Sometimes Jewish comments related to anti-Semitism seem so unhinged that they surprise even me. A Tablet article describes the meeting between Obama and a raft of Jewish leaders on the Iran deal (“Obama to Jewish Leaders: Lay Off the Iran Deal, and I Will Lay Off You“).
Words have consequences, and when they come from official sources, they can be even more dangerous, the president was told. The community worked hard to keep it from getting personal and didn’t make it specific to him. The president complained about the lobbying, and said some of the same people who brought you Iraq are opposing the Iran deal. He was told those characterizations are not accurate. Jewish lobbyists didn’t support the Iraq war.
Another participant who also asked to remain anonymous told me that some people expressed discomfort with “how the debate is being framed—framed as, ‘if you are a critic of the deal, you’re for war.’ The implication is that if it looks like the Jewish community is responsible for Congress voting down the deal, it will look like the Jewish community is leading us off to another war in the Middle East.”
A senior official at a Washington, D.C.-based Jewish organization involved in the Iran fight told me: “The President told concerned Jewish Americans that he would turn down the constant refrain of anti-Semitic insinuations from the White House. Then he went out and gave a speech implying that Jews are dragging American boys and girls into war.”
It’s unfortunate that the president of the United States seems to really believe that Israel and the American Jewish community was responsible for taking America to war in Iraq.
But of course saying that the same people who promoted the Iraq war are now lobbying in opposition to the Iran deal is simply and obviously true, and certainly Obama was not so bold as to actually say that Jews promoted the Iraq war. Obama’s statement is analogous to someone saying that the same people who control Hollywood movie and TV production also run the New York Times and much of the rest of the mass media: The worry is that people will connect the dots not with labels like “White liberals,” but rather with Jews who have attitudes related to their identity as Jews and entirely typical of the mainstream Jewish community but not at all typical of most Whites.
Unfortunately for AIPAC et al., as everyone who is not living under a rock knows, the perception that indeed Jews were a necessary condition for the Iraq war is a common belief so that quite a few people will connect the dots in a way that Jews don’t like. And in fact, Israel (with Netanyahu as spokesperson), Jewish neocons with high positions in the Bush administration, and yes, AIPAC (see, e.g., comments of Rep. Barney Frank and Matt Yglesias: “AIPAC and Iraq”) were critical in successfully promoting the war in Iraq (even though surveys reported that most American Jews opposed the war).
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)
One has the feeling that Jews unhappy with Obama’s statement are doing their best to suggest that Iraq and Iran are completely different, that Jews had nothing to do with the Iraq war, and that the opposition of Israel and pretty much the entire activist Jewish community to the Iran deal is not at all about desiring a war with Iran.
Only the last of these is a possibility that reasonable people could differ on. However, it is quite clear that Israel and its fifth column insisted on terms that Iran would not and could not accept, therefore assuring that a negotiated deal could not happen (see here). In the absence of such a deal, war is indeed the only option. What the Lobby wants is nothing less than a U.S. war with Iran made possible by insisting on a deal that Iran cannot accept and then portraying Iran as intent on building weapons that are a danger to the entire world. In reality, this war would mainly be about punishing Iran and lessening its ability to oppose Israeli interests in the region rather than anything to do with an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Senator Chuck Schumer, who call himself the “guardian of Israel,” made the same point: it’s not really about the nuclear issue, but rather about Iran as a power in the region. David Bromwich, writing in HyffPo:
[Schumer] admits that the heart of the nuclear deal works against the development of nuclear weapons quite effectively. “When it comes to the nuclear aspects of the agreement within ten years, we might be slightly better off with it. However, when it comes to the nuclear aspects after ten years and the non-nuclear aspects, we would be better off without it.” There, for all his elaborate show of scruple, he gives the game away. The “nuclear aspects” are the substance of the agreement. That is why they call it the nuclear deal. But no, for Netanyahu and Schumer what offends is the prospect of Iran’s re-entry into the global community as a trading partner and a non-nuclear regional power of some resourcefulness. This emergence can only curb Israel’s wish to dominate for another half century as it has done for the past half century. That, and not anything resembling an “existential threat,” is the real transition at issue.
In the same way, the WMD ruse rationalizing the war with Iraq was promoted by Jewish neocon operatives in US intelligence organizations, neocon writers and talking heads with access to the elite media, and AIPAC influence on Congress and the White House — with the ADL ready to pounce on anyone who noticed that Jewish identities and commitments were in any way relevant. The WMD ruse was a cover for the desire to fragment and weaken Iraq and cause instability in the region—long a goal of Israeli foreign policy throughout the region. The Iraq war strategy has been spectacularly successful in serving Israeli interests while creating a disaster for the United States.
Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
The Tablet naturally rushes to the conclusion that Obama is stoking the flames of a completely irrational anti-Semitism:
Obama’s political tactics [point to] Nixon’s Southern strategy, which played on the racist fears of white southerners. If the purpose of the Obama Administration’s Jew-baiting is to silence potential critics of the JCPOA, it may also stoke a deeply ugly hatred that is no less dangerous to American society than racism.
Obama the Jew baiter. Not that it needs repeating here at TOO, but the Tablet article is yet another indication that Jews are simply incapable of acknowledging that the legitimate interests of Jews and non-Jews can differ or that it is possible to make a rational critique of Jewish power and the behavior that Jewish power enables.