Jews and war

Time To Change the Tune
The Jewish Daily Forward Editorial, 2006-08-18

[A verbatim quote from the last paragraph of this editorial
(but the emphasis is added):]

Bush has been convinced
by self-appointed spokesmen for Israel and the Jewish community
that endless war is in Israel’s interest.

[I’m glad to see that the Forward admits this,
what so many people have been saying,
even when they were called “anti-Semitic” for saying it.
But how many other Jews or Jewish organizations are willing to?
And why does the ADL still label most of those who assert the above

Smears for Fears
Wes Clark just got caught up
in the rigged rules for discussing Israel-related issues in America.
By Matthew Yglesias
American Prospect, 2007-01-23

[Emphasis is added.]

Retired General Wesley Clark is, like me,
concerned that the Bush administration is going to launch a war with Iran.
Arianna Huffington spoke to him in early January and asked why he was so worried the administration was headed in this direction.
According to Huffington’s January 4 recounting of Clark’s thoughts,
he said this:
“You just have to read what’s in the Israeli press.
The Jewish community is divided
but there is so much pressure being channeled
from the New York money people to the office seekers.”

This, of course, is true.
I’m Jewish and I don’t think the United States should bomb Iran,
but Thursday night I was talking to a Jewish friend
and she does think the United States should bomb Iran.
The Jewish community, in short, is divided on the issue.
It’s also true that
most major American Jewish organizations
cater to the views of extremely wealthy major donors
whose political views are well to the right of the bulk of American Jews,

one of the most liberal ethnic groups in the country.
Furthermore, it’s true that
major Jewish organizations are trying to push the country into war.
And, last, it’s true that
if you read the Israeli press
you’ll see that right-wing Israeli politicians
are anticipating a military confrontation with Iran.
(For example, here’s an article about the timing of the selection
of a new top dog in the Israeli Defense Forces;
Benjamin Netanyahu is quoted as saying that the new leader
“will have to straighten the army out,
rebuild Israel’s deterrence and
prepare the defenses against threats, first and foremost, against Iran.”)

Everything Clark said, in short, is true.
What’s more, everybody knows it’s true. [Emphasis in original.]
The worst that can truthfully be said about Clark is that
he expressed himself in a slightly odd way.
This, it seems clear, he did because it’s a sensitive issue
and he worried that if he spoke plainly
he’d be accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism.
So he spoke unclearly and, for his trouble, got ...
accused of trafficking in anti-Semitism.

James Taranto, who writes the hack “Best of the Web” column
for the online version of The Wall Street Journal’s hack editorial page,
likened Clark’s views on this
to the notorious anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Scott Johnson of the influential and moronic right-wing Power Line blog
argued that
“Clark’s comments are not simply ‘anti-Israel,’ ” and asked
“[i]s it a only a matter only of parochial concern to American Jews
that they are now to be stigmatized without consequence
in the traditional disgusting terms --
terms that used to result in eviction from the precincts of polite society --
by a major figure in the Democratic Party?”

Needless to say, Clark did not stigmatize American Jews.
Indeed, he went out of his way to note that the American Jewish community is divided on the issue.
Michael Barone’s sneering attack on Clark also managed, almost incidentally,
to reveal Barone’s own understanding
that Clark’s remarks are substantially correct.
Barone observed that
it’s “interesting to see a Democratic presidential hopeful
denounce ‘the New York money people,’
people whom Clark spent some time with in 2003-04.”

And, indeed, it is interesting, for demonstrating
the bizarre rules of the road in discussing America’s Israel policy.
If you’re offering commentary
that’s supportive of America’s soi-disant “pro-Israel” forces,
as Barone was,
it’s considered perfectly acceptable to note, albeit elliptically,
that said forces are influential in the Democratic Party in part
because they contribute large sums of money to Democratic politicians
who are willing to toe the line.
If, by contrast, one observes this fact
by way of criticizing the influence of “pro-Israel” forces,
you’re denounced as an anti-Semite.

Needless to say,
the increasingly ridiculous Abe Foxman, head of the Anti-Defamation League,
was swiftly located in order to ply his trademark tactic of
accusing people of anti-Semitism
that he knows perfectly well aren’t anti-Semites.
As The Jewish Week reported,
“The ADL leader told Clark that he had
‘bought into conspiratorial bigotry’
that increasingly sees
Israel, Jews and American Jewish organizations
as the driving force behind U.S. involvement in Iraq and Iran.”
What’s more, “Foxman said
Clark’s comments are particularly worrisome because of the context,
coming in the wake of,”
among other things,
a book by former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter,
who accused Israel of pushing for war with Iran.”

The context, I would say, is worrisome.
“Israel” is not a unitary actor,
but clearly some Israelis are pushing for war with Iran.
More to the point,
many American Jewish organizations are pushing for war with Iran.
And before Foxman comes to lock me up,
he might want to check out his own outfit’s website,
complete with a section on “The Iranian Threat.”
Meanwhile, over on AIPAC’s site
we can learn about the “escalating threat” from Iran.
A group called The Israel Project has an Iran Press Kit page,
linking only to alarmist takes on the Iranian nuclear issue
and to a hawks-only set of expert sources.
(Shockingly, none of these organizations are especially concerned
that Israel won’t join the Non-Proliferation Treaty Framework.)

For another example, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs
gave Senator John McCain its “Scoop” Jackson Award in December;
in his remarks accepting the award,
McCain argued that
“[t]he path to future success for Israel will not be an easy one,
and there will be a number of difficult issues.
Foremost on many minds, is, of course, Iran.”
He characterized “Tehran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons”
as “an unacceptable risk” --
language clearly designed to lay the groundwork for war.

With this last bit, we not only see the accuracy of Clark’s remark,
but, once again, the stunning hypocrisy of the anti-anti-Semitism brigades.
It’s clear that McCain, just like Clark,
sees American Jewish organizations
as key players in the Iran-hawk movement in the United States,
and also that he sees concern for Israeli security as motivating those groups.
Nobody, however, is going to label McCain a Jew-hating conspiracy theorist--
because, of course,
McCain wants to help these groups
push the United States into a military confrontation with Iran.
Thus, McCain gets an award, and Clark gets called an anti-Semite.

Since Clark would like to have a future in the politics game,
he ended up backing down from his remarks,
explaining he didn’t mean what he said.
Mission accomplished for those who smeared him.
But would I ever suggest that
Democrats have been unduly timid on the Iran issue
because they fear crossing powerful “pro-Israel” institutions?
Only anti-Semites think stuff like that.

Matthew Yglesias is a Prospect staff writer.

Main Anti-war Group Plans Rally Against Israeli Policies
by Daniel Treiman
Forward, 2007-02-02

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The Jewish community
has had an uneasy relationship with the anti-war movement.
While polls show that
solid majorities of American Jews now disapprove
of the decision to go to war in Iraq,
most major Jewish groups have been quiet on the issue.
Many supporters of Israel have been concerned that
the anti-war movement has become
a vehicle for promoting the Palestinian cause

to a larger audience.

Enforced orthodoxies and Iran
by Glenn Greenwald
Salon.com, 2007-02-03

[This is an outstanding article, worth reading in its entirety
(once you get past the ads; “Enter Salon” speeds things up).
Nonetheless, here is an excerpt.
Emphasis is both original and added;
most links from the original have been lost.]

[An AIPAC event in New York is]
an important illustration of just
how much stock all of the presidential candidates,
Democrats and Republicans alike,
will put in the pro-Israel community,
particularly for campaign dollars.


“New York is the ATM for American politicians.
Large amounts of money come from the Jewish community,”

[Hank Sheinkopf] said.
“If you’re running for president and you want dollars from that group,
you need to show that you’re interested in the
issue that matters most to them.”


It is simply true that there are
large and extremely influential Jewish donor groups
which are agitating for a U.S. war against Iran,

and that is the case because those groups
are devoted to promoting Israel’s interests
and they perceive it to be in Israel’s interests
for the U.S. to militarily confront Iran.

That is what the [New York] Sun and the [New York] Post have made clear.

There is just no point in denying that or pretending it is not the case,
and in any event,
the way in which these groups have ratcheted up
their explicit anti-Iran advocacy
has made it impossible for these facts to be concealed any longer
(and, as I have noted before,
neoconservatives have been increasingly arguing that
American Jews of all political stripes
are compelled to support the Bush administration
because of its supposedly “pro-Israel” policies --
a claim grounded in the very “dual loyalty” theories
which they claim to find so offensive and outrageous
when advanced by others).


[T]he influence of self-proclaimed “pro-Israeli” American Jewish groups
in helping to push the country into what looks more and more every day
to be an inevitable conflict with Iran
is very significant and cannot be ignored.


Even though Americans do not support
military intervention in the Middle East on behalf of Israel,
and fewer and fewer support military adventurism in the Middle East generally, [David] Brooks is right about the fact that
all of the leading presidential candidates
embrace the militaristic Middle East agenda
shared by AIPAC and similar groups.

Who are the candidates who reject it?
[In my view,
this is a clear and undeniable failure of the American political system.
Where is the political choice? There is none.
And the only reasonable explanation is what many Jews adamantly deny,
that they do indeed control American politics and culture.]

Any who would are immediately marginalized
and would be subjected to the Wes Clark treatment
(i.e., demonized as an anti-semite unless and until they repented,
appeared before Abe Foxman to request absolution, repudiated their views,
and then took an oath of allegiance to that agenda).
And they would be cut off from what Hank Sheinkopf called
the “ATM for American politicians.”

no leading presidential candidate
seems able to articulate clear opposition
to the militaristic, war-seeking posture
we are obviously taking with regard to Iran.

Instead, they are all spouting rhetoric which --
as Digby pointed out last night --
amounts to an endorsement, or at least a re-inforcement, of the Bush Doctrine:
namely, that preemptive war is permissible in general
and may be specifically necessarily against Iran.
Regardless of whether there is merit in the abstract
to the notion of “keeping all options on the table,”
this sort of talk now has the effect, as Digby argues,
of enabling Bush’s increasingly war-provoking moves towards Iran.

There is a real, and quite disturbing, discrepancy between
the range of permissible views on these issues
within our mainstream political discourse

the views of a large segment of the American public.

The former almost completely excludes the latter.

That has to change and quickly.
In the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq,
we did not have a real debate in this country
about whether that was wise or just.
Cartoon images and bullying tactics supplanted rational discourse --
not only prior to the invasion but for several years after --
and we are paying the very heavy price for that now.
That is simply not a luxury that the country can afford this time.
It is genuinely difficult to imagine
anything more cataclysmic for the United States
than a military confrontation with Iran.

[Further, but similar, concerns are expressed in 2007-03-20-Kamiya.]

Jewish Groups Still MIA On Iraq

Silence persists amid Petraeus testimony,
GOP Jewish ad campaign,
growing view of tacit war support.

by James D. Besser
Jewish Week (New York), 2007-09-14

[Emphasis is added.]

This week’s congressional hearings on the Iraq war riveted the nation,
but they apparently had little impact on the major Jewish organizations
that have maintained a strict hands-off posture
even as the debate over the unpopular war has intensified.

“We have had no pressure from our members or leaders to change our position,”
said David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee,
a group that has not taken a position on the war —
and which has no intention of changing that,
despite the surge in anti-war opinion
both in the Jewish community and among the broader electorate.

Neither a big-spending ad campaign, financed and organized by a group
that includes several top leaders of the Republican Jewish Coalition,
nor renewed charges by foreign policy scholars and politicians
about pro-Israel complicity in starting the conflict
have prompted more activism by Jewish groups.

“It has been a concern all along that, by our silence,
the Jewish community is seen as
supporting the administration and supporting the war,”
said Mark Pelavin,
associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism,
the political arm of the Reform movement –
the only denominational group that has weighed in on the war.
“It’s something we are very mindful of –
especially when you understand that the silence
does not reflect where the community is at.”

But leaders of other mainstream Jewish organizations say they have no choice.

In private, they cite
concerns about maintaining strong U.S.-Israel relations
fears that joining the rising chorus of opposition to the war in Iraq
might make it harder to keep Congress and the administration
focused on the need to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Jewish leaders also say
they are scared off by the raging partisanship of the Iraq debate.

“Iraq has become such a glaringly, overwhelmingly partisan issue;
that makes it more difficult for Jewish groups,”
said Hadar Susskind,
Washington director for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).
“It’s the defining issue for the Bush administration;
if you come out and support the war, you’re supporting the administration,
if you oppose those policies you’re opposing it.”

Polls show strong Jewish opposition,
but the loudest voice on the Iraq issue
has come from supporters of Bush administration policy.

This month a group of Republican activists
began a $15 million-plus advertising campaign
meant to rally support around the embattled president.

[That is misleading.
They have made very clear that their goal is to maintain support for the war,
irrespective of who is president.]

Operating under the banner of “Freedom’s Watch,”
the group includes many stalwarts of the Republican Jewish Coalition, including
Matthew Brooks, the RJC director,
Ambassador Mel Sembler, a longtime lay leader and
former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer.

Brooks said he already sees a positive impact from the group’s advertising blitz.

“Even some Democratic congressmen
are saying the campaign is having an impact,
in terms of an increase in phone calls, in raising the level of debate,”
he said.
“And remember:
this is a long-term organization and a long-term effort;
it’s not a one-shot deal.”

Brooks said it is a “smart play” for centrist Jewish groups
not to get involved in the debate over the war.

“If you listen to General Petraeus, it’s clear we’re making real progress,”
he said.
“It’s in everybody’s interests that we emerge victorious over there now;
the consequences of failure are devastating.
[To whom?]
It’s good that the Jewish community is staying on the sidelines.”

Others don’t see it that way.
Some Jewish leaders fear that with the Iraq issue hotter than ever,
the silence of most Jewish groups will just
bolster the arguments of those who accuse pro-Israel groups
of complicity in the Iraq venture.

That includes foreign policy scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt
and – now – Rep. James Moran (D-Va.).
In an interview with the Jewish magazine Tikkun, Moran –
who in 2003 incensed Jewish leaders with similar claims – said that
“AIPAC is the most powerful lobby and has pushed this war from the beginning ...
because they are so well organized,
and their members are extraordinarily powerful –
most of them are quite wealthy –
they have been able to exert power.”

Moran’s comments
prompted a strong blast from the National Jewish Democratic Council.
But the rising chorus of those blaming pro-Israel groups for the war
won’t be enough to change the hands-off position of the major groups.

“It’s hard to argue that our silence doesn’t give additional ammunition
to these critics who see Jewish conspiracies behind the war,”
said an official with one group that has remained silent.
“But on balance we’re doing the right thing; this isn’t just about Iraq,
there are a lot of other priorities in play, as well.”

But even groups that have spoken out say it’s still hard to turn talk into action.

At its biennial convention two years ago, the Union for Reform Judaism
became the first major Jewish group
to express opposition to administration policies in Iraq;
in April, it moved further into the antiwar camp
with a letter to lawmakers
supporting efforts to attach a timetable for the withdrawal of troops
to a supplemental war spending bill.

But the RAC’s Mark Pelavin, said
groups opposing current U.S. policy have been thwarted
by the absence of specific proposals for ending the war.

As the war drags on, “there is a lot of conversation taking place
in the Jewish community in general and the Reform movement in particular,”
he said.
“But I don’t know that there has been more activism.”

Pelavin said he and others had hoped this week’s Iraq hearings
would galvanize a new anti-war consensus in Congress
and produce a legislative offensive that groups like URJ could rally around.

“That isn’t happening,” he said.
“Instead, we’re still looking for the best way
to challenge the administration’s policies.”

Several anti-war activists said the seeming silence of the Jewish community
may be deceiving.

“You saw real Jewish activism [on the war] in the last election,”
said Rabbi Douglas Krantz of Congregation B’nai Yisrael in Armonk, N.Y.
“That’s not a coincidence;
Jews are putting most of their energies on this issue into electoral politics.”

“The synagogues are mostly quiet, the religious groups are quiet,
so Jews are speaking out as secular Americans,”
said Murray Polner, a writer and chair of the Jewish Peace Fellowship.
“They’re out there signing petitions, signing on to MoveOn.Org.”

The major Jewish organizations, he said, have “left out”
the large majority of Jews who oppose current U.S. policy in Iraq, he said.

But other Jewish leaders say
they are doing what is necessary
to protect broader Jewish interests.

David Harris, the American Jewish Committee director,
said that his members have not protested the AJC’s non-position on Iraq
because they are at least as focused on other issues,
starting with the crisis with Iran.

“The question is,
how does the American domestic debate on Iraq
affect future decision making on Iran?”

he said.
“Will there be a diminished will to engage and confront
a major challenge racing down the pike?
That’s clearly a major issue for us.”

Greenspan, Kissinger: Oil Drives U.S. in Iraq, Iran
by Robert Weissman
Huffington Post, 2007-09-16

Alan Greenspan had acknowledged
what is blindingly obvious to those
who live in the reality-based world:
the Iraq War was largely about oil.

[Obviously, this bozo hasn’t read
the sections of Mearsheimer and Walt’s The Israel Lobby
that deal with this canard.]

Henry Kissinger says in an op-ed in Sunday's Washington Post that
control over oil is the key issue
that should determine whether the U.S. undertakes military action against Iran.

[Here’s a basic point: all three of these guys are Jews.
Their credibility on
denying that these Mideast fiascos were actually intended to benefit Israel
is precisely equal to
that of an oil company CEO talking about what benefits his company.
Too bad they can’t or won’t admit that Israel called for the Iraq war.]


U.S. oil companies surely have designs on Iraqi oil,
and were concerned about inroads by French and other firms under Saddam.
But the top U.S. geopolitical concern is making sure the oil remains in the hands of those who will cooperate with Western economies.

[The fact of the matter is that
Saddam was more than willing to sell Iraq’s oil to any customer,
at the rate set by OPEC.
It was the United States
that was trying to stop Iraq from selling oil on the global market,
through its “embargo.”
If Iraqi oil was so necessary to the U.S. or the world economy,
then why did the U.S. embargo its sale?

Henry Kissinger echoes this view in his op-ed.
"Iran has legitimate aspirations that need to be respected," he writes --
but those legitimate aspirations
do not include control over the oil
that the United States and other industrial countries need.

[Huh? Iran shouldn’t control its own oil?
What is this guy (or Kissinger), some super-imperialist?]

“An Iran that practices subversion and seeks regional hegemony --
which appears to be the current trend --
must be faced with lines it will not be permitted to cross.
The industrial nations cannot accept radical forces
dominating a region on which their economies depend,
and the acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran
is incompatible with international security.”

[This thoroughly confuses two fundamentally different issues:
1. access to necessary raw materials (e.g., oil)
2. protecting “civilized” states from the threat of terrorism.

Note that Kissinger prioritizes
Iranian (or "radical") control over regional oil supplies
over concern about the country acquiring nuclear weapons.

One might reasonably suggest that
Greenspan and Kissinger are only pointing out the obvious.
(Kissinger himself refers to his concerns about Iran as “truisms.”)


Finkelstein, a Victim of the Israel Lobby, Denies That It Has Power
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-02-23

[Norman Finkelstein,
following the lead of his left-wing mentor Noam Chomsky,
argues that the real causes of the war with Iraq
are not the heavily Jewish neocons,
but the gentile establishment figures Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.
Philip Weiss counterargues that
Cheney and Rumsfeld are just the implementers
of policies that have been advocated and sold
by Jews in the chattering classes,
who have, as they say, “set the conditions”
for perpetual war with Muslims resisting Israeli aggression.
As background, note that both Finkelstein and Weiss are ethnically Jewish,
both coming from one or another part of the left-wing.

Finkelstein’s argument is one that comes constantly
from people who are unwilling to pin responsibility for the Iraq war
on the Israeli lobby,
while the rebuttal to that argument,
at least one made as cogently as that made by Weiss,
does not appear so frequently.
So here is the full post from Weiss;
paragraph numbers and some emphasis are added (some is original).]

Last fall, Norman Finkelstein lost his job at DePaul because of the Israel lobby.
As he put it in his only statement on the matter:
[M]y department voted overwhelmingly to tenure me
as did the college-level tenure committee,
which voted unanimously in my favor.
The only inference that I can draw is that
I was denied tenure due to external pressures
climaxing in a national hysteria that tainted the tenure process....
[over] the past six years....
the DePaul administration kept me on its faculty
despite overwhelming external pressures.

Too true.
Now Finkelstein is lecturing on how the Israel lobby
is blown way out of proportion by Walt and Mearsheimer.
He calls his lecture “A Critique of the Walt-Mearsheimer Thesis,”
according to the California State University student newspaper,
summarized his argument after a lecture in Northridge, Ca., last week.
“Now to demonstrate that
the U.S. allies with Israel
distorts the American national interest,
which is what Mearsheimer and Walt claim,”
Finkelstein said.
“You have to show that U.S. policy in the Arab world would be different
were it not for Israel...
but if you look at the historical record,
there’s just no evidence for that.”

“When it comes to broad regional fundamental interests,
Iraq, Iran, South Arabia oil,
it is U.S. national interests that take priority,”
he said.
“When it comes to a local question like Israel and occupied territories,
there I think it is a true that
it’s the lobby that is destroying U.S. policy
because the obvious question you would ask yourself is, I think,
‘What does the U.S. stand to gain from the settlements that Israel is building?’
The answer quite obviously is nothing.”

Finkelstein also said that he does not put much stock in “ethnic” allegiances
and went on to say that Walt and Mearsheimer were wrong
in putting the blame for the Iraq War on Jewish neocons:
“The main architects of the war
are always said to be Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney,”
Finkelstein said.
“Well everyone in this room knows
Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney are not Jewish
and they don’t fit the profile of these Jewish neoconservatives.
So how do Mearsheimer and Walt reconcile?
(Rumsfeld and Cheney) are obviously not Jewish neoconservatives,
and yet you say it was the Jewish neoconservatives who caused the war?”

These arguments are entirely unpersuasive.
Let’s take them on.

First, note Finkelstein’s general argument
of a broad regional “fundamental” U.S. interest
that is pushed by corporate and business concerns.
This is essentially a materialist argument
that pooh-poohs the influence of ethnic identification.
Finkelstein is a good old leftist in this way;
it’s the oil lobby that’s driving our politics.
Or the corporate/business powers in an imperialist society.
Though Finkelstein admits that the ethnic lobby plays a part in a local way,
in determining U.S. policy in the West Bank.

[Weiss’s emphasis.]

[But the Finkelstein/Chomsky/left-wing argument
is also entirely wrong on its merits,
as many authors, from Mearsheimer, Walt, Christison to many others,
have pointed out.
Both U.S. geopolitical and business interests
would call for us to make friends with the Arabs sitting on all that oil.
Instead of embargoing them, we should trade with them,
selling them our products and buying their oil
in a spirit of cooperation.
In fact, it is clearly and unambiguously the Israeli lobby
that has constantly pressured for embargos and boycotts,
not the U.S. business and oil community.
Of course, the left-wing liars and nitwits
who so predominate in the supposedly intellectual sectors of our society
are too devious or deluded to admit that.]

Finkelstein made the same sort of distinctions
when I interviewed him for the Nation on W-M’s LRB paper two years ago.
He said then that he liked their paper, because
“The Israel lobby in its broader manifestations...
supporters in academic life and publishing, behave like thugs and hooligans.
They’ve been getting a free ride for too long.”

Presumably these are the thugs and hooligans who destroyed his job at DePaul.
But Finkelstein told me then that
“elite opinion and policy formulation”
were untouched by the lobby.

The argument is flimsy.
To begin with,
American policy in the West Bank is hardly peripheral.
It has damaged the American reputation and influence
across the Arab world and in Europe too.
And this is not some recent phenomenon.
The damage has occurred before our eyes,
certainly ever since George H.W. Bush tried to oppose settlements in ‘91
and paid--he apparently believes--
with his job in ‘92.
That is nearly 20 years of bad influence at the highest level.
Muhammed ElBaradei has said that
the treatment of Palestinians is a red flag across the Muslim world,
and the writings of Osama bin Laden show that
he was fixated on the Palestinian situation as a reflection of U.S. policy.
I.e., this is “policy formulation” with global impact.
To describe it as peripheral is simply wrong.
Why hasn’t Finkelstein’s larger American corporate interest in the Middle East
stepped in to avert the damage?
Because it is trumped.

The heart of Finkelstein’s mistake is that
he claims a distinction between “elite” opinion/policy formulation
and the media/American Jewish culture.
His worldview is essentially nostalgic,
to a time when corporate bigwigs controlled the government.
[And when they did,
as anyone who is neither an idiot nor a liar knows,
U.S. policy was far more pro-Arab than it is now.]

Maybe they did, and maybe they still have a hand in there;
but to dismiss the power of the media is very “last year,” as the kids say.
In my Nation interview with Finkelstein, he said that
“The media are completely controlled by these hoodlums.”
Meaning the Israel lobby.
And what does it mean that

political candidates regularly attack oil profits,
and no one will dare talk about Israel policy?
The candidates evidently fear
the Israel supporters more than the oil companies,

and I don’t blame them.

A word about ethnic/religious motivation.
Some time back I thanked Finkelstein in an email for publishing the fact,
in [the introduction to] his fabulous book,
Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict,
that political theorist Michael Walzer had once written that
there was no universal moral code,
but “ethnically-specific clusters of shared understandings”
(to use Finkelstein’s typically precise description).
In Walzer’s view,
one judged one’s own “national family”
by different standards
than another national family.
I.e., Walzer gives Jews a break because he’s Jewish.

I remember saying to Finkelstein,
well at least I know where Walzer stands,
and I am grateful to him for his honesty.
Indeed, I admire Walzer for his soulful, reflective openness,
which I first saw as a college kid
when he sought to explain a philosophical point
by saying if he could be playing guard for the New York Knicks
he wouldn’t be lecturing us now.
But in our email exchange, Finkelstein responded in essence,
Oh, he just said that to get attention, or some cynical statement.
He could not take Walzer on his word about there being an ethnic motivation,
because Finkelstein does not see that as a real motivator.
(I imagine this is because he is an old Marxist,
and Marxism doesn’t account for
all the religious movements that are affecting us,
from Islamic radicalism
to Christian fundamentalism
to Zionist claims on Jerusalem;
it sees religion as a veil on the real stuff,
empire and material advantage.
Well sorry, but here ethnicity is very important indeed.)

The other point Finkelstein makes is his joke that
Rumsfeld and Cheney were not Jewish.
You hear this joke all the time when people are
dismissing the role of the neocons
in pushing the greatest foreign policy disaster of the last 50 years.
I believe Dov Zackheim made the same joke at the Nixon Center.
This is foolish.
If you’re an intellectual,
you really ought to believe that ideas have influence.
The ideas that Marx originated in the British Library changed a continent.
Freud’s ideas changed popular culture.
Finkelstein’s books have been translated into dozens of language.
Walt and Mearsheimer have never excused Rumsfeld, Bush and Cheney
from the horrible decision to go to war.
But decisions are based on ideologies and ideas and and worldviews.
Policy formulation owes a lot to thinktanks,
which is why conservatives have spent so much money funding them
a stone’s throw from the State Department;
and in 2001 neoconservative ideas were regnant,
  • the U.S. as the only superpower
    could impose democracy by force and it would stick;

  • Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians
    was irrelevant to our crusade for freedom in the Arab world,
    even in the eyes of the Arabs;

  • radical Islam was taking over the Arab world
    and hated our civilization,
From the Peace Corps to the Laffer curve,
the history of policymaking is filled with
bright ideas that hooked-up intellectuals brought to the table.
To put all the blame on Cheney and Rumsfeld is anti-intellectual.

All in all, I find Finkelstein’s critique somewhat confusing.
He has done amazing, pioneering and lonely work
in Israeli history and the uses of the Holocaust.
He was an inspiration to Walt and Mearsheimer,
and when he lost his job last year,
Mearsheimer gave an eloquent speech at a forum in Chicago
decrying the decision and showing beyond doubt,
based on years of his own involvement with tenure committees,
that Finkelstein was super qualified to receive tenure--
on the criteria of
quality of scholarship,
likelihood of continuing scholarship,
citizenship in the university, and
teaching skills (famous, in Finkelstein’s case).
Here is Mearsheimer’s speech, in audio.
And here is an excerpt:
Almost everyone admits that
significant outside pressure was brought to bear on DePaul
to deny Finkelstein tenure.
Alan Dershowitz’s intervention in this regard
is the most visible example of outside interference,
but he was surely not the only outsider to weigh in against Finkelstein.
DePaul’s leaders acknowledge the outside pressure,
but deny it had any effect on the final decision.
Of course, what else are they going to say?
They are certainly not going to admit that
they caved into pressure from the Israel lobby.

But there is little doubt that they did,
as there is no other plausible explanation
for the top administrators’ decision to override the recommendations
of the political science department and the college-wide tenure committee.

... I think key elements in the Israel lobby
have worked so hard to demonize Finkelstein
and make sure that he was denied tenure ...

I’m not saying that Finkelstein should agree with Mearsheimer
because Mearsheimer fought for him.
One should not expect loyalty from independent intellectuals.
But so much of Mearsheimer’s agenda is also Finkelstein’s--
changing U.S. policy in the Middle East,
crediting the great work of the New Historians on the Palestinian expulsion--
that you’d think he might praise/endorse W&M in addition to critiquing them.

Finkelstein is a famously complicated guy;
he can be strident and emotional.
And I wonder if he is not slightly envious of all the attention they’ve gotten.
I have no evidence, just an impression.
More important, there is a Jewish angle.
When I interviewed Finkelstein for the Nation,
he told me he thought W&M’s LRB paper might have an “ugly” wake.
“The debate can easily turn ugly.
I have talked to Mearsheimer, he’s recognized that possibility.
He can see why American Jews would be concerned.”

Finkelstein specifically mentioned an argument that might emerge,
that Jews don’t serve in the American armed forces in anything like
their numbers in the population.
This is in fact an argument I have made on this blog:
that Jews are way underrepresented in the military,
way overrepresented in policymaking.
I have done so in the American tradition of shining sunlight on elites
and with the belief that pogroms will not result.
Of course, in Finkelstein’s nostalgic view,
the Israel lobby is not an elite.
No, it only runs roughshod in the media, academia
and U.S. policy in the West Bank.

When he allowed that things could get ugly,
he was responding in a protectively-ethnic manner,
out of concern that there could be Jewish persecution in the U.S.;
and god knows he has every right to think this way,
being the son of Holocaust survivors.
Indeed, I know other Jewish leftists who are similarly concerned
(and who also rationalize these fears
with arguments about the powerlessness of the lobby).
But these feelings of his remain unexamined and undeclared.
His own identification issues are not as forthright as Walzer’s.

Leftwing Jews Provide Cover to Extremist Wurmser
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-03-10

The 2008 Joe Klein/Neocons Controversy

Surge Protection
by Joe Klein
Swampland (Time’s blog), 2008-06-24

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

The fact that a great many Jewish neoconservatives--
people like Joe Lieberman and the crowd over at Commentary--
plumped for this war,
and now for an even more foolish assault on Iran,
raised the question of divided loyalties:
using U.S. military power, U.S. lives and money,
to make the world safe for Israel.

Neocons Gone Wild
by Joe Klein
Swampland (Time’s blog), 2008-06-24

[An excerpt; almost all emphasis is added.]

You want evidence of divided loyalties?
How about

the “benign domino theory”
that so many Jewish neoconservatives talked to me about--
off the record, of course--
in the runup to the Iraq war,
the idea that
Israel’s security could be won by taking out Saddam,
which would set off
a cascade of disaster for Israel’s enemies in the region?

As my grandmother would say, feh!

Do you actually deny that
the casus belli that dare not speak its name
wasn’t, as I wrote in February 2003,
a desire to make the world safe for Israel?

Why the rush now to bomb Iran,
a country that poses some threat to Israel
but none--for the moment--to the United States...
unless we go ahead, attack it,
and the mullahs unleash Hezbollah terrorists against us?
Do you really believe the mullahs would stage a nuclear attack on Israel,
destroying the third most holy site in Islam
and killing untold numbers of Muslims?
I am not ruling out the use of force against Iran--it may come to that--
but you folks seem to embrace it gleefully.

Furthermore, as a Jew,
I find it offensive that the American Jewish Committee
would support such an ideologically unbalanced publication as Commentary,
one that spouts a Likudnik bellicosity
that is out of sync with the beliefs of the vast majority of American Jews.
A question to all concerned:

When was the last time
you opposed a policy, any policy, of the Israeli government--
other than one that attempted to move toward peace?

Update and Correction:
The American Jewish Committee is no longer associated with Commentary,
thank God.

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.]

When Extremists Attack
by Joe Klein
Swampland (Time’s blog), 2008-07-29

[Paragraph numbers and emphasis are added.]

I have now been called antisemitic and intellectually unstable
and a whole bunch of other silly things
by the folks over at the Commentary blog.
They want Time Magazine to fire or silence me.
This is happening because I said something that is palpably true,
but unspoken in polite society:

There is a small group of Jewish neoconservatives
who unsuccessfully tried to get Benjamin Netanyahu
to attack Saddam Hussein in the 1990s,
and then successfully helped provide the intellectual rationale
for George Bush to do it in 2003.

Their motivations involve
a confused conflation of what they think are Israel’s best interests
with those of the United States.
They are now leading the charge for war with Iran.

Happily, these people represent
a very small sliver of the Jewish population in this country.
Unhappily, their views
have had an impact in the highest reaches of the Bush Administration--
and seem to have an influence on John McCain’s campaign as well.
Happily, the Bush Administration
seems more interested in talking to the Iranians than in launching on them--
and, according to my Israeli friends,
the Israelis are not going to do anything foolish, either.
I remain proud of my Jewish heritage,
a strong supporter of Israel
and a realist about
the slim chance of finding some common ground with the Iranians.
But I am not willing to grant these ideologues the anonymity they seek.

In early 2003, during my first weeks as a Time Magazine columnist,
I wrote a handful of skeptical columns about the coming war in Iraq,
including this one about Israel’s security as a hidden casus belli.
Then, with the troops in place and the war about to begin,
I said something stupid on Tim Russert’s cable TV show--
reluctantly saying ok, we should proceed with the attack.
It was the only statement I made in favor of the war
and I quickly came to my senses--but that’s no excuse.
We have lost more than 4000 Americans,
tens of thousands have come home grievously injured,
hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and wounded,
and we are weaker, palpably and morally, as a result.

I am not going to make the same mistake twice.
I don’t think a war with Iran is coming, thank God,
but this time I am not going to pull any punches.
My voice isn’t very important in the grand scheme of things,
but I’m going to do my job--
and that means letting you know exactly where I stand and what I believe.

I believe there are a small group of Jewish neoconservatives
who are pushing for war with Iran
because they believe it is in America’s long-term interests
and because they believe Israel’s existence is at stake.

They are wrong and recent history tells us they are dangerous.
They are also bullies and I’m not going to be intimidated by them.

Give It Up for Joe Klein
by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-07-30

[An excerpt; emphasis is added.]

[H]ere is former Bush aide Peter Wehner
being lawyerly and sanctimonious about him at the National Review,
Klein shouldn't blog, he's too wild.

Klein-Neo-Con Conflict Gathers Steam
by Jim Lobe
LobeLog, 2008-07-30

'One Must Be a Jew to Tell the Goyim How To Talk About Israel'
--WSJ Editor

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-07-31

On Joe Klein and the Jewish Neoconservatives
by Daniel Levy
Prospects for Peace, 2008-07-31

The Klein Effect:
Huffpo Accuses Mainstream Jewish Groups of Feting the Bloody Neocons

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss.org, 2008-07-31

Parochialism and exceptionalism bedevil
Jeffrey Goldberg's discussion with Joe Klein.

Neocon Flap Highlights Jewish Divide
by Daniel Luban and Jim Lobe
Antiwar.com, 2008-07-31

Joe Klein Speaks Truth to Power
– but how long will they let him get away with it?
by Justin Raimondo
Antiwar.com, 2008-08-01

Tom Friedman Said What Joe Klein Said, a While Back,
Speaking in Code of the 'Elite' War

by Philip Weiss
Mondoweiss, 2008-08-07

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