November 5, 2018


New Al Jazeera film uncovers 'rotting foundation' of U.S. Israel lobby: A new Al Jazeera documentary provides a sobering look at a lobby that continues to defend Israel's control of Palestinian lives, despite the many Americans turning against it. (Antony Loewenstein, 11/05/18, +972)

There's a moment near the end of the four-part, Al Jazeera documentary on the U.S. Israel lobby -- censored by its own network due to pressure from the U.S. government and incensed U.S.-based, pro-Israel lobbyists -- where the show's undercover reporter, "Tony," films a key Israel advocate in Washington. Eric Gallagher was a senior manager at The Israel Project and admits that the dominant pro-Israel lobby, AIPAC, faces an existential crisis.

"People at AIPAC know that something has changed," Gallagher says. "They know something is wrong. They are not as effective as they used to be." He worries that the day is coming soon when AIPAC wouldn't be able to deeply influence the Israel lobby crafted in the U.S. Congress, as it does today, and that the pro-Israel lobby will have to operate without AIPAC's power. "There's this big bowling ball that's being hurled towards them [AIPAC] and the response is to run faster," Gallagher continues. "They need to get on the bowling ball and start dancing."

Gallagher doesn't explain why so many Americans are turning against Israel in public opinion polls. The latest figures from The Economist and YouGov, an online data analytics firm, find that U.S. liberals, millennials, and women have turned against the Jewish state in large numbers. The 50-plus year occupation of Palestinians and their lands, constant killings of civilians in Gaza, and the Trump administration's obsessive embrace of Israel's hard-right are all factors.

Republicans and conservatives still back Israel in large numbers, as do many in the evangelical Christian community (though younger members are more skeptical). For the foreseeable future, however, Israel will likely receive unprecedented financial, military, and diplomatic support from the United States.

Tony films Gallagher in a Washington D.C. café explaining that "the foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting. There used to be widespread public support for Israel in the United States...I don't think that AIPAC is the tip of the spear anymore, which is worrisome, because who is?"

It's a telling admission in a documentary that's full of them. 

The problem is that the Right loves Israel for the same reason other Americans have begun to criticize it: the divergence from American values in its oppression and attacks on Muslims. By appealing to those who love the state's illiberal exercise of power and driving away those who love Judaism, Israel is only adding to its demographic and theological existential crises.

Trump's veiled anti-Semitism comes home to roost in Pittsburgh: Trump is well aware of how white supremacists and others interpret his remarks. What makes it so sinister is that he keeps doing it anyway. (Edo Konrad, 11/04/18, +972)

[T]he president need not resort to Nazi anti-Semitism to inspire the bloodlust of Bowers and his ilk. After all, Jews do not categorically bother Trump. It is a particular kind of Jew -- cosmopolitan, progressive, anti-racist -- that Trump has adopted as a scapegoat for America's problems. His repeated attacks on George Soros, a Jewish billionaire who has historically funded liberal causes, is exemplary of the way right-wing leaders such as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hungarian President Viktor Orban are now deploying anti-Semitism: by using coded language to paint left-wing Jews as the source of a global conspiracy working to undermine everything their nationalist worldview represents.

Trump does not need to mention Soros' Jewish identity at all; the implication of mentioning Soros in the first place is totally clear. That's the beauty of dog-whistling -- the president doesn't have to talk about "the Jewish agenda" to make clear to his followers who or what he is referring to.

And while Trump may actually only be talking about Soros -- who holds significant political and economic power -- his most radical followers make no distinction between Soros as a person and Soros as codeword for "Jews." Robert Bowers may have despised HIAS and its support for refugees and immigrants, but his attack on a Jewish place of worship is proof that Trump's brand of veiled anti-Semitism is no less dangerous than the kind one finds on the front page of the Daily Stormer.

That is what precisely makes it so sinister: the president knows exactly what he is doing. He is well aware of what kind of violence his remarks can inspire and fuel, yet he continues to make them anyway.

In Pittsburgh, Naftali Bennett's Presence Highlights the Debate Between Netanyahu's Government and American Jews (Bernard Avishai, October 31, 2018, The New Yorker)

As Daniel Benjamin (my colleague at Dartmouth) noted in Time, earlier this week, a Pew "thermometer" poll last year found that Americans feel more warmly toward Jews than toward any other religious group--"one degree higher than Catholics, two higher than mainline Protestants, six higher than Evangelical Christians and 13 higher than Mormons." True, the Anti-Defamation League reported a fifty-seven-per-cent rise in anti-Semitic incidents last year. But for liberals, even Zionists with a liberal imagination, this could hardly be a surprise. Anti-Semitism "is bound to increase, because the causes of its growth continue to exist and cannot be removed," Theodor Herzl wrote in "The Jewish State," in 1896. The problem he pointed to was not Christian bigotry, which emancipation was slowly dispersing, but class conflict, which created workers, some of whom rise and some of whom fall. Jews, who tended to rise, naturally became the target of "mediocre intellects, who cannot find an outlet downwards or upwards," Herzl wrote. What would protect all minorities--in the case of the Jewish state, Arab Muslims--would be the same secular and liberal principles that one fights for in the West. That's why, ironically, Herzl's ideal Jewish state, which he laid out in his novel "The Old New Land," from 1902, looks much more like Squirrel Hill than like Bennett's airless settlements.

Indeed, much like Trump, Bennett has fomented bigotry in electoral campaigns and from a state position. He lobbied feverishly for the discriminatory nation-state law. (He suggested that Israeli courts throw the Israeli-Arab civil-rights group Adalah "down the stairs.") He has led the fight against asylum seekers in Israel, calling them "infiltrators" and purveyors of "threat" and "crime." He has consistently opposed civil marriage and, as education minister, tried to suppress a book about an Israeli Jew falling in love with a Muslim. He supports his government's cozying up to the Hungarian President, Viktor Orbán, who has normalized attacks on George Soros. Bennett condemns "shooting worshippers," but he is the chief advocate for the kind of settlement policy in and around Hebron that, in 1994, produced Baruch Goldstein's notorious massacre at the mosque of the Tomb of the Patriarchs.

American Jews reflexively express affection for, and fascination with, Israel as a historical achievement. But they do not require history lessons from rightist Israelis who debase liberalism, or from any Israeli who cannot see how the distinct achievement and the continual struggle of American Jews rival those of Zionists. "Go home," David Simon, the creator of "The Wire" and "The Deuce," tweeted when he heard that Bennett was on his way. "Netanyahu's interventions in US politics aided in the election of Donald Trump and his raw and relentless validation of white nationalism and fascism. The American Jewish community is now bleeding at the hands of the Israeli prime minister. And many of us know it."

Last June, in the hamlet of Wilmot, New Hampshire, where I live half the year, the caretaker of the local white-clapboard Congregationalist church, next to the public library, discovered graffiti: "No remorse for the dead kike on a pike." It wasn't clear whether "kike on a pike" threatened the local Jews--of whom there are but a few--or the crucified Jesus. But the offense was certainly taken to be anti-Semitic. Unsure of what to expect, the minister, the Reverend Sara Marean, called on local ministers and residents to show the Jewish community fellow-feeling. The following Sunday, three hundred people gathered on the church green. The speeches and the songs sounded like America. Arthur Rosen, a retired public-relations executive and the representative of the Upper Valley Jewish community, wondered aloud if the person who had written the graffiti was in the crowd, and invited him or her to forgo inflammatory Web sites and come to his home for a forgiving conversation. Nobody left the gathering feeling that the scribbler had "prevailed."

Posted by at November 5, 2018 4:21 AM