Friday, April 23, 2010

Israel Is Not America, America Is Not Israel-- Tell Chuck Schumer And Jane Harman


Ken, Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer and I all went to the same high school, James Madison. There were some Italians in the neighborhood too but this was the Jewishest-- in a non-Hassidic sense-- part of Brooklyn back then. We were inculcated with the idea that Israel's security came first and foremost and America was as great as the amount of security (and cash) it provided Israel. In those days the Democratic Party was 100% pro-Israel and the Republican Party had a whiff of unsavory typically right-wing anti-Semitism around it. Just yesterday I was reading about how Nixon dealt with his collapsing economy in Rick Perlstein's stupendous history book, Nixonland and came across a transcript of him blaming "the Jews" for his woes, as he often did.
It was meat prices driving inflation, Nixon decided, big supermarkets who refused to pass lower cattle prices on to consumers. "Kick the chain stores," he said in early February... I think you will find that chain stores who generally control these prices nationwide are primarily dominated by Jewish interests. These boys, of course, have every right to make all the money they want, but they have a notorious reputation in the trade for conspiracy."

Yes, he was stark raving mad; but because he was a president surrounded by sycophants... well whatever he said became a kind of "truth," especially in the Republican Party. Jews in Brooklyn were wary of right-wing parties to begin with-- that whole kerfuffle in Germany was still fresh in everyone's mind-- and the Republicans were just a few degrees away from everyone's greatest fears.

But things have changed dramatically since then. The Party of the Robber Barons has had to degrade itself by cobbling together a Grand Know Nothing coalition that includes southern religious fanatics whose sad, miserable lives revolve around waiting on Jesus' return, something that will be triggered when Israeli tanks roll into Damascus or some such interpretation of the screaming voices in their heads. Zionism somehow coexists with anti-Semitism as tenets of American right-wing orthodoxy. And on the Democratic side, there is a growing awareness that Palestinians are human beings too. I think the last time I counted there were around half a dozen Democratic members of Congress who had come to that conclusion. None are from Brooklyn-- and that includes one Brooklyn congressman who went on to the Senate and is casting longing eyes at Harry Reid's job as Democratic Senate Leader.

I don't know if Schumer still believes the Israel uber alles crap we were taught as children but I do know he isn't taking any chances with his hometown base. He blasted Obama yesterday for not being suitably Zionist enough. Playing to an indoctrinated Jewish-American and Israeli-American listening audience on a fanatic religious radio show hosted by Nachum Segal, Schumer was all about poutrage for how tough the Obama Administration has been towards Israeli rightist Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. How dare they look out for America's interests! Schumer:
"I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk. Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel, they, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a 2-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there. If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, “Why should we negotiate?” So that’s bad and that should change and we are working on changing it. But the other two are very good, according to both the Israeli government and the Israeli military and the U.S. government. But we should make that known, why don’t they? I asked them to do just that, I said we should make it public because it will, at least, give people, who are supportive of Israel, Jew and non-Jew alike, a little bit of solace... Hillary Clinton called up Netanyahu and talked very tough to him, and worse they made it pubic through this spokesperson, a guy named Crowley.

And Crowley said something I have never heard before, which is, the relationship of Israel and the United States depends on the pace of the negotiations. That is terrible. That is the dagger because the relationship is much deeper than the disagreements on negotiations, and most Americans-- Democrat, Republican, Jew, non-Jew-- would feel that. So I called up Rahm Emanuel and I called up the White House and I said, 'If you don’t retract that statement you are going to hear me publicly blast you on this.'”

Is Schumer an American Senator or an Israeli Knesset member-- or an Evangelical lunatic from South Carolina?
This is the 2nd time I know of that Schumer has publicly crossed the line when it came to zealously blaming his own government and colleagues in delicate matters of US-Israel-Palestine policy.

During the third of three major efforts of the George W. Bush administration to get the recess appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton confirmed in the US Senate, Senator Schumer launched a passionate personal campaign to help Bolton succeed.

Schumer called many Democratic Senate colleagues and bluntly said, "A vote against John Bolton is a vote against Israel." ... Note to Senator Schumer: you have certainly unloaded a lot of blame on the White House today. I have done a quick lexis and Thomas search and have been unable to find a single instance in which you criticized the behavior of the Israeli government at any time on any issue.

I guess Schumer has chosen to lie down with some mighty strange dogs, but, like I said, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders also went to James Madison High. He has a far more equitable approach to how to achieve peace in the Middle East, one in the best interests of the U.S., as well as taking in the legitimate concerns of Israelis and Palestinians-- if not AIPAC and the Likud. Well, at least Schumer isn't spying for any foreign powers and stepping over the treason line, the way Jane Harman did.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Your Government Not at Work - Jane Harman Scandal
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorTea Party

If you watched that video, you might be looking for a way to help replace Jane Harman with mainstream pro-America progressive Marcy Winograd. By all means-- be our guest!

Along similar lines, I got a letter this morning from J Street, an organization of American Jews not dedicated to expansionism and aggression.
A moving article in Haaretz this week by Carlo Strenger, entitled "Israel's leaders have forgotten Herzl's dream," challenged the "silent majority of liberal U.S. Jewry not to be afraid any longer to speak its mind."

Amen. We are not afraid.

And we won't be afraid even when enforcers like Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz try to intimidate our movement by attacking J Street in an article brimming with distortions and name-calling.

Dershowitz's article is a perfect example of what is wrong with the conversation in our community on Israel. Far too often J Street's opponents spend more time manufacturing what they wish J Street has said, rather than checking the facts and actually challenging the merits of our arguments.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street's Executive Director, fired back yesterday in the Huffington Post, calling out Dershowitz for his inability to mount any serious fact-based case to challenge J Street's assertions that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the interests of Israel, the Palestinians, and the United States.

TPM took up the story as well-- and like DWT gets the Schumer connection. They point out the good news that almost no one takes Dershowitz seriously any more as another other than a raving propagandist.
The bad news is that the people who do take him seriously are filling my inbox (and maybe yours) with anonymous screeds about President Obama, the "selling out" of Israel, Iranians who would happily die in order to kill Jews, and the imminent loss of Jerusalem to Hamas.

...My guess is that [Dershowitz] despises J Street for precisely the reason younger Jews, members of Congress, frustrated Israelis, and the Obama administration welcome it. It represents a new kind of pro-Israel activism-- activism built on the premise that the best way Americans can help Israel achieve security is by using our influence to encourage our government to push hard for negotiations.

Dershowitz is old school (not in a good way). He thinks that Israel advocacy should be left to the organizations which, although nominally supportive of the two-state solution, would prefer the United States to advocate peace rhetorically but not do much of anything to make it happen.

He also would prefer that the White House, the media, and the Israeli government not engage with upstarts like J Street but rather stick with the tried-and-not-so-true leadership of the "American Israel..." this, and the "American Jewish..." that. The last thing he wants to see is a whole new generation of pro-Israel activists moving on up, especially if it is dedicated to ending a status quo that it considers bad for Israelis, Palestinians, and American interests.

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At 2:56 PM, Blogger Philip Munger said...

Best article on this I've read today, Howie, and perhaps your best ever on this immensely important subject.

The new ideas of young people are probably the key, whether it be hip-hop artists like Invincible, or the courageous Jewish reps on the Cal Berkeley student council who decided to vote pro-BDS in the veto override attempt.

At 6:41 PM, Blogger Statistikhengst said...

"I don't know if Schumer still believes the Israel uber alles crap we were taught as children"

alone quoting the opening words to the NAZI national hymn from 1932-1945 (this verse is now prohibited in Germany) and using it in the same sentence with the word "Israel" is truly insulting and not on the level of intelligence that I usually read on your site. It is cruel and it is unjust.

And that thing in Germany was not just a "kerfuffle", as you called it, it was the systematic murder of at least 6,000,000 jews and at least 5,000,000 non-jews.

You know, most of us jews are progressives. It's probably not a good idea to piss in your own backyard.

You should truly be ashamed of the tone of this writing and you most definitely owe jews who lost loved ones in the worst holocaust in human history a heartfelt apology.

I do not agree with many things that Bibi is doing and I do agree with President Obama's harder stand on Israel, but dissent with Israel does not grant you the license to engage in badly cloaked anti-semitism.

SHAME ON YOU. SHAME ON YOU. SHAME ON YOU. You, as a thinking progressive, should know better than this.

At 3:55 AM, Blogger cybermome said...

I have so much to say on this topic growing up Jewish. "Support" of Israel was in my DNA. We as Jews have learned the wrong lessons from the Holocaust. And its made for some strange bedfellows.
And this support of Israel is so primitive and money driven, we are not supposed to even think what our tax money is doing to the Palestinians let alone the middle east

But I don't have to go far to see where this is going. My own daughter Bat Mitvahed and all is studying Arabic. And heres what her college is doing to call attention to Israeli check points.


At 6:10 AM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

I do not agree with many things that Bibi is doing...

It's called apartheid, guy. I know the rightwing Israeli lobby smear tactic is to claim anybody who says anything critical of Israeli governments is an anti-Semite, but let's call things by their proper name. Howie's spin on what Bibi is doing was clearly intended to punch hard, but even if you don't go for the gut, it's still genocide, and there's no refutation for that when the facts are on the table. You want to call shame? Call shame on the horrors Bibi and his pals are inflicting on millions of people who should be fully recognized Israeli citizens, and millions of others who are treated like criminals. Which isn't to say the Palestinian leadership is lacking in the departments of corruption, cupidity, nepotism, shortsightedness, and stupidity. But really, they haven't got a lobby proclaiming them a bunch of Nephaliim. That honor goes to the Licud.

At 8:35 AM, Anonymous Balakirev said...

No, what Israeli governments are doing to the Palestinians is most definitely not genocide, and that shouldn't be in my last comment. It *is* apartheid, however, an attempt to keep an entire subculture down, in the dirt, subjugated and without status.

At 9:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

America has 308 million people.
Israel just 6.5!


Are you really prepared for the huge economic downturn that will inevitably follow any strike against Iran?

Are you really prepared for the likely nuclear war that would start and that would threaten your family and the future of your children?

That secret nuclear stockpile has not been built up over the last twenty years as a joke. There are enough warheads in that arsenal to wipe out half the world.

Do you really think that you would be unaffected?

Then please think again.

At 9:30 AM, Blogger cybermome said...

I said nothing about strikes on Iran. Thats the bogeyman that's used to scare us into even saying anything critical of what Israel does. A nuclear Iran is what justifies every free pass we give Israel.Please I worry more about Pakistans nukes.

One aspect of this whole clusterfuck is the amount of $$$$ Israel makes over cheap Palestinian labor.

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Statistikhengst said...

To use nazi phraseology in conjunction with the word Israel IS antisemitism, plain and simple.

And it is all too easy to bedevil Israel here. Go read the Hamas charter first, buddy.

I said I do not agree with what Bibi is doing and I agree with other posters that it is a form of apartheid. But where is your outrage against Palestinian cries for genocide?

And as for Iran, well, either Iran can learn to play or get kicked off the block.

"One aspect of this whole clusterfuck is the amount of $$$$ Israel makes over cheap Palestinian labor."

-And your sources for this claim.

I stand by my criticism. The poster has no right in the world to put the state of israel in conjunction with nazi terminology. It is rude, it is crass, it is incorrect and it is inhumane.

Please remember that many progressives are pro-israel, and strongly so. Please learn to not pee in your own backyard.

At 12:27 PM, Anonymous Lee said...

I'm Jewish, female and I have seen with my own eyes what Israel is doing.Yes, I have been there on a tour of both Israel and the occupied territories. I have also seen how Israel ( especially high tech) profits from cheap Palestinian labor. I have also met courageous Israelis who refuse to serve and be part of this holocaust and yes genocide.And for the record I don't like Hamas either.

At 7:21 AM, Blogger Mad Joy said...

My father also went to James Madison High, a few years after Chuck Schumer did. (Though like many Jews from the area, he left and raised me and the rest of my family in a nice suburb in New Jersey).

It's interesting watching the evolution of Jewish thought. Most of his friends today are still Jewish, and he is vehemently pro-Israel in the AIPAC sense of "pro-Israel." He does not see the irony of, thinks Israel has made concession after concession while the Palestinians have made none, and thinks the idea that Palestinians might support peace is laughable. He thinks the Palestinians are, generally speaking with a few likely exceptions, bad people.

In contrast, I grew up in a much more diverse setting and a generation apart. I have friends who are international students from places like Iran and Yemen, and I've seen the difficulties they have just trying to get home to see their families and the persecution they face just for being Muslim (and "looking" like they come from the Middle East).

Now, fresh out of college, I'm living in New York City and hoping Schumer will see the need for moderation in his views and donating a meager, largely symbolic sum to J Street. I think this is why Obama is moving in the right direction. My generation is fed up with the lies, the stereotyping, the discrimination on all sides. We are fed up with extremists, whether they be ultra-religious right-wing Israeli settlers who don't see how they're contributing to the cycle of violence, or avid Hamas supporters who let their friends and family participate in terrorism and don't see how they're contributing to the cycle of violence.

I think J Street & peaceniks from all sides will win out in the end, because that's progress. But maybe I'm being naively hopeful.


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