The leadership of the American Jewish community contains some exemplary individuals who represent the highest standards of intellectual acuity and integrity. But there are others who do not represent such high standards. Malcolm Hoenlein is not someone I admire. No doubt he is a tireless worker on behalf of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. No doubt, his intentions are nothing but the highest on behalf of the Jewish community. And I do not intend here to denigrate his moral integrity. But I do seriously doubt his intellectual integrity.
Hoenlein meets with Ariel Sharon (credit: Jafi.org)
His views on the Mideast conflict are among the most conservative I’ve ever heard from a mainstream Jewish leader. While he may be a mainstream Jewish leader, his views on the conflict are hardly mainstream. Witness an OpEd piece he wrote which appeared in both Haaretz and JTA News: Crossing the line of the acceptable. Hoenlein here attacks the government’s investigation of an alleged leak by Larry Franklin, a member of Douglas Feith’s Pentagon staff to AIPAC on behalf of Israel (see earlier posts I wrote about this matter: Larry Franklin: Alleged Pentagon Spy Revealed and AIPAC on the Hot Seat in Spy Inquiry). While I agree with Hoenlein that this investigation should be concluded at the earliest possible opportunity–unlike Hoenlein, I don’t believe it’s my prerogative to decide for the FBI when it’s investigation should be concluded. In fact, I think it’s the height of arrogance for him to substitute his judgment for that of the government. Sure, I understand that the FBI has built cases against alleged spies (like Wen Ho Lee) which later proved largely unfounded. For that reason, I believe that our community has every right to question the FBI’s motives and ask it to corroborate its evidence. I’m more than prepared to say that eventually AIPAC’s staff might be exonerated in this matter. But I’m not prepared to say that the AIPAC investigation is trash which is, in effect, what Hoenlein is doing.
Hoenlein’s campaign smells to me like an inside job, a campaign coordinated between AIPAC and Hoenlein’s group to exert pressure on the FBI by embarrassing it in the eyes of its Congressional overseers and the Bush Administration. In fact, Hoenlein intimates (with almost no proof) that senior officials like Condoleeza Rice and President Bush himself do not hold much stock in it.
Let me make clear that I do not dispute AIPAC’s right to exist or to lobby on behalf of Israel’s interests. Israel needs such an advocate in Washington. But what I do object to is the illusion that AIPAC attempts to maintain–that it represents both a broad consensus of Israelis and American Jews in its efforts. First, AIPAC represents the interests of a right-wing Likud government in Israel. Lest anyone doubt this, I cast your memory back to Yitzchak Rabin’s famous speech at a General Assembly in which he very publicly berated AIPAC for shutting him and other Labor politicians out of deliberations with AIPAC when Labor was out of power. Rabin’s ire at the time cost longtime AIPAC director, Tom Dine and AIPAC’s chairman both their jobs. But it appears with Likud back in power the group is reverting to its old ways. I have never heard AIPAC advocate a position endorsed by Labor or Meretz, the other strong left of center party in Knesset. I have never heard AIPAC support a program advocating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians. I have never known AIPAC to reach out to organizations like Brit Tzedek to its left in the American Jewish scene. That’s because it has disdain for them and all they represent. And if you wonder where Hoenlein’s allegiances lie, you have only to look at those pictured here to see that he too views himself as an ally of the Israeli Right.
Hoenlein’s piece contains so many distortions and generally outrageous statements that I’d like to quote portions with which I take exception:
…It is still hard to discern exactly what wrong has allegedly been committed that would justify this highly publicized case"
It may be hard for Hoenlein to discern this–but the charges have been outlined clearly in the media (and here at this blog).
I think it is safe to say that American Jews are among the most patriotic and loyal of American citizens. Certainly this is true of those who are the targets of this investigation.
No one doubts that American Jews are patriotic and loyal citizens. But that does not mean that the targets of this investigation are. Hoenlein seems to have inside information enabling him to declare them innocent. What is it aside from his unfaltering allegiance to AIPAC and his wish to further its goals?
Historical realities have loaded on us a lot of baggage, so that when a Jew is charged, particularly in such sensitive areas, it is seen as a communal, not just a personal, matter.
Ah, the old Dreyfuss anti-Semitism canard. When you need to play on the heartstrings of American Jews and non-Jews raise the specter of an anti-Semitic motivation to an investigation. The fact is the charges against individual AIPAC staff are NOT a communal matter–unless you believe, as Hoenlein surely does, that AIPAC IS the Jewish community (an especially pernicious notion in my opinion). That would make an attack against AIPAC an attack on all American Jews–a ridiculous notion though one Hoenlein apparently accepts.
In recent months there have been repeated stories about the "neo-cons," often a code word for Jews…
Whoa, this is interesting. Is this an endorsement of an AIPAC alliance with the neo-Cons? Perhaps I’m overreaching, but only a bit. Again, it would be ridiculous to deduce that because a few anti-Semites have on the ethnic identity of Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and other neo-cons, that the AIPAC investigation is motivated by hatred of Jews.
American Jews care about Israel and advocate proudly in support of the special U.S.-Israel relationship. So do many other Americans with historical or ethnic ties to other homelands overseas. The effectiveness of that advocacy has raised resentment, jealousy and wild mythologies. These are among the factors that set the context for the reaction to the AIPAC investigation.
Puh-leese! The only reason AIPAC is being investigated is because it does it job so well??!! Gimme a break!
The root of the concern hearkens back to Leslie Stahl’s original breathless report on CBS’ Friday night (August 27, 2004) nationwide broadcast.
Ah, so now it’s a media conspiracy against AIPAC. Specifically, it’s those anti-Semites at CBS who’re at fault! So they think that [the Jewish] Lesie Stahl is responsible for this anti-Semitic campaign?!
The Jewish organizations, confident of AIPAC’s assurances that there was no substance to any of these charges, rallied to its support. So did the members of AIPAC in public and private ways.
So because unspecified Jewish organizations accepted AIPAC’s protestations of innocence carte blanche and because AIPAC’s own members did as well (gee, quel surprise!), that means that AIPAC is ipso facto innocent?? Well, pardon me but I see that as a gigantic leap of faith which I’m not willing to take at this point.
…the Pat Buchanans rushed to take advantage of it. Buchanan said on a national television show, "We need to investigate whether there is a nest of Pollardites in the Pentagon who have been transmitting American secrets through AIPAC, the Israel lobby, over to … the Israel Embassy to be transferred to Mr. Sharon." While these comments were repudiated by one of his fellow panelists, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, another – Senator Bob Graham of Florida – chose not to respond even when asked by the program’s host.
Let’s parse this one out: because Pat Buchanan (and I agree with Hoenlein that he’s a pretty scummy fellow) has taken advantage of the news of this investigation to spread his anti-Israel views, that the U.S. government should cease its activities in this matter completely? And further, Hoenlein implies that Newtie is a really good friend of the Jews because he repudiated Buchanan, while Bob Graham (suspect Democrat that he is in the eyes of Hoenlein and AIPAC) chose to do nothing when confronted by evil. Does anyone else see a purely partisan right-wing agenda in these remarks? Bob Graham won election numerous times to statewide and national office in a state filled with Jewish voters. How could anyone cast any suspicion on his commitment to Israel or his opposition to anti-Semitism? I do suspect that Graham, like me, may have some severe discomfort with the idea that AIPAC might possibly have engaged in some of the illegal activity that’s been alleged. It that was the case, I might not comment either.
While the early speculation continues about the true motivations behind the investigation, it clearly has crossed the line of the acceptable.
Maybe in the world according to Malcolm Hoenlein and AIPAC, but not in my world. I’d rather wait to see whether the FBI makes any charges and indicts someone before beginning to examine the evidence and making any judgment on its validity.
The case has already taken a toll. Jews working in government have told of the pressure they feel and of unpleasant experiences. Those who seek to spread venomous anti-Israel and anti-Semitic views have found temporary camouflage. AIPAC has been forced to divert resources and time from its ongoing work.
This is preposterous. I know many Jews who work for the federal government and I’ve never heard of any who feel the way Hoenlein’s unspecified Jews do. As for poor AIPAC which has had to divert precious resources to defending itself–all I can say is that if you want to avoid scandal and legal imbroglios a perfect way to do this is to hold yourself to both the letter and spirit of the law. Knowing what I know about AIPAC I’m not terribly confident that that’s always been the case.
If there was wrongdoing let it be exposed. We are confident that there was none and that the allegations that have been bandied about will prove false. We want to see a conclusion to this case and that it not be allowed to "hang out there" as did the "Agent X," the "mole" and other past charges against Israel, which were without foundation but never repudiated.
In one breath, Hoenlein professes to accept the possibility that there might be wrongdoing, but in the next he flat out denies there was any. Hmmm. As for "past charges against Israel which were without foundation, but never repudiated," Hoenlein makes a fundamental mistake in his understanding of legal investigations. Because charges might not be filed in any particular case definitely does not mean that the charges were "without foundation." It merely means the prosecutor was not confident that they could be proved beyond doubt in a court of law. Hoenlein also conveniently leaves out of his accounting the case of Jonathan Pollard, who was proven guilty of spying on Israel’s behalf.
The American people identify with Israel based on common values and world views. And no fabricated charges or allegations can undermine these fundamental bonds or commitments
I see, now Hoenlein not only is "confident" that the charges are without foundation, those same charges are "fabricated." On what basis can he be so confident? Just as AIPAC should be required to register as an agent of a foreign power, Malcolm Hoenlein should be forced to register as an official lobbyist for AIPAC. As such, his views and opinions must be taken with a huge grain of salt. They are certainly not unbiased and dispassionate.