JTA and Shmuel Rosner of Haaretz have been reporting about a nascent Jewish effort to organize a dovish lobbying counterpart to Aipac. Each of them got key parts of the story wrong. I’m not sure whether their errors are due to their own prejudices against the effort or misinformation provided to them by their sources.
I have a confidential source who attended the initial meeting and provides some interesting background about the politics and other bickering that accompanied this worthy effort. My source tells me that the JTA report’s inference that George Soros has already committed to the effort (Soros to support dovish Jews seeking an alternative to AIPAC?) is premature. The fact that Mort Halperin, Soros’ chief aide attended the meeting implies great interest, but nothing more than that.
Most of the individuals and groups represented at the meeting are “very strong” on the notion that they must confront Aipac in some way as part of their effort. But David Saperstein, representing the Reform movement at the meeting, is absolutely petrified at this notion and will do everything possible to stop it. My source colorfully notes that he’s about as willing to criticize Aipac as Ahmedimejad would the Prophet. This person says about Saperstein:
He will do everything he can to weaken this effort. His liberalism ends where Israel is concerned, always has.
I believe that either Saperstein or someone representing his views has fed information to Kampeas and Rosner, some of it wrong. Contrary to what the former reports:
There were a number of representatives at that meeting who have directly challenged what they believe is AIPAC’s hawkishness. Others at the meeting said confronting AIPAC would be counterproductive.
Subsequently, those participants who favored a more direct confrontation with AIPAC dropped away, though it was unclear whether they were disinvited or simply chose not to continue participating.
No groups have fallen away from the effort; and certainly not groups who were in favor of confronting Aipac. I believe that Saperstein or whoever the source is is trying to trumpet their efforts to moderate the anti-Aipac tone of the participants. And if Rosner is right that David Elcott of Israel Policy Forum has written to Aipac’s Howard Kohr to reassure him that the group is no threat to the latter group, then one of the former’s motivations must be to mollify the Sapersteins of the Jewish world. The ones who swear an oath to liberalism every day, but leave those principles at the door when it comes to Israel.
What is welcome news is that my source doesn’t feel that Saperstein has “veto power” over the group’s agenda or existence. The key as far as that’s concerned is probably Soros. Is he in or is he out? My source says he hasn’t yet weighed in which would prove Rosner’s take on the matter correct.
And finally, the source says that after attending the meeting he doesn’t have high hopes for the project. Which is all the pity. What the American Jewish community and U.S. Mideast policy need more than almost anything else is a counterweight to Aipac’s noxious uber-Israel propaganda. So many similar efforts in the past which started out as exciting visions in the minds of their organizers ended up fizzling after a week or month or year. It would be a shame if this was yet another example of fizzle. The disaster that is currently afflicting that corner of the Mideast is so potentially catastrophic that someone of Soros’ stature and capacity must weigh in. Soros is a man of principle who cares about whether the world goes up in flames. There is no more likely powder keg to set off such a conflagration than our little part of the Mideast.
So if Soros, Halperin or anyone from the Open Society Institute reads this, here is one peace activist who’s been dedicated to this issue for 40 years. Please do what you can to help. Israel and its Arab neighbors will eventually be grateful. And if you’re a Reform Jew, you might want to write to your national Reform leadership and tell them to get on the peace bandwagon instead of trying to weigh it down with objections.
There is one clear hindrance to Soros’ engagement. He surely sees how reviled other prominent academic and political figures are by the ultra-Israel crowd. He reads about Tony Judt’s disinvitation to speak at the Polish consulate. He reads about Juan Cole’s disinvitation to teach at Yale. He knows that Walt and Mearsheimer have essentially given up on the possibility of academic advancement within their fields due to their controversial essay. While I am certain Soros has thick enough skin to take such abuse (as he’s experienced it many times before both in business and his political efforts), who in their right mind would want to face the level of abuse that the pro-Israel warriors will mount against him. It’s not something he would relish, but it will happen nonetheless.
For anyone who threatens Aipac’s hegemony will be treated harshly not just by Aipac, but by other pro-Israel groups like the ADL, American Jewish Committee and Conference of Presidents. They’ll dig up dirt on him. They’ll ask how he survived the Holocaust while his fellow Hungarian Jews perished. They’ll impugn his Jewishness. They’ll call him anti-Israel and anti-Zionist (that’s already happened). They’ll question his patriotism. It won’t be pretty.