The National Jewish Democratic Council sent me an e mail today, Next Week in Jerusalem, from Howard Dean boasting about his upcoming trip to Israel (co-sponsored by Project Interchange, an American Jewish Committee project) with other Democratic leaders. That’s all well and good. It’s always helpful for Americans to travel to Israel and learn about the social, political and security situation there.
But why is it that Howard Dean, the DNC and the NJDC are always in lockstep with an AIPAC-style approach to Mideast policy? First, I’m certain that the major Jewish donors to the DNC and many of the leaders of the NJDC are also involved with AIPAC and donors to it as well. So it that sense the right hand is washing the left if you will and we shouldn’t be surprised at the messy result especially considering AIPAC’s recent spying scandals.
I’m espeically surprised at Howard Dean, a progressive who should know better, for toeing the pro-Israel line with statements like this one:
We’re going to Israel because of the historic, time-tested commitment of the Democratic Party to Israel and its security.
Ever since President Harry Truman promptly recognized Israel on the first day of its existence, Democrats have remained staunch supporters of Israel’s security. Today — like each day before — Israel needs our committed support. Going there to visit with our Israeli friends is just one way to show our support, but it’s an important way.
…I can’t wait to hear from Israeli officials and others about Israel’s security needs, the economy, and how we can continue to enhance the strong U.S.-Israel relationship…We’re also going to be meeting with Jordanian officials and Palestinian leaders, and I look forward to hearing from them as well.
The word “security” is mentioned four times. The word “peace” is mentioned…never. That speaks volumes about where Dean’s and the national Democratic Party’s priorities are. Weapons yes. Peace no. Perhaps that’s exagerrating a bit since thankfully Dean adds at the conclusion that his group plans to meet with Jordanian and Palestinian representatives as well. I wonder who they plan to meet and how long they’ll visit with them? At any rate, these meetings are appended almost as an afterthought in Dean’s e mail. So we can imagine how high a priority they’ll be.
Why do Dean and company believe that all American Jews toe AIPAC’s “security line” regarding Israel? The majority of us are more dovish than AIPAC and even our elected political leaders. Yet AIPAC holds sway and American Jewish majority opinion is given lip service. Remember that AIPAC and most of the organized national Jewish leadership stayed silent on the Gaza disengagement question until Sharon gave them a stern talking to which resulted in some late endorsements from the likes of AIPAC and the ADL. When a significant majority of American Jews support disengagement where are our leaders? AWOL, that’s where.
Sharon has spoken publicly of the eventual need to evacuate some West Bank settlements. What have any American Jewish groups aside from Brit Tzedek and the peace movement said about this important issue? Nothing that I know of. And these are the people Howard Dean’s going to Israel with. Is it any wonder that the Democratic Party’s Mideast policies are so hidebound and conservative? It’s a sad state of affairs.
Starting Sunday, Dean will maintain a blog of the Israel trip. I’m betting there will be no comment feature in the blog. If there is, I invite you to join me in suggesting things Howard Dean should be seeing, doing and saying during his visit to Israel. We need a secure Israel. But just as important, we need an Israel at peace with its neighbors. Let’s keep ’em honest.
There has long been a friendship between Amera and Israel. The Democrats under Truman helped establish (via UN) the state of Israel. Why shouldn’t Dean, a Democrat, be friendly with Israel etc. After all Israel is a democracy, which you can not say for any other state in the Middle East…stop nit picking: Dean or any other American has every right to maintain a friendship that is both long standing and solid.–you support those you prefer and go your way
Richard Silverstein says
Freddie: Your comment is basically beside the point. I never said that Dean should not visit Israel (in fact I said just the opposite). Nor did I say Dean and the Democrats shouldn’t be friends with Israel or shouldn’t support Israel. The question is how they express that friendship & support. Focussing only on Israel’s security at the expense of focussing on peace does no service to Israel. It just reinforces all the bad mistakes Israel has made (excluding the recent Gaza disengagement) in perpetuating the Occupation & other policies which have forced peace to recede into the far distance. Security with no vision of how peace will be won is an empty exercise which leads to more bloodshed.
The whole “Israel is a democracy which you can’t say for any other state in the Middle East” is also irrelevant to this discussion. This is such an old & tired defense of Israel’s “special relationship” with the U.S. Besides if Israel is a democracy which occupies, oppresses and decimates the Palestinians (& to a lesser extent Israeli Arabs), then what value does this vaunted democracy serve? Oppression is oppression whether it comes at the hands of a democracy or an authoritarian regime.