israeli-Arab peace efforts
a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Fifty-five percent said they believe that
negotiations between
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
“cannot lead to peace in the foreseeable future.”

Three out of four respondents said
Israel could not achieve peace with a Palestinian government led by Hamas,
which currently controls the Gaza Strip.

In a more stunning result,
only 46 percent of respondents said
they favor the establishment of a Palestinian state,
while 43 percent said they oppose it.

In 2004,
57 percent of respondents said
they supported the establishment of Palestinian state.
Last year’s survey still found majority support –
54 percent for a Palestinian states, and 38 percent opposed.

Asked whether in the framework of a permanent peace accord,
Israel should be willing to compromise
on the status of Jerusalem as a united city under Israeli jurisdiction,
58 percent of respondents replied negatively this year.

Last year, only 52 percent were against such a compromise,
which most analysts, including Olmert’s deputy prime minister, Haim Ramon,
consider essential to achieving a final peace agreement.

[Does this not suggest that
American Jews are part of the root cause
of what Commentary and its circle call World War IV?]

These more hawkish views on Israeli-Palestinian ties clearly reflect the views
not only of Jewish Republicans, which would not be surprising,
but other, more liberal and Democratic members of the Jewish community
as well.
Forty-three percent of respondents defined themselves as liberal,
31 percent as “moderate,” and
25 percent as conservative.

Still, “support for Israel” ranked relatively low
among the issues which respondents said would be most important to them
in deciding how to cast their votes next year.
Asked to choose among nine different issues,
23 percent named the economy and jobs as their top issue;
19 percent opted for health care;
16 percent cited Iraq; and
14 percent, “terrorism and national security”.
Along with immigration and the energy crisis,
support for Israel was named as the most important issue
by only six percent of all respondents.


Bush's Israel Problem – And Ours
by Ira Chernus
Antiwar.com, 2008-01-11

[An excerpt; paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

[Palestinian] chaos is probably just what the Israeli government wants.
According to many reports,
Israeli undercover agents helped found Hamas years ago
to undermine the then-nearly-universal Palestinian support for Yasser Arafat.
Then the Israelis pumped money (and perhaps arms) to Fatah
during its internecine war with Hamas
to intensify the inner Palestinian split.
To further sow dissension,
the Israelis used massive violence
to break up the prospect of Fatah-Hamas unity in 2006.


Israeli governments have pursued
such divide-and-conquer strategies
ever since the state was born.
What the Israelis have always feared more than anything else
is a unified opponent.

And on the Israeli side,

fear more than anything else
is the obstacle to peace.

That is George W. Bush’s Israel problem – and ours.

The Politics of Fear
Last month a well-respected rabbi in my community, Tirzah Firestone,
wrote a moving public confession.
Like most Jews, she “had been raised with
the unquestioned narrative about Israel’s righteousness.”
She first began to question when she visited the Occupied Territories.
I encountered the shocking effects of my people’s fear,” she writes.
“Fear has been inculcated into us Jews.
It lives in our cells.”
By now, fear has become “the sovereign power in our lives, and
[it] justifies any action.”

As a trained psychologist,
the rabbi knows that people who build walls around themselves for safety
end up reinforcing their fear.
“What an incredible metaphor this ‘security barrier’
[which Israel is building in the West Bank]
is for our own lives!”
she writes.
“The danger of our barriers is a kind of sclerosis of the soul,
a deadening of our humanity.”
The fear comes from a history “full of real trauma and suffering,
centuries of expulsions and pogroms, ghettos and methodical extermination.”

But even sympathetic critics of Israeli policy usually fail to point out
what every Palestinian knows all too well:
Jewish fear comes from, and perpetuates,
a confusion between past and present.
Jews have been far too quick
to identify Palestinians with Nazis,
to equate isolated bombings in an Israeli bus or café
with the methodical killings of the Nazi holocaust.
Jews have become victimizers because
they have never ceased seeing themselves as victims.

Indeed, the influential Jewish theologian Emil Fackenheim
once quoted an Israeli psychologist who said that
so many Jews equated all Arabs with Nazis because
they have “entered a holocaust psychosis.”
Fackenheim offered this quote to support his claim that
the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and all the violence it entailed,
was not merely a moral but a sacred act.

Israel has spent nearly 60 years showing conclusively that
Jews not only can fight back but
can make themselves invincible in the Middle East.
Yet the fact that Israel is militarily secure has not taken away the fear.
It just does not sink in to the minds of most Jews,
in Israel and elsewhere.

Why not?
One intriguing speculation came recently from
the always insightful Israeli commentator Uri Avnery.
When the U.S. intelligence community announced that
Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapon,
Avnery wrote that
the news that Israel was not in danger of an annihilating attack
fell “like an atom bomb” on that country.
The Iranian threat was, he said “our most precious possession.”

Beneath the irony he revealed a grim truth:
“Jews have become used to anxiety.
We have little red warning lights in our heads,
which come on at the slightest sign of danger.
In such a situation, we feel at home.
We know what to do.
But when the lights stay off and no danger appears on the horizon,
we get the feeling that something suspicious is going on.
Something is wrong.”

In other words,

fear has become a foundation stone of Jewish identity.
too many Jews define what it means to be Jewish
largely in terms of
persecution, oppression,
and the need to resist anti-Semitic enemies.
Without an enemy to fight
they would be plunged into an identity crisis.

Fear as Foreign Policy
The Israeli government feeds this fear
by insuring that there will always be an enemy.
Once it was all Arabs,
then all Palestinians,
then the PLO.
Now it is Hamas.
The Israelis have a long history of ignoring Hamas offers for peace,
insuring that Hamas will be retained as an angry foe.

Now they’ve done it again.
In the last few weeks Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and others
have proposed a long-term truce.
Although certain forces in the Israeli government
are urging that truce talks begin,
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has publicly vetoed the idea
in no uncertain terms.
And Israel has stepped up its attack in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Fear has prevailed again in the dominant Israeli view,
as Avnery sums it up:
“If the Palestinians are strong,
it is dangerous to make peace with them.
If they are weak,
there is no need to make peace with them.
Either way,
they must be broken.”
And if (as is likely) they will not be broken,
Israel gets to have two strong factions
continuing to tear Palestinian society apart.
For fear-driven Israelis, it’s a win-win situation.

This fear helps to explain
not only the many Israeli policies that are violent and outrageous
(“Those Arabs understand only one thing: Force”)
but the few that are now in the direction of peace.
In a recent interview, Olmert shocked his nation by saying publicly that
Israelis must take seriously the prospect of dividing Jerusalem.
But he quickly explained that
it has nothing to do with wanting better relations
with the emerging Palestinian state.
On the contrary,
Olmert views his primary responsibility as prime minister as
“ensuring a separation from the Palestinians.”

Israelis have become obsessed with the fear that,
if the occupied territories are not somehow jettisoned,
Palestinians will some day outnumber Jews.
The idea of letting them have the right to vote, and thus rule over Jews,
is too terrifying to accept.
But how can Jews “live eternally in a confused reality
where 50% of the population or more are residents
but not equal citizens who have the right to vote like us?”
Olmert asked.
“My job as prime minister, more than anything else,
is to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Olmert’s talk of flexibility on Jerusalem may look courageous.
He knows that

an undivided Jerusalem
has become the prime symbol of
the Jewish people taking an intractable stand
against their enemies.

What Rabbi Firestone, or any good psychologist, could tell him is that
people who feel compelled to prove their inflexibility
(like people who wall themselves in)
only root themselves deeper in their anxiety.

Olmert also knows that

Israeli leaders who do not create
an appearance of intransigence that caters to the fears of their public
will soon be voted out of office.

So at the same time that
he shocked Israelis by hinting about dividing Jerusalem,
he shocked Palestinians by insisting that
the huge settlement of Ma’alei Adumim, built in the West Bank,
must remain part of Jewish Jerusalem.
And his government further outraged Palestinians when it announced that
it would build 1,000 new units in the settlement Har Homa,
which Israel plans to keep as part of its Jerusalem
(even though Israel’s attorney general says it’s illegal).
When Condoleezza Rice said, “This doesn’t help to build confidence,”
it was quite an understatement.

Olmert knows one more thing:
Right-wing politicians recently forced through a law that says
fully two-thirds of the Israeli parliament must approve
any changes in the boundaries of Jerusalem.
So he can safely sound conciliatory, knowing that
the concession he hints at will probably never come to pass.

The Audacity of Chutzpah
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post, 2008-03-18

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

A group of Jewish leaders announced that
it was having a public meeting yesterday
to discuss the 2008 presidential election.
Representing John McCain: former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger.
Representing Hillary Clinton: former White House official Ann Lewis.
Representing Barack Obama:
“a high-level representative of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign (TBA).”

TBA? Obama’s Jewish problem must be getting worse.

Finally, TBA was ID’d:
Princeton professor Dan Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel.
And when the victim, er, high-level representative,
took the stage at the Washington Hilton yesterday
for the United Jewish Communities debate,
he went quickly on defense.

“There’s a question in the community
that’s unfortunately been
stimulated and stirred about and played with
in e-mails and innuendos and newspaper articles,”
he said,
“that suggests that there’s something wrong with
Senator Obama’s views about Jews, about Israel.”
He then suggested that Jews could relate to Obama’s persecution.
“There are nagging doubts, there are e-mails, there are innuendos:
These are the kinds of things
which we as a community have suffered over the years
at the hands of anti-Semites.”

It took a bit of chutzpah to play the anti-Semite for Obama --
but these are tense times for the senator from Audacity.

Obama is in trouble because his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright,
was caught on tape preaching such gospel as
“God damn America” and
accusing Israel of “state terrorism against the Palestinians.”
[Can one agree with one statement but not the other?]

Jews, a small but influential group in Democratic politics,
had been worried about Obama even before last week’s preacher problem.
It seems recent divisions between African Americans and Jews
were aggravated by matters such as
Obama’s sympathy for the Palestinians,
and his willingness to take advice from Zbigniew Brzezinski,
the former Carter administration official
who calls U.S. Middle East policy “morally hypocritical.”

According to exit polls,
Jews went for Hillary Clinton
by margins ranging from 20 to 42 percentage points
in Florida, Nevada, New York, New Jersey and Maryland.
Obama had a significant edge only in Connecticut.

The videos of Wright’s sermons --
in which the pastor also condemned “rich, white people” --
escalated Obama’s racial and ethnic problems,
and he has scheduled a “major” speech on race for this morning in Philadelphia.
If Ambassador TBA’s reception at the United Jewish Communities event
is any indication,
Obama has difficult work ahead.

Security guards with Israeli accents turned away people at the door
as the room overflowed.
McCain’s representative and Clinton’s representative
struck up a conversation on stage,
leaving Obama’s man to his own thoughts.
As moderator William Daroff introduced Kurtzer “on the far left” of the stage,
Eagleburger interrupted.

“Where he belongs!” the former secretary of state announced.

Kurtzer, granted his turn to speak, attempted to argue that
“on issues relating to Israel, frankly,
there aren’t any differences among the three candidates.”

Eagleburger looked at him incredulously; the audience laughed.

Kurtzer attempted to defuse the Wright controversy.
“For many of you who belong to synagogues and Jewish community centers,
as I have all my life,
we would not want to be judged by the words of rabbis
who sometimes say ridiculous things,”

he reasoned.
[How about a little glasnost here.
Just what was he referring to?
Or is that classified Top Secret Kosher?]

The others used their time to raise doubts about
Obama’s fealty to Israel.
“Senator Obama has said that
he commits in his first year as president
to meeting with President Ahmadinejad of Iran,”
Lewis said.
[Something opposed by Israel and, hence, American Jews.]
Eagleburger added,
“will not talk with the Syrians,
will not talk with the Iranians,
will not talk with Hamas and Hezbollah. . . .
He isn’t going to push the Israelis.”

The skepticism continued through the question time.
Daroff said he had “heard in the hallways here” that
Obama “doesn’t see the U.S.-Israel relationship
as much of the mainstream of the Senate or the Jewish community sees it.”

Kurtzer blamed such sentiment on
“attack dogs” and writers of scurrilous e-mails.
“He’s right within the mainstream
of American society and Jewish community concerns,”
TBA said.

Next question to Kurtzer:
Obama’s assertion that he needn’t have a “Likud view” --
that of Israel’s right-wing party --
to be pro-Israel.
Kurtzer explained that Obama wanted to see a “plurality of views.”
Silence in the room.

To that, Lewis retorted:

“The role of the president of the United States
is to support
the decisions that are made by the people of Israel.

It is not up to us
to pick and choose from among the political parties.”
The audience members applauded.
[Web references]

Eagleburger piled on.
“There’s a distinction between those you do talk to,” he said,
“and those who declare themselves
as intent on the destruction of the state of Israel.
And if that’s their policy, I think we ought not talk to them.”
More applause.

A conference attendee from Richmond pressed Kurtzer on Obama’s
“judgment about not disavowing Reverend Wright’s views earlier.”
Another question prompted a back-and-forth about
whether Obama had been advised by Brzezinski,
who won the enmity of pro-Israel groups for, among other things,
accusing Israel of the “killing of hostages” in Lebanon.

“I’m not Brzezinski’s spokesperson,” Kurtzer demurred.
And after yesterday, he may think twice before being Obama’s TBA again.

[The comments to this article at washingtonpost.com are quite interesting also,
almost entirely negative, sometimes astoundingly so.]

Israel’s ‘American Problem’
New York Times Week-in-Review Op-Ed, 2008-05-18

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

WHEN the prime minister of Israel, Ehud Olmert,
arrived at a Jerusalem ballroom in February
to address the grandees
of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
(a redundancy, since there are no minor American Jewish organizations),
he was pugnacious, as is customary, but he was also surprisingly defensive,
and not because of his relentlessly compounding legal worries.
He knew that scattered about the audience
were Jewish leaders who considered him hopelessly spongy —
and very nearly traitorous —
on an issue they believed to be of cosmological importance:
the sanctity of a “united” Jerusalem,
under the sole sovereignty of Israel.

These Jewish leaders,
who live in Chicago and New York
and behind the gates of Boca Raton country clubs,
loathe the idea that Mr. Olmert, or a prime minister yet elected,
might one day cede the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem
to the latent state of Palestine.
These are neighborhoods — places like Sur Baher, Beit Hanina and Abu Dis —
that the Conference of Presidents could not find with a forked stick
and Ari Ben Canaan as a guide.
And yet

many Jewish leaders believe that
an Israeli compromise on the boundaries of greater Jerusalem —
or on nearly any other point of disagreement —
is an axiomatic invitation to catastrophe.

One leader, Joshua Katzen, of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, told me,
“I think that Israelis
don’t have the big view of global jihad that American Jews do,
because Israelis are caught up in their daily emergencies.”
When I asked him how his Israeli friends responded to this, he answered:
“They say, ‘When your son has to fight, you can have an opinion.’
But I tell them that it is precisely because your son has to fight
that you have a harder time seeing the larger picture.”

When I spoke to Mr. Olmert
a few days after his meeting with the Conference of Presidents,
he made only brief mention of his Diaspora antagonists;
he said that

certain American Jews he would not name have been
“investing a lot of money trying to overthrow
the government of Israel.”

But he was expansive, and persuasive,
on the Zionist need for a Palestinian state.
Without a Palestine —
a viable, territorially contiguous Palestine —
Arabs under Israeli control will, in the not-distant future,
outnumber the country’s Jews.

“We now have the Palestinians running an Algeria-style campaign against Israel,
but what I fear is
that they will try to run a South Africa-type campaign against us,”
he said.
If this happens, and worldwide sanctions are imposed
as they were against the white-minority government,
“the state of Israel is finished,”
Mr. Olmert said in an earlier interview.
This is why he, and his mentor, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
turned so fiercely against the Jewish settlement movement,
which has entangled Israel unnecessarily in the lives of West Bank Palestinians.
Once, men like Mr. Sharon and Mr. Olmert saw the settlers
as the vanguards of Zionism;
today, the settlements are seen, properly,
as the forerunner of a binational state.
In other words, as the end of Israel as a Jewish-majority democracy.

Other Israeli leaders have spoken with similar directness.
The former prime minister, and current defense minister, Ehud Barak,
told The Jerusalem Post in 1999:
“Every attempt to keep hold of this area
as one political entity leads, necessarily,
to either a nondemocratic or a non-Jewish state.
Because if the Palestinians vote, then it is a binational state,
and if they don’t vote
it is an apartheid state that might then become another Belfast or Bosnia.”

The unsentimental analysis of men like Mr. Olmert and Mr. Barak
came to mind this week
as I spoke to Barack Obama about his views on Israel.
He spoke with seemingly genuine feeling
about the post-Holocaust necessity of Israel;
about his cultural affinity with Jews
(he may be the first presidential candidate to confess that
his sensibility was shaped in part by the novels of Philip Roth); and
about his adamant opposition to the terrorist group Hamas.
He offered some mild criticism of the settlement movement (“not helpful”)
and promised to be unyielding in his commitment to Israeli security.

There are some Jews who would be made anxious by Mr. Obama
even if he changed his first name to Baruch and had his bar mitzvah on Masada.
But after speaking with him it struck me that,
by the standards of rhetorical correctness maintained by such groups as the Conference of Presidents and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or Aipac,
Mr. Obama is actually more pro-Israel than either Ehud Olmert or Ehud Barak.
(To say nothing of John McCain and President George W. Bush,
who spoke to the Knesset last week about external threats to Israel’s safety
but made no mention of the country’s missteps.)

This is an existentially unhealthy state of affairs.
I am not wishing that the next president be hostile to Israel, God forbid.
But what Israel needs is
an American president who not only helps defend it against
the existential threat posed by Iran and Islamic fundamentalism,
but helps it to come to grips with the existential threat from within.
A pro-Israel president today would be one who prods the Jewish state —
publicly, continuously and vociferously —
to create conditions on the West Bank that would allow for the birth of a moderate Palestinian state.

Most American Jewish leaders are opposed, not without reason,
to negotiations with Hamas,
but if the moderates aren’t strengthened,
Hamas will be the only party left.

And the best way to bring about the birth of a Palestinian state
is to reverse — not merely halt, but reverse —
the West Bank settlement project.
The dismantling of settlements
is the one step that would buttress
the dwindling band of Palestinian moderates
in their struggle against the fundamentalists of Hamas.

So why won’t American leaders push Israel publicly?
Or, more to the point,
why do presidential candidates dance so delicately around this question?
The answer is obvious:
The leadership of the organized American Jewish community
has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate
support for the colonization of the West Bank
with support for Israel itself.
John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt,
in their polemical work “The Israel Lobby,” have it wrong:
They argue, unpersuasively, that American support for Israel hurts America.
It doesn’t.
But unthinking American support does hurt Israel.

The people of Aipac and the Conference of Presidents are well meaning,
and their work
in strengthening the overall relationship between America and Israel
has ensured them a place in the world to come.
[Unlike, say, poor and unsupported Norman Finkelstein.]
But what’s needed now is
a radical rethinking of what it means to be pro-Israel.
Barack Obama and John McCain, the likely presidential nominees,
are smart, analytical men
who understand the manifold threats Israel faces 60 years after its founding.
They should be able to talk, in blunt terms,
about the full range of dangers faced by Israel,
including the danger Israel has brought upon itself.

But this won’t happen until
Aipac and the leadership of the American Jewish community
allow it to happen.

[What Goldberg has just said
is what the ADL calls an anti-Semitic canard:
That “Aipac and the leadership of the American Jewish community”
control what can be said politically with regard to Israel.]

[Goldberg’s NYT op-ed provoked a veritable explosion of commentary,
as it echoes the principal themes of Mearsheimer and Walt
but comes from the heart of the Jewish media community.
Below are some of the commentaries that it has provoked
(inspired may strike some as the wrong word here).]

We Are All Mearsheimerites Now: Jeffrey Goldberg Joins the Anti's
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-05-18

[Its beginning and conclusion.]

Jeffrey Goldberg,
surely the most powerful Jewish print journalist in the country right now,
wrote a vicious review in The New Republic last fall
of Walt and Mearsheimer’s book,
The Israel Lobby that I never blogged about because I found it so unpleasant.
The piece said that the two scholars were anti-semites who had purposely put themselves in the tradition of Father Coughlin and David Duke.
The tone was supercilious, the name-calling was unrelenting and sophomoric.
They were “tourists” in the area of Israel policy,
knew nothing about Washington, on and on and on.
A Nazi reference or two.
And always putting himself forward as sager...

Well, we are all Keynesians now. We are all Mearsheimerites.


Not that Goldberg will give W&M credit.
No, he spent last fall smearing them.
So even here he must distance himself from W&M,
saying they were wrong to say that
the lobby is not in America’s best interest--
it is not in Israel’s best interest!
This is misrepresentation.
One of W&M’s big themes is that
the lobby doesn’t act in Israel’s best interest.
They say so in the introduction of their book,
[and] on two or three occasions in the text ....
W&M like Israel and are for a 2-state solution.
They are Goldberg’s natural allies; Goldberg needs them.

What Obama Told Goldberg, Behind Closed Doors
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-05-19

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Jeffrey Goldberg’s piece yesterday in the Times is very important.
Goldberg is someone many Jews look to for guidance,
and his piece is the green flag to the American Jewish community
to have open war over Israel and the lobby. At last.
On one side, the Adelsons and Perles
who want Israel in all of historic Palestine.
On the other, the Jews against occupation, the Aaron David Millers
who want to divide the land and share Jerusalem.
Time for a robust debate, the piece declared
(giving an imprimatur to a demand
Walt and Mearsheimer and MJ Rosenberg have been making for months).
And it was obviously an expenditure of Goldberg’s political and personal capital:
what will happen to his many friendships with the likes of Bill Kristol?

The big question I have about the piece is
Whether Goldberg discussed it with Obama.

I start with the idea that Goldberg is a power journalist.
He is very powerful, and you don’t get power without seeking it.
In his journalistic value system,
questions of power--Is it good for the Jews?--
seem to trump questions of truth.
The best evidence of this is the 180 he has now done
from his vicious New Republic review of Walt and Mearsheimer last fall.
The most revealing point in that piece was Goldberg’s statement that
W&M’s book represents a historic moment
in the disenfranchisement of the Jewish people in America. [???]
Goldberg was looking at the book in strict power terms:
Is this good for the Jews?
And he was right, that the book
served to disenfranchise American Jews, or rightwing American Jews,
the body of Jewish leadership,
and may have been a highwater mark
in the role of Jews in the American establishment [???]
W&M are political scholars, they are not power guys.
They were trying to tell the truth about the lobby’s influence,
and yes Jewish influence,
and recognized that they would be sacrificing their own access to power
by doing so.
Goldberg responded as a guy who has always cared most
about the fate of the Jewish people.
The book scared him.
He went after it like a pitbull.

And a few months pass and now he comes out with a piece
attacking that same Jewish leadership.


Goldberg's Variation
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-05-21

[An excerpt.]
Goldberg changes dramatically [since his YIVO talk in 2007-11] on two points:
Jewish colonization of the West Bank and
the role of the lobby.


The second shift is Goldberg’s blatant ripoff of
the Walt/Mearsheimer line on the lobby.
“...why do presidential candidates dance so delicately around this question?
The answer is obvious:
The leadership of the organized American Jewish community
has allowed the partisans of settlement to conflate
support for the colonization of the West Bank with
support for Israel itself,”
Back at Yivo he denied such power.
He spoke narrowly of AIPAC ...,
and repeatedly stated that AIPAC was no more powerful
than the NRA or AARP or PHARMA, and
that derived its power from the fact that
it has a broad following in the general American public.
The old neocon elixir: that
politicians love Israel because Americans love Israel.
Now Goldberg is saying just what I say, and W&M too,
that our politics are broken, someone is tilting the scales here,
it’s AIPAC, the Conference of Presidents, the whole Jewish leadership,
an octopus of American Jewry including
rich men behind the gates of “Boca Raton country clubs”--
no Walt and Mearsheimer didn’t even go that far--
who are religious on the undivided-Jerusalem question.

Max Boot, Palestinian?
by Jeffrey Goldberg
Goldberg’s blog at The Atlantic, 2008-05-21

[Here he discusses, and gives references for,
his dispute with Max Boot.]

Jerome Slater Pulls Intellectual/Historical Rug Out From Under Goldberg
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-05-23

'American Jews Are Double Agents'
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-05-25

[An excerpt.]

Yesterday Mike Desch, author of the new book,
Power and Military Effectiveness: The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism,
knowing of my fascination with issues of dual loyalty,
passed along this exchange from Haaretz.
In it the writer David Samuels
speaks of the claims of Jewish identity in the age of Israel.
It’s a high-minded conversation.
I felt I had stepped into it halfway, and asked Desch to interpret.
He said,
“I think that Samuels is arguing that
Jews and other minorities face a ‘creative tension’ living in America
the Jewish and American master narratives
are out of sync in important respects.
Here are the money grafs from Samuels:”
“As a writer, I believe that people live through stories
that are handed down through the ages by parents and grandparents
and that we pass
on in turn to our children.

Americans believe, very deeply,
in the value and necessity of abolishing the past and living in the future.
Americans believe that
each individual has the capacity for finding God’s grace within him or herself,
and can only find it by being born again ---
independent of family history and ties.
While you don’t have to be a Christian
to accept historically peculiar American ideas about
the individual, the past and the future,
it is hard to ignore the fact that
these ideas are Christian in their history and, I would argue, in their essence.

The stories Jews tell ourselves are different.
We tell ourselves stories about

our unbroken connection
to a common set of tribal ancestors
to whom all Jews are connected by blood.

We tell ourselves about the unbroken chain of interpretation that connects
today’s Torah sages
to the medieval commentators
to the sages of the Gemarra and Mishna
to the revelation given to Moses on Har Sinai.
We tell ourselves stories about
our survival as a people through thousands of years of exile and persecution
in which we still claim to be able to see the hand of God.

I don’t believe that American Jews are likely to spy for Israel,
that being Shomer Shabbat is un-American.
I don’t believe that
the way Jews understand ourselves and our relation to society
is a superficial question of customs and manners
(although manners too can be important).

I am talking about something deeper.

The ways that Jews see the individual and his or her place in the world
contradicts core American beliefs
about abolishing the past, living in the future,
and making yourself up from scratch.
Sometimes we acknowledge this contradiction to ourselves,
and sometimes we pretend that we think and see the world
the same way as everyone else.
Sometimes we acknowledge our difference to ourselves and to our friends
but not to our Christian neighbors.
We are double agents.
That’s what it means to be a Jew in America.


The right's game-playing with
"dual loyalty" and "anti-Semitism" accusations

by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2008-07-02

As our political establishment takes new and disturbing steps
towards a more confrontational approach with Iran,
the effort to stomp out any discussion of the role Israel plays in that policy
has once again intensified.

[This is triple-posted:
Jews and War
America, American Jews, and Israel
The Lobby and Iran.]

Israeli Leaders Find Generous Donors in U.S.
By Griff Witte
Washington Post, 2008-07-26

Americans Give Most To the Political Right

Why Don't You Guys Move to Israel?
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-09-27

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

My challenge to you guys is, Why don’t you move to Israel?

I think I know the answers.

One, you feel safe here; you don’t have to move there.

Two, you might actually prefer life in a multicultural modern democracy,
where we grew up singing R-E-S-P-E-C-T to Aretha.
That’s my guess.
Certainly for your kids.
And maybe you feel a little guilty about not making aliyah,
as Alan Dershowitz has indicated he does.

Three, you do an important job for Israel here.
Both of you are part of the Israel lobby, in your way.
As Mike Desch states in his book Power and Military Effectiveness:
“As Yigal Allon put it,
‘Israel has had, has and will have, but one faithful ally:
the Jewish people in its diaspora.’

This is why Ben-Gurion and other Israeli leaders
have looked to Jews within the United States and other countries
as reliable lobbies on Israel’s behalf.
Common religion and ethnicity, the twin pillars of nationalism,
rather than common democracy,
have been the only sound basis for alliance in the view of most Israeli leaders.”

I think you know that’s your job,
to keep the U.S. on the side of the Jews in Israel.

[Click for rebuttals from the “guys” Weiss addressed above,
Steve F. and Ralph Seliger,
together with Weiss’s counterrebuttals.
And still arguing:
10-01: Seliger
10-02: Seliger.]

Happy New Year (Jewish New Year--Apologies to Gentile Readers)
to Seliger

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-09-29

[This, a rebuttal and counterrebuttal to 2008-09-27-Weiss,
takes up quite a number of topics.
Especially interesting, and provocative, is its conclusion;
emphasis is added:]

As to the sociological point I make about Jewish names on buildings,
don’t be naive, Ralph.
You know exactly what I’m saying.
If you want to say it’s a canard, say so and I will laugh at you.
That specific comment came out of the following context:
that a person I met who works at the Kennedy School said that

Steve Walt was naive
because he had failed to notice that
the names on the buildings at Harvard are Jewish.

New buildings.
This is a cold fact of life, good or bad,
and I think it’s fine, except for the foreign policy effect
(and yes, some Jewish cultural elitism that I wish we could get over).
I have noticed the same thing at Columbia, Lerner and Kraft,
and who is Bollinger dependent upon
to deliver his dream campus above 125th Street?
This is simply a fact of our political life,

Jews are the richest segment of our society by religion and
are playing a huge role in political campaigns.

If you want me to ignore it because Nazis said the same thing,
you can simply forget about it.

I’m a journalist, I’m old, I’ve been in this business a long time.
[From remarks in his blog elsewhere, I believe he was born about 1955.]
I am, therefore, interested at this point in life by
what’s true and new and important,
and this satisfies all three.

Israel Is 'Megalomaniacal' and Has Lost a Sense of Proportion About Itself--
Says Mearsheimer, Sorry I Meant Olmert

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-10-02

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

Here is Time’s Scott McLeod
quoting a passage from the Olmert tapes that I hadn’t registered:

“Forty years after the Six-Day War ended,
we keep finding excuses not to act,” Olmert says.
“We refuse to face reality ...
The strategic threats we face
have nothing to do with where we draw our borders ...
For a large portion of these years,
I was unwilling to look at the reality in all its depth.”
Saying Israel
would not attack Iran unilaterally to stop Tehran’s nuclear program,
Olmert scoffs,
“Part of our megalomania and our loss of proportions is
the things that are said here about Iran.
We are a country that has lost a sense of proportion about itself.”

McLeod ends by saying that American negotiators
must also end their “fantasies” re Israel, hint hint,
but what he doesn’t say, and knows to be true,
and that Tony Judt and Walt and Mearsheimer
tried to give journalists the spine to say,
is that:

Who gave Israel this megalomania?
Who gave them the keys to the car when they were drunk and 15?
Malcolm Hoenlein. Alan Dershowitz. Abe Foxman.
Barney Frank. Doug Feith. Tom Friedman. Bruce Kovner.
My mommy.

Marty Peretz and the American political consensus on Israel
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2008-12-28

This is posted in
Pro-Israel, anti-Muslim media (at kwhmediawatch.blogspot.com)
Jews and the media
America, American Jews, and Israel


At Knicks Exhibition, Rabbi Intervenes When Maccabi Coach Won’t Leave
New York Times, 2009-10-19


On Israel, Jews and Leaders Often Disagree
New York Times, 2010-05-06


Criticizing Israel has long been
the equivalent of touching a third rail
in many Jewish families and friendships,
relegating disagreements to a conversational demilitarized zone
where only the innocent and foolhardy go.

“You cannot really engage in that conversation,”
said Phillip Moore, a teacher in this Detroit suburb
who has embraced strong opinions on many topics in his life —
on politics, education, even religion —
but avoids the subject of Israel at gatherings of his Jewish relatives.

“You raise a question about the security forces or the settlements
and you are suddenly being compared to a Holocaust denier,”
said Mr. Moore, 62.
“It’s just not a rational discussion, so I keep quiet.”

But the recent tension between the Obama administration and the Israeli government over the stalled Middle East peace process
has put the questions underlying those long-avoided family discussions
directly in the public spotlight.
They have raised serious questions about
whether the traditional leadership of the American Jewish world
is fully supported by the mass of American Jews.

The issues arose last month when American officials openly rebuked Israel
over the announcement of new housing plans in east Jerusalem,
and are likely to grow as indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians,
mediated by the Obama administration, resume this week.
President Obama, working to ease those tensions,
met on Tuesday with the Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel,
who had criticized the administration in an advertisement last month.

Many other prominent Jews,
representing the conservative organizational leadership
that has been the dominant voice of the Jewish community for decades,
have also recently criticized the Obama administration’s pressure on Israel.
Some have even accused the White House of
sabotaging the foundations of the Jewish state.


John Mearsheimer and the Future of Israeli Apartheid
by Kevin MacDonald
The Occidental Observer, 2010-05-12

[An excerpt
(for Mearsheimer’s original article, click here):]

This is where I part ways with Mearsheimer.
It is certainly true that Jewish activist organizations like the ADL
are constantly going into high dudgeon
at the very mention that Israel is an apartheid state.
Any such assertion is regarded as an “extreme anti-Israel rhetoric” by the ADL
and has the effect of shaping the views of ordinary Jews
and preventing them from acknowledging Israeli apartheid as it already exists.

But how is this going to change?
The reality is that

American Jews are quite comfortable with
a morally schizophrenic view in which
they have vastly different moral standards
when it comes to Israel versus the US.

This has been going on for a long time —
to the point that I started a recent blog by writing,
“Finding examples of Jewish double standards and hypocrisy
vis-à-vis their attitudes about Israel and the US
is like shooting fish in a barrel.
But their posturing on the Arizona immigration law is particularly egregious.”
Recall that opposition to Arizona-type laws
spans the entire organized Jewish community in the US,
despite the fact that
such practices are routine in Israel.

Jewish moral particularism is a powerful reality among Jews.
Mearsheimer takes Jewish liberalism in America and throughout the West
at face value,
as representing “deepseated commitment to liberal values”
that is central to Judaism itself.

In accepting this, Mearsheimer is taking people like
Gideon Aronoff of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society at face value —
always a bad idea....

The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
by Peter Beinart
New York Review of Books, 2010-06 (June 2010)

Peter Beinart on the future of American Zionism
by Kevin MacDonald
The Occidental Observer, 2010-05-24

More on Peter Beinart
by Kevin MacDonald
The Occidental Observer Blog, 2010-05-29

Interview with Michael Oren
Envoy to DC praises Rahm Emanuel and improved US tone on Israel.
Jerusalem Post, 2010-06-22


Contrary to popular perceptions in Israel,
[Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Michael] Oren said emphatically that

Obama’s powerful chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel
was “not a problem,” and indeed
a “great asset.”

“He is a person who understands us deeply,” Oren said.
“He doesn’t agree with everything we say, but he understands us deeply
and has been someone I could talk to when I needed to.”

Oren said Emanuel, who the Daily Telegraph reported Monday
was going to step down in six to eight months time,
called him in tears last month
during his visit to Israel for his son’s bar mitzvah.

“He had an amazing visit here,” Oren said.

“He was overwhelmed that he went jogging on the beach with his wife
and everyone came up to him and wished him a mazel tov,
and that everyone was great to his kid.”

Oren said that
one of the great new challenges Israel faces in Washington is that
it is becoming an increasingly partisan issue.
His comments come as polls consistently show
a sharp increase in support for Israel among Republicans, and
a decline among Democrats.


American Jews Who Reject Zionism Say Events Aid Cause
New York Times, 2010-06-26

One day nearly 20 years ago,
Stephen Naman was preparing to help
the rabbi of his Reform Jewish temple in South Carolina
move the congregation into a new building.
Mr. Naman had just one request:
Could the rabbi stop placing the flag of Israel on the altar?

“We don’t go to synagogue to pray to a flag,”
Mr. Naman, 63, recalled having said in a recent telephone interview.

That rabbi acceded to the request.
So, after being transferred to North Carolina
and joining a temple there six or seven years later,

Mr. Naman asked its rabbi to remove the Israeli flag.
This time, the reaction was more predictable.

“The rabbi said that would be terrible,”

recounted Mr. Naman,
“and that he’d be embarrassed
to be rabbi of such a congregation.”


Israel Puts Off Crisis Over Conversion Law
New York Times, 2010-07-24


A growing crisis between American Jews and the Israeli government
over a proposed law on religious conversion was averted —
or at least delayed — this week,
with both sides agreeing to a six-month period of negotiation.
But the depth of American anger
and the byzantine complexity of Israeli politics
suggest that a solution is a long way off.


Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel,
said in an interview that
Mr. Netanyahu had told him that

he needed American Jews on his side
in his negotiations with President Obama
over peace with the Palestinians,

and that
the controversy over the conversion bill
was getting in the way.

Shimon Peres Can Say What He Will, But Brits Love Jews
by Taki Theodoracopulos
Taki Magazine, 2010-08-12

[This clearly has next to nothing to do with America and American Jews,
but since the British-Israeli relation is to an extent isomorphic to
the American-Israeli relation,
and lacking a better place in my blog to place it,
I am including it here.
An excerpt (emphasis in the original):]

“The poor Palestinians have become
third- or fourth-class citizens in their own country
while Jews the world over pore into Israel.

Still, Shimon whines about anti-Semitism.”


Israeli committee debates whether U.S. Jewish group is pro-Israel
By Janine Zacharia
Washington Post, 2011-03-24

[This extremely interesting story ends with the following (to me, explosive) paragraph:]

“We’re fighting a very, very difficult battle
to be able to have the space at the table
in the American Jewish community,
to be allowed into synagogues, Hillels, federations, to speak,”
[J Street’s founder, Jeremy Ben-Ami] said.
“And if the government of Israel, through the Knesset,
has some kind of a resolution that says,
‘No, J Street is not pro-Israel,’
the doors will be shut.”

[Seems to me that implies that the loyalty of the Jews of which he speaks
is at best a dual one, but more reasonably, a single one,
prioritizing the interests of Israel over those of America.]

‘NY Jewish Week’ excommunicates ‘J Street’ for opposing settlement project
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.net, 2011-03-24

Israel lobby has cooked the Israeli goose, and American Jews will step away
by Philip Weiss [quoting Patrick Lang and David Habbakuk]
Mondoweiss.net, 2011-03-25

U.S. Group Stirs Debate on Being ‘Pro-Israel’
New York Times, 2011-03-25

‘NYT’ seems to buy in to claim that
American Jewish criticism endangers Israelis

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.net, 2011-03-27

Another Zionist takes on the Israel lobby
(and the Jewish imperative to unify against the outside world)

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.net, 2011-03-28

[Some words from Weiss:]

Here is an important piece at the Jerusalem Post
by Alon Ben-Meir, a professor at NYU, saying that

an ancient Jewish imperative to stick together
has caused US Jews to blindly support
Israel’s rightwing course toward “endless conflict.”


As you read this, notice that Ben-Meir is explaining
the Jewish imperative of forming a monolith
when dealing with the goyim.


[Some words from Ben-Meir:]

[U]nity has kept the Jewish world strong ...

The instinct to unify is one that is ingrained in Jews.
This heritage goes back not only generations, but millennia...

Whether by choice or by force, Jewish communities banded together
to survive the Spanish Inquisition, the pogroms of Eastern Europe
and, of course, the Holocaust and the eventual creation of the Yishuv
in what would become the State of Israel.
Holidays like Hanukka and Purim
celebrate the success of the Jewish people escaping the threat of destruction,
others like Tisha Be’av and Holocaust Remembrance Day commemorate
those periods when Jews failed to do so.

THE PSYCHE of a people with a history under almost constant siege
has served as the key unifying agent
between Israel and the American Jewish community.

The narrative of the Jewish people surrounded by hostile enemies,
and needing the constant support and vigilance of its brethren to survive,
is indeed a powerful one.
Today, when faced with the threat of a nuclear Iran,
Israeli and American Jewish leaders
are often quick to compare the current period to 1939
in an effort to demonstrate the urgent need
to safeguard a Jewish people under the threat of annihilation...

[Back to Weiss:]

[U.S. Senator Charles Schumer] declared at AIPAC that
his name means Guardian in Hebrew.


In ’92, AIPAC president raised $1 million for Bill Clinton —
and he supported the settlements

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2012-05-17

[This article by Weiss is largely selections from
a transcript of
a conversation between David Steiner, then-AIPAC president
and businessman Haim Katz


Then there’s this proof that Bill Clinton supported the settlement project in 1992–
one reason he was able to beat George H.W. Bush.
[David Steiner, president of AIPAC]
brags that he raised $1 million for Clinton
at a critical time, the beginning of his campaign.
Katz keeps asking Steiner whether Clinton will support loan guarantees for the settlements,
and the AIPAC president says he will.
Because Clinton loves Jews and he’s made implicit promises to Steiner.

As you read this remember, This is the political climate for Clinton, George W. Bush and now Barack Obama: Clinton had AIPAC on his side, and Clinton got two terms. And notice the talk about Clinton’s Jewish friends. This is the sociological aspect of the lobby. It didn’t trust George H.W. Bush because he didn’t have Jewish friends. Do you think George W. Bush got himself some Jewish friends? Ask Paul Wolfowitz and Scooter Libby!



Billionaires Adelson and Saban, at odds in campaigns, unite on Israel and hit Obama
By Philip Rucker and Tom Hamburger
Washington Post, 2014-11-10

Sheldon Adelson, left, and Haim Saban
flank Israeli-America Council Chairman Shawn Evenhaim
at the IAC conference in D.C. (Shahar Azran)

The billionaire political kingmakers
planning to bankroll much of the 2016 presidential campaign
spoke out together Sunday
with blunt warnings on key issues for their respective parties.

Haim Saban, a media mogul and close Democratic ally of Hillary Rodham Clinton,
criticized President Obama’s outreach to Iran,
declaring that “we’ve shown too many carrots and a very small stick.”

Sheldon Adelson, a casino magnate who is likely to tap into his fortune
in an effort to elect a Republican to the White House,
upbraided many in the GOP for their opposition to legalizing millions of undocumented immigrants.
Without a comprehensive overhaul, he said,
the country would not be “the America that I’m proud to live in.”

Adelson, 81, and Saban, 70, have gained enormous political power
in the new era of super PACs and unlimited contributions,
and both made it clear during a rare joint appearance Sunday
before an audience of several hundred Israeli Americans
that they intend to assert that power during the next presidential campaign and beyond
with policy demands for their candidates.
In particular,
they vowed to press both sides for a more hawkish approach to the Middle East.

Appearing before a new group called the Israeli American Council,

both men issued a call for unity
when it comes to support for the Jewish state,
reminding all prospective presidential candidates
of the primacy of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
And they agreed that Obama and his administration
have not been tough enough
in protecting Israel’s interests.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Saban described
the president’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
as “like oil and water.”
That has fed a perception, he said, that Obama has not been a friend to Israel,
although Saban said he thinks that, in reality,
“there’s never been this level of cooperation with any previous president.”

Still, Saban said that he thinks Clinton would repair the relationship
and that he has told her

he would spend “whatever it takes”
to propel her into the White House.
That includes giving millions of dollars to Priorities USA,
a super PAC that helped Obama in 2012
and is revving up to aid Clinton in 2016.

“I have told her and everybody who’s asked me,
‘Whatever it takes, we’re going to be there,’ ” Saban said.
“I think she would be a fantastic president for the United States,
an incredible world leader and one under whom I believe — deeply —
the relationship with the U.S. and Israel will be significantly reinforced.”

Asked if he would press his friend Adelson to give to the pro-Clinton super PAC, Saban said,
“I’ve got chutzpah, but I’m not suicidal.”

In their public remarks, Saban and Adelson found common ground in their disdain for Iran,
and their fear for the danger they say that regime poses for Israel.
They expressed concern about U.S. negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.

Adelson said that Iranian fundamentalists
are instructed by their religion to “wipe out all infidels”
and that “wiping out the Jews would be a down payment on that.”


Boycotting Israel is not anti-Semitism
Washington Post Letters to the Editor, 2015-06-15

In the June 13 news article “In Israel, concerns rising over boycott movement,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referred to the movement to boycott Israel or disinvest from those doing business in the occupied territories as “anti-Semitic.” Similarly, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, who recently presided over a meeting that raised more than $20 million to fight this movement, referred to it as “anti-Semitic.” Whether one agrees with this movement or not, and many Jews are leading participants, the fact is that it is in no way “anti-Semitic.”

Judaism is a religion of universal values. Israel is a sovereign state. It has violated international law by occupying the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The boycott movement is a nonviolent effort to show opposition to this occupation, similar, its advocates argue, to the sanctions movement against South Africa to show opposition to apartheid. Hatred of Judaism or Jews, which is what constitutes anti-Semitism, appears to be absent from these boycott efforts.

Only by redefining “anti-Semitism” to mean criticism of Israel can such a charge be sustained. Israel’s policies in the occupied territories should be debated on their merits, and defenders of the occupation should not hide behind false charges of “anti-Semitism.”

Allan C. Brownfeld, Alexandria

The writer is publications editor for the American Council for Judaism.

The recent news article about the movement to boycott Israel failed to highlight an interesting aspect of the burgeoning boycott, divestment and sanctions, or BDS, movement, namely the increasing number of Jews in the United States and elsewhere who support some form of boycott. The liberal American Jewish Americans for Peace Now supports the boycott of products made in Israeli settlements. The progressive Jewish Voice for Peace, which this year fully embraced the Palestinian call for BDS, has grown to 65 chapters.

Given their support for the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s and the proud Jewish tradition of nonviolent resistance against injustice, it makes perfect sense that more American Jews are choosing to join the peaceful Palestinian call for BDS.

William F. Simonds, Potomac

The devastating intent of the boycott Israel movement
Washington Post Letters to the Editor, 2015-06-19

[Emphasis added.]

The June 16 letters “Boycotting Israel isn’t anti-Semitic” were from Jewish people
who identify with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
Being Jewish does not exempt a person from being anti-Semitic
or give a free pass to make allegations about Israel.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its supporters
are no different from
the Arab countries that have boycotted Israel for decades
and tried to force the United States into acquiescing to these boycotts
by imposing an oil embargo in the early 1970s.
Their avowed intent has always been to destroy Israel’s economy
and bring the nation to its knees.
The anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism is no different.
It is not Israel’s policies to which it objects,
but the very existence of a Jewish state.

There are far more Jewish people and organizations in the United States
that support Israel
and its policies of withstanding economic and physical terrorism
than those who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

Julia Weller, Bethesda
The writer is a former board member of
the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington.

The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel
calls for the implementation of U.N. Resolution 194,
which allows for the return of refugees to their homeland.
That would flood Israel with Arab refugees and end the existence of the Jewish state.

Anti-Semitic or not,
boycott, divestment and sanctions activities are intended to
damage the Jewish population exclusively.
It is hard to differentiate between irrational hate
and these strategic objectives.

Frank Silnicky, Bethesda

An Interactive Look at U.S. Charities Supporting Israel's West Bank Settlements
by Uri Blau
Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, 2015-12-07

[This support from U.S. charities for Israel's West Bank settlements
no doubt comes from both American Christians and Jews.]

In a months-long investigation, Haaretz correspondent Uri Blau analyzed thousands of documents from the tax reports of U.S. charities that support Israeli settlements in the West Bank. These charities, known as 501(c)(3) organizations under the Internal Revenue Code, are granted tax-exempt status by U.S. authorities and donors to them can claim a tax deduction on their gift.

The Haaretz investigation focused on some 50 U.S.-based organizations that funnel money to the settlements or to Israeli non-profits that support them. Between 2009 and 2013, the last year for which there is extensive data, these organizations reported combined revenues of more than $281 million (over one billion shekels). Most of these funds came from donations, while some came from returns on capital investments.

Some $224 million of this income was transferred to the occupied territories as grants, mostly through Israeli non-profit groups.

Explore the breakdown of the revenues, expenses and grants of each of the organizations included in the investigation on this special Haaretz interactive.

Why is the U.S. subsidizing Israeli settlements?
by Uri Blau
Washington Post Op-Ed, 2015-12-22

Uri Blau is an Israeli investigative journalist based in Washington.
Reporting for this commentary was supported by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

An office chair is positioned on the top of Dagan Hill, on the outskirts of Efrat, a thriving West Bank settlement. Someone must like to sit here and take in the changing landscape. Once-bare mountains are losing their shape, carved up by new roads and villas for a growing population of Jewish settlers.

Nadia Matar, one pillar of this community, should be happy. Twenty years ago, as she struggled to make a life on this hill, the success of her mission seemed improbable, if not impossible. Now, from the top of the windy peak, the fruits of her victory are apparent. Yet Matar, founder and leader of the pro-settlement nonprofit Women in Green, doesn’t sound cheerful when I call to ask about the funding of her organization. “Choose which side are you on,” she tells me in Hebrew, “ours, or the enemies who try to destroy us.”

Many from Israel’s far right and the settlers’ community condemn the Obama administration as that “other” side. They should know better: While one American hand opposes development of settlements, the other keeps feeding it.

A few miles away from Efrat sits the pleasant campground of Oz Vegaon, a West Bank outpost built without the required land allocation and planning permits from the Israeli Civil Administration. Campers, tourists and right-wing groups gather here to enjoy the newly constructed facilities. Women in Green helped to build Oz Vegaon last year, naming it after three Jewish teens murdered by Palestinians not too far from there. Some of the money it used on the site traveled some 5,700 miles from the center of Manhattan. Matar’s group is one of many settler organizations fueled with tax-exempt American dollars, of which increasing amounts arrive each year.

This year I conducted a thorough investigation into the complex network of tax-exempt donations helping to finance West Bank settlements. The investigation, published this month in Haaretz, looked at almost 50 nonprofit organizations that raise money in the United States for the settlements.

The findings are striking: Within five years, from 2009 to 2013, more than $220 million was sent across the ocean and into schools, synagogues and playgrounds dotting the hills of Judea and Samaria. Millions of tax-subsidized dollars have gone to Jewish settlements in Hebron, helping to sustain a grim reality in the segregated part of the city, where Palestinian movement is sharply restricted and their economic life has been suffocated.

Donations from the United States also were used to support families of Jews convicted in ideologically motivated violence against Palestinians. The spouse of Ami Popper, convicted of murdering seven Palestinians in 1990, received financial help from Honenu, an Israeli nonprofit that drew 20 percent of its income last year from U.S. donations.

The American donors to these groups are entitled to tax breaks on the money they give, and so this flow of funds means U.S. taxpayers are indirectly supporting a policy of settlement expansion opposed by the current administration and every other administration — Democratic and Republican — since Richard Nixon. In 2013, the organizations raised $73 million and doled out $54 million in grants. Initial data from 2014 suggest totals even higher.

In his 2009 speech to the United Nations, President Obama stated a clear view on Israeli presence in the West Bank. “America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements,” he said.

When I recently asked a senior White House official about this apparent contradiction, he told me: “This administration never defended or supported any activity associated with the settlements. It doesn’t support or advance any activity that will legitimize them.”

Plaques honoring American donors on buildings or promenades they helped to erect in the settlements suggest otherwise. If Obama means it when he warns Israel about the consequences of its settlement policy, he should explain why his country keeps subsidizing it.

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