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.”
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.
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 One and 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 improbable exemplar 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 ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post paid for by Birthright Israel co-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.