Posts Tagged ‘MJ Rosenberg’


Discussing his outspoken opposition to diplomacy with Iran, Republican Senator Mark Kirk said in a phone briefing for his Kirk (2)supporters: “It’s the reason why I ran for the Senate, [it] is all wrapped up in this battle. I am totally dedicated to the survival of the state of Israel in the 21st century.” This is an important statement, and one which bears intense scrutiny at a time when the Obama Administration is trying to walk the United States back from a war footing with Iran, against the wishes of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf monarchies and, especially, Israel and its domestic allies.

I hurried to congratulate my colleagues, Ali Gharib and Eli Clifton, for their reporting on Kirk’s private briefing call. I tweeted the following: “Thanks to @AliGharib and @EliClifton, we have Mark Kirk on record stating that he values Israeli interests over US’.” Naturally, I was attacked for “questioning Kirk’s loyalty.” I certainly confess; Twitter is a place for shorthand and bombastic statements, and no doubt, Kirk’s position is more complicated vis a vis US vs. Israeli interests. That’s why the interaction I had with a more sober-minded individual around this, Prof. Brent Sasley of the University of Texas at Arlington, was more probative. (more…)

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This article was originally published by LobeLog, an indispensable source for foreign policy news and analysis. Check it out. 

The 2013 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference wasn’t quite the same show of arrogant power that it usually is. There seems to have been a AIPAC-620x350note of unusual concern among the 13,000 or so assembled activists. And those concerns echo some of what AIPAC’s detractors have been saying for some time.

The tone was set by AIPAC’s president, Michael Kassen at the beginning of the conference. In what Ha’aretz reporter Chemi Shalev described as “… an uncharacteristic ‘adapt or die’ alarm to the American Jewish community,” Kassen warned of “the growing allure of isolationism among our new leaders”, which would include an aversion to difficult foreign policy issues…like Israel.

Kassen urged the AIPAC activists to expand the base from its overwhelmingly Jewish one, and highlighted the participation of representatives from the African-American and Latino communities in the conference. Yet, despite this outreach, The Forward’s Natan Guttman reports that “…a look at the audience made clear that AIPAC is still largely an organization made up of white Jewish activists.”

There’s more here. Orthodox Jews are disproportionately represented at AIPAC. The Orthodox community represents around 15% of all US Jews. Support among non-orthodox Jews has been dwindling in a hurry, and despite intense efforts by AIPAC to reach out to younger Jews, the crowd is heavily skewed toward grey hair. Guttman also reports that an AIPAC official he spoke to rejected the idea that AIPAC had lost many liberal Jews to the more dovish pro-Israel group J Street by saying that “…if anything, liberal activists are turning away from the issue of Israel altogether and are not seeking a different kind of political approach.”

What AIPAC seems to be facing is the fact that its base, while very active and willing to mobilize considerable wealth as well as time and energy to support the AIPAC agenda, is aging and increasingly out of touch with most Americans. This is something commentators like myself, MJ Rosenberg and groups like Jewish Voice for Peace have been contending for quite some time. And this is only the tip of the iceberg of AIPAC’s problems. (more…)

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Last week, in a piece on Open Zion, Peter Beinart defended J Street from MJ Rosenberg and myself, and our criticism of its decision to strongly oppose the Presbyterian Church’s targeted divestment initiative. I respond on Open Zion here.

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I wrote a piece last week criticizing Americans for Peace Now for their stance on the Presbyterian divestment motion. But my criticism was as nothing compared to MJ Rosenberg’s, and he has now written a few piecesexploring this topic.

Protests against the Gaza War/Operation Cast Lead, in 2009

One difference between myself and MJ is that I spend little time worrying about the stance of J Street on this issue. I’m glad J Street is there; it’s a useful organization and I support it for what it does. But that’s not very much.

J Street is unalterably opposed to any sort of pressure on Israel. They are under the mistaken belief that if they prove they represent the majority of American Jews (compared to AIPAC, they do, but that majority is largely apathetic or lukewarm at best on Israel, while AIPAC’s backers, and those farther right, are zealously passionate and have a LOT more money devoted to their cause), this will convince Israel to change its policies. That’s well-intentioned, but naïve doesn’t begin to describe that view, one which is also completely insulated against political realities and, yes, pragmatism.

APN has a more nuanced approach, but as I pointed out, they still resist any real pressure on Israel, and ultimately, this is a strategy that has no hope to make the slightest dent in either US or Israeli policy regarding the Palestinians.

I must point out here that APN issued a clarification of their statement on the Presbyterian vote. I still think they have it wrong, but it does at least acknowledge that APN recognizes that the Presbyterians were trying to carefully target the occupation and not Israel as a whole.

I have no doubt that MJ is right in saying that keeping their donors from sending their dollars elsewhere is a big factor for APN. But I think there’s more here. I think there is truly a dedication to the notion that by publicizing the spread of Israeli settlements and of their impact; and by raising a Jewish, and Zionist, voice against them that they can get Israel to change its behavior.

To me, this stems from a basic misunderstanding of the words of Frederick Douglass, who said: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

There are important truths in Douglass’ statement, but also some misleading wording.

By using the word “tyrant,” Douglass allows his American, and later Israeli, listeners to believe he is talking about some other people, not our own Liberal, democratic governments whom we love. He also equates “words” and “blows,” a grave error for inspiring social change, implying that words alone might be sufficient to make “power concede.” Doesn’t happen that way, I’m afraid. (more…)

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In my weekly piece at Souciant, I do a post-mortem on the PC(USA) divestment initiative, which failed by a 333-331 margin with two abstentions. I conclude that the defeat still shows a growing intolerance for Israel’s trampling of Palestinian rights.

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I’ll be publishing my weekly Souciant pieces on Friday, at least for a while, instead of Wednesdays, so today there’s a new one up there. I discuss the experience of MJ Rosenberg and his use of the term Israel Firsters to describe so-called “pro-Israel” advocates in the US who place Israeli interests over the US’, as most of them from AIPAC and rightward do. In my view, some of the most powerful of that crew actually are pursuing an agenda which cares about neither Israel or the US. Check it out.

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In this week’s piece for Souciant, I look at how the radical supporters of Israel’s worst policies, out of necessity, employ bullying tactics to silence others. I may not always agree with those others, but they have a right to be heard free of censorship and intimidation.

And, for the record, so do supporters of Israel’s worst policies. The only difference is that no one is able, or trying, to bully them into silence.

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