CiF Watch prompts correction to Economist claim about American Jewish views on Israel

We won’t bore you with the nitty-gritty of what it took to get the Economist to correct a false claim about Jewish American attitudes towards Israel, but suffice to say that the word “begrudging” seems apt in characterizing their willingness to acknowledge error.

econ header

As we noted in a post on Nov. 27, in an attempt to support their conclusion – in a story (Israel heads for a terrifying split, Nov. 25) about Israel’s opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran and the P5+1 – that Jerusalem may find itself  “at loggerheads with a large fraction of American Jews”, there was this passage (which we took a screenshot of at the time):

econ

However, when you actually open the hyper-link embedded in the text it’s clear that the ADL poll gauged the views of all Americans, NOT specifically American Jews.  

jta

If the Economist’s intent was to show that American Jewish support for Israel – in the context of the current crisis – has diminished, the poll cited (on the views, again, of ALL Americans) clearly did not demonstrate this.

Today, after a series of emails to editors at the magazine, the passage has finally been amended – and now reads:

An earlier poll by the Anti-Defamation League found that if Israel were to carry out a military strike against Iran, 48% of Americans think their country should take a “neutral” position, while just 40% would favour supporting Israel. 

The bottom of the article now also includes the following:

corexWe commend Economist editors on their decision to finally revise this unambiguously false claim.

The Economist misleads on American Jewish attitudes towards Israel and Iran

The narrative advanced by The Economist in a Nov. 25 story about the American political repercussions of the recent deal in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 (‘Israel heads for a terrifying split‘) is clear towards the end of the opening paragraph:

APPEARANCES to the contrary, the Israeli government does not have a problem with the terms of the deal that was struck on Iran’s nuclear programme on Sunday. Rather, the Israeli government has a problem with the fact that a deal was struck on Iran’s nuclear programme on Sunday. Over the course of the negotiations, it has become abundantly clear that Binyamin Netanyahu and the conservative coalition he leads do not want a diplomatic resolution to the standoff over Iran’s efforts to develop nuclear weapons on any terms that Iran would be willing to accept. That puts Israel at loggerheads with the majority of Americans; perhaps more important, it puts Israel at loggerheads with a large fraction of American Jews.

Then, to buttress the argument of an impending erosion of solidarity between Israel and American Jews the (anonymous) author of the story cites two polls.  

Here’s the first:

Meanwhilea poll of American Jews by the Anti-Defamation League early this month found that if Israel were to carry out a military strike against Iran, 48% thought America should take a “neutral” position, while just 40% would favour supporting Israel.

However, when you open the link it’s clear that the ADL poll gauged the views of all Americans, not specifically American Jews.  

adl

So, if the intent was to show that American Jewish support for Israel – in the context of the current crisis – has declined, the poll cited (on the views, again, of ALL Americans) does not demonstrate this.

Now, here’s the second poll used in the same paragraph within The Economist report:

That stand-offishness was in line with a broad decrease in support for aggressive anti-Iranian positions that emerged in a poll by the American Jewish Committee in October, which found backing for American military action against Iran had fallen to 52% from 67% in 2012.

Unlike the ADL poll, the AJC poll does indeed gauge the views of American Jews. However, note how the author shifted gears from a question about the reaction to Israeli military action (in the first passage), to the reaction to American military action (in the second passage).  Indeed, if the two passages were to be consistent the latter one would have noted results in the same AJC poll cited showing that 67 percent of American Jews would support Israeli military action to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

ajc

AJC poll of American Jews, 2012

Further, results from AJC’s two previous polls of American Jews show 72.5 percent supporting Israeli military action in such a scenario in 2012, with 67 percent supporting such action in 2011 – indicating relatively consistent support over the past three years for a potential Israeli attack.  

More broadly, a major study by Pew Global released this year demonstrated that about 70 percent American Jews are “emotionally very attached to Israel”, findings, Pew noted, which “closely resemble results from the last National Jewish Population Survey conducted in 2000-2001″.

So, it seems clear that – despite The Economist’s misleading characterizations of the polls cited – American Jewish support for Israel (including support for any future Israeli military action which may be required) shows no signs of wavering. 

Does Guardian columnist Michael Cohen regularly follow the hate site, Mondoweiss?

The embedded hyperlinks in reports and commentaries at the Guardian and ‘Comment is Free’ are often quite revealing, as the sources cited ostensibly serve to back up a claim or buttress an argument. (Though, as we’ve demonstrated, in the case of some Guardianistas the links do not in fact back up their claims at all.)  

Additionally, the specific “sources” used by ‘CiF’ and Guardian contributors often serve as a good window into their ideological sympathies. To boot, Guardian columnist Michael Cohen’s commentary excoriating the Israelis for having the audacity to object to the proposed Iranian nuclear deal (Frenemies: the US-Israel relationship gets rocky over Iran and peace talks, ‘CiF’, Nov. 13) leads us to quite radical ideological territory.

cohen

First, there’s this passage:

The Israeli position of no uranium enrichment, even for peaceful purposes, the removal of all enriched uranium from Iran and the shutting down of all enrichment facilities is a negotiation non-starter – and stands in sharp contrast to the US position.

Firstly, Cohen’s claim is at best extremely misleading, as the Israeli position is that any enriched uranium would eventually be used to produce weapons-grade nuclear fuel. Israel doesn’t oppose a ‘peaceful Iranian nuclear program’; they share the belief of most experts that their goal is to use such fuel to produce nuclear weapons. More interestingly, the link embedded in the words ‘Israeli position’ above takes you to an article at the site of the Hamas-friendly Middle East Monitor (MEMO).

memo

In 2011, CiF Watch reported the following about MEMO’s Hamas connections:

Daoud Abdullah, who is the director of MEMO as well as deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and a senior researcher for the Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Palestinian Return Centre, has two major claims to fame. The first is his lead of the MCB’s boycott of Holocaust Memorial Day in the UK. The second is his signing of the Istanbul Declaration which potentially endorsed terrorism against British service personnel.

Senior editor of MEMO is Ibrahim Hewitt, who also heads ‘Interpal’ – the charity which has been the subject of three investigations by the Charity Commission and named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial in the United States, as well as having been banned in Israel because of its Hamas connections.

And, that’s not all.  The following paragraph in Cohen’s ‘CiF’ piece has an even more interesting link:

First, Secretary of State John Kerry suggested that the failure to negotiate a final status agreement with the Palestinians could lead to a “third intifada” and further international “isolation” for Israel. Days later, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu not only blasted US diplomatic efforts to reach a deal with Iran over its nuclear program but openly encouraged American Jews to speak out against the potential agreement.

Whilst it’s unclear why Cohen finds it strange that the prime minister of Israel sought out the support of American Jews on an issue vital to his nation’s security, when you open the link in “encouraged American Jews” it takes you here:

mondoweiss

To those not already familiar with the ideological extremism which the Guardian columnist evidently fancies, here are excerpts from an essay I cross posted at Elder of Ziyon in 2010:

Nazi, Soviet, and, more recently, Arab anti-Semitic caricatures often portray Jews as spiders, cockroaches, and Octopuses – dehumanizing Jews by turning them into animals that are destructive, inhuman and evil. The cartoon below, by the notorious anti-Zionist cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, was posted on the “progressive” Jewish anti-Zionist blog, Mondoweiss recently – by a frequent Mondoweiss blogger named Seham – in reference to the Gaza flotilla incident.

image002

That such a cartoon would appear on the pages of Mondoweiss, funded by The Nation Institute is, sadly, not particularly surprising to anyone familiar with the blog. Mondoweiss is an openly anti-Zionist Jewish blog and consistently advances, among other classical antisemitic tropes, the argument that Jews exercise too much power over U.S. policy and that Jewish “progressive” voices on the Middle East are censored by the organized Jewish community. The viciousness and hatred towards Israel, and the state’s Jewish supporters, can’t be overstated. The main blogger, Philip Weiss, states that “Zionism privileges Jews and justifies oppression, and this appalls me.” Weiss has complained that the “suffering of Palestinians that has been perpetrated politically in large part by empowered American Jews who are all over the media and political establishment.”

Weiss has even called for ‘a quota’ on Jews who work in the media. 

Weiss, like fellow liberal, Glenn Greenwald, demonstrating a bizarre left-right anti-Zionist alliance, also has contributed to Pat Buchanan’s paleo-conservative magazine, The American Conservative. Weiss’s alliance with Pat Buchanan seems quite consistent with the blogger’s frequent tropes suggesting the existence of an organized Jewish community so powerful as to render the U.S. President impotent to confront its mendacity. In one post, Weiss complains that the U.S. President’s desire to oppose Israel “colonization” has been “nullified politically because of the Jewish presence in the power structure.”

He went on to warn darkly that, “[One fifth] of [the U.S. Senate] are Jews, even though Jews are just 2 percent of the population. Over half of the money given to the Democratic Party comes from Jews. Obama’s top two political advisers are Jewish, Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod. The news lately has been dominated by Obama’s aides Kenneth Feinberg and Larry Summers. And what does it mean that the Treasury Secretary gets off the phone with Obama to confer immediately with Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman and Jamie Dimon of Morgan (Dimon’s Jewish; Blankfein would seem to be)? As I have frequently said, the biggest money game in town on the Republican side is Sheldon Adelson, a Zionist Jew.” Such a passage would suggest that the hideously anti-Semitic cartoon posted by Mondoweiss blogger, Seham, isn’t an anomaly. Weiss genuinely seems to see Jewish tentacles wrapped around the Obama Administration.

Weiss has even taken positions which seem to flirt with the political dynamic known as the Red-Green Alliance, as exemplified by British politician George Galloway. In one post Weiss openly expressed support for the terrorist group, Hezbollah. In addition to the group’s open and repeated call for the destruction of Israel, Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, has a long and well-documented record of engaging in extreme expressions of anti-Semitism. He has stated, “If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.” He also said, “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew.” A few days before the Lebanese elections in 2009, Weiss said, “I hope Hezbollah wins….Nobody else seems to care for the poor people in Southern Lebanon.

Mondoweiss also hosts the musings of Max Blumenthal, author of the ‘Israel haters guide to the universe’ praised by such notable ‘activists’ as Gilad Atzmon and David Duke.

The politics of Michael Cohen have been revealed in previous ‘CiF’ essays – where he once suggested that terrorist attacks on Israelis may actually ‘help’ the peace process – but his legitimization of Mondoweiss suggests an especially troubling dynamic whereby antisemitic commentary typically associated with the extreme right garners increasing respectability by those who consider themselves ‘progressive’ voices on the Middle East.

Peter Beinart’s illiberal mission: To subvert Jewish & non-Jewish support for Israel

The following post was written by Yisrael Medad, and originally published at the Jerusalem Post and Love of the Land.

Peter Beinart

Peter Beinart once again pursues his goal of subverting Jewish and non-Jewish support for Zionism and the state of Israel. 

His new crusading essay has appeared, “The American Jewish Cocoon“. He is concerned with

“them.”

“They” are the…

Palestinians that so often consume the American Jewish conversation about Israel.

He notes that…

For the most part, Palestinians do not speak in American synagogues or write in the Jewish press. The organization Birthright, which since 1999 has taken almost 350,000 young Diaspora Jews—mostly Americans—to visit Israel, does not venture to Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank (nor do they come to the Jewish communities, btw – YM)… the organized American Jewish community a closed intellectual space, isolated from the experiences and perspectives of roughly half the people under Israeli control. And the result is that American Jewish leaders, even those who harbor no animosity toward Palestinians, know little about the reality of their lives.

He, but of course, want American Jews to provide a platform for the Arabs of the former League of Nations territory awarded as a Mandate for the purpose of the reconstitution of the Jewish national home. For him, he is bothered that in not doing so, it is…

almost impossible for Jewish campus organizations to invite a Palestinian speaker.

He bemoans the standards that are set, which, to his thinking, are too high.

First, “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard” is so vague that it could bar virtually any Palestinian (or, for that matter, non-Palestinian) critic of Israeli policy. 

As a result, American Jews, for the most part…

don’t know the degree to which Palestinians are denied those rights in the West Bank. They are unfamiliar with the realities of ordinary Palestinian life because they live inside the cocoon the organized American Jewish community has built for itself.

Not only, then, is the consequence of “this isolation” a “lack of information”, but…

the other is a lack of empathy

…as well as the minimization of 

the human toll of living, for forty-six years, without the basic rights that…Jewish neighbors take for granted….This lack of familiarity with Palestinian life also inclines many in the organized American Jewish world to assume that Palestinian anger toward Israel must be a product solely of Palestinian pathology…By walling themselves off from Palestinians, American Jews fail to understand the very behavior they seek to prevent.

He doesn’t like the trips Congressmen take, conveniently noting that AIPAC does not allow those it hosts to visit Jewish communities as well, although their regional directors have done their duty and seen, to an extent, the Jewish reality in Yesha, but not enough.

Beinart does take into consideration that…

in some ways a truly open conversation with Palestinians may be more discomforting to American Jews like myself who are committed to the two-state solution than to those skeptical of it.

Why?

Well, as Beinart admits…

Virtually every Palestinian I’ve ever met considers Zionism to be colonialist, imperialist, and racist.

Nevertheless, for Beinart, this open line to Arabs of the Palestinian Authority area is important for two reasons. The first is that ignorance is “dangerous” and that it can encourage “American Jewish hatred” and he refers to Sheldon Adelson’s remark of “why would I want to invest money with people who want to kill my people?” 

Beinart finishes his text so…

By seeing Palestinians—truly seeing them—we glimpse a faded, yellowing photograph of ourselves. We are reminded of the days when we were a stateless people, living at the mercy of others. And by recognizing the way statelessness threatens Palestinian dignity, we ensure that statehood doesn’t rob us of our own.

I can assure Beinart that the more American Jews get to know the truth – not the liberal-tinted glasses view, nor the propaganda view – they will be even more pro-Yesha, pro-Jewish retention of Judea and Samaria and more anti-Palestinianism.

They will learn of the “Temple Denial” phenomenon. They will become acquainted with the anti-Semitism at the root of Islamist ideology which drives (and, with the Grand Mufti El-Husseini’s pro-Nazism beginning in 1933, drove) their bloodthirsty opposition to Zionism. They will know that the dispute is not territorial nor where a boundary line will be drawn but it is existential. They will come to acknowledge the deeply rooted fanaticism and extremism that guides their anti-Zionism thinking and actions. They will recognize the lies and half-truths that form the basis of Palestinianism, the inventivity model of nationalism.

I publish their words. Many other bloggers and web sites do as well. With Google Translate, even the Arab-language sites are open to us all. There is no shortage of getting to know “the enemy”. In fact, we are commanded to, in a sense, to “know thy enemy” which, in Jewish thought was expressed in the Ethics of the Fathers, 2:14, by Rabbi Elazar who would say: ‘Be diligent in the study of Torah. Know what to answer a heretic’.

But Beinart seeks to turn things around. To weaken Jewish resolve which will lead to endangering Israel’s existence while permitting terrorists to gain sympathy. We cannot allow the history of the 9-decades conflict to dissolve into tears of empathy. 

If I do possess sympathy, I extend it to Beinart whose orientation is a twisted approach, one that subverts truth and lends itself to the further promotion of anti-Zionism, Israel’s delegitimization and its isolation.

He is not liberal in any sense but dogmatic and lacks true love of his people.

Oh, and that cocoon? No beautiful butterfly will appear from his suggestion.

Peter Beinart vs. the American Jewish community

Polemics and analyses which represent nothing more than preconceived anti-Israel conclusions in search of supporting evidence are nothing new at the Guardian Group.  Nonetheless, the absence of empirical evidence in Peter Beinart’s attempt to support his claim, in an essay at ‘The Observer’ (sister paper of the Guardian) on Jan. 12, ‘Jewish Americans may be increasingly disenchanted with Netanyahu. But their priorities lie elsewhere, is still quite striking.

Beinart, the former New Republic editor who recently re-invented himself as a Jew who’s ashamed of Israel’s stubborn refusal to unilaterally declare peace in the ‘new Middle East’, and thus allow his delicate conscience to escape the unbearable social weight of Zionist vigilance against Palestinian intransigence, seemed determined to convince the Guardian coven that he’s in the vanguard of an unstoppable Jewish progressive revolt against Jerusalem.

Characteristically, Beinart spends no time reflecting upon what the terms “right” and “left” denote in the current political context – and seems breezily unconcerned with the messy nuances of Israel’s pragmatic consensus forged by the sobering failures of Oslo, the dangerous results of an illusory land for peace strategic calculus, and Islamism’s regional ascendancy.

To the marginal Beinart-style Jewish left, moral enlightenment means never having to prove your a priori progressive advantages over your more “tribalist” coreligionists.

His posturing begins thus:

“In Israel, public discourse is moving right.

In Jewish America, by contrast, public discourse about Israel is moving left. You can see it in the increasingly harsh criticism of Binyamin Netanyahu‘s government by mainstream Jewish commentators such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Are many of these liberal, relatively secular Jews, especially in the younger generation, uncomfortable with Israel’s current drift? Yes”

However, the political sensibilities of most American Jews have long since drifted away from the increasingly irrelevant intellectual echo-chamber which Beinart imputes so much significance – most having long ago steered their URL clear of such New York establishment media institutions.

Contrary to Beinart’s fanciful wishes, the Zionist sensibilities of most American Jews have not wavered.

A 2012 poll by Lutz Global, on behalf of CAMERA, found continuing, deep support for Israel and a “strong belief in Israel’s commitment to peace efforts and apprehension about its existential situation.” Survey respondents similarly expressed strong support for Israel’s right to self-defense and fierce opposition to those (such as Beinart) who endorse BDS against the Jewish state – with 71% opposing boycotts against Israel, and 68% opposing a boycott of products made in cities beyond the green line.

 A full 85% agreed that Israel ‘is right to take threats to its existence seriously,’ and that Israel’s concerns are neither “irrational’ nor overstated”.

The Lutz poll also demonstrated that American Jews possess a strong belief that “the Israeli government (84%) and its people (85%) are committed to establishing genuine peace between Israel and the Palestinian people.” Respondents were extremely skeptical of the Palestinian commitment to peace and consider Palestinian incitement against Jews to be a major obstacle to a long-term agreement (77%) - far more so than settlements (12%) or “occupation” (12%).

Beinart then turns to Iran, and writes the following:

“So is Netanyahu free to do whatever he pleases without worrying about the American Jewish response? On the Palestinians, maybe. But on Iran, no. That’s because war with Iran, a war in which the US could easily become engulfed even if we don’t drop the first bomb, is a much higher priority than the Israeli-Palestinian peace process (or lack thereof). It’s a higher priority for Americans, for liberal American Jews, and for America’s president. It’s an issue on which Obama, as evidenced by the Hagel nomination, is not prepared to defer to Aipac. And it’s an issue that could, if America goes to war, mobilise those liberal American Jews who would not mobilise politically on the peace process but did mobilise against the war in Iraq.”

So, is American Jewish opinion at odds with the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews who believe that a nuclear armed Iran would represent an existential threat to their nation?

According to another comprehensive 2012 survey of American Jewish opinion by the AJC the answer is a resounding “no”.  The Iranian nuclear program concerns the vast majority of American Jews: 89 percent are “very” (56 percent) or somewhat (33 percent) concerned about it. Only 11 percent say they are not too concerned or not concerned at all.

Additionally, 64 percent of American Jews surveyed said that, if diplomacy and sanctions fail, “they would support the U.S. taking military action against Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons.” Also, 75 percent would “support Israel taking such action if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”

Contrary to Beinart’s claims, the research indicates that American Jewish opinion is solidly in alignment with Israeli Jewish opinion on the most important issues regarding peace and security for the Jewish state.

Not surprisingly given the outcome of the recent US election, the same AJC poll showing broad support among American Jews for Israel also demonstrates that the overwhelming majority also back President Obama, which would indicate that such Jews don’t see their Zionism as in any way inconsistent with their liberal political orientation.

Beinart, in one passage in his Observer piece, cites data allegedly indicating that “only” 58 percent of younger American Jews even could identify who Binyamin Netanyahu is.

However, based on the polling data, I think it’s fair to ask how many younger American Jews have any idea who exactly Peter Beinart is.

Mitt Romney’s trip to Israel & Harriet Sherwood’s miscalibrated American political ‘Jewdar’

The strap line for Harriet Sherwood’s Guardian report of July 27th, Mitt Romney woos Israel by considering U.S. strike against Iran, reads as follows:

Sherwood writes:

“An American military strike against Iran‘s nuclear sites should not be ruled out, Mitt Romney has said in interviews with the Israeli media before his visit to the Jewish state.

He also suggested it was not “right” for the US to act as a negotiator between Israel and the Palestinians, and he accused President Barack Obama of publicly criticising its “friend and ally”.

Romney has repeatedly attacked Obama over his administration’s stance on Israel and is attempting to win over Jewish voters in the US. [emphasis added]

A July 29th report by Sherwood, Romney declares unity with Israel over nuclear threat, repeated this narrative about Romney’s visit to Israel.

“…a senior Romney aide said the candidate would back unilateral military action by Israel against Iran’s nuclear sites. “If Israel has to take action on its own, in order to stop Iran from developing that capability, the governor would respect that decision,” Dan Senor, Romney’s senior national security aide, told reporters.

Romney’s speech touched many key buttons for his target audience of Jewish voters in the US.” [emphasis added]

However, a recent comprehensive survey by the American Jewish Committee demonstrated that Israel (and the Iranian nuclear issue) are not nearly the most important issues for Jewish voters.

Per the following results, Israel was the most important issue for only 6% of Jews surveyed, while the Iranian nuclear issue was the top issue for only 4% of Jewish voters.  (The economy and healthcare represent Jewish American voters’ two biggest concerns.) 

Alternatively, support for Israel is a top concern for evangelical Christian voters.  This group is important for Romney both because it constitutes a large share of the American population – about 26% – and because it provided President George W. Bush with 40% of his total votes in the 2004 presidential election.

Adding additional doubt to Sherwood’s working assumption about the intent of Romney’s visit are numbers regarding the contrasting voting strength of Jews and evangelicals.

While, according to exit polls, Jews made up 2% of the overall votes in the 2008 elections, born-again/evangelical Christians made up 38%.

Further, while 74% of evangelicals voted for John McCain in 2008, 78% of Jews voted for Barack Obama.

Romney is unlikely to be specifically courting the Jewish vote in the U.S. as the vast majority of American Jews are going to vote Democratic (based on past results as well as recent polling on the upcoming November election). The great support for Israel right now is in the evangelical community, which is a huge part of the Republican base and, per many reports, is still quite skeptical of the Mormon candidate’s credentials.

So Romney’s trip to Israel is a way of firing up this enormously important Republican base. 

As Jonathan Tobin of Commentary Magazine wrote:

“Romney needs a huge turnout of evangelicals — a group that often fails to maximize its numbers at the polls — this fall if he is to beat President Obama. As conservatives work to register and mobilize conservative Christians, expect to hear more about Israel from Romney. It may be that most Jews don’t care if Romney is more sympathetic to the Jewish state, but support for Israel is an issue that a great many Christians believe is a deal breaker.”

David Brog, executive director of Christians United for Israel - an extremely large and well-funded pro-Israel group – told the Washington Examiner that for many evangelicals, support for Israel is a key motivating factor in elections.  On the Iranian nuclear issue, Brog added:

“Whether there’s an Israeli strike or not, the issue of Israel threatened by Iran and a perception that the administration has not confronted Iran’s march towards nuclear weapons with sufficient courage and clarity, is absolutely going to motivate the base.”

The belief – which is implicit in Sherwood’s coverage of Romney’s visit and consistent with the narrative routinely advanced by Guardian contributors – that American politicians are pandering to Jews by expressing support for Israel is simply not supported by the empirical data regarding voting habits of various religious groups.

Sherwood’s superficial take on the motivations of the American Presidential challenger demonstrates that Israel is not the only country whose politics she egregiously misinterprets.   

Comment is Free, Jane Eisner & a modest question for Peter Beinart & the American Jewish Left

Jane Eisner’s March 28th Comment is Free essay, Peter Beinart’s problematic Zionist BDS proposal, was interesting in several respects.

First Eisner praised  Beinart’s “new and controversial proposal for a targeted boycott of products from Israeli settlements” (meant to pressure Israel to withdrawal completely from the West Bank) as representing a valiant effort to test “how big the Jewish tent really is.”

Eisner characterized Beinart’s proposal for “BDS” as a “movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS)…targeting only the territories beyond the Green Line – the area captured by Israel in 1967 that should make up a new Palestinian state or, in Beinart’s words, non-democratic Israel”

Eisner criticizes the proposal as impractical, arguing that the vast majority of Israeli products are manufactured in Israel proper, and that such a targeted boycott would have little if any effect on Israel’s economy.

Then, while Eisner also raises a slight moral objection to Beinart’s embrace of the BDS movement, she nevertheless concludes:

What Beinart has accomplished, though, is to pinpoint a deep frustration and confusion on the part of many Jews who want to stop the peace process from unraveling and who wish to see and end to the occupation that leaves Israel’s security intact. This is the constituency of Jewish opinion that wants to reclaim the high moral ground in the struggle for Israel’s democratic soul.

For that reason, he and his ideas – no matter how outrageous, no matter how self-serving – deserve a place inside the tent. He asks an uncomfortable, difficult, yet essential question: if well-meaning American Jews who love Israel believe that the occupation of Palestinian land and people is detrimental and wrong, what are those Jews to do?

However, the most gnawing omission in Beinart’s original essay on “the crisis of American Zionism” published at The New York Review of Books, under the title “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment“, is that it doesn’t mention what he expects of Palestinians – and indeed Beinart only refers to Palestinians a few times, and always as passive actors.

He writes of the urgent need to promote a “Zionism that recognized Palestinians as deserving of dignity and capable of peace”, commends Jews (like himself) deeply devoted to human rights for all people, Palestinians included” and challenges “Israel’s behavior in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”

In addition, he fails to even reflect, in an over 4500 word essay, on the security implications of withdrawing from the disputed territories, and never once acknowledges the injurious results of Israeli withdrawals from Gaza and S. Lebanon.

So, to liberal American Jews like Beinart, I’d like to ask a simple question in relation to what you demand of Israel and American Zionists:

What do you demand of the Palestinians?

  • Do you expect Palestinians to cease endemic antisemitic incitement in their mosques, state-controlled media, and culture?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to stop honoring terrorists, and finally promote the values of peace and co-existence, and endorse the Jewish state’s right to exist?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to create genuinely democratic institutions?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to take steps to end codified misogyny, such as their judicial system which rarely punishes men found guilty of honor killings?
  • Do you expect them to decriminalize homosexuality?
  • Do you expect Palestinians to adopt genuinely liberal norms regarding a free press and freedom of speech? 
  • What steps do you expect Palestinians to take to inspire confidence that a nascent Palestinian state will be peaceful, and won’t devolve into an Islamist controlled polity, as in Gaza, or a terrorist dominated country like Lebanon?
  • And, more broadly, do you expect the same moral performance from Palestinians as you do of Israeli Jews?

For Beinart, and many of his allies on the American Jewish left, the only actors who possess moral agency in his tale of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict are Jews – and seems supremely concerned with the necessity of such Jews maintaining the “moral high ground” at seemingly any cost.

Such liberal American Jews seem remarkably nonchalant about the real life consequences of their proposals – advancing opinions not based on a rigorous examination of Israel’s complicated regional security threats, which include Islamist terrorist movements committed to the Jewish state’s destruction on two borders, but a desire to maintain their own “progressive” standing.  

This dynamic – supreme moral vanity and an unwillingness to bear the unpleasant consequences which accompany even the most responsible use of political and military power – has been aptly characterized by Ruth Wisse as moral solipsism.

Until liberal American Jews show a genuine willingness to reflect on such questions about Palestinian responsibility, the vital issue of precisely what kind of Palestinian state Israelis can expect to arise and, more broadly, to what degree they’re willing to hold Palestinians (and the larger Arab world) to the same moral standards they hold Zionists, its hard not to conclude that their polemical assaults on the “Zionist establishment” are informed by both narcissism and quintessentially liberal racism.

I remember a conversation with a friend just before Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005, in which he assured me that such a move would give Israel the “moral high ground”, and garner political support for the Jewish state in the event that the newly independent Palestinian state in Gaza devolved into a terrorist enclave, and the IDF was forced to engage in military actions in response.

As Hamas’s ascendancy and the obsessive international criticism, and delegitimization, as the result of the Gaza War indicated however, both assumptions, widely held by many on the Jewish left, were proven wildly inaccurate.

If the price of preventing a similar or even more dangerous political and military dynamic on our state’s eastern border is the loss of support from Peter Beinart and his political allies, it is a cost that Israelis (and those Zionist allies unburdened by the desire to remain popular within progressive political circles) must be willing to pay. 

There’s nothing noble, admirable, moral (or “liberal) about promoting policies which will likely result in greater Jewish victimhood. 

CiF commenter anti-Semitic tropes of the day (Jewish power and dual loyalty)

Sometimes even a single comment by a CiF reader needs to be analyzed to better understand and contextualize the frequent manifestations of ant-Semitic tropes employed by the largely progressive readership who post on the CiF comment thread.

From Simon Tisdall’s Obama faces humiliation over Middle East Talks“, Oct. 4, there was this comment, which has not been deleted.

Translation: Obama is no match for the power of Jewish Americans to subvert efforts at bringing peace to the Middle East.

It is important to understand the history of this idea: that Jews (representing less than 2% of the American population) can single-handedly thwart the desires of the President of the strongest nation on earth; and, that such American Jews are in the pockets of Israel – meaning, more loyal to a foreign power than to the country where they are citizens.

Here are passages from my post at the blog, Z Word, on a similar subject – written about such dual loyalty charges by blogger, Glenn Greenwald.

Even before the birth of the modern state of Israel, Jews have stood accused of not possessing sufficient loyalty to the nations where they reside.  Its contemporary manifestation however almost always centers around the notion of dual loyalty – a charge that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own nation.  Often, such charges of dual loyalty are infused with a narrative imputing enormous power to Jewish communities which typically represent a tiny fraction of the overall population.  Such a synthesis of disloyalty on one hand and exaggerated power on the other allows the accuser to charge the Jewish community of working to undermine their nation – often alleging that such Jews are dangerous aliens who represent nothing short of a Fifth Column.

One of the earliest examples of this fusion of “Excessive” Jewish Power with Dual Loyalty was the suspicion in parts of medieval Christian Europe that Jews were in league with some Muslim powers.  The charge of dual loyalty could be seen in the Dreyfus Affair through the Nazi’s rise to power – and, indeed, this notion in large measure underlay the failure of European emancipation.  Closer to home, in the 1920s Henry Ford published The International JewThe World’s Problem where it was asserted, along with other calumnies, that Jews were pushing the United States towards war for financial reasons and to achieve world domination.

While, after WWII, manifestations of this charge often remained on the fringes of American society, Paul Findley, a former Republican U.S. Congressman whose 1985 They Dare to Speak Out, an attack on the “Israel lobby,” became a best-seller. In it, Findley maintained that many American Jews utilized “tactics which stifle dissent in their own communities and throughout America” to benefit Israel.

More recently, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, wrote of the “stranglehold” which the Israel “Lobby” exercises over Congress; of the “manipulation of the media”; and of a “Lobby” working hard to “squelch debate”.   They argued that the 2003 Iraq war wouldn’t have been possible without the influence of the Israel lobby.

While Paleoconservative commentators, not surprisingly, have championed this narrative – Pat Buchanan wrote in 2008 that “Israel and its Fifth Column in [Washington , DC] seek to stampede us into war with Iran” – some Liberal columnists have engaged in similar rhetoric.  For instance, Joe Klein assertedon Time Magazine’s ”Swampland” blog that Jewish neoconservatives “plumped” for the war in Iraq and is now doing the same for “an even more foolish assault on Iran” with the goal of making the world “safe for Israel.”  In the ensuing controversy, many progressive bloggers jumped to Klein’s defense.

The anti-Semitic nature of such charges have been codified by both the U.S. State Department and the EU Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia - the former defining as anti-Semitic: “accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”

It is clear that such narratives are increasingly advanced by those who take cover behind a progressive veneer.”

People often ask where mere criticism of Israel ends and anti-Semitism begins.  I think this is a valid question in the context of CiF Watch’s ongoing efforts to expose anti-Semitism at the Guardian – one which this post, I hope, will help to clarify.

 

Cartoon by notorious anti-Israel activist, Carlos Latuff

 

You can read my whole essay, here.