The Israel Lobby, temporarily set back with the success of the Iran negotiations, has wasted no time in paving a new path to war via the Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013. This bill is now being considered by the Senate, led by Bob Menendez, Chuck Schumer, and Mark Kirk, all staunch supporters of the Israel Lobby.
The bill has two noteworthy aspects. First, it would bar Iran from enriching any new uranium whatsoever. As everyone knows, this is a non-starter with Iran, so adopting the bill would guarantee that even tougher sanctions provided by the bill would kick in, putting Iran in an impossible situation, thus virtually ensuring the much desired war.
Secondly it puts huge pressure on the U.S. to go to war if Israel sees fit to attack Iran. The bill
includes a non-binding provision that states that if Israel takes “military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program,” the U.S. “should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with the law of the United States and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence.”
“Should stand with Israel” is deliberately vague. But minimally, if it were to pass, it would be interpreted as constituting Congressional approval of U.S. involvement should Israel decide to go to war.
Huffpo ran an article originally titled “Saboteur Sen. Launching War Push” refuting the bogus claim that this legislation supports the goals of the Obama administration. The article notes that this argument “is undermined by the White House’s own vehement opposition to it. It is further undercut by the lead supporter of the Menendez bill, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which has pushed hard to derail the talks and encouraged Congress to undermine the president’s effort. Schumer and Menendez are close allies of AIPAC.”
That bit of reality was too much for Abe Foxman who wants us to believe that AIPAC, if it had any influence at all, was simply appealing to nothing but the loftiest of motives of the senators who support the bill:
While legitimate arguments can be made in support of and against the legislation, your headline impugned Senator Menendez’s loyalty, insinuating that he is not acting in the best interest of the United States as he sees it. Running a photo of Sen. Robert Menendez speaking at the podium of an AIPAC event further implies that he was trying to “sabotage” the administration’s efforts on Iran for reasons related to Israel under pressure from American Jews. We are shocked that a version of the anti-Semitic theme that “Jews manipulate the U.S. Government” was boldly featured on your site.
Whether done intentionally or not, it is deeply troubling to see how easily even a well-respected mainstream media outlet like the Huffington Post can fail to see the ugly stereotype projected when the language of “sabotage” is combined with the image of an identifiably American Jewish organization known for its effectiveness in promoting U.S. political support for Israel. The charge of dual loyalty leveled against Jews has, for centuries, been a catalyst for scapegoating and vilifying Jews. It has no legitimate place in our society.
So once again we are in the ADL’s fantasy world where American Jews have nothing but American interests at heart in pursuing American support of Israel, and politicians like Menendez are not influenced by all the money they get through AIPAC. Menendez receivedmore than $340,000 in his most recent campaign (2012), the most of any Senate candidate. Another principle supporter of the bill, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), received almost $640,000 in contributions, more than twice as much as any Senate candidate in the 2010 election cycle. Chuck Schumer is also a prominent beneficiary of AIPAC largess, but in his case we can’t ignore the confluence between his ethnic interests and his support for Israel.
The result of this strategy is that legitimate discussions of Jewish influence and dual loyalty are off limits under pain of being charged with “anti-Semitism.” Foxman’s tactic, very familiar by now, is to argue that somehow the fact that Jews have been charged with dual loyalty and power over governments over the centuries logically implies that any current suggestion of dual loyalty and influence by Jews could not possibly have any empirical basis—that such charges are automatically nothing more than scapegoating.
This is an odd argument, to say the least. Even if it were true that none of the previous charges of dual loyalty and influence were correct, it makes no sense to claim that we shouldn’t be able investigate the current situation in a calm and rational manner. After all, many groups try to influence the government, and there is always the possibility that ethnic ties will trump the interests of the wider society.
Indeed, the common sense of it is just the opposite: If over the centuries Jewish groups in widely separated times and places have often been seen as influencing governments to pursue policies beneficial to Jews but not necessarily the rest of society and as more loyal to Jews in other societies than to the wider society they live in, the obvious suggestion is that these are real patterns, as indeed they are (see here, p. 38ff on Jews as an influential elite and p. 60ff for the pattern of dual loyalty; it’s interesting that the first examples of both of these “canards” may be found in the Book of Exodus).
These patterns make sense in terms of what we know about Jews. As in many historical societies, Jews are an elite, well-organized, wealthy group in the U.S.—even Foxman admits that AIPAC is an effective lobbying group. Anyone with a pulse knows that big money and the threat of big money to one’s opponents have a way of shaping the views of politicians—otherwise, why is AIPAC giving them all this money? And given the importance of genetic and cultural separatism among the Jews and the fact that they have tended to be more closely related to other, widely dispersed, Jewish groups than to the peoples among whom they live, it is not surprising from an evolutionary perspective that the question of loyalty has often been raised.
Where have we heard such arguments before? When the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003,
the main Jewish activist organizations [were] quick to condemn those who have noted the Jewish commitments of the neoconservative activists in the Bush administration or seen the hand of the Jewish community in pushing for war against Iraq and other Arab countries. For example, the ADL’s Abraham Foxman singled out Pat Buchanan, Joe Sobran, Rep. James Moran,Chris Matthews of MSNBC, James O. Goldsborough (a columnist for the San Diego Union-Tribune), columnist Robert Novak, and writer Ian Buruma as subscribers to “a canard that America’s going to war has little to do with disarming Saddam, but everything to do with Jews, the ‘Jewish lobby’ and the hawkish Jewish members of the Bush Administration who, according to this chorus, will favor any war that benefits Israel.”
Similarly, when Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) made a speech in the U.S. Senate and wrote a newspaper op-ed piece which claimed the war in Iraq was motivated by “President Bush’s policy to secure Israel” and advanced by a handful of Jewish officials and opinion leaders, Abe Foxman of the ADL stated, “when the debate veers into anti-Jewish stereotyping, it is tantamount to scapegoating and an appeal to ethnic hatred …. This is reminiscent of age-old, anti-Semitic canards about a Jewish conspiracy to control and manipulate government.” (Neoconservatism as a Jewish Movement,” pp. 15–16)
The charge of “age-old anti-Semitic canards” cuts off any rational, empirically based debate before it can start, which is exactly what the ADL wants. The charges themselves are portrayed as nothing but irrational anti-Semitism reflecting a medieval mindset. No need to discuss the evidence.
But the tactic works. At least partly because of the ADL’s activism, there were virtually no articles on the Jewish role in promoting the Iraq War in any of the major U.S. national newspapers or television media. Despite the fact that anyone who has seriously looked into the matter understands that the Israel Lobby and the organized Jewish community were critical in promoting the war (Mearsheimer and Walt are probably the closest these ideas got the the mainstream), probably not one in ten Americans realize this, and a great many would roll their eyes at the mere suggestion that Jews had any influence and think you were some kind of weirdo conspiracy nut for even asking. The same can be said re Jewish influence on the media, immigration policy, elite academic institutions: The topic of Jewish influence is simply off limits for rational discussion.
The ADL’s tactics may be crude and dishonest, but there is no question that they are effective.
All of which reminds me of Andrew Joyce’s send-up of the canard strategy in the Marc Rich pardon case (“Justice Denied: Thoughts on Truth, ‘Canards’ and the Marc Rich Case, Parts Oneand Two“). As in the case of the Nuclear Free Iran Act of 2013, the defenders of Rich were quite liberal in their use of the canard strategy and its implications that Rich’s enemies were motivated by “anti-Semitism.” Rich’s defenders also pointed to a confluence of interests between the U.S. and Mr. Rich, based on Rich’s prodigious philanthropy, most of which was donated to Jewish causes. Foxman’s letter supporting Rich’s pardon pointed to Rich’s charity but didn’t explain how contributions to Jewish charities benefit U.S. taxpayers defrauded by Rich to the tune of $100 million; nor did he mention the $250,000 Rich contributed to the ADL—now that’s a real confluence of interests.
There is another parallel between the successful Marc Rich pardon campaign and the pressure for war with Iran. Elie Wiesel, the improbableexemplar of Jewish moral authority, lobbied Bill Clinton on behalf of Rich (see Joyce’s article). In the present campaign for war with Iran, Wiesel has been featured in full-page adsin the New York Times and the Washington Post paid for by Birthright Israelco-founder Michael Steinhardt and produced by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach’s This World: The Values Network.
Just to be clear on the moral values being championed here, both Steinhardt and Boteach are completely onpage with the ruling ethnonationalist right in Israel and its program of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and dispossession of the Palestinians; Andrew Joyce notes that Rich contributed $5 million to Birthright Israel.
In the ads, Wiesel uses his moral authority to encourage stronger sanctions on Iran and “the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure,” both of which, if pursued, would certainly leave Iran in a politically untenable position that would leave war the only option.
Jewish moral capital is at the root of both these strategies. This is obvious in trotting out Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel as a war advocate, but the effectiveness of the canard strategy depends ultimately on the fact that being charged with anti-Semitism still carries powerful moral clout (such that there is little public sympathy for those who lose their jobs for simply speaking the truth).
One wonders how long the power of Jewish moral capital can continue given that Israel’s behavior vis-à-vis the Palestinians is finally getting some meaningful international sanction. But one can be sure that the strategy will continue to be used exactly as long as it is effective. Basic honesty and intellectual integrity have nothing to do with it.